Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Arrow 3x13 "Canaries" (The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most)

Original Airdate: February 11, 2015

And the grave that you refuse to leave
The refuge that you've built to flee,
The places that you've come to fear the most,
Is the place that you have come to fear the most.

You don't need to be told of your flaws.

Sometimes, when you get into arguments with your parents or your other family members or your friends or your significant others, they'll dig into their arsenal of weapons and they'll brandish a mirror -- they'll tell you all of the things that make you flawed, in the heat of that argument. But most of the time (unless you're so far in denial that you might as well be in Egypt), we don't need to be told of our flaws. We KNOW every single one of our flaws. We know the deep, dark parts of us that we hate. And that's why it hurts so much when others point those parts of us out: because it's one thing to know your weaknesses; it's another for the people you love to know them as well. The weird thing about existence -- about battling those insecurities -- is that we're often our own worst enemy. We're often the thing that we fear the most. We're afraid to be vulnerable with other people. We're afraid to be real. So we construct these prisons that we hold ourselves in and when other people get too close, we shut down or shut them out. It's a method of protection, of self-preservation. Because -- and we're cycling back to the beginning of this post -- we don't want other people to know what we know about ourselves.

Identity is such a strong theme in this season of Arrow that it may as well be the title of every episode ("Next week, on Arrow: 3x14... 'Identity'!"). Up until recently, however, this particular theme has been mostly explored through examining the characters of Arrow and Oliver Queen -- of contrasting and comparing them and trying to determine whether or not the two entities can ever be separated. But in "Canaries," we get to see the theme of identity from the perspective of Laurel Lance, as she suffers from a lethal dose of Vertigo's drug (which, as you'll remember from "The Calm," causes the user to see their worst fear) and hallucinates a duel with Sara. There's one other giant, overarching theme of this season that weaves its way through both Laurel and Oliver/Malcolm's story this episode and it's the theme of lying. Our beloved Arrow characters may be heroes, but they're also ALL liars. So the question of the episode is this: is it okay to lie to the people you care about to protect them? And where is the breaking point? Laurel's been lying to Quentin; Oliver's been lying to Thea. Even though both are under the guise of protecting the people they care about... is it RIGHT to do that? Is it right to not let another person have the chance to grieve? Is it right to force a decision FOR someone rather than with them?

And what kind of person do you turn into once you let one lie take root in your life?

Laurel (+ Sara)

I've always loved the complex relationship between Laurel and Sara Lance. Let's remember, here, that it would have been totally acceptable by television (and real) standards for the two sisters to be mortal enemies. I'm going to be honest here and say that Laurel is a better person than I am because if MY sister ran off with my boyfriend... I would have a very difficult time ever forgiving her, let alone keeping her as such a huge part of my life. But because of all the pain Sara went through, I think Laurel saw her sister for who she truly was -- a young woman who just loved with every part of herself and who fell, headfirst, into something that was bigger than she was. That's such a defining trait of Sara's, really: she's the sister who was more emotionally vulnerable and bubbly and outgoing. I see pieces of my own sister in Sara and I see pieces of myself in Laurel: the protector; the stoic one; the one who constantly tries to fix other people.

Laurel admired Sara. Laurel believed in Sara when even she couldn't believe in herself. And the reason? Laurel saw Sara -- she always saw her -- for exactly who she was and loved her deeply for it. One of the most beautiful exchanges in this entire series is when Sara talks about how she's so far gone: how the League took her soul and her heart from her, turned her into a killer, and stripped the very last shred of humanity -- her very name -- from her. Laurel tenderly tells Sara that this isn't true and that she's not far gone because she was given a name that exudes beauty and hope. I don't think Sara ever saw herself clearly until she saw herself through Laurel's eyes. I really don't. Laurel looked at Sara and saw a hero, not a killer. She looked at Sara and saw her baby sister, a woman who loved everyone and everything so passionately and was willing to defend and protect because of that love.

I think that in many ways, Laurel was envious (a good kind of envy, not a negatively connotative one) that Sara could impact the world in a way that she couldn't. And I think that the reason Sara was able to look at Oliver in "The Calm" and tell him that the reason he needed someone in his life that  could harness his light, who didn't wear a mask, was because Laurel was ALWAYS that person for Sara. Laurel was who told Sara that she was a hero in the end. And Laurel has always wanted to be the kind of woman who made her sister proud -- the one who did right, who fought for her city, who made a positive difference.

(I'll talk about that Laurel/Felicity scene in a moment, don't fret.)

The fact is that when Sara was saving the city, Laurel was spiraling. She was falling hard into her addiction and her pain and she finally managed to pull herself out of it. But those feelings that exist in us when we're at our absolute lowest don't disappear, magically, when we recover. It's why people with eating disorders battle the disorder their entire lives -- even when they're better, they still carry that pain, dormant within them. It's a process -- a life-long one -- to be healed from your demons. It's something that we haven't seen physically manifest itself a lot in Laurel, but that we do clearly in "Canaries" where the thing Laurel fears the most is her sister. It's really and truly important to recognize something though: her greatest fear isn't JUST Sara. It's Sara as Canary. Laurel's greatest fear is that she's a fraud, a failure, and a liar and that she's not a hero; that she's not her sister. I remember talking about this in my "Midnight City" review, don't you? I noted that I really felt for Laurel when Diggle kept snapping at her and telling her that she isn't Sara. As if Laurel doesn't know that. As if she's not constantly reminded by other people that she's not the hero they want or need. If given the choice, they would always choose Canary over Black Canary.

(Kind of a painful little meta commentary too, when you think about it.)

So when Laurel sees her greatest fear, she doesn't (like Oliver) see herself. Laurel's roadblock to happiness and her stumbling block in her hero's journey is her fear of her sister -- the person she loved most in this world, the bravest woman she knew -- looking back at her from behind the mask with disgust, calling her an addict. Pretty telling, isn't it, that we see Sara dressed as Canary (that whole line about replacing her is very significant)? Because that's who Laurel fears: she fears the woman who fought and sacrificed; who gave up everything to save other people. Laurel fears that because she fears the parts of her that are worse than Sara ever was. Remember what I said earlier in this review? We don't ever need help finding our faults. We KNOW what makes us a terrible person. We know the parts of us that we hate. What happens in "Canaries" is those parts are on display thanks to vertigo. And when we see everything we fear and hate about ourselves laid bare... it's terrifying.

There's a lot of Oliver/Laurel throughout "Canaries," and it's absolutely perfect in terms of character development. Oliver is adamantly against Laurel being out in the field and the two clash until they have a confrontation in the alley of Verdant where he accuses Laurel of being an addict -- in EVERY aspect of her life. It's like a gut punch to Laurel in two ways: 1) It's how Oliver clearly sees her: an addict. And while Laurel doesn't want to be defined by her addictions and her past, 2) It's true. Laurel tells Oliver, quietly, that the only time she really does feel alive is when she puts on the Black Canary mask and wig and buckled suit. But then Oliver does what Oliver ALWAYS does and he makes decisions for people. He doesn't care about hurting their feelings. And he tries to tell Laurel what to do not because he thinks he knows her best but because he thinks he knows her pain. Laurel BRILLIANTLY shuts Oliver down (actually everyone in this episode does and it is perfect) and tells him that he does not get to tell her what she feels or who she is or isn't.


Throughout "Canaries," Laurel struggles with her identity. When she's hit with the first lethal dose of vertigo, the woman is rendered useless and after she's detoxed, wakes up in the foundry with only Felicity as her company. Laurel then explains to the other woman what happened -- how she saw Sara during her drug hallucinations. How she was a fool to think that putting on that leather jacket or the mask meant that she could somehow BE her. Because that's what Laurel has striven toward this entire time and what I noted above: she wanted to be less like herself and more like Sara.

Felicity then makes a really interesting observation: Sara wasn't full of light. (That's why she told Oliver in "The Calm" to find someone who was.) Sara was filled with a lot more pain and darkness and heartache and more demons than anyone, even Laurel, could imagine. And while those are the things that Laurel believed made Sara a better hero -- that she could put on a mask in spite of her demons. But what Felicity mentions is the fact that Sara put on a mask to help the city, yes, but she wore one just as much to hide her demons. It's this beautifully poignant moment in which Felicity tells Laurel that in order to be the person she needs to be... she needs to stop being Sara.

Because Sara knew that there wasn't much light left within her. But Laurel? Laurel, as Felicity tells her, still HAS that light. She still has that hope. And instead of trying to be Sara, she needs to be herself. She needs to stop trying to fill the void that Sara left and start forging her own way, slaying the demons of self-hatred and addiction and fear that occupy her mind.

