Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arrow 3x11 "Midnight City" (A Mask Does Not A Hero Make)

"Midnight City"
Original Airdate: January 28, 2015

Why do little kids play dress-up?

Whether you identify yourself as a male or a female, whether you grew up in wealth or with less fortune, whether your family is Catholic or Italian or German or you live in rural, midwestern America, I feel like every child had the experience of playing dress-up at some point in time throughout their younger years. Maybe you did what I did when I was little -- sneak up the stairs and pry open your mother's wooden jewelry box to admire her sparkly rings and earrings. Maybe you placed one on your left finger and pretended you were married, like you saw all the grown-ups do. Perhaps you wrapped a scarf around your neck and sauntered around the house or placed your father's oversized baseball cap on your head. Maybe you pretended your french fries were cigarettes because it made you feel like more of an adult. It's endearing when children dress up and play house. It's cute when they put on hats and pretend to cook dinner or drive around in their toy cars and pretend they're on a highway. I love watching the vast imagination of these children. I love how they create worlds of their own. I love that they watch and emulate adults -- that even from a young age, their tiny hearts want to be just like us.

Adults don't play dress-up unless they're actors. At least, not overtly. Inwardly, I would argue that a lot of us play dress-up all the time. We put on smiles and when people ask us how we're doing, we respond with the simple and curt: "Good!" even though we just had a fight with our spouse, our kids are in trouble at school, and we spilled coffee on ourselves on the way to work. We feel the need to play dress-up in our lives because we want other people to think that we have our crap together -- we don't want them to see the chinks in our armor or the gaping holes in our self-esteem. So we don the fake smiles and we bury our problems in alcohol or food or deep within ourselves. And we all do this from time to time; no one is innocent because it's often easier to wear a mask than it is to let others see the real you.

"Midnight City" is the debut of Laurel Lance as Black Canary. As the fandom comes to grips with her becoming a vigilante or a hero, I'm intrigued more than anything else in this development of Laurel's. As I've said numerous times before, I've never hated Laurel as a person or a character. I think her writing in season two did her a disservice because I look back on episodes like "Home Invasion" which are extremely powerful for her and I think: "... How did we get HERE?" I keep pointing people back to it, but in my review of this season's "Sara," I quoted John Green and noted that grief doesn't change you; grief reveals you. For a great deal of time in season three, Laurel was angry. Anger isn't wrong, but what you do with it can be and what Laurel did with her anger over Sara's death WAS wrong -- she became reckless and careless and almost got herself and other people killed. Her rage blinded her but something happened in "Left Behind" -- Laurel realized that the people she lost (Oliver and Sara) were able to make a difference because they used that anger to save people, not to harm themselves.

And as Laurel embarks on her vigilante/hero mission in "Midnight City," I'm thrilled that we get the opportunity to see her stumble, because that's realistic. People who are grieving have setbacks. People don't pick up the whole martial arts and trained fighter thing easily. She's a baby bird right now with clipped wings who's trying desperately to learn how to fly but the way that she's going about that is actually quite noble; she's trying to do right by her city -- to be the kind of person that Sara and Oliver would be proud of.

I think every character in Arrow is trying to be the kind of hero Oliver would be proud of in his absence, really, and it's never more evident than it is in "Midnight City" when the new Team Arrow bands together to protect their home.

Laurel Lance

So let's talk about a divisive character, shall we? Laurel Lance will never be my favorite character on Arrow, most likely. But I remember watching the first season and thinking "... Why does everyone hate her? She's actually pretty awesome." Laurel's character decline isn't a fault of hers or of Katie Cassidy's. Sub-part writing can destroy a character. It can take a strong character (like, oh, say Clara Oswald in Doctor Who) and decimate him or her; conversely, it can repair some damage by giving an aimless character a new trajectory. One thing is important to recognize about female characters, however, and it's something that I've noted before in posts and will continue to mention until the end of time: female characters do not have to be likable or relatable in order to be valid and important. Laurel may not be your favorite character ever and that's fine, but it is dangerous to dismiss her solely based on dislike.

Furthermore, let me be clear on one thing before moving forward and you can feel free to disagree with this if you would like to -- I'm not going to force my particular opinion on you:

Sara Lance didn't have to die so that Laurel could become Canary; Sara Lance's death is a catalyst for Laurel's growth and not just for her own growth but especially for the growth of every other major player in Starling City, too

Everyone on Arrow could not be who they are in "Midnight City" without the impact of Sara's death. So... really, if you want to blame the writers for killing Sara so that Laurel could become a vigilante, blame them, too, for killing Sara so Felicity could decide what she wanted out of life, or for killing Sara so Oliver could eventually fight Ra's and know how much he loves Thea and Felicity or for killing Sara to reveal to us that Roy is a bigger hero than we thought, that Malcolm is more evil and manipulative than we could have imagined, and that Thea's perceived strength is actually puppetry.

(Aside: Thea's true growth as a character is going to directly stem from Sara's death, I can promise you that.)

I absolutely loved Sara Lance. I absolutely loved Caity Lotz. I thought that she fabulously portrayed an extremely broken, vulnerable, strong, compelling character. But sometimes heroes die. And the best way for Sara to die was finally believing herself to be a hero. The final conversation between Laurel and Sara was so beautiful and so telling because it exemplified how Laurel saw her baby sister -- she saw her as a hero and a protector of the city. Sara finally allowed the darkness that tainted her life to become the very thing that gave her purpose. And when she died, every other character on this series was changed because of it. Oliver and Felicity's relationship was fractured in "The Calm," of course, but it was even more so after "Sara." Diggle and Roy grew their convictions and their leadership after what happened to her. And Laurel? Well, Laurel spiraled. Hard. And fast. It was like Tommy all over again.

