Oliver’s dramas took a way in the back of a mini-van seat in the third episode of the season as we focused on Thea and what she’s been up to for the past six months and Laurel and her dealing with Sara’s death. Both women shared a strong theme of being over being angry and hurt and vulnerable and wanting to take action to become stronger emotionally and physically.
Their solution? Embrace the violence within! Thea’s transformation we saw mainly in flashback with Malcolm as first her kindly father and then brutal but effective teacher; Laurel’s transformation or rather the beginning of it we saw with her ill attempt at avenging a battered woman and getting her butt handed to her before realizing you can’t do that and seeking out a trainer and mentor in the form of Ted Grant (iconic DC Comics trainer of Black Canary and Batman) who she believes will help her become the fighter she needs to be to honor Sara and her cause.
It was a strong choice to parallel Thea and Laurel’s stories in this episode as it provided a compare and contrast look between the two: both women are suffering from personal losses and shocking emotional upheaval; both have anger they don’t know what to do with; both want to stop being victims. However to what end Thea’s newfound prowess and emotional control will lead, one isn’t sure. Obviously, Malcom has a larger plan in place for her as he didn’t train her to be an assassin out of the goodness of his heart. And while I totally get Thea’s desire to be stronger, it still all amounts to a teen running away from home and her problems to find a quickie fix for her issues – with a known liar, murderer, and all around bad guy- instead of facing them straight on. So far she seems to have reached an amiable bond with Malcolm which just seems odd given all she knows about him and his contributions to the drama of her life. Thea seems too smart to be a pawn but at the same time she can’t believe that she’s capable of putting one over on Malcolm whatever he’s up to (at least not yet). There’s too much up in the air regarding what is going on and to come with Thea’s journey and how Malcolm plays a role. Which is actually half the fun in this story. Thea’s reunion with Oliver and her return to Starling City (with Malcolm to follow) should have some interesting twists and turns.
As for Laurel and what her embracing of the way of the warrior will lead to it’s obvious that she’s to become the actual Black Canary (as opposed to Sara’s Canary moniker) and use her anger and grief over Sara’s death to forge a new way of being by training to be a woman who can take action and a punch and give one as well. Of the two, Laurel has the better reasoning for her wanting to take up the fight – channel her anger into something good, pick up Sara’s mantle- and train even if it was a bit clumsily related and actually nullifies her argument of lying to her father about Sara’s death. She’s lying to him to protect him from the pain of losing Sara again but has no problem making him have a heart attack over her ill-advised ambush attacks gone awry? If we’re really going to be honest, Laurel’s not telling her father about Sara is as much about Laurel not wanting to deal with her father’s emotions and devastation as it is about protecting him. Maybe more so. I think in her mind by not telling him she’s making it not truly real; as long as Sara is alive for him and her mother, she’s alive somewhere and that makes Laurel feel better even if it is a pretty cruel and cowardly thing she’s doing to them.
Laurel is focused more on managing her pain, than those of her loved ones. Which doesn’t make her completely likable but somewhat understandable. At the very least in this episode it seems she realized that blindly lashing out won’t accomplish anything: she’s embraced a plan and is seeking out guidance.
Now it was a no brainer that Oliver refuse to train her citing that Sara would never forgive him for taking her sister down a path that they both had no choice to go down because plot wise Oliver can’t spend his time training Laurel. He’s got bad guys to fight and his own grief to deal with. Also, character wise Laurel needs to create her own life and character outside of Oliver’s Arrow to put them on more even ground as future crime fighting partners. So enter (a much younger) Ted Grant who seems primed and ready to help Laurel get tough, trained, and perhaps even help heal her heart and soul. So far Ted’s not bad to look at and doesn’t take Laurel’s guff which is a good thing. Hopefully it’ll continue to be so.
Not to be left out of this strong ladies in power episode, Felicity has embraced her new strong by starting off on a firm foot with Ray giving her over-caffeinated boss a list of her ‘Don’t dos’ followed by the shock and awesome news that Felicity is not his assistant, that she has her own assistant, and in fact has inherited Oliver’s old office. Whether it’s because he wants to score points or he realizes Felicity is indeed the Woman, way to go Ray! Of course Ray wants Felicity to earn her keep and enlists her in recovering data that we learn at episode’s end are schematics for some dangerous weaponry code named (DC COMICS spoiler) OMAC which results in Ray dropping his sunny persona to give the computer screen an intense Blue Steel scowl before looking up with a ‘I’m pissed and gonna kick some ass!’ look that shows the man is not a complete softie by any means.