Laurel hugs Felicity and this moment was so utterly touching and so beautiful that it may be weeks before I stop talking about it. Because lest we forget that Felicity isn't just Oliver's light. Felicity's name, by definition, MEANS "happiness." She symbolizes light (and is shrouded in it like, 99% of the time). And she spreads that goodness and hope everywhere she goes and to everyone who needs it.

With Felicity's words in her head and Oliver's offer to be in the field (after a conversation with Diggle which we will discuss later on), Laurel literally battles her demons -- that's right, not just the demon of Sara's memory but of the lies she's telling her father. And Laurel fights, with every bit of strength within her, against the lies in her head and the lies in the drugs and the lies that people have told her and she wins. She wins because she stops trying to be Sara.

And when Laurel stops trying to fill a vigilante hole in Team Arrow and is actually herself? When she starts to heal? She's pretty dang wonderful.

Oliver/Malcolm/Thea (+ Oliver/Felicity)

For all of his faults (and there are many of them including "traitor" and "manipulator" and "murderer"), Malcolm's insistence that he and Oliver tell Thea the truth about everything is probably the first smart, accurate thing that the man has said this entire season, maybe series. But let's backtrack just for a moment because not only was the theme of secrets and lies so prevalent in "Canaries" that it might as well have been quoted by every character, but the theme of family was as well (we see that quite clearly in Laurel's story).

I've been thinking a lot about Oliver and Felicity's confrontation, not just because I'm a fan of the pairing but because I haven't taken a side in their argument. I think they're both right and they're both wrong. It's not that I'm neutral, really then, but that I can clearly understand why each character acted the way they did. I have a nineteen year-old sister. She's my baby sister and I love her more than pretty much anyone else in this world. I've often contemplated what I would do for her. The answer? Pretty much everything. I would die before I would let something happen to my sister and that's not an exaggeration. Funnily enough, that's exactly what happened to Oliver -- he "died" before he let anything bad happen to Thea. So while it's easy to sit behind a television set and judge Oliver for getting into bed with Malcolm Merlyn -- the man who doomed Thea to death in the first place -- I can't entirely fault him for acting the way that he did because if it were me, if I had the chance to save my sister by any means necessary, I would take it. The love for a sibling is strong and when you're the first born -- the protector and defender -- it's even STRONGER. (I still believe Oliver's end goal here is to gain enough knowledge to fight Ra's, save his sister, and then use that knowledge to beat Malcolm Merlyn because I can't see how he'll let him walk away unscathed after this all goes down.)

I don't think siding with Oliver means you're siding with Malcolm. Conversely, I don't think siding with Felicity means you're siding for Thea's death. I understand exactly where Felicity stands, too: I want Oliver to find another way apart from working with Malcolm to beat Ra's. And Felicity is always the one who encourages Oliver to find another way and to believe in him that he will. I think it's easy to side with Felicity's anger, too, but perhaps easier (I want to put this to the test, so hit up the comments below and continue this conversation) if you're an only child. Felicity is an only child. To her, protecting Thea is a hypothetical. And that's not meant to insult Felicity by any means; I'm not saying that she cannot have compassion or care about someone else deeply but... look, she will never have to make a difficult decision to save a sibling because she doesn't have any siblings. And Oliver -- while both right and wrong in his choice to save Thea and the methods of going about that -- does. Felicity's argument is the emotional component of the decision; Oliver's the rational. And that's really how everything operates between them, when you think about it: Felicity's urging Oliver through her anger to be different and be better than he was. So Felicity's right and so is Oliver. And they're both wrong, too. Isn't it great that Arrow didn't provide an argument in which there was one concise victor? No matter who you side with -- or if you side with both or no one -- your argument has validity.

Circling back to our discussion about Oliver/Thea, Diggle tells Oliver that if he tells Thea the truth (about being The Arrow, all the lies he's formulated over the years, etc.), he will lose her forever. Thea's agency has come and it's come like a speeding train. I've been so excited about Thea's arc from the beginning of this season because the whole reason she left with Malcolm was to become stronger -- to stop feeling pain. I mean, Thea Queen's entire life has basically been a lie: she didn't know who her true father was, her mother covered up the undertaking, Oliver and Moira lied to her about what happened to their father, Oliver's been lying about his secret, Roy lied to her, etc. etc.

What I find to be so interesting about Thea as a character is her inherent goodness in spite of all the wrong that's been done to her. She's bitter and angry, sure, but she's managed to channel that into fighting. She doesn't LET people hurt her any more. She retaliates. And in a lot of ways, she's like Felicity Smoak -- a woman whose dark backstory should have crippled her, but instead turned her into the strong, demanding, amazing woman we see in present-day Starling City. And in "Canaries," Thea is nothing shy of amazing.

We all likely anticipated the moment that Thea discovered Oliver's secret and how he lied to her. But we (or I, at least) didn't anticipate that she would be thankful and so receptive of Oliver. As he shows her the lair, she hugs him -- she thanks him repeatedly for saving so many people. It's an absolutely beautiful and touching moment. I loved it because it exemplified exactly who Thea is. She's loyal and she's tough (as proven later in the episode where SHE LITERALLY DEFENDS HERSELF AGAINST CREEPY DJ WHO TRIED TO POISON HER.) But most importantly of all, she's compassionate and concerned about her family above all else. A whole lot happens to Thea in "Canaries": she gets a sensory overload and people continue to try to make decisions for her (Oliver, namely and Malcolm). So she pushes back against them and almost gets herself killed in the process. The only reason she survives? Malcolm. Literally.

Thea remembers a conversation she had with Malcolm in Corto Maltese and figures out that skeevy DJ is trying to poison her. And then Malcolm literally saves her. Thea still doesn't know the extent to which she's been lied to by Malcolm (or that, you know, she's KILLED SARA), but Thea's trust -- once lost -- is not easily recovered (see: her complex relationship with Moira). It's what I love about her: she's stubborn and that's wonderful. I'm really proud of the way that Thea's arc was handled in "Canaries": she was given honesty and agency and character constantly reminded Oliver that she may be  his sister but that she was her own person -- that whatever he did under the guise of protecting her still did not give him the right to decide her life FOR her.

Basically Thea Queen is amazing and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

The New Team Arrow

Oliver has a lot of flaws, chief among them is his desire to make decisions FOR people, rather than with them. He's so used to being the one in charge and the one with the final say, that "Canaries" is such an unsettling episode for him because he realizes he's not the center or head of Team Arrow anymore. He lost that right and privilege when he "died." Team Arrow -- Roy, Diggle, Felicity, and Laurel -- stepped up in his absence and while that is something admirable, it's also something a bit off-putting for Oliver because it means that they don't need him. Not really. That he doesn't get to be the one who rules the lair anymore. That while he was gone, the world kept spinning and the team made decisions together (consulting Diggle as the de facto leader in some instances). Oliver isn't used to that because Oliver is used to being a one-man army who just happens to rely on others occasionally.

Think about it: Oliver started this vigilante journey by himself. And yes, he has grown in his leadership over the years (letting other people like Dig and Felicity become his partners), but there's something that happens when a thing is yours and then you share it with other people. You have a sense of possessiveness over it and control over it and the problem is that you kinda sorta maybe become a little bit of a dictator because the thing has been yours for so long that you're just used to being the only one responsible for it. That's where Oliver is at in "Canaries": he's at the point of realization. He left and the team didn't stop crusading. They made decisions together and now Oliver has to live with the fact that the team has changed in his absence and he cannot be the final say anymore. He cannot tell Laurel or Roy what to do. He's not their leader. He is not their dictator.

He's just another piece of the team.

And that's really difficult for Oliver to come to grips with. Because once you get a little bit of control, it changes you. And for Oliver, after having control for SO long, he doesn't know how to behave otherwise. Oliver's response to Laurel being in the field is partially a response to her literally being in the field, but also a response to rejecting the idea that things -- his city, his relationship with Felicity, his relationship with Thea, his team -- are changing. The place that Oliver has come to fear the most? It's the place where the people he love don't need him anymore. The place where he isn't in control.