The real problem with Laurel is that as Arrow evolved, she didn't. And now, the majority of the time, the writers have a difficulty in figuring out where to fit her particular puzzle piece in the tapestry that is the series as a whole. Laurel fit in the series in the first season because she was the woman Oliver loved and was chasing. But Oliver isn't pining for Laurel anymore, so their scenes now must, as a result of that evolution, share a non-romantic undertone. And I suppose Oliver could visit her at the attorney general's office often but then wouldn't HE be the only character to continually interact with her, as it was in the first season? Shoehorning Laurel into stories has become a thing that the writers do because they haven't discovered a way to naturally integrate her character into the evolving story of Team Arrow. It's like... it's like when you're a kid on the playground and you have a particular set of friends that you play with. And after a lot of playdates with this particular set of friends, you and another friend begin to grow a bit more distant -- and not even distant, so much as you just don't have a lot of the same things in common anymore; you don't have the same inside jokes or share the same interests. But this friend still tags along with your group because they're your friend... even though the relationship you have isn't nearly the same as it once was.

Laurel, even though she knows Oliver's secret, is as much of an outsider to the story and development of Team Arrow these days as Thea is. (Actually, Thea is probably better integrated at this point because of the whole Malcolm thing.) But with recent events, Laurel is becoming a part of the team. In order to understand why it's necessary for Laurel to become a part of the team and have some purpose on the series (apart from, you know, a writing perspective of every character needing to serve a purpose), let's think about where Laurel is at post-"Sara," shall we?

Laurel Lance is constantly reminded by other people in her life that she isn't Sara (I mean, Diggle literally tells her this twice in the episode alone, with Roy reminding her of that fact, too). But even before the blonde's death, she was reminded of this. And when I stopped to really think about it this week, that actually is really sad. Because Laurel has never been Sara -- she's never been the one that others wanted and needed. Think about it: Oliver chose Sara over Laurel. Sara was the hero of the city when Laurel was spiraling into her addiction. Sara was a leader when Laurel couldn't be -- she was thriving while Laurel was falling and that was always the case. I don't think there was ever any malice between the sisters (you can tell how much Laurel genuinely and completely loved Sara), but when people remind her of Canary and say: "You're not your sister," I can't help but think it sucker-punches Laurel because it reminds her that she was never anyone's first choice. It carries the undertone of: "You're not your sister... And who we really want is HER."

(Oh and the people who DID choose Laurel first? Tommy and Sara? Well, we know where they are currently.)

If Sara was alive, then Team Arrow wouldn't need Laurel. Oh, sure, they might call on her every once in a while for assistance but they wouldn't rely on her and I think a lot of Laurel's character in the past two years has desperately sought out that need for reliance. She wants people to need her -- she NEEDS people to need her because she so rarely feels wanted or needed.

With all of this in mind (and I have given you all a LOT to ponder... sorry for how long this already is), let's discuss "Midnight City" a bit. Laurel dons a mask and a leather suit and a wig in this episode because she's fighting for her sister: for the memory of Sara. More than that, though, Laurel is continuing to fight because it's a way to process her grief. It's a way to keep her sister alive somehow. And truly, throughout the episode, Sara IS alive (her voice runs throughout the episode). And what Laurel admits to in this episode is that she believed that wearing a mask and swinging around a bow staff would make numb her pain -- that it would make her strong, like Sara was. That moment (the entire conversation between Laurel and Felicity, really, about what they are doing and what they are fighting for) really got me: Laurel didn't want to BE Sara. Everyone misunderstands her intentions in this episode. Laurel never wanted to be Canary because she was trying to emulate her sister -- she just wanted to be strong and to stop feeling pain.

The reason that Laurel fights -- the reason that she acts the way that she does in "Midnight City" is because she is desperately toeing the line that Tatsu told Oliver about: the line between guilt and grief. When Brick kills a hostage in front of Roy and Laurel and places the blame on them for his death, Laurel is shaken to her core. Because everything about that mask and the bow staff felt meaningful and purposeful. And everything about what Brick did felt senseless and painful. Laurel isn't going to become a hero overnight. This is a woman who has no fight training, like Roy notes, and no time spent fighting villains in the streets.

But what Laurel has always possessed in spades is passion. And when she funnels that passion toward a cause, when she channels it into productivity instead of white-hot anger and bitter rage, she can accomplish more than she ever thought possible. I think that Laurel's journey to Black Canary is going to become her journey to self-discovery and strength. She is going to have to start believing that she is stronger and more valuable than people tell her; she's going to have to really fight against others and, most importantly, her inner demons in order to do actual good in the city. "Midnight City" is a step in that direction for her.


With Oliver gone and Felicity seemingly quitting the hero business, Diggle has assumed the role of commander-in-chief of the foundry with Roy as his second. Both are trying to wrangle the new vigilante/hero Laurel Lance and I really loved the moment between Roy and Laurel in the foundry where he expressed his concern for her. As I noted above, both Diggle and Roy continue to remind Laurel of who she isn't (it's kind of disheartening because could you imagine if every time someone spoke to you, they told you who you WEREN'T instead of who you WERE?) Eventually, Roy decides to go behind Diggle's back and bring Laurel back out into the field in a mission that causes trauma for both of them.

