Arrow – Season 4 Episode 19
Arrow returns from a hiatus and completes the sendoff of a major character who met their end in the previous episode.
This was quite a slow episode and it really needed to be as the death of a major character isn’t simply something that should be glossed over to the point that the cast are able to just get on with things. If the death is to be significant then the characters need to take stock and deal with it.
Among the team there is no shortage of self blame to be tossed around. Diggle feels responsible for what happened because he chose to trust Andy over Oliver and the result of that was Laurel’s death. There’s no way this could have been predicted but Diggle points out that he refused to take his own advice about not having a blind spot where family are concerned. That is exactly what he allowed himself to do which makes the betrayal so much worse for him.
His reaction is to go after Ruvé Darhk who plays the part of the hapless victim perfectly albeit with a wry smile and a wink to the audience since we know what she’s really up to. Diggle tries to use force to scare her into giving up information on her husband as well as the location of Andy but she pleads ignorance and refuses to give into his demands.
Diggle is so consumed with rage and grief that he fails to consider the consequences of what he is doing. Attacking the Mayor of Star City gives her everything she needs to turn the law against Team Arrow. She links Diggle’s attack to the prison situation and implicates Black Canary as being the cause of that. The situation is twisted to make it appear that Black Canary’s actions are responsible for Laurel’s death which risks tearing down Black Canary’s reputation as a hero.
This can be added to the list of things Diggle can be guilty about but it’s a powerful and human reaction to a really horrific situation for him. He acknowledges how angry he is and his need to actually do something about it but he’s doing more harm than good in his current state and realises that.
His conversation with Felicity where he points out to her exactly how he blames himself for what has happened and she does nothing to counter that is really effective because it shows how selfishly people can act when they feel responsible for something. Felicity doesn’t correct him because she is too busy blaming herself for not being at her post during all of this. To her mind if she had been there then Laurel might still be alive. It’s speculation that can’t be proven or disproven but at least in Felicity’s mind it’s something that is a strong possibility and if she can accept that it’s actually all Diggle’s fault then that lets her off the hook emotionally which is something that everyone really needs.
Oliver is actually the rational force in all of this. He has dealt with more than his share of grief and is able to distance himself from it in such a way that he is able to consider things carefully. He wants nothing more than to go on a revenge mission but knows that he can’t because Damien Darhk is too powerful and the Mayor has far too much of the law on her side for him to make a play for her. The only thing he can do for now is wait and think of a new plan.
He says as much to Diggle when he attacks Ruvé Darhk. He knows that she has a part to play in all of this but also knows that it’s not as simple as going after her. Her actions need to be brought under public scrutiny so that she loses what defends her. Diggle’s actions risk destroying everything Team Arrow have built as well as tarnishing Laurel’s legacy as the Black Canary. Diggle knows this but needs to hear it from his friend in order to calm down a little. It’s a powerful scene with incredible performances from Stephen Amell and David Ramsey. Their brotherly connection gives the interaction the necessary weight and it further reinforces how far Oliver is willing to go to protect his friend.
Oliver blames himself for what happened and offers some insight into why that is. The loss of someone close can make someone feel helpless so Oliver’s answer to that is to hold himself accountable for it and resolve those issues in his head. Unfortunately that isn’t the most practical way to do things as it makes moving on a lot harder but at least it offers some comfort by giving an answer. He does transition to blaming Damien Darhk by the end of the episode and makes the vow to kill him for what he has done. It’s a firm declaration of intent and has more power because Oliver has worked to find better ways to stop people than killing them. To his mind Damien Darhk has really crossed the line and is far too dangerous to be left alive so Oliver is going to be the one to deprive him of that as soon as he can figure out how to counter his magic.
Paul Blackthorne does an incredible acting job in this episode. Right from the first scenes it’s clear that Quentin is completely in denial about actually losing his daughter because he has seen people come back from the dead before. It’s a really good exploration of how trivialising death in this way might affect normal people. Quentin has seen Sara come back from the death twice and now that Laurel is dead he expects the same to apply to her. Death has essentially become meaningless to him because he has seen it overturned before which makes it impossible for him to accept that Laurel is really dead.
The sighting of the Black Canary shortly after Laurel’s death confirms to him that she must be back because it’s not possible for people to die any more. Even looking at her dead body isn’t enough to convince him and he goes on a personal mission to make sure she come back. Even when Nyssa tells him that it isn’t possible for her to return he refuses to accept it and resolves to find another way.
Quentin is frantic throughout the episode to the point that I was sure he was going to give himself a heart attack. Realistically considering his medical issues this should probably have happened to him but maybe the writers have forgotten about this particular piece of continuity.
Eventually he realises that Laurel isn’t going to come back and breaks down in a really visceral display of emotion that shows just how good an actor Paul Blackthorne is. I said once that Felicity is the heart of this show but I actually feel that the title should be given to Quentin who frequently grounds the more fantastical elements with a distinctly human perspective. His acceptance that no magic will bring Laurel back validates the fact that she is gone and should be mourned though I wonder if Damien Darhk will later dangle the possibility of her return in front of him.
