**This post contains spoilers for episode 2.13 of Arrow, “Heir to the Demon”**
It was a Lance family reunion last night on Arrow, but it didn’t exactly go as Oliver (and Quentin, and Sara, and the viewers) had hoped it would.
Last episode, we saw Sara drawn back to Starling City by Oliver, who called her when Laurel showed up drunk and insulting everyone in sight at Verdant. Sara showed up just in time to watch Laurel collapse in a drunken (okay, poisoned) state and then boom, we were made to wait an entire week — seven whole days! — for sister reunions.
Well, the reunions went a bit out of order. The episode opened with a beautiful woman (Spartacus alumna Katrina Law, but I recognized her from Legend of the Seeker) at the Starling City airport, where her passport is flagged by A.R.G.U.S. She knocks out a bunch of guards and saunters through the terminals, and I actually wanted to see more of that. She’s Nyssa al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s (“heir to the demon”), and she’s here for Sara… but not for the reason we expected.
Yes, readers, Sara is a bonafide bisexual character! Her orientation might have been played as a twist for shock value, but the rest of the characters treat it like it’s non-news. Indeed, Lance outdoes himself for Father of the Year award by simply expressing his relief that she had someone to love during her six years of hardship. Hooray! This show did it right!
Sara admits that she loved Nyssa, and not just because Nyssa rescued her. But Sara asks Nyssa to convince her father to release Sara from the League of Assassins (we learn that he’s only excused one person before: Malcolm Merlyn). Nyssa doesn’t take this well, and decides to kidnap Mama Lance, who is in town to help care for Laurel after her apparent overdose.
The showdown is explosive and emotionally-charged: Lance and Sara bust in and rescue Dinah, who is shocked to see her daughter is alive. Lance drags Dinah out of the warehouse before they can have much more than a tearful embrace, and it turns out Sara’s taken a lethal dose of the same snake venom that Nyssa had used to poison Laurel. After Oliver appears and saves Sara’s life with his Magical Healing Island Herbs of Sunshine and Happiness, Nyssa releases Sara from the League of Assassins. That won’t be the last we see of her!
Speaking of the island, this week’s flashbacks go all the way back to six years ago, where we see the Lance’s side of the story of the week that the Queen’s Gambit sank. Last season, Quentin and Dinah’s relationship was so strained that it was hard to imagine them happily married, but in this episode, we finally got to see the Lance family together and happy, for the most part. Laurel and Sara get into a fight about Oliver, because Sara is flirting with him via text while Laurel’s trying to find an apartment for herself and Oliver.
Sara: “This is kind of assuming that he’s ever ready to settle down.”
Laurel: “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Sara: “We both know at least ten girls that he’s slept with.”
Laurel: “Can’t you just be happy with me? If you met some amazing guy who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you, I would be so supportive and so happy for you –”
Sara: “I wasn’t trying to be a bitch.”
Laurel: “Title of your autobiography.”
It’s not exactly what we were hoping for in the flashbacks of Sara and Laurel. It would’ve been nice to see happier times between them before Oliver came into the picture, but clearly their relationship has always had an element of hostility. Sara leaves the room and texts Oliver, “See you at the docks,” and the rest is history.
Laurel drops a plate when she sees the news that the Gambit went missing, but it’s not until Moira rings their doorbell that they get the news about Sara. “The dock master saw her sneak onboard.” Paul Blackthorne deserves all the praise for his acting in that scene (and really, the entire episode.) It’s nice that Lance’s season 1 antics of drunkenness and tunnel vision vengeance was the anomaly, and that this New and Improved Beat Cop Lance is the real Quentin.
Elsewhere, the nonexistent relationship between Felicity and Moira took a huge hit when Felicity confronted Mrs. Queen about Thea’s paternity.