"Canaries" features everyone -- literally EVERYONE -- telling Oliver to stop bossing them all around like he used to. There is a big, loud confrontation in the foundry when Oliver tries to tell Thea what to do and Roy loudly counters that Thea is a grown woman and can make her own decisions. After Thea leaves (out of her own free will), Oliver angrily confronts Roy... but finds that no one else backs him up. In fact, Felicity -- the voice of all reason -- speaks up and defends Roy. Moreover, she tells Oliver that when he died... they stepped up. THEY came together and her next words really and truly sting Oliver (as they should): "We can NOT go back. And you do NOT have the right to come back here and question everyone's choices."

It's a verbal slap in Oliver's face and one that he's desperately in need of in order to be humbled. (Don't you love how Felicity has been doing that to him in the past few episodes?) Because Oliver doesn't call the shots anymore. He lost that right when he left... when he left them. Diggle approaches Oliver at Verdant and the two men have a frank conversation about what happened. Oliver begins to try and tell Diggle that he "left," but Dig corrects him -- "you DIED," the man emphasizes. And then Dig asks a very important question: he asks if Oliver can live with what the city has become in his absence.

But it's not a question. It's a fact. Oliver does not have a choice. Either he accepts the new normal or he walks away entirely.

And I love Oliver. I really do. But I loved that everyone in "Canaries" verbally humbled the man and hero. You can only change (throwing back to last week's review) if you let others change, too. You can only evolve if others evolve around you. And in order for Oliver to really grow the rest of this year -- in order for everyone else to grow, as well -- he is going to seriously let go of control. We saw him loosen that rein slightly in "Canaries." But in order for him to be a successful leader -- in order for him to be able to inspire others -- he needs to stop trying to force his own hand and let others do what they will -- make their own mistakes and fight their own demons.

That's the only way Oliver will find out who he truly is. And it's the only way he will become a hero who's completely worth following.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • Why yes, the subtitle for this review and the lyrics at the beginning are taken from that Dashboard Confessional song. It brings me back to high school, you guys.
  • Double MVP for this episode goes to my Canaries -- Katie Cassidy and Caity Lotz. (Fun fact: I regret not saying hi to a woman who I thought looked like Caity -- and WAS her -- at Trader Joe's while I was in Los Angeles.) Both women have done excellent jobs portraying sisters on Arrow and I absolutely loved that we got the chance to see Sara's return as Laurel's greatest fear. And then, Katie absolutely shone in the conversation between Laurel and Felicity as well as her final scene with Paul Blackthorne. Laurel was everything in this episode, she really was, and I am loving the trajectory that she's on as Black Canary. So brava, my talented ladies. Brava.
  • I CAN FINALLY STOP YELLING ABOUT THIS EVERY WEEK BECAUSE QUENTIN KNOWS ABOUT SARA. That scene was gut-wrenching and I didn't expect it to be, considering how long it took us to get here. But dang, Paul Blackthorne and Katie Cassidy acted the crap out of it.
  • Next weekly thing to yell about: THEA DOES NOT KNOW SHE KILLED SARA. Come back during each episode to see me yell about this some more!
  • "You  have a visitor. Or, as I like to call him... your new BFF." SASS QUEEN FELICITY.
  • "You saved us. Now save yourself." I didn't really talk about Hong Kong so feel free to talk about it in your comments. I liked that the theme of protecting family and doing whatever it takes to do that was translated in the flashbacks. And that Maseo was so loyal to Oliver.
  • The score over the scene where Thea finds out Oliver's secret is beautiful. Blake Neely is so wonderful and talented.
  • "Although I DID kinda kick your ass."
  • "This is my favorite part." LADIES SUPPORTING LADIES.
  • "Go to hell, Oliver. You don't get to play that card with me. Ever." God bless Laurel Lance in this moment. I also think that Laurel knows that Oliver is donning the suit and mask to avoid his emotions in regards to Felicity. That was basically confirmed, wasn't it?
  • "Insomnia is a common side effect to finding out your brother is a vigilante."
  • "Lame excuses are sort of an occupational hazard." As my friend Maggie pointed out, no lie will ever be as good as the "my coffee shop is in a bad neighborhood."
  • Amanda Waller is the real big bad of this season, right?
  • "You should be dead! I salute your persistence!"
  • HOBO CHORD OVERSTREET (aka skeevy DJ) is dead. YAY.
  • BACK TO THE ISLAND WE GO, THIS TIME WITH THEA IN TOW. (Yes, that was meant to rhyme. ... I'm sorry, it's after 10 PM here...)
Well, my friends and readers, thank you for reading all of this review. If you made it entirely through, I salute you and owe you a shout-out in next week's review. Seriously. "Canaries" was one of the best episodes of Arrow this season, really, and I want to know what you thought of it! 

Hit up the comments below and be constructive, be wordy, and be kind to one another. ;) Until then, folks!


  1. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I saw you mention this before and I wanted to let you know that Felicity does not mean "light". It means "happiness.
    Ok, back to reading.

  2. Replies
    1. :) Thanks for being cool about it. I almost wrote that the first time I saw it but didn't want to seem like a big biatch.
      And I don't get to see the episode until tomorrow (time zone issues) so I love reading your recaps before I watch the show.

    2. No problem at all anon! I always welcome corrections if I've mistyped something or made an error and yours was kind. And thank you so much for saying such nice things about these reviews! <3

  3. Jen!!! Ive said this before but im gonna say it again. There are times that I wanna read your review even before watching the episode (havent done it yet though but im tempted :)) Now on to your review.. You know what I loved the most about this episode? CAITY LOTZ - Fighter extraordinaire! I mean what an opening act! I will never stop missing Sara Lance on the show!

    Also Thea Queen finally in on the secret and such beautiful scenes with Oliver. I think Oliver needed family loving this week and a mature Thea is so much better than ‘im a victim’ Thea! Stephen Amell’s face transformation from “I don’t know what to expect” to “omg she still trusts me and loves me” when Thea said Thank you and hugged him. Gosh that guy keeps getting better.

    And Captain Lance KNOWS! Im so happy he knows but im also so sad that he knows. Quentin Lance broke my heart and how! Also I have to call out Captain Lance & Sara Lance hallucinations were so on point and scary but so amazing :)

    I am 100% with you on how Oliver makes decisions for people rather than with them! Ive seen that since Arrow 1.01. I mean Diggle and Felicity have always been there dropping truth bombs, standing up to Oliver and helping him see reason and believing in him BUT the team together has never overtly called him out yet on his poor decision making decisions so this was so important. I’d say this was a win for Team Arrow!

    1. Awwwww, thank you for your comments, Shweta! I am so glad that you really enjoy these reviews. Oh man, I love me some Caity Lotz so her appearance was fantastic. Her fight skills are fantastic.

      Thea finding out was such an unexpectedly beautiful way in order to respond. I loved that she thanked him and I love that she's growing and learning more about how she's been lied to. AMELL AND WILLA HOLLAND SOLD THAT SCENE. It was such a tender and lovely moment.

      I'm so glad Lance knows now and also so sad for him. That Quentin/Laurel scene was fantastic. Great acting from both of them.

      Team Arrow calling Oliver out on his crap was such a highlight for me this episode. Individually, they've told him before but to see them all band together as a team against him was super powerful and so necessary.

  4. Continued:

    Now on to Laurel Lance in this episode: Here’s what I absolutely get: I get that she’s insecure. To reference your Midnight city review, I get how she’s always being told that she’s not Sara (the superhero) and will probably always be lesser than her. I get that her greatest fear is not being able to live up to her sister’s version of the Black Canary. I feel for her when Sara is throwing her deepest darkest fear in her face and beating the shit out of her. I get her standing up to Oliver and doing what she believes in. I get that she needed Felicity to tell her something that she knew deep down but never actually acknowledged. That she doesn’t need to be anybody but herself. I get all of that which is why this is probably one of the very very few episodes of Arrow where I actually like Laurel Lance. She was believable and that was something this character needed more than anything (also the Felicity-laurel hug was sweet). So kudos to the writers for LL in this (only) episode.