Now while all the ladies were doing their thing, the men of Team Arrow road tripped it to Corto Maltese, well, flew partly, which gave us the cute exchange of Roy loading up for the trip by reaching for his bow and arrow only for Oliver to actually chortle at Roy’s cluelessness that traveling on planes with weapons is a ‘no-no’. It’s rare that Oliver isn’t so grim and for him to show genuine amusement and share a laugh with Diggle was a nice moment.
But laughter was a thing of the past once the trio landed and Diggle learned that the off the radar spy his baby’s momma sent him to meet was a traitor who was selling the identities of ARGUS spies and their families to bad people so he could have enough money to get out of ARGUS and leave Waller behind. Of course Diggle wasn’t having it and he, Oliver, and Roy saved the day by stopping him and recovering the list. However, the real dilemma came with the turncoat’s haunting words to Diggle that Waller makes people do bad things and that there is no leaving ARGUS which has to be troubling since Lyla is neck deep as a Waller lackey and Baby Sara isn’t even months old and already nearly had a target her head. You can file this under a plot point to be revisited later.
In between fighting bad guys, Roy did meet with Thea in a scene that was surprisingly unCW. Neither threw blame at each other or told the other how to feel. Roy apologized for his secrets and accepted Thea’s rejection of returning home by saying he hopes she’s happy doing what she’s doing and Thea didn’t send any mixed signals or freeze Roy out and was firm but cordial about her life. Sure, there seemed to be longing between them, but rather than either forcing it, they wisely said their piece and then parted.
Not to be missed we had doting dads Malcolm and Quentin each showing why they’re awesome in completely different ways. I’m in love/hate with Malcolm because while he’s an emotional coward who abandoned his eight year son to become a ‘warrior’ and returned to his city to be its ‘savior’ by laying waste to it and kill a good portion of its citizens – including his son- and then scurried away again under threat of his ex-lover only to return again upon her demise to claim their emotionally vulnerable child in order train/mold/abuse her into his image, dude is played by John Barrowman. John Barrowman! A man who makes batshit crazy look good. Even when he’s holding an arrow dead at Oliver’s unsuspecting head or punching his daughter in the face to properly teach her how to find the strength within I can’t completely hate him 100%. 99.99% for sure, but there’s .01% that’s still a sucker for that smile.
Quentin on the other hand continued to bring the awesome which had me yelling at the screen: When will people stop lying to this poor man? When will Laurel realize that her argument of protecting her father from the crushing news of Sara’s death is a crock when she’s putting herself in danger by deigning to be a vigilante and getting her arse kicked with him having to rush to the hospital to see if she’s okay? I appreciate the desire to protect Quentin: he is a man who feels deeply and loves his girls and who broke completely once before over losing Sara, but the thing is, it also shows a lack of respect and consideration for his feelings. It also prevents him from grieving his daughter and also showing how much stronger he’s become in mind if not in body since Sara’s last death. He knows the mistakes he made back then in climbing into a bottle and pushing his wife and Laurel away. While he’ll be crushed he lost his daughter again, he at least was able to love and appreciate her in her second coming and say all the things he wanted to say to her. In this episode alone he showed how far he’s come in not blowing his stack when he found out what Laurel was doing but instead coolly taking care of business to get the bad guy within the confines of his duty as an officer, AA member, and a father. Quentin’s being sorely underestimated but at the same time keeping him in the dark about Sara’s death is only going to make his emotional fallout that much worse.
And lastly, we had Oliver, who as I said earlier took the last seat in the mini-van in this episode as far as focus and doing all the heavy lifting. His actions seemed to be more of reactions to other people: assisting Diggle in his mission, telling Laurel no in her search for a trainer, and in reaching out to Thea to get her to come home. No doubt his most impactful scenes were with Thea, especially when he recounted the tale of how their father killed himself to save Oliver (leaving out that he killed another man on the life boat to ensure Oliver’s survival) and his emotional plea to Thea that she may not need him but he needs her. However, Oliver is still Oliver and even though he’s ecstatic to have his sister home, he wasn’t blind to the changes in her and was all about to follow up on that when dude got ambushed (again?!) in the Arrow Cave by a raging Nyssa leveling an arrow at his head (second time in this episode!) and demanding to know where is Sara.
All in all not a bad episode but definitely transitional as we moved characters into place for the next phase of their arcs (Laurel training; a reborn Thea; who killed Sara). While Oliver got a break of sorts this week, the cliffhanger of this ep quite firmly propelled back into the ‘A’ story for next week’s episode in having to deal with Nyssa and the news she dumps on him – that Malcolm Merlyn is alive and skulking around Starling City no doubt setting up the rematch showdown we’ve been waiting 27 episodes for -Dark Archer v Arrow: The Battle for Thea’s soul.
No rest for the hooded archer. Which sucks for him but makes great viewing for the rest of us.