Her tactics work. She finds a pressure point and bears down (oh, too soon) with all of her might. That Felicity has a history of abandonment was just a bonus; losing Oliver is scary, but the fear of losing someone else was paralyzing enough that she kept that secret for a couple of days, aided by Moira’s constant side-eyes and threatening glances. (I half expected Moira to drag a finger across her throat in Felicity’s direction.)
It’s a natural course for their dynamic to take: Felicity and Moira have similar motivations toward Oliver, and both possess a deep loyalty to him, but their moral codes are wildly different. Moira will do anything for her children, even if it means selling her soul or coming off as selfish and conniving. Felicity has the capability to go that far for the ones she loves, but she has an innate sense of right and wrong that makes her question everything and everyone around her, even Oliver and Diggle. It would’ve been nice to get a storyline where Moira and Felicity team up to help Oliver before it took this turn, just to give them a bit more depth, but Moira showed her hand when she called Felicity by her first name. Felicity showed hers when she gave Moira the opportunity to tell Oliver the truth first.
And in defense of Moira Queen, don’t forget that this was a secret over which she was willing to go to jail. Not just jail, prison. For the rest of her life! So when this upstart blonde girl comes in, aggressively telling Moira she doesn’t trust her and that she needs to tell Oliver the truth, Moira essentially went Mama Bear on her. She saw, in her mind, a family torn asunder by a secret she had moved heaven and earth to keep under wraps. No way was she going to let someone as inconsequential as Felicity Smoak undo all of her hard work! (Unfortunately, she underestimated two things: Felicity’s importance, and the strength of the relationship between Oliver and Felicity.)
I’m not saying she was right to manipulate and threaten Felicity in such a way, but it was a great demonstration of the power Moira wields and how she’s made it this far in her life. If we want women on TV to be portrayed as powerful and varying, then sometimes, those strong women are going to clash. Moira fits that bill: Nothing she does is inherently evil, but in some cases, she’s not morally sound. If her every motivation in life is in the quest to protect her children, that makes her one of the most fascinating characters on television.
Because of her own family history, Felicity struggles with the secret. Oliver proves to be highly perceptive, and after two days of distraction and jumpiness, he finally corners Felicity at his mother’s campaign announcement rally (as she’s walking away, “Felicity? Fe li ci ty…”) and demands she tell him what’s bothering her. That’s when we finally, finally get a bit of backstory on Felicity: Her father abandoned her family, and all she remembers is how badly it hurt when he left.
Moira greatly underestimated their relationship; the moment he takes to process it is probably the most intimate scene he and Felicity have shared. If this were Gossip Girl, Oliver would’ve gotten up onstage and embarrassed his mother, but Arrow is not your typical CW fare. He does right by his mother, but ultimately, he keeps the secret for Thea’s sake. As he leans down to hug his mother, he tells her that he knows the truth.
That night, Moira’s worst nightmare comes true.
“Because Thea can never find out about Merlyn, and she can never know the truth about us, which is that as of right now, we have no relationship. I will keep up appearances for Thea’s sake. Publicly, I will support your campaign. But privately… we are done.”
Keeping in mind that she was afraid of this sort of thing happening back during the trial, and how happy she was when her kids reassured her that none of her secrets would make them hate her, this scene is particularly affecting. She should’ve taken Felicity up on her offer to tell Oliver herself, because it’s not the secret that he’s angry about, it’s the lie. The subtext is that he’s mad that she went to such lengths as to threaten Felicity, that he now has to keep this secret from Thea, that he can’t trust his mother anymore.
The question is, what does this mean in the war between Moira and Felicity? Is she going to give Felicity the respect she deserves, or is Moira going to try to squash one of Oliver’s closest allies like a bug?
Laurel spends most of the episode in the hospital, recovering from her poisoning (which was originally thought to be an overdose, so everyone was relieved to hear that it was just deadly snake venom that someone had slipped her, at least it’s not rat poison). She doesn’t turn up until the end of the episode, when Quentin and Dinah are tearfully hugging their recently revived daughter on the docks. She looks stunned and shaken before it cuts to commercial.