Diggle and Roy, at the episode's end, agree to Laurel and Felicity's decision to pick up Oliver's crusade and let's be honest... at that point in time, it's pretty clear who is REALLY running these operations. ("Who run the world? GIRLS!")

Felicity (+ Oliver)

Felicity is in a daze throughout "Midnight City." She really and truly is. You can tell that she is in a lot of pain over losing Oliver and it's nice to know in the beginning of the episode that Oliver is in similar pain, re-writing his decision to duel with Ra's in a dream to end happily with Felicity. He dwells on the moment in the foundry that he said goodbye to her and imagines what would have happened had he decided to stay (he would have confessed his love and they would have kissed). And this is why Tatsu and Maseo's story in "Midnight City" is so important to Oliver and Felicity's: they cause Oliver to think about how far he would go to protect the people he loves -- about how hard he would fight for his city and the people in it. About the line between guilt and grief.

Grief doesn't look the same for everyone. For some people, it looks like anger (Laurel). For some it looks like emotional distance (Roy). And for others, it looks like numbness (Felicity). The reason that Felicity is so lifeless and monotone throughout a majority of this episode is because the man she loved is dead and there is no point to anything -- to work, which seems frivolous and to her hacking heroism which seems pointless and dangerous. Felicity and Laurel have a brilliant conversation after the latter witnesses the death of a hostage where they discuss why they do what they do -- why they are in the hero business. And Felicity, with tears streaming down her face, tells Laurel gently and earnestly that maybe they're not heroes because they're trying to honor the dead; maybe they're heroes because they're fighting for the living.

It's such a beautiful and powerful moment between these women who have lost the two people they loved most in the world. It's a moment where they both acknowledge how strong they are -- where Felicity essentially tells Laurel that the city needs HER to keep fighting for the people who have survived within it and where Laurel relies on Felicity for support. When the blonde showed up at Laurel's office, she presumed Felicity was there to talk her out of the vigilante/hero business -- that she would say exactly what Diggle and Roy said. That she would shut her down and remind her of who she isn't. But that's not what Felicity does because that's not who she is. Felicity Smoak is a woman full of compassion and grace and faith, who constantly believes in people. But her grief blinded her to the reality in front of her: their work wasn't Oliver's work. It was his mission, initially, sure.

But this thing that they did night after night? It was THEIRS -- this was their home with their survivors and their friends. And when Laurel and Felicity approach Diggle and Roy in the foundry, they tell both of them as much: Felicity tells them that she was wrong and that their mission didn't end because Oliver died or because Sara was gone. The mission of Team Arrow was always bigger than Oliver and it was bigger than Canary.

Because their mission -- the reason they go up against people like Brick and Merlyn and Slade and petty criminals night after night -- is and has always been to defend their home and the people that remain in it. Whatever the cost may be.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP for this episode goes to Katie Cassidy. I thought that she did a great job portraying Laurel's struggle to become the Black Canary with believability and courage. I admired Laurel for wanting to make the world a better place in whatever capacity she knew how (I also loved seeing her interrogation skills on display). And I'm glad that she learned to rely on others like Dig and Felicity and Roy instead of being stubborn and trying to do it all on her own. Laurel has a long way to go but she's on a good path surrounded by people who are there to pick her up. Katie Cassidy did a great job portraying that character this week. 
  • Hey, remember how I do that thing every week whenever Laurel fails to tell Quentin about Sara? THIS WEEK WAS EVEN WORSE AND NOW QUENTIN THINKS SARA IS ALIVE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THE MAN WILL HAVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN HE REALIZES HOW EXTENSIVELY YOU ALL LIED TO HIM. The utilization of Sara's voice was especially painful. I know that Laurel is in too deep now since the lies snowballed but come on... he has to be told EVENTUALLY.
  • Additionally, I find it hard to believe that Quentin wouldn't know the difference between Laurel and Sara's body types in the Canary get-up. Laurel is a lot taller and leaner than Sara.
  • I didn't mention it above, but there was a Malcolm/Thea C-plot that involved him lying to her (again, shocker) about Ra's and their need to leave town. In the end, Thea was stubborn and defiant and refused to leave the city and Malcolm agreed. Oh, and the Chord Overstreet lookalike that we haven't seen in a few weeks? Turns out he's working for Ra's and is tracking Malcolm! I'm glad he served a purpose apart from being skeevy and annoying.
  • Also not mentioned above is a sub-plot involving Ray admitting he cares about Felicity. Yeah. That happened. If Ray's personality wasn't problematic, he would be an interesting character (maybe). But given that he's either a character with a personality disorder or an actual disorder, oh and that he is moving in on Felicity after she told him she lost someone she cared deeply about very recently, I can't help but think Ray to be still shady. Ugh. I don't know. At least he's trying to be better for the city but I just wish he would stop trying to use money and power and coercion to get everything he wants in life.
  • "You're not ready for the truth."
  • Felicity and Quentin had a scene together and it was wonderful. More please!
  • "You sure about that? I still have another heel."
  • "Helicopters don't... actually have keys."
  • I love that Laurel has no fight training so she just swings a giant stick at people. And that is exactly what I would do.
  • "With my help, you might not end up dead."
Well, there you have it! Kudos if you managed to read this entire review. It looks like Oliver returns to his home next week and he'll find that it has changed a little bit (do villains just have like, a sixth sense when it comes to vigilantes being out of town?) in his absence and that his team did too. Will he be welcomed with open arms? Or with hesitance? Until next week, hit up the comments with your thoughts on the episode! :)


