Arrow “Canaries” Review (Season 3, Episode 13)

Before I sat down to write my review of this week’s Arrow, I took a few minutes to try and work out how I felt about the episode. There were some aspects I really liked, but in almost every case the good was counterbalanced by something frustratingly bad. Unfortunately, the conclusion I reached is that this whole wasn’t greater than the sum of its parts. Brace yourselves. This might get long.

Let’s start with something I liked. I liked the fact that Laurel finally faced the reality that she is not Sara and she needs to stop trying to be Sara. Laurel took Sara’s death hard the first time, but I think this time was even harder. Not only for the fact that she had to mourn her sister’s death twice, but for the fact that she and Sara had just finally started becoming sisters again. There was so much anger and bad blood between them when Sara “died” the first time that I don’t believe Laurel got the chance to mourn her properly. By the time Sara died this time though, she and Laurel had talked through some of their issues and had accepted each other warts and all. Then, suddenly, Sara was gone. That’s a lot to deal with and Laurel hasn’t been doing a very good job of coping. First she turned to booze. Then it was pills. Then it was black leather and a mask. Oliver was partially correct that Laurel’s decision to don Sara’s costume and run off into the night was about her chasing a high. But that’s certainly not the entirety of it. As a matter of fact, that’s not the majority of it, and the vertigo Laurel got dosed with brought that out. It’s perfectly fine for Laurel to try to step up and help save Starling City. It is, after all, her city too. But she needs to do it in her own way.

Unfortunately, Laurel’s revelation came at the cost of some frustrating and eye-roll inducing moments. Laurel showed up while Oliver and Roy were chasing down some random bad guy, and Oliver was (understandably) ticked off. So Laurel got all up in his face talking about how he doesn’t get to tell her what to do and he needs to stay out of her way and blah blah blah. After which she promptly got herself dosed with vertigo and almost beaten to death. Then when Oliver said something to the rest of Team Arrow about it, Diggle justified it by saying that he couldn’t stop her and she was more than capable of holding her own. Uh…what? Then on top of all that, Felicity had the oh so moving speech about Oliver being gone and not getting to come back and question everyone’s choices including Laurel’s. It was at this point that I was sighing so deeply and so repeatedly that my Pilates instructor would’ve been proud.

Let’s start with Diggle supporting Laurel. First of all, Laurel cannot hold her own in a fight. That’s just facts. She lands a few good punches, and she does ok if she can sneak up on someone and clock ’em over the head. But whenever Laurel is on one of the missions, they spend more time rescuing her than they do saving innocent people. Second of all, it makes absolutely no sense that Diggle is hanging out back at the not-so-secret lair while Oliver, Roy and Laurel go out on the missions. Let’s put aside the fact that Diggle is a very well-trained solider and his skills have saved Oliver’s life more times that we can count. That fact is, Diggle was Oliver’s partner long before Roy and Laurel. Oliver and Diggle work well together, and it doesn’t make sense Oliver would leave the guy who’s been backing him up from the beginning sitting on the bench. It further boggled the mind that Diggle attempted to draw any type of comparison between Oliver’s training and Laurel’s training. Which I appreciated how Oliver shut that down immediately. The way that Diggle behaved in this episode was another example of the show writing characters to fit the narrative instead of writing the narrative to fit the characters. No, Diggle may not have been able to stop Laurel from going out if she decided she wanted to. But at the same time, he would not have encouraged her to do it nor would he have tried to talk Oliver into encouraging her to do it.

Then there was Roy’s outburst about Oliver telling everyone (and by everyone he meant Thea) what to do. It’s fine to have that conversation with Oliver. but right at that moment was not the time to do it. Oliver trying to spare Thea from having to see Laurel in such a state is not the same thing as Oliver trying to force Thea to work with Malcolm. And just as an aside, Oliver was pleading his case to Thea for why they needed Malcolm, but he wasn’t forcing her to do anything. But I digress. It’s fine that Roy wants to support Thea and protect her or whatever it is he was trying to do. But it is not ok to mouth off just so you can look all big and bad in front of your (ex) girlfriend. Especially not when there are more pressing matters at hand. Then Felicity jumped on the bandwagon too and I was pretty much done. Felicity is still angry with Oliver and it has nothing to do with how he’s leading the team. I get that they had to figure out how to move forward without Oliver. I get that the dynamics of the team changed while he was gone. I also get that things can’t, and in all honesty probably shouldn’t, go back to the way they were. But that’s not what Felicity and Roy’s outburst (and Diggle’s silent consent) said. Basically, they said that they don’t need Oliver and he doesn’t get to lead the team anymore. That is complete crap. The whole operation fell apart without Oliver. They lost more often than they won and the criminals started running amok again. By the time they figured out how to pull themselves together, Oliver was back. Now they’re telling him he doesn’t get to tell them what to do anymore? They sounded like a bunch of immature, petulant teenagers.

Speaking of teenagers, let’s talk about Thea. For one bight, shining moment I thought Thea had finally figured out how to be an adult. It’s long past time that Oliver told her his secret and, like Oliver, I was surprised by the way she responded. She was able to step outside of herself and her selfish needs to see that although Oliver lied to her, he was doing something very important. He was saving lives. She realized that every time he’d lied to her about where he’d been or what he’d been doing, it was because it was out there risking his life for someone else. She thanked him not only for telling her the truth but for saving all those people. It was a wonderful moment. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to savor the euphoria very long. Oliver mentioned in passing that Malcolm knew he was the Arrow, and Thea did an immediate 180 on Malcolm. So let me get this straight. She was aware that Malcolm Merlyn is responsible for the deaths of 503 people including his own son, and she’s figured out how to be ok with that. She knows that he murdered a man who he thought murdered his wife, but that’s alright because he was grieving. She knows that Malcolm Merlyn is an admitted liar, but she’s appalled and offended that he lied to her? Now she’s gone from inexplicably trusting him implicitly to wanting him out of her life because he lied about knowing Oliver’s secret identity? How does that even make sense? Oh, I know how it makes sense. The story required that there be friction between Roy and Oliver over Oliver’s treatment of Thea. The story also required that Thea feel insecure enough in her abilities to protect herself, so Thea does a complete 180 on Malcolm. Yet another example of story over character.

I feel really bad for Captain Lance. It’s a terrible thing for a parent to lose their child once. But going through it twice is something no parent should have to endure. Despite the fact it took Laurel waaaayyy too long to tell her father the truth, I’m glad her ordeal finally convinced her to stop lying to him. I don’t think this is the end of it though. Once he works through the initial shock and pain of losing Sara again, he’s going to be furious at Laurel. And justifiably so. She had no right to keep that from him even if her motives were sincere. I imagine the next conversation Captain Lance and Laurel have is going to be a painful one.

I realize this review is quite a bit more snarky than I am usually, but this episode really drove me kind of nuts. For every one thing it did well, it turned around and did something that made me want to scream. Everything that bothered me about the episode really does boil down to just one thing. The fact that the writers are trying to make the characters fit into the story instead of the other way around. They have characters behaving in stupid, out of character ways just so they can move the plot along to the next point. It’s frustrating. Hopefully, this is just a temporary problem that I sincerely hope they remedy going forward.