Later, at Laurel’s ill-fated apartment, three of the Lances are talking about how happy they are that Sara’s back and alive, but Laurel’s still boozing. Sara says Laurel must have questions, but Laurel claims she has none. “I already know all of the answers to them. How could you still be alive? Where have you been all this time? Why didn’t you call us? And the answer to all of them: Because it’s Sara.” The fact that Laurel doesn’t even give Sara a chance to explain herself is evidence enough that she’s not ready to hear any hard truths. Laurel spends her days railing against the world that she perceives as unfair to her, but she insulates herself from the harsh reality that other people are paying for their sins, too. Sara’s paid for hers through six years of exile and captivity. Dinah pays for hers in loneliness and regret. Quentin pays for his by watching his daughter disappear into the same bottle he’d hidden in for five years. Oliver pays for his every single day, in ways that Laurel would notice if she’d just pay attention. Laurel wants to believe that her life is harder than everyone else’s because it’s easier to feel like the world’s victim than it is to admit that maybe she’s just weak. She doesn’t have to be weak, she’s demonstrated strength before, but her constant misplaced blame and isolation from the people who love her is a sign of hiding from the larger truth, and that will always breed weakness. Until I’m explicitly told otherwise, I’m going to start watching Arrow with the understanding that Laurel is on a villain arc.
Quentin starts to ask Laurel not to drink the wine she just poured, but Laurel’s already on the sauce and she snaps at her father, “Dad, I swear, if you say one more word.” Sara asks Laurel not to blame their dad, to blame her instead, and that’s all the invitation Laurel needs. She rattles off a list of ways that this is all Sara’s fault.
Given the story Sara told Oliver on the island a couple of episodes ago, it sounds like there’s equal blame to spread around here, but neither woman is blaming the real culprit: Oliver. It was that fateful boat trip that changed everything, he had cold feet about getting serious with Laurel, but he could’ve invited anyone. He chose to invite Sara, and both families were destroyed when the Gambit disappeared.
Laurel forgave Oliver, so why won’t she forgive Sara? It probably goes back to their deep sibling antagonism, and the fact that Sara never seemed to be happy for Laurel’s successes. Coupled with Laurel’s growing self-victimization and the fact that she’s emotionally compromised thanks to the alcohol, it was a tall order to expect forgiveness of Sara anytime soon. Laurel throws her out of her apartment, and Sara goes straight to the foundry.
Oliver loved Sara, that much was evident when she first reappeared and he nearly had a breakdown. He spent five years believing her to be dead, and he never hid his feelings for her, not even on the island (where he chose to save Sara over Shado). Their final scene is actually detrimental (and maybe a nail in the coffin) for the Oliver/Laurel relationship; not only did he not spent the five years of exile obsessing over Laurel as we’d previously thought, he spent a portion of it running around with Sara. When he came back to Starling seeking out Laurel, we know it was partially because of guilt… but could it also have been because he thought she was his last connection to Sara? (That makes Oliver the jerk, and it makes Laurel right about a lot of things, but still, it’s up to her to decide whether to move on.)
Either way, Oliver and Sara’s emotionally charged makeout (which presumably led to other things) at the end of the episode makes a lot of sense. Their shared history and shared double-lives make them naturally compatible, and the actors have a lot of chemistry. However, Sara’s always been portrayed as a free spirit, and I have a feeling she won’t stick around Starling City for long, especially after being rejected by her sister.
Finally, Slade Wilson watches news coverage of Moira’s campaign announcement as Sebastian Blood walks in to his office. “I warned you not to underestimate Moira Queen.” Sebastian asks what to do next, but Slade tells him to do nothing. “I’ll take care of it.” What does that mean?! I want nothing less than a scene where Slade confronts Moira in person.
The bad news is, we have to wait until February 26th (after the Olympics that no one is going to watch) to find out! How will we survive?