  1. Amazing point that Laurel must feel that everyone would rather have her sister around than her. Ouch. I hadn't thought about it before but that's gotta hurt. And I was happy to see some progress from Laurel this episode and last. I think as we see her more integrated into episodes that progress will continue. I loved the point you made about the rest of the show being separate from Laurel and how hard it has been to feel they are connected in any organic way. I for one look forward to her having moments with people other than Oliver and her father. In the last few eps I have enjoyed her scenes with Diggle, Roy and the one with Felicity last night was great. And fighting to defend those who are still alive strikes me as a much better motivation than vengeance for someone who has died. Vengeance always feels to me like an emotion that is centered on the self. The person who has died is beyond being hurt anymore. Vengeance is about those who are left behind feeling rage over their own feelings of loss and needing to make someone suffer for their pain. This can end up being very self-involved and myopic until they can't see much of anything else (ala Huntress or Malcolm) and hurting others becomes so easy to justify. But fighting to defend loved ones still living is more outward looking and more constructive. The dead cannot be brought back but there are still a lot of people to help and problems to solve. I felt an uplift (as usual from Felicity) during that scene with the two women which was a real point of light to me in a pretty dark episode.

    Two things made it feel pretty dark to me. Although they did succeed in getting the other two aldermen out of Brick's hands by the end of the episode the Mayor is still giving in to Brick's demands. Brick is still running things and making everyone afraid and a poor section of the city is being abandoned (as they so often are) leaving all those people to the mercy of violence and crime. Did anyone else have some deep ethical problems with this? I was deeply uncomfortable with that decision and so happy that Captain Lance said he would have nothing to do with it. Another really dark part of the show for me, Laurel speaking with Sara's voice to continue covering up her sister's death. I knew her getting into the Canary role would come to the attention her father and necessitate some explanation. I DID NOT expect the whole charade to keep Lance in the dark yet again. That hurt and really upset me and if Canary is going to keep working in the city that has got to get dealt with. (I can only hope Laurel's line at the end of her conversation with her father is hint that a crucial talk is coming between them soon.) I can't take this anymore!

    I was glad that Roy and Malcolm had a talk. Roy wasn't able to stare him down like Oliver or Felicity but he was so right that Malcolm's lies are going to cost him his daughter. The truth will come out eventually and I can only hope that Roy's line is prophetic. Diggle was a little less central than last week but I thought that both he and Roy were completely believable and wonderful again. I was so glad we got to see Diggle use some old experience to fly that helicopter because it really underlines how he is the only one of them with serious combat background. In fact that whole ending with the four of them working together was so great.

    1. BECCA! It's not an Arrow review until you and Connie have commented. :) You know, I think the problems that arise with this show are less with the characters being bad characters and more of them being misunderstood. It broke my heart for Laurel to get consistently torn down by Dig and reminded "Hey, you're not Sara. We wish she was here instead of you." And you're so right about the way that the show has shifted her crusade from fighting to avenge Sara's death to fighting FOR her and then, in this episode, to fighting for the others. I think that is what makes a hero and she's coming to that particular realization a lot quicker than Oliver did (it took him, what, like, two seasons to learn that difference?) I think now that Laurel is BC, it'll be a lot easier to integrate her into stories. When Tommy was around, she could have a side plot with him. But now there's only so much of Quentin/Laurel or Oliver/Laurel screentime that can be used separate from the other stories that makes sense. I want ALL of the Laurel/Felicity scenes after last night's and last week's. Those two ladies need each other. Throw Thea in there and we have a party... or, uh, well, a party of lies?

      I DID think this whole episode to be rather dark (and not just literally). People on Twitter also pointed out that The Glades seems to be a rather undesirable location to overtake, you know? My theory is just that it's full of blue collar workers and poor people who are easily susceptible to evil schemes. As for Laurel's continual lie and the team's willingness to help her in that lie... ugh. That is the ONLY thing about Laurel that upset me this week. I know that there is never going to be a right time to tell her father, but I felt like this episode would have been the perfect opportunity. "Dad, Sara died. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. That's me out there. I'm honoring her memory. I have to do this." BOOM, SOLVED IT FOR YOU, WRITERS.

      I can't remember if we've ever had a one-on-one Malcolm/Roy scene but I loved it. And Malcolm should really heed Roy's advice especially now with hobo Chord Overstreet lurking around. And big yes to Diggle being in the field without actually fighting. I really loved him using his helicopter-flying skills there.

  2. Felicity started out so empty and sad and then you got to see her get some purpose back in her. She knows better than ever now that she can't save everyone that she cares about all the time but that doesn't mean she will stop fighting to help people either. I loved that and I noticed how everything started working better once she got back in the game. She talked to Laurel, she rallied both Dig and Roy in a moment of uncertainty, she got the resources they needed and was back at her rightful place and all was right with the world (or almost all, no Oliver:( ). I loved her speech about defending their home and their loved ones from attack. Last week Diggle held it together and now Felicity picks up the baton. That is teamwork.

    In fact, Felicity's talk with Laurel reminded me of the first season when Felicity was shocked when they lost someone they were trying to save. Oliver had to break it to her that "Sometimes we lose." You can be doing your very best but they will lose and it was Laurel's turn to learn that lesson as well. It worries me how often Laurel and Thea both talk about avoiding pain. They talk like they think that if they just get stronger that they won't have to hurt anymore. (I think Oliver's whole life should put an end to that thought.) Really, pain in life in inevitable and trying to shut it down or avoid it entirely will never work out well. I feel like Diggle and Felicity (and even Oliver) have much better understanding that pain just has to be lived with and worked through.