    Now on to Laurel Lance in the series: Here’s what I will never get (and I know they say never say never but im fairly certain about this). I have not been able to buy into the BC arc yet. Yes she lost her sister and there are different ways to avenge that, yes she wants to fight for the city, yes she believes she can be a hero, BUT all of these things are being told to us on Arrow but not actually shown (if you know what I mean). There’s this statement by Gail Simmones that I saw on twitter "There's a big difference between a character to look at & a character to believe in." THIS SUMS UP EVERYTHING I FEEL ABOUT LAUREL LANCE AS BC! Sure give her a mask, a suit and few stunts BUT Laurel Lance will never be a superhero to me. She does not have that endearing quality that Felicity for instance has in spades ( so natural) and even Oliver for all his masculine machoness and having killed scores of ppl in the past etc etc, everytime Oliver goes through a tough time, my heart breaks for him. Laurel Lance as a character does not have that. I rarely feel sympathy for her character. Maybe it’s the writing that has been given to her in the past, maybe it’s the acting execution (u probably don’t agree with me here but this character could have been casted way way better), maybe it’s the fact that the stunts that don’t have the stunt double are awkward and weird cz she doesn’t have the same physicality to her as say Sara for example, maybe it’s the fact that people are not stupid and need to connect with a character than have it thrown in their face as a hero coz its comic canon. To be fair Laurel as Laurel has been cringeworthy in the past so Laurel as BC is definitely a step forward BUT to me 1 episode with wearing her fears on her sleeve cannot make me relate to her or want her to win! The sad part is had they played this differently, Laurel needn’t have been a hero already fighting and saving ppl but could have been the underdog who wins in the end of the season BUT I cant even seem to root for her as an underdog. Her character’s been so massacred in the past, all I see are the flaws that I cannot attribute to layers or character development. And what we got at the end of this BC trilogy is supposedly a full fledged superhero who can be sent out on the streets to save the city? (I mean I know this is a TV show but there are times where I feel the show takes you for an idiot). Ive made my peace with the fact that Laurel is going to be on the show as BC and if we do have more episodes of her like we saw tonight then I’ll be the first one to say Ive changed my mind BUT while I understand Laurel’s motivations (sometimes), most of the times im shaking my fist at the screen. I just feel the showrunners in their effort to stick the original plan, have dealt with this all wrong and Im worried that Im going to have this problem through the season.

    Ok thats the end of my long rant.. Sorry about that but lots of love to you!

    Shweta :) xx

    1. Hmm, I definitely understand a lot of what you're saying. The writing and sometimes the acting are inconsistent or a bit stilted and this dampens the performance. And I am definitely a person who yells at Laurel nearly every single episode, even when I am trying to root for her. But I wouldn't say her journey is done yet. I don't think Oliver's agreeing to let her play with them and be a hero while he is gone means that her evolution into BC is over and that we should accept it and believe it all today. These writers have shown that they're about the long game. I think really only Diggle and Felicity have remained who they were when they were introduced. Everyone else has grown and changed and has so much further to go.

      I like to compare watching Laurel go through all of this to the idea of watching the show if it were the flashback scenes only. Imagine having to watch Oliver on the island for five seasons with no idea who he becomes in our present on the show. I see what you said about him having the hint of a hero in him, but I would think it would be very annoying to watch Bad Wig!Ollie without knowing who he becomes. Ollie was annoying, a brat, whiny!, questioned everything, spoiled, scared, etc. Slowly he was broken down and built back and is still growing himself so that he can become The Green Arrow from the Arrow. Laurel is the same without the benefit of watching her future self already be self-assured. I know it's frustrating, I feel it too, but I have to have hope that when we watch season five for instance, that we can look back on these episodes and feel the same frustration and sometimes hate we have for her character, but can appreciate how far she's come and how much we love BC. It sucks we have to wait a while and that my statement just comes from wanting to have hope that might not pan out— could be highly wrong. But I want to give them a chance for me to love BC later, even if I don't love her now. I'm not really trying to convert you, because again, I totally understand, L drives me CRAZY. But I am willing for her to suck now if she's awesome later. =/

      "Ron Weasley: Right, you've got a sort of wonky cross… That means you're going to have 'trials and suffering'—sorry about that—but there's a thing that could be the sun … hang on … that means 'great happiness' … so you're going to suffer but be very happy about it...…
      Harry Potter: You need your inner eye tested." Just accessing my inner Divination!Ron Weasley I guess.

    2. Imma reply to your comment and Connie's comment at the same time, because multi-tasking.

      I'm totally with Connie: I usually try to play devil's advocate for Laurel because I don't hate HER. I think she's a strong woman. A heck of a lot stronger than I am, considering the fact that she lost the love of her life, her sister, and has spiraled but managed to get most of her crap together while still holding a job.

      I would think it would be very annoying to watch Bad Wig!Ollie without knowing who he becomes. Ollie was annoying, a brat, whiny!, questioned everything, spoiled, scared, etc. Slowly he was broken down and built back and is still growing himself so that he can become The Green Arrow from the Arrow. Laurel is the same without the benefit of watching her future self already be self-assured.

      Connie summed up brilliantly what I would articulate, though: her journey isn't over yet. Far from it. If, let's say, Arrow spends another... oh, three seasons on the air, right? That would mean that this is the mid-way point in the show's journey. The writers are in the game for the long-haul. Sure, LL will learn how to fight better but the goal of her as BC is to develop her into a better person and a better hero. She's not there yet. One episode of redemption does not a hero make. It's going to take her stumbling and falling (much like Oliver has... because let's be real here: Ollie may be a hero, but he doesn't HAVE to be likable. I read a quote a while back about that in regards to female characters and have quoted it here. People often think that characters have to be likable to be valid or important. They do not. You don't HAVE to feel attachment to every single character. It's okay if you watch a show and don't love a character. But the problem is so many people think: "I don't like this person or character, so therefore they're not as important as the one I DO like." LL may not be a sympathetic character -- she's not; she's stoic and stiff and she's definitely prickly in the best of circumstances -- but heroes don't have to be. As long as they continue to grow.)

      Ollie is more sympathetic in this series (sometimes because sometimes he is not) because he's the lead. If you don't connect with the lead of the series and root for them, that's a problem. It's why shows like Jane the Virgin are faring SO UTTERLY WELL on TV -- Jane is a VERY likable heroine and people connect with her because of that.


      (Hope that makes sense!)

  5. Your review, especially about Thea's goodness, really reaffirms my belief that it is her light and innocence that oliver holds most precious and will lose in his battle with Ras.

    1. THANK YOU APRIL. :) :) :)

      I know a lot of shippers want the "thing you hold most precious" to be Felicity, but there are more strong arguments for Thea, especially if you take this week's Hong Kong flashbacks into account.

  6. "And I think that the reason Sara was able to look at Oliver in "The Calm" and tell him that the reason he needed someone in his life that could harness his light, who didn't wear a mask, was because Laurel was ALWAYS that person for Sara." Before I came here, I saw your tumblr post (and quoted it in my recap bc i liked it so much) about the Laurel/Felicity scene and about Sara's light. I agreed that Laurel was that person for Sara. Felicity says that Sara didn't have that same light, but it was just meant in the way that Oliver and Sara had to suppress their lights for so long, so they needed someone who already had it shining. Felicity and Laurel do that for Oliver and Sara, but it's also a great reason why seeing them bond is so important. Because they ARE so similar in this one way. I think Felicity's light happens to shine brighter, but Laurel had a lot of bad stuff happen to her and all at once (Felicity's painful moments are blessedly for her more spaced apart), thus dimming her light. But she's still got hers, it's not snuffed out by torture and murder and death. And that will make the Black Canary different than the Canary was.

    "Felicity's argument is the emotional component of the decision; Oliver's the rational. " A great point in the argument you are making but also in why they work so well together and would be a great duo both professionally saving lives and romantically. One of the good kinds of 'opposites attract."

    Something so interesting about the Oliver telling Thea is that he willingly, premeditatidly (not a word, go with me here) told her and there was no danger. Everyone else he's ever told this secret needed to know in the moment he told them, life or death. From Felicity and Diggle to Roy to Tommy. Moira and Laurel were told separately or figured it out. Thea's the ONLY person (that I can think of, I might be missing someone) who he told this to and didn't need to know in that moment. And of course it's his sister and she could leave him, etc, but I loved recognizing that tension he had for those reasons, but also that he hasn't revealed it in this way before. Stephen did such a great job in his trepidation, his tenseness and fear, then the way he relaxed when she tanked him. He's also never had anyone thank him like that before, another thing he wasn't expecting. Oliver achieved a lot of firsts in this episode. It doesn't escape me that Thea knowing right in the middle of the five year journey makes it a literal turning point for the rest of the series. Her acceptance of him, her thanks will certainly inspire the person he becomes for the rest of the show.

