The bitch is back, and unsurprisingly, she’s back with a vengeance.
With everything that’s happening lately — Oliver and Sara dating, Laurel in recovery, Slade showing up in Starling, Roy joining the team — it really seemed like a good time for the show to take a break and sort of bask in the world they’ve successfully created since Christmas. It’s a superhero show, and it’s been on full-throttle since Oliver returned to the city at the beginning of the season, but that could’ve easily translated into an episode that was essentially “A Day at the Office.”
Picture this: Sara and Diggle train in the background as Felicity does her tech stuff on the computers. Oliver continues to work with Roy on controlling his emotions. Everyone’s on edge about Slade, and the episode could’ve centered around running down the Deathstroke lead from Waller (as we just saw Oliver approach her in the last episode). Moira continues her campaign for mayor, maybe even with a brief glimpse of Kevin Alejandro (who we haven’t seen in a while). The flashbacks stay the same, with Slade demanding a trade from Sara as Oliver is tortured with electricity and a tattoo to match Shado’s. The episode could’ve been just as compelling, action-wise, but we would’ve gotten to see the day-to-day stuff, the new normal, and really begin to understand how the cogs of Team Arrow really fit together now that they’ve grown to a team of five.
Think about it: We don’t really know how they work as a group of five. The show is asking a lot of us to just accept the status quo without really showing us the fundamentals. Do Roy and Sara interact, ever? Does Felicity get along with Roy? Does Sara help train Felicity in self-defense? Does Diggle treat Roy like a little brother, or like a ticking timebomb? In fact, what does Roy do all day when he sits in the foundry? A year ago, we knew how Team Arrow worked, because it was just the three of them and we saw it all the time. Now, we have no idea. We have to assume that everything’s fine, and worse, we have to assume that they all truly trust each other even in these dire situations.
We haven’t seen Oliver at home except for the time Slade crashed his house (he apparently sleeps at the foundry with Sara). We don’t see him at work anymore (remember Isabel Rochev? Wasn’t she supposed to be a big deal?) and he hasn’t been doing any political campaigns thanks to his complicated family situation. So everything has been focused on Team Arrow work, and yet, we’ve seen very little of Team Arrow in action. Instead, it’s mostly been about Sara and Oliver as a dynamic duo, and that would be fine… if this show had established a baseline for the new Team Arrow by now.
As it is, Oliver asks Roy to do a huge thing in this episode and dump Thea, ostensibly to protect her. Instead, it causes her great pain and distrust, and we see Roy crush a piece of jewelry he’d recently given her in a spark of pure rage. Won’t that just build up Roy’s resentment toward Oliver? Wouldn’t it be nice to have had at least one solid episode of teamwork and trust before we went down this path?
So with all of that waiting in the wings, waiting to be explored and played for nuance, laughs, and new complications, the writers decided instead to bring back a so-called “fan favorite”: Helena Bertinelli, aka The Huntress.
While the rest of the season has been on a marked trajectory of leading up to an epic Arrow/Deathstroke showdown, Helena’s return is a bit of a head-scratcher. Her father, Frank, returns to Starling to collect some debts (genius!) but manages to get caught by Oliver himself, who was assisting Sara on watching over Beat Cop Lance. The police department brilliantly decides to dangle Frank out as bait in order to trap Helena. The worst part is, Assistant District Attorney Adam Donner, aka He Who Fired Laurel For Drugs and Stuff, specifically asked Laurel to come back and work the prosecution for this case because she was, in his mind… expendable. Real standup guy.
The trap goes about as badly as one would expect: Helena has a team undercover in the courthouse, and they take hostages as Oliver leads Frank outside to safety, leaving Laurel stranded inside the courthouse. That’s okay, though! Sara, as Black Canary, is there to protect her! And luckily, the inability to recognize masked loved ones even in close proximity is a Lance family trait.
Oliver spends his time angsting outside and getting a phone call to the Arrow line from right next to Beat Cop Lance, who just got done knocking Adam Donner’s block off for setting up his daughter. Oliver covers it smoothly, though — he has Lance in his phone as “Mom” and shows him the screen when Lance looks at him askance. Cute, I guess, but I’m not loving the idea that Lance still doesn’t know who the man under the hood is.
Laurel refuses to be rescued alone while there are other hostages inside, which sounds a lot more like Season 1 Laurel than the one we’ve been dealing with lately. She insists on helping the other hostages, and Sara goes with her. Of course, because this is a Huntress episode and somehow her brand of crazy makes her stronger than anyone else on the planet, Sara ends up on the losing end of what should’ve been a one-sided fight, and Laurel is trapped with the rest of the hostages.
Helena demands Frank for Laurel, and Oliver devises a plan with Beat Cop Lance to get Frank in the same place as Helena. Laurel tries to appeal to Helena’s human side, finally admitting the ways she’s messed up since Tommy died.
It’s a really great scene for her, up until Helena warns her, “Once you let the darkness inside, it never comes out.” It looks like this phrase will propel us through the rest of the season.
The rest of the hostages are rescued safely once Helena whisks Laurel to the swap site. Frank apologizes to Helena, but she’s having none of it. Just as she’s getting ready to kill her father, she’s interrupted by the special ops guy that seems to hate vigilantes, and she gets into a one-on-one fight with Sara, who isn’t holding back this time. Sara easily gets Helena into a choke hold, but that’s when Laurel intervenes and asks the Canary to show restraint.
Helena realizes her father is dead, but not by her hand, and that’s when Lance places her in cuffs. Later, in the interrogation room, Oliver goes to visit her, and she confesses that she doesn’t feel any better knowing her father is dead. She just feels lonely. It’s the only good scene Helena’s ever had, in my opinion, and I think now I won’t dread her return so much. I just think this appearance, in this episode, was incredibly ill-timed and unrelated to the larger arc.
Laurel ends the episode on a bit of an ambiguous note: She blackmails the District Attorney into giving her job back, and the DA remarks that she didn’t expect that darkness in Laurel. “Someone recently told me, ‘Once you let the darkness inside, it never comes out.’” So she’s back to being on a villain arc? Or are we embracing the dark sides of superheroes?
Thea, out walking on her own in the dangerous, Slade-filled city, is approached by a car. In a shocking twist, it’s Slade in the car, and Thea gets in willingly. Oh Thea.
Next week, Slade has a new hostage, and the promo department actually used the word “slayed” which makes me happier than I ever thought I could be.