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I will be the first to admit that I was very skeptical of Arrow‘s decision to push Laurel into the role of the Canary so quickly after the death of Sara. I had a fear that the writers would throw her into training with Wildcat (where is Wildcat these days, anyway?) and she would suddenly be able to hold her own against far stronger adversaries- maybe not as well as Sara did, but she’d ultimately emerge victorious. So, color me delightfully surprised that the writers opted for a bit more trial by fire for Laurel’s Canary, allowing her major strength- her fast thinking mind- to lead her to a minor victory, rather than focusing on her physical abilities- which, let’s be honest, still need a great deal of refining.
Laurel is not, as we were told time and time again in the episode, her sister. It was a pretty meta statement, a clear message from Arrow‘s writing staff that they know fans and critics alike have been less than thrilled with the quick transition between the Sara and Laurel as the Canary. And, after hearing Laurel being told the same for the third time in the episode, I finally felt myself start to get a bit annoyed on Laurel’s behalf. She isn’t Sara (who, on the whole, was a much more interesting and well-rounded character, even in her limited use, than Laurel). But this storyline is finally a chance for us to see who Laurel really is. And, you know what? She is actually pretty interesting in her own right.
Sure, she’s stubborn and won’t accept her own limitations. And she thinks she know what’s best. But you know who else was like that? Oliver. By the end of “Midnight City,” it appeared that Laurel had realized she wasn’t the strongest and couldn’t fight better than the thugs around her. Rather, she outsmarted Brick using her smarts- something we know she does possess- and relied on some good old playground fighting- a kick to the crotch wins every time. I really liked seeing the show highlight that this Canary is a work in progress and that she isn’t simply going to waltz into the Glades kicking ass and taking names.
As I’ve said before, the show has spent a great deal of time emphasizing how long and hard Oliver and Sara (and Ra’s, Merlyn, Nyssa, etc.) worked to reach their peak fighting prowess. It didn’t happen over the course of a few months training at a boxing gym (I’m also still skeptical of Thea’s abilities, since she’s only been training for seven months, but I assume Merlyn is a much better teacher than Wildcat- but still, it is a bit of a plot hole). So seeing Laurel struggle and fail is key to developing her as a better, more complex character.
And, I also have to give credit to Katie Cassidy. She’s not the best actor on the series, but she was solid in this episode. I’m not sure if that’s because Laurel’s emotional journey within the piece played to Cassidy’s strengths, but she showed an emotional range I wasn’t certain she was capable of. In addition, the show’s other weak link, Colton Haynes, also delivered one of his better performances.
The Oliver side of the story was a bit less successful. Keeping Oliver away from the main action of the series while he recovers makes perfect sense, and I have enjoyed getting to see more of Tatsu and Maseo, and seeing how their relationship has crumbled in the intervening years- apparently from Maseo’s own actions. This has really offered additional layers to the Hong Kong flashbacks, although they still feel as if they are dragging at times when the main action of the story is moving along at a strong clip. I assume, as we approach the end of the season, the flashbacks will become a bit more interesting. But I doubt they will ever be able to reach the interest level of the island stories.
All-in-all, I was pleased with “Midnight City.” Sure, things are always more fun when the Arrow gang is all together. But, sometimes it’s nice to see other characters take the spotlight. And even better when they use the opportunity to really shine.
— Finally, we were given confirmation that Thea’s DJ boy toy isn’t who he appears. Although, I was a bit surprised to see that he worked for Maseo and Ra’s rather than Merlyn. Also- Thea definitely didn’t tell anyone that she was thinking of leaving Starling City, so when DJ boy mentioned it, shouldn’t it raise some red flags? Come on, Thea.
— When I saw Caity Lotz’s (Sara) name in the credits, I was expecting her to appear in one of the Hong Kong flashbacks. So, I was pretty bummed when it was just her voice that made an appearance. You can’t tease me like that, Arrow!
— Poor Captain Lance. Someone needs to tell him about Sara. This is just cruel.