    "We can NOT go back. And you do NOT have the right to come back here and question everyone's choices." I feel like I've seen that you don't watch Grey's Anatomy (general comments about not watching Shondaland Thursday), so forgive me if you know this basic premise. On Grey's, Meredith dates (loose term for adulterizes with) Derek, who then decides to get back with his wife (however briefly). Once, when she's trying to move on and he gets jealous, she gets upset and says "I make no apologies for how I chose to repair what you broke." This line reminds me so much of Felicity's line here. They had to move on. Oliver broke their hearts and their mission. They had to repair it on whatever way they could. They are not apologizing for that. He doesn't get to be mad or jealous or upset because they did what they needed to do in order to survive. Oliver should certainly understand that, but he should also understand that it's not just about him and his feelings, it's about theirs and the pain they experienced and repaired in his absence.

    1. "he asks if Oliver can live with what the city has become in his absence." Hmm, Dig's comment here I felt was more about the mission itself. He mentions that Oliver started something and says "can you live with what it's become?" Before, the mission was just Oliver's. It was his list and his fight to honor Tommy, but with letting all these people in (seriously, every single major character but Lance enters the foundry in this episode), he's given them his mission. But it's evolved into something bigger. I get what you're saying about the city being changed and them saving it, but I feel it's more about the mission itself, as if it were sentient and growing. I imagine each member of Team Arrow holding onto a blob Oliver is holding. When he died, he dropped it and it broke. Now that he's back, they each are holding on to their piece that they've picked up. Oliver wants it whole again, he wants it to be his again. But they now own pieces of it too. It's become something more than his. Basically, can you live with sharing? Yes, Oliver has a sibling, which usually invites a more sharing nature, but they were RICH siblings, so they still didn't have to share anything at all. That probably influences him in some ways as well.

      "Although I DID kinda kick your ass." I loved the "You didn't." from Oliver even more though. ha! Esp because his inflection was so reluctant, because she DID.

    2. Wow, I have a had a difficult time summarizing my thoughts about this episode. There were so many great scenes and moments of character development but there were also lots of time that I felt it was a little jerky in transitions and it had a tendency to speed past some important developments (but I did all my graduate work in literature and visual arts and none in film so I'm not sure I could see how to fix that). And we all know this show can go through plot like a freight train. Sometimes that feels exciting and sometimes I'm left feeling like I want to slow down so I can think for a second or really listen to what someone is saying. But leaving those things aside, I came to so much appreciation of these characters.

      I loved what you had to say about Laurel. “But those feelings that exist in us when we're at our absolute lowest don't disappear, magically, when we recover.” Laurel has a history of addiction. And lies and denial are a big part of addiction as well. And addiction is something she will have to struggle with for the rest of her life. But Oliver has no idea what that process is like and I was really mad at him to for throwing that in her face. (Oliver gets a lot of truth thrown at him in that alley.) And I think we need to remember that idea when it comes to all these characters. Oliver will always have the island and those struggles as part of him. Felicity will always have a little girl who was abandoned by her father inside her. Diggle will always have the pain of losing his brother and being deeply troubled by his time in Afghanistan. But those things don't have to rule us. It's only in running from pain that we allow it to control us and send us into the bottle, or isolation, or anger. Once we own the pain and weaknesses as part of our stories we can move forward. Those feelings can make us wiser and more compassionate if we learn not to be afraid.

      That last fight scene for Laurel where she was hallucinating both her sister and her father was brutal to watch. But she actually overcame it better than Oliver did when he was fighting himself after his own run-in with Vertigo in 3x01. I think that was a major step for Laurel and I can only hope that Oliver can conquer his fears regarding his own identity as well this season. And Laurel went right from that to talking to her father. She allowed the fear that Vertigo showed her to move her to talking with her father in spite of those fears. She faced it head on and then she and her father were able to cling to each other in their grief. That is what grief can do, it can bring us closer together in our pain rather than isolating us in our own personal misery. I was so relieved to see that even though that scene was incredibly painful. I have a toddler so when Quentin cried out “My baby. Not again.” I really lost it. Wonderful scene and now it is no longer hanging over everyone. Although I don't believe Quentin will be able to leave it at that, especially being an investigator who likes to ferret out the truth. Will he find out about Malcolm? I wonder how that would go.

    3. Sorry Connie, I entered my other comment as a reply to you when I meant to put it as a reply to the main article. Whoops.

      But, I want to reply to what you said about how different this is from the other times Oliver told someone. Amazing comparisons! This is so different. He is so quiet about it and so obviously filled with tension and fear. That whole scene is probably my favourite of the episode because of the writing and especially because of the acting. And this is arguably the best outcome of any of his reveals. Choosing to do it now rather than under duress or emergency means that it could turn into a really gentle and emotional moment that builds trust rather than destroying it.

    4. CONNIE. Your comments give me warmth and light. You know that. ;)

      1) Thank you for reading and quoting that Tumblr post! I got so mad when people said (and are still saying, apparently) that Felicity's character was being retconned somehow because she's encouraging LL. Like... in the words of Ben Wyatt: "I don't even have time to tell you how wrong you are... actually, if I don't, it's gonna bug me." Sometimes Tumblr is the worst because it's full of fangirls. ANYWAY. Mini rant over because that moment was so important. I think it could have been phrased better, and I was talking to Jen about this. Because I don't think Felicity meant Sara had zero light within her. I think she knew that the light in the Canary was faded though... dimmed, even, and that LL still had the chance to save herself, an opportunity Sara did not have. She was encouraging Laurel to not put on the darkness that her sister had but harness the light and hope and make the mask her own. If that makes sense?

      2) That Thea scene has worked its way up to one of my absolute favorites this season. Do you know how few times Oliver has been thanked for what he does? (And look, I waffled this episode a lot between feeling for Oliver and wanting to see him verbally decimated, but I partially blame that on Stephen Amell) He's been blamed for a lot. But thanked? And by the person he holds most dear? It was so beautiful to see Thea's unique and optimistic (compassionate) perspective on the situation. She was thanking him for being her big brother and the protector of both the city and her, so many times over. It was an amazing scene.

      3) I don't watch Grey's but my roommate is obsessed and THAT QUOTE IS PERFECT. Oliver getting smacked down by Roy and LL and Felicity in this episode was beautiful because (as we've both said before) Oliver has problems with control and with letting other people make their own decisions. Before the episode aired, I had written the line: "How many more men on this show are going to make decisions for the women?" And while arguably they still kind of ARE, this episode was such a refreshing way to watch these secrets and stories unfold.

      4) Hmmm, you are right, Connie. I think Dig was definitely referring more to the team and how they handled things than anything else, especially the city. The only way Oliver will grow this year is if he lets other people make decisions and works WITH the team rather than as the leader of it. Obviously they'll look to him for advice but the fact that he left feeling secure about the city being in their hands is a good first step.

    5. BECCA. You're awesome. Thank you both for being so consistent in your reviews and your thoughts.

      1) My friend Jen also noted how jerky the episode seemed to move. Honestly, I looked up from my computer during a commercial at 8:40 and was like "... holy crap, we still have 20 minutes left?" It felt like a LOT was jammed into forty minutes and that may be a fault of the editing more than anything else, you know?

      2) GOD, I WAS SO GLAD WHEN LAUREL CALLED OLIVER OUT ON THAT. He had no right to tell her what addiction felt like. He had no right to tell her when she astutely points out that he's doing the same in order to numb his own pain. I was never more Team Laurel than I was in that moment. Because LL is so complex. And she's not the warm and fuzzy kind of character. She's standoffish and she's hardened, a bit. It makes her harder to relate to and love for someone like me but I really really loved and appreciated her in this episode.

      3) That scene with Quentin and Laurel was a long time coming and if I'm being honest, since I've mocked how long it's taken I thought I wouldn't be able to emotionally relate to it. NOPE. I was wrong. I definitely started to cry at the same point you did. Paul Blackthorne and Katie Cassidy really nailed that scene. It was painful to watch.

  7. I've read some people arguing that Oliver can get training from Malcolm without trusting or being influenced by him. I think that is naivete or wishful thinking. At the very beginning of the ep he strolls into the Foundry and convinces Oliver to tell Thea. (I think Malcolm is going to be calling a lot of the shots for example when Thea and Oliver head to Lian Yu). That was a good move and I was so happy he told her but I don't think all of Malcolm's strategies will be so beneficial. Look at it from Malcolm's point of view. If Thea was angry with Oliver for lying it would merely push her closer to Malcolm. If not, she will still be more effective working with them. So it was a good move for Malcolm either way.