    I've been thinking about Ray Palmer as a character and I am still not warm to the guy. But I think the scenes he has with Felicity that are funny and full of banter work for the most part. The whole helicopter thing was priceless. What doesn't work for me are the quiet, staring into each other's eyes moments. I just end up comparing them to the silent, charged looks between Oliver and Felicity and thus the Ray/Felicity staring moments fall VERY short. There is no comparison and when they do that it just makes it glaringly obvious. If they keep Ray and Felicity in the witty, genius banter then I can take Ray a little better.

    Lastly, now that we are seeing Maseo and Tatsu more in the present day I feel that the flashbacks are working somewhat better. I am dreading what Maseo is feeling guilty about and I think he might lose his life over all the conflicts he has. The action scenes in the Hong Kong club were excellent and I am caring about that family more and more. And it was another instance in Oliver's life where he saw someone dealing with the competing demands of the "greater good" and a personal life. Maseo chose his family over the mission and I don't think that past-Oliver thought that was right. All fuel for Oliver's current dilemma about his own life and identity.

    Can't wait for next week! I think these two eps have been largely strong but I really can't wait to see Oliver back in present day and all the consequences of these events.

    1. EBR did an absolutely STELLAR job at portraying Felicity as mourning and so utterly empty throughout the first half of the episode. Especially with her conversation with Quentin (which YES, BY THE WAY, NEED MORE OF) where she's just kind of... zoned out. And I loved that talk with Laurel because it's what both women needed to hear, not just from each other but to themselves. I'm not sure how I feel about Felicity fighting for Ray, though the idea of him being her new crusade is kind of interesting. I AM glad that the ladies were the ones to jump start the missions again. And you're right -- once they were all together, it clicked.

      UGH. Ray. If he hadn't pinged Felicity's phone or bought her that dress, I wouldn't have problems with him. But now I can't even justify the whole "Felicity cares about him because he's a safer alternative to Oliver" because he's NOT. He's doing the exact same thing Oliver did. The only justification I can make for Ray/Felicity is that she's trying to do it "right" with someone else -- how she couldn't tell him not to go in "The Climb," and can tell Ray to not go out and become a vigilante, etc. IDK, man. IDK. But I did giggle at that helicopter exchange. More of that, less of the whole romantic undertones that aren't undertones, please.

      I wasn't a fan of the actual Hong Kong flashbacks this week or last. It feels disjointed because Oliver's present but he's NOT, you know? I understood their importance this week and how they need to tell Maseo and Tatsu's story in order to understand where they both are by the time we reach Oliver on the mountain, but also... I feel like the whole "family/people you love vs. greater good" thing has been done before. That all being said, I DO really like both Maseo and Tatsu as characters and I'm totally interested to see what fractured their relationship (though I presume it has to do with their son) and what brought them to where they are currently.

      THANKS AS ALWAYS FOR YOUR COMMENTS! I definitely clapped when I saw Oliver shoot an arrow in that promo and don his suit again. It's the little things, I tell you. (And I agree -- while these episodes have been strong, last week stronger than this one, the absence of Amell is definitely felt).

    2. I feel that I understand, theoretically, how the flashbacks are supposed to be important but I don't always feel their importance while watching the episode. Does that make sense? For example, important information is given sometimes but the actual experience of watching doesn't feel like a flow. I don't know.

      I agree. The loved ones vs greater good thing is well-trodden ground. I feel like the whole tension around Oliver's personal identity this year is revolving around the choices of having a life or being entirely focused on the Arrow. Oliver certainly feels like he's sacrificing Oliver Queen for the Arrow but I'd like to see more of how he understands that tension on a regular basis and why he feels he has to do so. I feel like I'm always grasping for straws trying to see how each flashback is connected to an individual episode and perhaps I'm pushing too hard.

      Another detail that bothered me about the flash back plot, since Maseo knew that Oliver had planted a tracker and thus could find Tatsu, why did he make the deal with China White for an exchange? Maybe he didn't think Oliver's plan of just breaking her out would work but they just kind of glossed over that.

    3. No, it totally makes sense. Thematically the content within the flashbacks are important. But the way they're staggered and spliced makes them feel unimportant until you've finished the episode and can realize their importance.

      Exactly -- I really want to see the tension between Oliver and The Arrow. I feel like coming back to Starling having, you know, died, is going to really impact this. Because he's going to be certain of who he is and what he wants now... and that's all fine and good when you're isolated on a mountain-side cabin. When you're thrown back into a world where time hasn't stood still and waited for you, then you have to continually evaluate your decisions. And for Oliver, I think that's what the rest of the season is going to be. He can't be the same person he was when he left, but in order to be the person on the mountain, he needs to continue to make choices -- it's not a one and done deal, you know?

      Yeah, I'm not gonna lie... I basically tune out most of the flashbacks so I have no idea how that was supposed to logically make sense. Maybe it was glossed over and I missed it or... they missed it, haha.

  3. Wonderful review. Very insightful, especially as regards Laurel. Also, excellent point about the reasons (MULTIPLE) that the writers killed Sara. I see the argument all the time that Sara died only so Laurel could become BC, but her death has SO much more impact on the story than that. So, it's refreshing to see those reasons fleshed out. Anyway, awesome review! :)

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! And yes -- I feel like people don't realize Sara's death didn't just impact Laurel and her story... it impacted EVERYONE. That's kind of the point. She was such a dynamic character that her death meant something different to everyone (for Laurel it was a sister, for Oliver it was a woman he once loved and the only thing connecting him to the island, for Felicity it was a role model, a friend and partner for Dig/Roy, etc.).

