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“Canaries” was almost a perfect episode of Arrow. If only they hadn’t gone back to using the crutch of Vertigo as the impetus for the main action of the story. But, I’m willing to overlook that small element of the plot, as “Canaries” allowed for huge leaps in the season’s story arcs and some major positive character development for Laurel.
I’ll assume that anyone reading this review is, by now, aware of my general thoughts on the character of Laurel. But wow, I was completely impressed with Laurel’s character development within this episode as well as Katie Cassidy’s superb work (I honestly didn’t think I would ever type a sentence like that, but credit where credit is due- Cassidy was excellent). While I’m still not 100% sold on Laurel as a competent fighter, seeing Laurel’s inner guilt manifest itself fully through her Vertigo hallucinations was crucial to turning Laurel into a more fully realized character. One of the major problems with Laurel this season has been that her desire to become the Canary hasn’t been explained to us. Did it stem from guilt over Sara’s death? Or did she want to be her sister- the one who didn’t screw-up and get fired from her job, the one her father seemed to love just a bit more? Through the taunts of Sara, it became clear that Laurel wasn’t even sure herself why she put on the suit. Watching Laurel realize that she has to be the Canary because she wants to be was a real crowning moment in the character’s growth.
Furthermore, Laurel withholding the secret of Sara’s death from her father had become callous by this point in the season. Every time he would mention talking to Sara, with a touch of hope in his eye, it made me resent Laurel for stringing him on. While it’s a bit disconcerting that a Vertigo hallucination was needed for Laurel to see that she was hurting her father more than protecting him, having Laurel finally reveal the truth about Sara’s death was heartbreaking. Kudos to Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne for their work in that scene- it truly brought home the crushing weight of the news and finally allowed the audience to truly mourn for the loss of Sara as well.
The episode’s other major secret reveal finally allowed Thea to enter the ranks of Team Arrow. While the reveal of Oliver’s secret identity wasn’t as explosive as everyone assumed it would be, it was handled pretty perfectly considering the new mental state of Thea. Had Oliver (or, a much more likely scenario, Merlyn) told Thea before she became a badass fighting machine, I have a feeling the reveal would have resulted in a lot of yelling and screaming. As annoying as it was to have Thea languish in the dark for two and a half seasons, I’m actually glad the writers opted to wait to have her learn the truth. It was really nice to see mature Thea grateful for Oliver’s work and actually apologetic for thinking the worst of him when he would disappear without notice (although, that part might have strained credibility a bit).
Actually, even beyond the major Arrow reveal, Thea also had a strong episode. I’m really thrilled with how the writers have expanded the character and how Willa Holland has risen to the occasion. This new Thea had the wherewithal to recognize that the mysterious DJ wasn’t who he claimed to be (that wine realization was pretty slick on her part- I don’t think even Oliver would have realized it), and while she isn’t a match for a Ra’s trained assassin (nor should she be at this point in her training), she didn’t shy away from the fight. The only element I wasn’t particularly clear on (and I could have just missed something) was why Thea is suddenly super anti-Merlyn. I assume it’s because he wanted them to run and leave Oliver to fight alone, but I’m not entirely clear on that. Also, we should note that Oliver and Merlyn (and all of Team Arrow, save Laurel) are still hiding a major secret from Thea: she killed Sara. When that one comes out, the fallout will be massive.
“Canaries” was the episode we’ve desperately needed in this second half of the season. It moved the plot quickly and with precision and helped to fully flesh out two of the show’s weakest characters. I’m eager to see what Oliver and Thea’s trip back to the island uncovers (I’m assuming a chat with Slade Wilson?) and how the realization that Sara is gone and Laurel is the new Canary impacts the Lance family moving forward.
— It was great to have Caity Lotz back- in the flesh this time. I’m assuming, unless there are some flashbacks, this will be the last time we see her for awhile. Which is a major bummer.
— Speaking of Lotz, she and Blackthorne were exceptional as Laurel’s hallucinations. Seeing the normally mild mannered characters rage and attack Laurel was harrowing. But still not as harrowing as watching Captain Lance’s heart break upon hearing the news about Sara.
— So, flashback Oliver is back in Starling City. Can we get a Moira Queen sighting? Please? Or Walter? I miss them, too.
— I love Peter Stormare as much as the next person, but can we be done with Vertigo for awhile?
— I mentioned a few weeks back that Captain Lance should have been able to notice that Laurel wasn’t Sara, since they have different body types (highlighted by their fight this week- they look pretty different in the suit). Turns out, he did figure it out. Way to go, Captain.
— A few stray threads from last week: Is Wildcat alright? Did Roy ever tell Sin about Sara?