    Willa Holland is totally my MVP for the episode. I don't think any of us were expecting that kind of reaction when Oliver told her. It was SO BEAUTIFUL. And the emotion on Amell's face was wonderful, it was so raw and I was so happy for him. Finally, he can talk honestly with a member of his family, the last member of his family. I loved that Oliver didn't say much or make any excuses. He just let her talk and she SAW. She understood so many things. She remembers all the things that the Arrow has done to save people, including her. Oliver has been there for her, making her a priority, long before Malcolm, even though she didn't know it at the time. And now she really SEES him. I was surprised at how quickly she realised that Malcolm was not to be trusted as was subtly separating her from the people she really could trust, especially after her faith in Malcolm last week. She (and Roy) changing opinions on Malcolm so quickly from last week gave me a little whiplash. Although the irony is still painful because she has no idea how deeply she has been manipulated and although I wish Oliver would tell her during their brother/sister time on the island I can't see that happening. The writers will save that bomb for another time. I was just cheering for Thea the whole time. When she is given facts and truth about her life she is very perceptive and makes really wise decisions. She totally saw through the slimy-DJ-spy and stood up for herself again (although she wasn't a match for a League-trained fighter which humbled her and led her to accept Malcolm a bit though she won't trust him)We've seen her operating in ignorance for so long that it's made her seem stupid or blind. But she is smart and tough and spunky and I love her. And I love that we can now really enjoy watching the bond between Oliver and Thea be the glorious thing that it is.

    1. Oh I DEFINITELY think Malcolm is going to influence Oliver more than he realizes. He's quick to listen to him in this episode (twice), so it'll be interesting to see if he compromises on his beliefs and actions later in the season because of him, too. I really do like though that Thea's reaction was to embrace Oliver because it isn't going to set up that classic "girl goes to the dark side after being lied to" trope (we kind of already crossed that bridge in "Unthinkable").

      Willa Holland did a fantastic job this episode. And god, Amell can sell a scene. I'm always and consistently impressed with how nuanced he's able to be when it comes to his facial reactions to people and events. The moment that he told Thea was so hesitant and he was never more puppy-like than in that moment. It was such a stunning moment for them as siblings because it's what Oliver has wanted since "Corto Maltese" but never thought was possible: a close bond with Thea where they can be totally and completely honest with each other. Thea is totally stronger than everyone in her life gives her credit for (except Roy... Roy's really never doubted how strong Thea was and I think that's special), so I loved seeing her combat creepy DJ dude and remembering what Malcolm told her.


  8. Major props to Roy this week. I was a little frustrated with his glossing over Malcolm's crimes last week. But this week, he is the only one to ask Thea “What do you think?” He respects that she has come to her own decision and he supports her. He has always supported her. (I think back to his gentle advice when she wouldn't go visit her mother in prison.) And he totally calls Oliver on his assumption that “protecting” Thea means telling her what to do. I cheered at that moment. He pops out to check on her after the yelling in the foundry only to see her walking off with slimy DJ-spy and is there to back her up in a fight too (I love that he was the first one through the door when she was struggling with slimy-DJ-guy.) And that little moment between them at the end gives me hope for their relationship (which I have always liked.)

    I thought the big team conflict in the foundry was great. Oliver really bumped against his team in a major way this week. I wasn't surprised to see him struggle. He wants things to go back to the way they were and they can't go back (point- Felicity). He has always struggled with trying to control or dictate actions to people he loves as you've often pointed out. I read this great quote this week about that: “We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love. Many of the things that we want for those we care about are things that we would adamantly oppose for ourselves because they would infringe upon our sense of self...All we ask is to be allowed to remain the writers of our own story. That story is ever changing. Over the course of our lives, we may encounter unimaginable difficulties. Our concerns and desires may shift. But whatever happens, we want to retain the freedom to shape our lives in ways consistent our character and loyalties.” (Atul Gawande) Oliver has NEVER chosen the path of safety for himself (no matter what his mother may have wished for him) but he insists that others HAVE TO. And that is not his choice to make. You said at that moment the teams tells him “He's not their leader. He is not their dictator.” The funny thing a real leader is not a dictator. Oliver could be their leader if he would really listen to his team. If he would lead from the front, having the respect and trust of all his team because they knew he truly respected them, their abilities and their viewpoints, he would truly be a leader far more than he ever has been. But he has operated as a selfish spoiled brat, or on an island fighting for survival, as a covert operative against his will, as part of the Bratva which works through force and violence to maintain control or as a solo vigilante for much of his life. He has yet to learn what real leadership is. The talent is there I think. As Barry told him, Oliver Queen can inspire. He just has to learn how. Amell's expression when Oliver realised all that they were saying to him and he said “Let me know if there is any change in her condition.” was another beautiful moment of acting.

    After the argument in the foundry Diggle, Felicity and Roy take similar paths. They each go to comfort someone. Diggle follows Oliver and gently talks him through this latest difficulty just like he often does. I love that he corrected Oliver when Oliver said “When I was gone”. No, he was DEAD. This is the same thing that Thea said to him in the pilot at his homecoming party. Oliver needs reminding that his experience of those hard times is totally different to all the others. To them, he wasn't away, he was dead. Big difference and a totally different reality for those he left behind. Diggle, I love you man. Keep talking! Everyone just shut up and listen to Diggle.

  9. Roy goes to talk to Thea (and has his own adventure with that) while Felicity stays with Laurel. How many times has Felicity sat in that foundry and watched over a seriously injured friend? She's done it with Oliver, Diggle, Roy, Lyla and now Laurel. And how many times has she talked a hero through their doubt? She does it for Oliver all the time, for Barry in Central City and now for Laurel. Man, this girl should be getting more credit from her team for the absolute rock and shining light that she is. And she is the perfect person to talk to Laurel about her fears because Felicity struggled with feeling inadequate in comparison to Sara too. She knows you can't make comparisons. Felicity put Sara on a bit of a pedestal too but understood that they could be friends and respect their differences without being threatened. I think Felicity and Laurel are on their way there. Great moment.

    1. ALL THE PROPS TO ROY THE FEMINIST THIS WEEK. He has seriously grown on me as a character this season. I was firmly "meh" last year in regards to him as a person but I love what the show has done to display how much he cares for Thea and for other people on this team. He's just... he's so much stronger and wiser than I thought he would be. Plus his sass is the best kind of sass. I love that he calls Oliver out first on his crap. And how stunned Oliver is that someone like Roy would dare stand up to him, but the truth is that Roy's become very much of a leader around the foundry and everyone respects him, except for Oliver who still sees him a lot like he sees Barry: his little mentee.

      Oliver could be their leader if he would really listen to his team.

      MAJOR PROPS TO THIS STATEMENT. I think it really says all that needs to be said about Oliver and his leadership. He's only going to become a better person this season (leadership-wise, friend-wise, romantically) if he learns to humble himself and ask -- like Roy did -- "What do you think?"

      Everyone just shut up and listen to Diggle.

      HONESTLY THIS IS THE MORAL OF THIS SEASON. Pfffft, themes of identity? It's really about everyone learning to listen to Diggle. ;)

  10. A couple little moments I loved-

    - “I'm always going to hate Malcolm Merlyn but I think he's a necessary evil.” Wonderful little summation of how Oliver feels.
    - I love that Oliver was immediately honest with Maseo about how he gave in under torture. He didn't try to cover things up like he did with Slade. He may be pig-headed but the boy can learn.
    - I love how Oliver gently asked Roy to give them a minute at the end. Once again, progress that I hope to see continue.

    Awesome review as usual and reading the comments is always so enlightening.

    1. I did like that Oliver and Thea had a frank talk about Malcolm and GEEZ, if Thea hates him now, I can't wait to see how she responds when she finds out she killed Sara because he made her. And I do love the Maseo/Oliver flashbacks a lot this time around, not just because they prep us for next episode (RETURN TO STARLING), but because it showed how honest and trusting both men were of each other.