      Thank you again for your kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed!

  4. Second week I read your post, and second week I enjoy it very much! I´ll keep coming back!!
    I agree with you in almost everything:
    I´ve been hating Laurel since the last part of season one I think..... but today I started to like her. I hated her because she is always so full of herself... but today she was vulnerable, like the rest of them, even the arrow, the hero, has his flaws, and he shows them with his friends... But Laurel was always the almighty Laurel.... and that I couldn´t stand. Let´s hope she keeps in this pace.... I think she will, and you are absolutely right in what you say about how she´ll become a real hero. And she has a sense of humor too!!
    I loved this episode. Actually love doesn´t cover it.... I cried, I laughed, I was in shock... really good! that was what I was expecting from episode 10.... and with this one, I forgot everything I didn´t like then...
    I liked that Thea´s "boyfriend" has a purpose... related with Ra´s plans and not Brick´s ( I thought it for a moment there), I like Maseo and Tatsu story very much, seeing Oliver again in the present, Lance and Felicity together, everybody doing something for the city...... everything, really. Except of course Laurel being Sara in front of her father..... that broke my heart.... Let´s see how that goes....
    And I´m counting the hours till next episode! I´m so excited to see Felicity´s face when she sees Oliver!! (ok, I admit it, Olicity is the best part of this show for me, but I really like the rest too.... perfect show much!? ;) )
    See you next week!! Bri

    1. Hi Bri! Thank you so much for reading and commenting on these reviews. I'm glad you're enjoying them! I agree with Laurel's self-righteous and stubbornness often making her unlikable. But it was wonderful to see her vulnerable and relying on others for support in this episode. When she realizes that she needs other people, she becomes a better and stronger character because of it.

      Thank goodness Thea's boy-toy served a purpose. I'm glad he's working with Maseo for Ra's and not, as you said, for Brick or something like that. And the whole Maseo/Tatsu story is a nice parallel to Oliver's constant greater good vs. saving those you love struggle.

      Enjoy your week and see you back here next week for Oliver's return! :)

  5. I love your reviews and how fair minded you are. And I kind of agree that Sara did not just die for Laurel.... but, and this is a writing issue how exactly has it served the other characters?

    Felicity has had realisation only to remain in the same position - just helping a different vigilante (without her own story or seeming agency). Oliver died. Diggle is backup to Laurel (no Hive or other storyline). Thea has not grown because she still doesn't know anything. We already knew that Malcolm was shady.

    I can see that the was the possibility for developing the characters through the decision to kill Sara, but I just don't see it happening on screen.

    1. Hello friend! First of all, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments. I am so glad that you enjoy the reviews and that you find them to be fair-minded. I try my hardest.

      Let me elaborate, from a writing standpoint, on why Sara's death has become a catalyst for some internal and external conflict for our beloved characters. Felicity isn't the same woman she was last year. Because of Sara's death, she recognized the reality of the fragility of life. Her death got Felicity out of the foundry and into Queen Consolidated -- it got her out of sitting and pining and waiting for Oliver and into taking control of her own decisions. Think about it: Felicity told Oliver that she wasn't going to sit around and wait for him -- he was going to have to go after HER if he wanted to make something happen between them (which, you know, makes him walking on Ray's kiss all the more painful). I think that gives Felicity's story agency, don't you? The fact that the death of her friend made her realize that life is too short to spend all of it waiting for someone who cannot tell you how they really feel and keeps dangling maybes and somedays in front of you? As for the Ray part of the story, though I have issues with him as a character, from a writing standpoint (and I cannot recall which showrunner stated this but I think it was in a TV Line interview, so forgive me), Felicity is trying to do with Ray what she could not with Oliver. It may be a similar crusade, but she is trying to make the outcome different -- trying to use her influence over Ray to prevent him from having to suffer like Oliver did.

      Now, as for Diggle, there's one important change that happened in his life because of Sara's death: he proposed to Lyla. It may not be a direct result of her death, but I DO believe that watching her almost die made him remember the conversation he had with Oliver in the foundry and how much he cares about Lyla. Diggle has always been the voice of reason in the team and the one to give sage advice. I think that Sara's death hit him hard because it was the first time since his brother that someone really close to him died. Roy's growth, meanwhile, stemmed from the whole guilt/Mirakuru thing (also a result of Sara's death).

      The last one is Thea who, as I said in the post, I don't think we've seen the effects of Sara's death on because she obviously still doesn't know. But when she does know? Oh, I hope it will be epic. A lot of the growth for these characters because of Sara's death is pretty subtle, I think, but I still believe it's there in some capacity for each of them.

