Arrow – Season 5 Episode 10
“Who Are You?”
Arrow returns from hiatus and immediately deals with the mystery surrounding the return of Laurel as well as how her suddenly being back affects the team.
Laurel’s death hit the team in really significant ways so it’s easy to see how her return would give everyone some much needed hope after some really brutal setbacks in the previous episode. I had a number of theories as to what could have caused Laurel’s return and in my head I was leaning towards Black Siren as seen in The Flash episode “Invincible“. It made the most sense and was an easy way for Katie Cassidy to return without committing to undoing yet another death on this show.
In some ways Black Siren being around is better than really having Laurel back on the team because the idea of someone looking exactly like her without being her has a lot of weight to it that allows the show to explore Laurel’s contribution to the lives of the characters. If the real Laurel had come back then the impact of her death would be reduced to the point of it simply feeling like a stunt so using this character is a really clever way of allowing Katie Cassidy to come back while Laurel remains dead. In effect Arrow gets to have its cake and eat it too.
It doesn’t take long for the truth about Black Siren to come out which turned out to be a really smart choice. There is merit in teasing a mystery with a last minute reveal but it also reduces the opportunity to develop the characters since it starts to become about the mystery rather than the characters participating in it. Pulling the trigger on the reveal at an earlier point meant that the episode could properly explore what this means.
I mentioned on the recent podcast that the reason for Laurel’s reappearance was probably given away in a trailer. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it actually had when that had actually been a joke. I understand that the reveal wasn’t necessarily that important in the broader sense but it should still have been left for the actual episode. This has nothing to do with my review of the episode itself but I felt that it was worth mentioning as I can imagine this ruined the short mystery aspect of the episode for a lot of people.
Luckily I was exempt from such spoilers and was able to participate in the mystery. Something immediately seemed to be off about Laurel from everything to Katie Cassidy’s performance to the story of her resurrection. Since I watch DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and they haven’t done an episode where Sara uses the Waverider to bring Laurel back I was immediately suspicious of that story especially since Sara has apparently made peace with the fact that Laurel shouldn’t be brought back. As a story it also seems far too ridiculous even by the standards of this universe.
It’s interesting that Oliver is fairly quick to accept her story at first at least on a superficial level when Laurel isn’t. They can see Laurel in front of them so they have to accept on some level that she is alive. Oliver in particular is so desperate for something good in his life that he wants to believe that she is back and Felicity is suspicious pretty much right away.
It doesn’t take long for Felicity to realise that the Earth-2 doppelgänger is a viable option and that’s when Black Siren’s cover is completely blown. Katie Cassidy’s performance feels off because Black Siren knows a lot about Laurel but doesn’t actually know Laurel so her ability to convincingly play her is limited. It’s a really subtle touch and Katie Cassidy plays it well. The most telling example was her reaching for the champagne before the water when Laurel was a recovering alcoholic. The performance creates an unsettling feeling as things don’t feel quite right.
Having this be a ploy by Prometheus who supplied Black Siren with the necessary information to successfully pass as Laurel makes a lot of sense. It has been well established that Prometheus wants to tear Team Arrow apart from the inside and “resurrecting” someone close to them is definitely a good way to do that. It’s appropriately sadistic and also a good use of the potential that Black Siren brings to the world these shows inhabit.
Before seeing the episode I thought that the title “Who Are You?” would relate to the mystery surrounding Laurel’s return but it actually relates to questioning what kind of person Black Siren is. When she appeared in The Flash there wasn’t really time to develop her beyond being a metahuman who was in league with Zoom but this episode really allows an exploration of what brought her to this point and there’s a suggestion that she is actually a good person.
On Earth-2, Oliver Queen was killed a decade ago which impacted Black Siren because they were in a relationship. The loss of Oliver and the rest of her family made her move to Central City where she was caught in the Particle Accelerator explosion and given her powers. After that it was a string of bad choices that led her to where she is today. There is a lot of sincerity in her voice as she tells Oliver her tale and it’s easy to believe that Prometheus would be that manipulative. Her ability to lie is also well established so there is always a question mark over whether she is acting or not.
Oliver is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt because he believes that the way people are is dictated by circumstances rather than nature. He knows that Laurel’s experiences turned her into a good person so believes that the same potential lives within Black Siren. His own argument fails on a really fundamental level though. If both Black Siren and Laurel are a product of their experiences then that could mean that there is no “good” in Black Siren at all. Oliver wants to believe that she is inherently good natured but uses the nurture argument to prove that which shows how clouded his mind is.
Felicity is on the opposite side of this and doesn’t trust Oliver’s judgement in this situation. It’s a bit of a role reversal for them as Oliver is the optimistic one where Felicity is more reckless and vengeful. It makes sense for her since Billy’s death is fresh for her so she will be feeling a need to get justice for it. She uses the team to try to bring down Black Siren and lets her out of the cage so that she can lead Oliver to Prometheus where he’ll have an opportunity to kill him. Something she thinks that she really wants as a way to start putting things right. This is something we never see from Felicity and it’s working really well.