      Thanks as always for your comments, Becca! The comments section on these turn into my favorite place to be on Thursday. ;)

  11. One last thing- I do have to disagree with one of your points. “Felicity's argument is the emotional component of the decision; Oliver's the rational.” I think this is too often the view of male/female relationships and that gendered viewed doesn't allow us to see clearly. I think this is too simplistic a view of their dynamic. Oliver is often totally the opposite of rational when it comes to his family. I would argue that when it comes to his family he is the most blind. His strong feelings about his mother and sister have led him to assume things and be really wrong. Oldest siblings (I am the oldest of four) can get caught in the trap of always seeing their little siblings as being the ones in need of caretaking, and not seeing how strong an individual they are and he often infantilises Thea. Felicity has talked him down a number of times when he was flying off the handle about someone he loves. And she needed his calm input when she couldn't see things clearly in relation to her mother. I think that is less about their gender or birth order than it is about the fact that it is hard to be calm and objective in the midst of difficulties with the people we are closest too. And in regards to the decision to work with Malcolm, a lot of people have said that Felicity was reacting emotionally and Oliver was the calm rational one (and there have been some troubling gendered criticisms mixed in). Oliver was certainly quieter and Felicity was obviously more emotional in that particular conversation however I think their opinions on the matter are more complex than just emotions vs intellect (I really don't enjoy that dichotomy). Oliver is deeply afraid and has been deeply shaken by his defeat and near death. If there is anything that could scare him more than Ra's coming after his little sister I can't think what it would be. So in that worry and danger he looks to Malcolm as a resource. Plus, he is obviously more used to taking extreme or unethical action to get to a result as per his conversations with Barry in the crossover. Both logical and emotional I would say. Felicity has always been less willing to go the expedient and less ethical route. And Felicity is reacting to this in the heat of the moment but her opinion of Malcolm has been fairly steady whether she is talking to Oliver or not and with good reason. She sees it as really wrong to work with a monster, a mass murderer and that is certainly a good point. Mix her ethical objection with her realisation that she didn't know Oliver like she thought she did and the personal relationship stuff and she is really mad. Both of them have logical reasons and emotional reasons for choosing the way they do and then just stir in their personal baggage and voila, deep and layered conflict. Even “manly, stoic heros” like Oliver Queen are driven by a combination of thought and emotion and even “girly love interests” like Felicity Smoak are driven by their beliefs and thoughts as much as their feeling. I don't want to see either being categorised too narrowly and I think the writers have shown plenty of reasons to see all those qualities in both of them.

    1. Okay, Imma tackle this comment first and then go back and reply to all of the other ones because I'll explain what I meant in terms of the more "emotional" vs. "rational" component.

      Felicity's argument is definitely based on logic and emotion; Oliver's is based on logic and emotion as well. But Oliver's rationalization is that the ends justify the means. His thinking is from the perspective of "Point A justifies Point B." And the reason that he's doing that IS because he's emotional. It's this weird, complex mix but when it boils down to it, Oliver's part of the argument is that if someone is attacking his sister, he needs to do anything to stop them. That's ration. It's logic: "I need to beat Ra's, so I need to find someone to help me do that." In terms of the actual argument to work with Merlyn (not the reason why he has to in the first place), Oliver is rational.

      Felicity believes that the ends don't always justify the means, which is why her component is the more emotional (again, this is just the WORKING with Malcolm argument, right?). Not in the sense that she was more upset or that her argument wasn't based on sound logic (it was) and rationale, but that to her... "Point A cannot justify Point B because of X, Y, Z." Oliver is looking at his decision from a logic standpoint... he's not factoring in ALL that Felicity is (with that X, Y, Z above). It's why when he tells her that he's working with Malcolm, in the alley she brings up Thea and Sara -- to her, it's not an A to B scenario. There are more components that should make up the decision than that and Oliver isn't thinking along those lines. He's not thinking about what Malcolm DID but what he CAN do.

      I don't know if I'm explaining this well or not, but the problem with their argument was that they were both right (and both a little bit wrong).

      But thank you for your comments! Hopefully that made a bit of sense?

    2. I think I see what you are getting at. And I agree, Oliver's mindset is very much along the lines of "I have a huge problem and Malcolm is the way to get me past this problem." It's very tactical and direct. (I think he gets some of this thinking from working for ARGUS. It's the way Amanda Waller would think.) Felicity's view is broader, taking in implications of what is right, not just what is effective. I like your clarification. I'm just uncomfortable with the whole logic vs emotion argument that is often used to describe a male/female dynamic and the specific terms matter to me. What can I say? I was almost an academic ;)

      In this instance, I think I've just been irritated at the number of times I've reads things where Oliver is just being a logical problem solver and Felicity is missing the point by getting "all emotional." When Oliver gets emotional or upset he is rarely criticized for being irrational (at least not with the derogatory overtones I hear used about female characters) but female characters are so much more likely to be called that when they express opinions or feelings, especially unpleasant feelings. It's like they break that "likeable" rule you mentioned.

      Thanks for responding so thoughtfully. It's been getting on my nerves and if my husband jokes about my "getting emotional" anytime soon he may find me over-reacting :D

    3. I'm glad I was able to explain my thought process in a way that made sense, Becca. But I agree with you. I think "emotional" is such an easy label for people (especially men) to slap onto a woman in order to explain away her behavior. It's simplistic and problematic because it reduces a woman to nothing more than a person who relies on her emotions as a way to navigate everything and make decisions.

      And ugh, this is why we need feminism -- because when males on the show snap at people and act irrationally, it's because they're "tortured" or "brooding" or "irrational." If Laurel does something, she's labeled as a "bitch" or "whiny" or "petulant." It reminds me of a quote that Gillian Flynn recently said regarding anti-heroes:

      "What Amy does is to weaponize female stereotypes. She embodies them to get what she wants and then she detonates them. Men do bad things in films all the time and they’re called anti-heroes. Amy may not be admirable, but neither are the men on ‘The Sopranos'."

      <3 you and your comments, forever and ever.

  12. Where do you see Oliver and Felicity going? I know everyone says that they love the long haul, slow burn but eventually it gets tiresome waiting.
    Also with how angry Felicity was this episode, I don't see how she is forgiving Oliver anytime soon and I worry that the writers will throw her into a relationship with Ray soon.

    Thanks for reading and a wonderful review of last night's episode.

    1. Thomas! First of all, welcome and thank you for reading this review and saying such nice things about it. :)

      Where do I see Oliver and Felicity going? You're correct in that the slow burn is often tiresome when it comes to television because it's a trope that's been done a million times in a million ways before. What Marc said in an interview recently has stuck with me though, and it's this idea that the response and feedback in terms of the relationship has been good so far. I don't feel like I'm being led on an endless rabbit trail with only their chemistry to tug me along and no development (like, say, Jeff and Annie from 'Community'). I feel like their relationship is progressing and there's constant fresh -- key word here -- sources of conflict keeping them apart.

      I just reblogged this Alan Sepinwall quote (I admire him and his input greatly) so I'll post it here too because it sums up my feelings about the pairing thus far:

      “Oliver’s new partnership with Merlyn provides the least contrived reason yet to keep things distant between him and Felicity; they’re not apart because of some misunderstanding, or a boring obstacle love interest, but because of a difference in the core values of who they each are as people. And that’s much more compelling, and respectful of them both, than the usual shenanigans that would have to be deployed at this point in a will-they/won’t-they scenario.”

      Right now, Oliver and Felicity aren't conflicted necessarily over their love for each other. Oliver loves her. Period. The end. There's literally nothing on this earth that could change that (he died and he STILL loved her as he was dying). For Felicity, I have no doubt that she loves him too but right now their conflict is with each others' personalities. And I love that. It's fresh. It's real. It's raw. It's not a recycling of a used trope of "Character A likes character B but oh nooooo here comes Characters C and D for a love square."

      I do slightly worry about this love triangle aspect in regards to Ray but that's mostly because I don't like Ray or think he's good or healthy for Felicity. But I have faith in writers that are smarter than me and I genuinely think that there WILL be something developed between Oliver and Felicity by the end of the season. Now, whether or not that consists of the pair sharing another kiss, Felicity telling Oliver how SHE feels, or Oliver humbly asking Felicity what she wants and becoming a better person to deserve being with her remains to be seen. I'm just along for the ride and I'll try to trust the writers on this one. ;)

  13. Hello again Jennifer!
    First of all, great post! (ups that sounded a little bit as every beginning in Eurovision Song Contest votes... )
    And now... let´s fight!! ;) Because in my opinion Thea can´t be trusted at all! I understood that she could forgive Oliver because he was doing something really good... but suddenly hate Malcolm?? Don´t think so...
    Oliver has been telling Thea Malcolm is bad, that he is dangerous all season now, and she always defended Malcolm.... and now, in a second, he´s the worst? Why? Because Malcolm didn´t tell her Oliver´s secret?? It´s not his to tell...
    We´ll see how this ends, but I think Thea is up to something.
    Felicity/Laurel scene was marvelous... except for the fact that now Laurel has a light too... I just hope Oliver´s light is Felicity´s and no Laurel´s...
    It was a very complete episode, with such great performances from everyone.... but for me Stephen´s was the very best: when he was waiting for Thea to react I cried myself out, it was a really beautiful scene (note I don´t like Thea very much so it was more difficult for me to feel the empathy).
    I agree with you completely about Oliver/Felicity having their reasons for what they are doing... I think Felicity also feels he lied a little bit to her with that I love you and that cold come back, and Oliver´s plan to work with Malcolm is just the straw that breaks the camel. And Felicity shutting Oliver was just great! And how he keeps listening to her, and giving her opinion more credit than others makes me happy! :)
    Finally Lance knows! What a sad moment, but what a expected moment too!
    I can´t believe we have to wait another week again… sigh!
    P.S. English is not my first language, I try to do my best, but sorry for the mistakes :)

    1. Hi there Bri! First of all, thank you for reading and commenting! And especially since English isn't your first language, you did great. What is your first language if you don't mind me asking?