      Again, thank you so much for reading! :)

  6. Hey Jennifer, great review as always (I look forward to them every week) :)
    This episode wasnt one of my favourites.. Sure there were some awesome moments but it was too much packed into 1 episode which Arrow tends to do a lot and I found myself drifting a few times..
    a) Laurel as BC - yes i liked it that they portrayed her as realistically getting her ass kicked because she's a freaking lawyer with boxing lessons. Having said that, it was absolutely NOT realistic for Laurel to jump out of a window and hang on to a rope that was dangling from a helicopter. Thts not a believable shot no matter what anyone says to the contrary. What their reasoning? That she got lucky and didnt die? I also feel that they're trying so hard to sell Laurel as BC and keep all fans happy that they have her fumble but then also kick ass because thats what true blue BC fans are expecting. To sum it up, I can swallow this version of the Black Canary. I loved Sara as The Canary.. and i agree that she was not killed to prop up Laurel ac BC but i will ways believe that Sara as The Canary was a joy to watch on screen (the exact opposite of what Laurel is currently) and those are some big boots to fill. Also just to reference one of your earlier reviews, i was hoping against hope that they would take this BC arc down the villainous route. I for sure would have found this otherwise completely bland character thoroughly exciting to say the least but the writers probably would not risk that path. Having said all of the above I havent been a big fan of the Laurel lance character in general which is a mix of both the writing given to her but also the portrayal and she's probaly never going to be my fav character ever but I would love to get behind her arc so I hope they do justice to it.
    b) On another note, the Felicity & Laurel scene was amazing but then again EBR knocks EVERYTHING out of the park. Grieving Felicity was heartbreakingly beautiful but she's as much a pleasure to watch on screen as chipper Felicity or sagely Felicity or ANY Felicity :) I mean I'm surprised the writers dont recognise her talent enough and give her a more prominent arc on the show (apart from the love triangle tht is). She can hold her own and she's a powerhouse on most days but I'm just going to wait and watch and see where they take her storyline. Wasting a character like that would be one the stupidest decisions by the writers.
    c) I know you're not a BIG Ray fan BUT i kind of like Ray.. I think he's an adorkable genius and maybe my olicity heart feels that he may not be tht much of a threat (God pls dont prove me wrong). I think brandon routh is a good character and he brings much needed levity to some scenes on this dark angsty show. I'll just leave it at tht.

    1. First of all, thank you anon for commenting! I'm so glad you look forward to these each week as much as I look forward to writing them. :)

      a) Laurel getting her butt kicked was great because yes, even though she's had some boxing lessons, she is not a trained fighter. I especially loved the realism of her just falling onto the van and randomly swatting people with the bow staff. As for the jumping out of the window thing, I think -- as I said in a comment below -- that's just par for the course on Arrow. I mean... a few weeks ago Thea lept over the side of an apartment ledge into goodness knows where, haha. Sometimes we have to suspend our disbelief for a little bit. I really do like Laurel's realistic rise to becoming BC, especially because she's so different from Sara (and yes, I LOVED Sara as Canary. Loved, loved, loved. And I loved Caity Lotz, so I will forever mourn Canary's loss).

      Wow thank you for referencing my earlier review! I kinda do wish Laurel had trodden the supervillain path. I feel like she would be exceptionally more interesting if she had. But as it is, I can see why she's becoming a hero now and I LOVED that she was humbled enough to ask for help and rely on Dig, Felicity, and Roy. YAY FRIENDSHIPS.

      b) MORE OF FELICITY/LAUREL PLEASE. I need them to become favor friends. Or actual friends. And EBR just did an absolutely stellar job this week with her portrayal of grief. I mean, if we're progressing and regressing through the five stages and this week's was a numb sort of acceptance, it seems like next week will focus on her anger. YAY. (That's actually not a sarcastic yay because I love seeing Felicity angry.)

      c) Oh, Ray. Yeah, I don't have a problem with him when he's being a genius like the helicopter conversation because he's actually funny and endearing. It's when they give the whole "You mean the city?" "No, you" thing that icks me out. He does bring some levity into an otherwise really dark scene. Even his theme music, if you listen, is really energetic so I like that aspect about him and his character.

  7. Continuing from the previous post:

    d) I've always loved Malcom and Thea scenes. I mean yes Thea is probably one of the most clued out people currently in Starling city with the exception of Captain Lance perhaps but I feel like they're building up something dark and sinister here. I dont know what the endgame is BUT im definitely on board with this. Plus I love how they've shown Malcolm training Thea throughout this season so far and they havent turned her into a superhero/ninja yet and thats refreshing. Maybe they will next season and it will actually make sense cz of everything we've seen this season?
    d) I am absolutely NOT OK with Capt Lance not knowing about Sara. Honestly I didnt care much abt him not knowing in the beginning but now its getting ridiculous with the whole 'impersonating Sara' angle.
    e) I did think there were a couple of OOC moments though.. Diggle on comms while a rookie vigilante goes to fight the terror tht is Brick? That didnt make any sense to me. Also Felicity getting behind Laurel's plan to impersonate Sara and helping her was weird for me too.. Felicity has a very interesting relationship with Captain lance and to have her be a part of the deception, Im not sure about tht.. What do you think about these moments?

    Once again thank you SO much for your reviews

    1. D) MALCOLM. I love Barrowman so I'm thrilled he's on this series. He's a horrible person on it and a delight in real life, it seems, which is just funny to me. But yes, I do feel like Thea's arc is going to be one of strength and perhaps a bit of darkness. At any rate, I'm more than ready for her to have some good stories this year.

      E) WHY DID EVERYONE AGREE TO LIE TO LANCE? I mean, I know it was Laurel's lie but suddenly everyone else is now a part of it too. And that's just cruel to do to him. Seriously, they need to tell him ASAP.

      F) I think Dig not being in the field as much is realistic given that he now has to think about Lyla and baby Sara. And it's not like Roy hasn't had ANY training before. But yes to send them to Brick is a bit alone is a bit odd.