Using alternate universe duplicates to explore the nature vs. nurture debate is in theory a good idea. The fun of alternate versions of characters is that they look the same but act differently. Black Siren and Laurel are as different as Laurel and Felicity are but there’s an artificial connection because they happen to look alike. This causes judgement to be clouded but the important thing to remember is that they are different people even if they share some mannerisms and traits coincidentally.
The question that hangs over the episode is whether Black Siren has it in her to be a hero and it isn’t really answered. There are arguments for both sides and her final decision to attack suggests that she is more inclined to be a villain. Oliver doesn’t really accept this so wants to work on this some more. If there is to be redemption for Black Siren then it won’t happen anytime soon and will likely be a difficult road. I’m interested to see how this develops and how the nature vs. nurture debate will continue.
Black Siren’s appearance does give Oliver a small measure of hope and he’s slightly optimistic about the future. It also allows him to remember that he hasn’t really honoured Laurel’s final request to ensure that she isn’t the last Black Canary which gives us the tease of Tina Boland (Juliana Harkavy) using a sonic scream during a bar fight in Hub City. We know nothing about her but having a new member of the team now that Evelyn’s treachery is out in the open should even the odds somewhat.
I was disappointed that Thea didn’t appear in this episode. Thea and Laurel had grown very close over the years so if anyone would have had an opinion on the new Laurel it would be Thea. There was a real missed opportunity to have scenes between that allows Thea to have input over whether she is anything like the Laurel she remembers. This could still happen but it would have greatly enhanced this story.
Arrow has been working hard to get back to its roots and build from there this season. I would say that this has been a complete success and the show is the best it has been in a long time. It’s equally impressive that the writers haven’t forgotten that Arrow exists in a much broader universe than when it first started. Alternate realities, magic and metahumans are the norm now and running away from that would be a mistake. There is definite confidence in the writing when Team Arrow can have Ragman on the team with a metahuman Black Canary and an alternate reality version of Laurel also part of the plot. The show is proving that it is possible to use these elements in ways that don’t sacrifice the core concept.
Diggle is in deep trouble at the moment and Oliver asks Adrian to represent him. It’s a good way to keep Adrian in the mix and the whole subplot works far better than I would have expected. Josh Segarra is really charismatic in this role and his back and forth with Diggle as well as General Walker (Gary Chalk) brings a lot to the episode. I really liked the way he made sure that Diggle was kept under his jurisdiction by staging a minor crime. They both knew that this was the only way he would survive and it puts Adrian in a difficult position for the coming episodes. Of course, the man who has to be Vigilante can surely handle it but it creates effective tension.
Curtis is finally waking up to the fact that he’s a constant liability to the team. It has taken far longer than it really should have but we’re there now. Echo Kellum sells this and Curtis’ feelings about everything else that has gone wrong with his life wonderfully. He comes across as genuinely broken when telling Rene that he feels like he has lost everything over something he isn’t even any good at.
His arc is concerned with figuring out how to move forward as well as a new way to be useful. Curtis’ strengths have always been in his ability to invent and tinker so the realisation that he can use this to help the team is long overdue. It gives him a direction and will hopefully solve the problem of him feeling like dead weight.
The flashbacks aren’t as strong as they have been but the Russia story is still compelling so it’s interesting enough to watch. Oliver’s tendency to punish himself is a nice contrast with his more optimistic outlook during the present day events in this episode and the introduction of Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig) creates enough intrigue to make me look forward to seeing more of her.
This episode boasts some really impressive action. Oliver’s fight with Prometheus in particular was really well handled and managed to avoid the usual confusion brought on by hooded figures fighting one another. The group take down of Black Siren was really impressive as well.
An excellent outing for this show that makes use of the Black Siren seen in The Flash to allow Katie Cassidy to come back without undoing Laurel’s death. The difference in Oliver and Felicity’s feelings on her sudden appearance are a bit of a role reversal for them but it makes sense given their recent experiences. Oliver needs some kind of win in his life after what has happened and Felicity is out for blood after losing Billy. Oliver’s need to see the good in Black Siren is interesting because it fuels a fascinating nature vs. nurture debate when it comes to alternate universe versions of people. Thea was really missed from this episode because of her close friendship with Laurel. Throwing Black Siren in with Prometheus makes a lot of sense and allows for some really engaging action sequences.
Curtis is finally realising that he’s a liability and changes his focus to his greatest strength. Having him support the team with inventions is a much better idea and has been a long time coming. Echo Kellum’s performance when lamenting everything that Curtis has lost is brilliantly done as well. Adrian’s attempts to represent Diggle against the Military are really interesting with solid interactions between the two characters and a clever tactic to keep Diggle out of trouble thrown in. The flashbacks are less relevant than they have been before but the story is still interesting especially with the introduction of Talia al Ghul. Introducing the potential new Black Canary Tina could be interesting too.
- the use of Black Siren
- Curtis’ change in direction
- compelling role reversal for Felicity and Oliver
- the lack of Thea