      Now onto discussion! I think Thea's mistrust of Malcolm has less to do with him not telling her who Oliver was and more of the fact that during "Unthinkable," he took her away from everything she knew and lied to her, telling her that she basically couldn't trust anyone but him. And it's the fact that he ripped her away from Oliver and Roy by pretending he was the only person who understood how she felt that makes her really mad at him in this episode. Does that make sense?

      Stephen's acting was top-notch in this episode, it really was. The scene you mentioned where Thea finds out was SO good. You could see on his face how he was expecting her to yell at him or be mad and he was just so touched that she wasn't and she thanked him and hugged him. It was beautiful.

      Felicity shutting down Oliver was AMAZING. And you're totally right -- it's not until she says it that he actually starts to listen to her.

      THANK GOODNESS LANCE KNOWS. And yes, that moment was so good and so sad.

      Thanks again, Bri! :D

    2. My first language is Spanish... thanks for the compliment, also reading your posts helps me improve, so great! :)
      Yeah, it totally makes sense... I didn´t think of that at all..... There´s so many things happening in every episode I don´t have time to relate everything as you do (seriously, I´m amazed with your capacity of remembering things that happened in that or this other episode... I have a general notion of what´s happening this season, and sometimes I forget half of reading this post makes me understand better the episode. I´m not finished "watching" arrow til I read your post).
      And something I forgot to comment yesterday: verdant is crowded with heroes (well, kind of, heroes in practice, bad guys who know how to fight, ...) now! We just need Ray down there and we can start the party! It´s a little awkward for me... I suppose they will split up later in the season.


  14. Thank you for your review Jennifer Marie, as always incredible analysis and balanced commentary.

    Hearing the truth about your flaws from others when you are well aware of them as you have rightly stated, hurts; so I was looking forward to seeing how this was explored with Laurel. Even though Oliver and Felicity are my favourite characters, I find LL to be the closest to whom I identify with so I enjoyed seeing the struggles she faced, battling Vertigo/Sara and coming to terms with the fact she is not her sister.

    Working with Oliver given his initial opposition was also really interesting. I like that by the end of the episode, he is more accepting of Laurel and I like seeing this development as it feels like they are on the road to a better place in a working relationship. (I have no worries about Olicity, they are my OTP and I ship them hard).

    Maybe because there is generally a lack of female interaction in Arrow, I liked the scene between Laurel and Felicity, it did not feel contrived in my opinion. Felicity has always been someone who offers support and I get where she was coming from in her talk with Laurel so I didn't think she was being disrespectful about Sara, but just recognising that Sara went through so much in her time away that you could see she struggled in finding some semblance of a person that was not always in darkness.

    Speaking of support, I absolutely loved Roy standing up for Thea and then the subsequent truth bombing to Oliver from Felicity and Diggle. I find this team dynamic so compelling and I have to commend the writers for these developments. I love the original trio of Team Arrow but I happy to see the evolution as I feel that some TV shows stick to a safer and more generic script that can sometimes feel tired where as Arrow is not afraid of change. I know at times the story can feel disjointed, I feel out of all 3 seasons, S3 has the least natural flow but the way I'm seeing it, is that S3 there is a lot of figuring out to do with the characters so there are lots of balls in the air but they are going to come out much stronger for it.

    My favourite part of this episode was Oliver telling Thea. I'm in love with that scene, it was so beautiful, the way most of what was conveyed wasn't through words - Oliver silently switching the foundry on from darkness to light, allowing Thea to just take in everything in the space, Thea's 'You're Him' (I like how she doesn't say The Arrow/The Hood/The Vigilante) and seeing the relief and happiness in Oliver's face in being able to finally share a huge part of himself with his last remaining family. That has got to be one of my favourite scenes of S3.
    I'm so happy that they have each other and looking forward to the sibling bonding in the next episode.

    The scene where finally Quentin finds out about Sara was as expected heartbreaking but I'm glad that things are now out in the open and I'm looking forward to seeing how this impacts him in the coming episodes. From the looks of the promos and set photos floating about, things look set to get interesting.

    Sitara x

    1. Sitara, thank you so much for your kind words and your comments. I'm so thankful for you all as readers. You guys make me think and make me a better writer and analyzer. <3

      I agree with you completely about LL. I don't actually relate to her (Felicity is who I gravitate toward because we're very similar in personality), but I completely and totally loved her in this episode. I love that she's becoming her own person and that she's able to combat the demons in her head now. "Canaries" was a start for her to be able to overcome the horrible things she thinks about herself and that others vocalize to her. She made the very first step toward healing when she shut up the monsters in her head and told Quentin about Sara.

      That scene between Laurel and Felicity has been getting a lot of unnecessary flak on Tumblr and Twitter from shippers and I can't understand WHY. Felicity is the kind of woman who finds the light in every person unless you're a murderer. She knows LL has light and what I think people misconstrued is the notion that Sara had NO light.

      The exact wording was: "You have a light inside of you that Sara never had." And what I took that to mean was "you have something within you that Sara didn't" not that "Sara was totally dark and hopeless and had no light." Sara had light, but a different kind -- a kind that comes from pain and torture and Laurel does not have any of that. THAT is what Felicity was saying, really, IMO.

      THANK YOU for your comment about the original Team Arrow. I've seen so many people bemoan this new team but like... teams grow and evolve and people do and so no, the original team isn't at front and center like it was before. But that's what happens -- people grow and evolve and change (TV especially) so it would be foolish to expect the show to stay EXACTLY as it was last year or two years ago and it's actually very insulting to character growth and development to expect it to. I love the clashing of this team. I love Roy standing up for Thea, as you did. Arrow is a show that isn't afraid to shift around its pieces until it finds something that works. And I feel like New Team Arrow standing up to Oliver really worked.

      Oh man, that Oliver/Thea scene could get talked about forever. That's how beautiful it was acted. AMELL'S FACE WHEN SHE HUGGED HIM. You can see he was so uncertain of what to do because she was being so genuinely loving and it like, actually made Oliver cry because no one has done that before when they found out. No one. And the most important person in the world to him is the one who openly embraces him and his secrets and flaws and wants to draw closer to him, not away, and ugh I have a lot of feelings now so I'll show myself out.

      Quentin finding out was really emotional and it was so so good. I'm glad ONE giant secret is out of the bag but now the emotional fallout from it will be the most interesting part.

      Thank you for your kind, thoughtful, and really well-articulated comments Sitara! :) :) :)

  15. So here's what I was thinking about this episode and about Laurel in particular. I know we've all been feeling like her story was annoying and extraneous, but here is something I love: since the writers wrote her out of being the "love interest" and wrote Felicity in, they have created that most beautiful and unusual of television women, particularly on this kind of show: the kind that is NOT beholden to the hero. I am loving that Laurel, perhaps alone of all the characters, treats Oliver as an equal. She's like "you and I grew up together, Ollie, and you can't pull your dumb-ass s**t on me." Finally in this episode I felt like she both rocked and ruled - and both the truth bomb in the alley and the scene with Captain Lance were DYNAMITE.

    Anon E.

    1. Hello Anon E.! I totally and completely agree with your assessments. I think that moment between them (where I was hardcore cheering for Laurel because OLIVER HAS NO RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT HER ADDICTION WITH HER AND ACCUSE HER OF THINGS, GOD) is a clear indicator of why they'd be terrible together again romantically. It's like Jeff and Britta on Community: they're both so similar and so stubborn.

      But I've always thought Laurel to be so important in Oliver's journey because as you said, she's a part of his past and she knew him when no one else did. So of course she's able to smack sense into him (and it's also probably why Oliver is so hard on her, too: because he's known her for so long).

      Man, I loved LL so much in this episode. She was putting Oliver in his place and fighting her demons and it was lovely. And that Quentin scene BROKE me.

      Thank you so much for your comments! :)