  8. Oops Jennifer missed out something from my previous post :P

    I absolutely LOVED the Tatsu & Maseo scenes. I havent been a big fan of the flashbacks this season but I see the integration (slowly but surely) now.. The mountain scenes were layered and raw and I loved the understated emotional connect that they share.

    Ok thats it from me (really) :)

    1. Also, yes I totally agree with you. The Maseo and Tatsu scenes were awesome, especially the fight scene in the cabin and then their goodbye. Ugh, such a beautiful and fractured relationship.

      Thanks again for your comments!


    2. Also gosh. Im not sure if my poor heart can take the angst thats coming our way.. but I am MORE THAN READY to f course.

      thanks again Jen

      shweta xx :) (I realised tht I hadnt signed off last time)

    3. Thanks for taking the time out to respond to all of the disconnected doodling we do here about all things Arrow. You're right about suspending logic when it comes to stunts on Arrow. I think we're so invested in all of these arcs that we tend to over think everything :)

      Also gosh. Im not sure if my poor heart can take the angst thats coming our way.. but I am MORE THAN READY to have oliver back in starling city. I cant wait to see hw the team reacts to his return especially Felicity of course.

      thanks again Jen

      shweta xx :) (I realised tht I hadnt signed off last time) think my previous reply got randomly hacked.. Im sure I did tht when I typed frm my phone. Sorry about tht..

    4. Oh and by hacked I meant cut out..just thought I should clarify here :)

  9. Great review! I like others really look forward to your thoughtful posts on episodes. While this episode was not as strong as others in the season, I still really enjoyed it as I am such a huge fan of the show that it would be hard for me to ever hate an episode (although I wish someone would just tell Lance that Sara is dead!). I really liked seeing the struggle the characters face in Oliver's absence and I think each and every one of them has portrayed something interesting in these difficult circumstances. I miss having Oliver Queen around in Starling City but I like how the show doesn't take the easy route and shy away from the complexities of having the main hero out of action. This development, while tough, is so essential to everyone's journey that it makes me excited for the story and potential ahead in this season and beyond.

    While Laurel is not my favourite character (I don't hate any characters), I think she was strong in this episode, it was good seeing her struggle (although I would agree with others that the crashing through the window and grabbing the helicopter rope was a bit unrealistic for a beginner vigilante).

    We all know Felicity is amazing, but she has come to the next level these past few episodes, seeing her grieve in Oliver's absence while helping others shows such strength. Even though she quit last episode she is not the type of person to let the people she cares for fall, so I liked her scenes with Laurel (and disagree with those that Felicity is being 'used' to make other characters more likeable).

    Roy was much better, liked his scene with Diggle and him confronting Merlyn about Thea was a great moment.

    Thea is a spirited fighter (that's the Queen in her!) and I like how she didn't back down against Merlyn, so it will be interesting to see her reactions to the truth which will eventually come out.

    I like Ray. While I don't agree with his pinging Felicity's phone etc, overall I like his character but prefer the more geeky banter between him and Felicity. The scene where Felicity is tending to his wounds felt too soon considering Felicity is still mourning Oliver's loss.

    Love Maseo and Tatsu, they make the flashbacks more interesting and I hope we get to see how they became estranged and hopefully re-unite. It was touching seeing how much Oliver cares about them. Even though the focus was not on Oliver so much this episode, SA knocks it out every time. I loved it when he asked for Maseo's help in sitting back down (I can't remember if Oliver has ever directly asked for help like that). I know it's a small thing, but it these little details I enjoy as well as the bigger picture.

    Anyway, sorry for my ramblings on. Despite the troubles Team Arrow and Starling are facing, overall I left that episode feeling surprisingly positive even though we are probably in for an angst-fest next week.

    Sitara x

    1. First of all, thank you Sitara for your comments and compliments about the reviews! I'm so glad that you've enjoyed them. I agree -- this episode will probably never rank as my favorite, but I'm baffled by the people who are wailing about how horrible it was and how it ruined Arrow for them. I thought this to be the most developed Laurel has been in years. The whole crashing through the window thing is par for the course on Arrow. I mean... Oliver constantly LEAPS OUT OF WINDOWS, shoots an arrow, and then is magically repelling down buildings. Dude may have had a lot of fight training on the island, but I can say with near certainty that he never did THAT. I think a lot of the show's stunts and their believability we have to suspend for just a bit. ;)

      FELICITY MEGHAN SMOAK. I mean, she's been the pillar of strength for everyone (Dig, Laurel, Roy, Ray) when she, herself, is crumbling. Like... how amazing is that? That she's still able to make a difference in the lives of people around her even when she's grieving. And EBR did an absolutely stellar job in this episode, truly.

      I do love how spirited Thea is and how she's learning to become a fighter. Given what we now know of 3x14, she will need those skills. I agree with you partially about Ray. He still rubs me as icky even without the pinging of her phone. The most endearing he was though was during that helicopter conversation. It was actually funny! But yeah, I feel like this show is trying to sway us toward accepting Ray/Felicity as a romantic thing and I am staunchly not budging from my Oliver/Felicity ground, thank you very much.

      It looks like next week will be angst-and-action central so I'm looking forward to it, no matter how painful. ;) Thanks again for taking the time to comment! You are free to ramble here any time!

  10. How, in the same episode, can they show island-honed and Waller-trained Oliver bouncing off a window to hilarious effect while untrained Laurel just smashes on through? Not understanding. Even though I really appreciated Laurel this episode, that was just crazy.

    Whole thing with Capt Lance -- v bad, to quote Bridget Jones.