Given that both Nyssa and Quentin discuss the death of Laurel I wonder why Sara wasn’t mentioned. Does anyone actually know that she’s off making a mess of the timeline with Ray Palmer and others? I would think she would at least get a mention here if not at least a cameo. This is something that should be dealt with on Legends of Tomorrow as Sara would definitely suggest going back in time to prevent this. She has never been one to play by the rules.
For pretty much the first time this season the flashbacks manage to be relevant and all they have to do is focus on something other than Oliver’s exile. In this case we return to a period of time between seasons 1 and 2 that follows Tommy’s death. It’s a slightly more innocent time where Laurel wasn’t blonde and didn’t know Oliver’s secret. They discuss remembering their friend and how Oliver blames himself for what happened. The purpose of the flashbacks is mainly to remind audiences that Laurel became a lawyer because she wanted to help people and that was the best way she could do that. Ultimately that is why she becomes Black Canary so there’s a link in there. She suggests that her and Oliver should team up in some way to help others but Oliver of that time is so consumed by grief that he runs away to Lian Yu which puts him in the place we saw at the start of season 2.
In terms of timelines it probably wasn’t the best one to return to as it certainly doesn’t feel like a gap that needed filled. It works because the performances from Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy are excellent to the point that I believed that they were at a completely different time in the show’s history. Katie Cassidy in particular felt like an earlier version of Laurel who was unburdened by her responsibilities as Black Canary.
Bookending the episode with Tommy and Laurel’s funerals was a really clever idea that showed the transition in Oliver since that time. He didn’t appear at Tommy’s funeral to say a few words like he was supposed to and fans of the show will know that he skipped out on the funeral of his own mother as well so the fact that he is able to attend Laurel’s funeral shows a real change in Oliver and an acceptance of his role as a leader of his team. His attempt to preserve the legacy of the Black Canary by revealing Laurel’s identity to everyone is an interesting idea but I’m not sure it will pan out the way he wants it to. At least everyone close to him knows that she was a hero and committed to helping people.
This episode introduced a copycat Black Canary named Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin) but the whole idea was pretty pointless. She seemed to only exist to fill the action quota for the episode but there were definitely other options to do that. Hunting for Damien Darhk being the most obvious one.
Having a copycat Black Canary was really problematic as almost no time was spent establishing Evelyn Sharp as a character. She merely filled the needs of the plot and raised far too many questions. We were told that she was top her class at school as well as being a capable gymnast which is designed to explain how she can perform the stunts she needs to perform. Her apparent intelligence is enough for her to get around whatever tech Cisco used to key Laurel’s sonic device to her vocal chords. This also comes with an upgrade. Cisco’s a pretty smart guy so it’s a bit of a stretch to accept that a 16 year old girl is able to get around his tech so quickly as well as run circles around Oliver and the rest of the team.
Her motivation to become the Black Canary being something to do with Darhk’s gas chambers back in “Dark Waters“. I’ll confess that I had completely forgotten about this but that’s what these constant hiatuses do to the momentum of the show. We are constantly reminded in this episode that the people in those chambers were volunteers so they are absolved of all apparent guilt that comes with failing to save them. Evelyn lost her mother in one of those chambers so wants revenge for that and chooses the Black Canary identity to do that.
It does work on the level of Team Arrow being unaware of the true extent of the damage caused by their actions. In this case their failure to save everyone in the gas chambers led to a really intelligent young girl being driven to a mission of revenge. It also shows how inspiring the costumes that the team wear can be if she chose to specifically emulate the Black Canary after seeing her die.
Oliver’s appeal to her respect for the Black Canary legacy is really heartfelt and genuine. Laurel’s memory is used to make sure that someone doesn’t go too far and go against everything she stood for. Of course it works but the new Black Canary is still on the loose so I’d expect her to return at some point maybe with a new identity that is similar.
The grave scene featuring Barry has now been shown in its entirety and the show has now come full circle to the point established at the beginning of the season. It turns out there was no missing material in the scene but with context we understand who is involved and what Oliver is talking about. Also, Barry has his speed which means that this doesn’t sync up with what is currently happening over on The Flash.
A great episode with strong performances from the entire cast showing the grief felt by the characters in different ways. Special attention should be given to David Ramsey and Paul Blackthorne who both did an excellent job conveying their complex feelings. The use of the flashbacks felt relevant for a change and bookending the episode with the two funerals worked really well. I found the new Black Canary to be an unnecessary addition despite some interesting scenes featuring her.
- strong performances from the entire cast but particularly Paul Blackthorne and David Ramsey
- relevant flashbacks with an impressive performance from Katie Cassidy
- the bookending of the episode with Tommy and Laurel’s funerals to show how Oliver has changed
- the largely pointless addition of the new Black Canary