Review by Logan
We don’t just follow comic book characters for the action. The success and failure of some renowned superheroes shows us that. We love Batman because it shows how someone as helpless as an orphan can become a powerful force for good. We love Superman because it shows how a farmboy can become a hero. We love Peter Parker because we like to believe that nerds can make a difference. If any show has grasped this idea that it’s about the characters, not just the suit, and ran with it, it’s Arrow; which is why this week’s episode isn’t about the “villain of the week,” but is about Thea. That’s also why it works.
Thea has been gone since the end of last season, when she left Roy a note saying she was leaving Starling City and never coming back. She cited as her reasons the lies that had been circulating all around her. Her brother, her mother, and her boyfriend all lied to her. In response, she contacted her biological father, the villainous Malcolm Merlyn, and began training with him. We got a glimpse of that training at the end of the last episode, but only now do we see what it’s really been like for her.
To provide extra story and plot, there are two subplots present as well. Laurel is dealing with Sara’s death by trying to become a vigilante herself. At the same time, John Diggle helps Lyla with an ARGUS mission, which is in Corto Maltese. That island also happens to be where Thea is, so as Oliver goes on a search for his sister, John rides along so that he can accomplish this mission with Oliver’s help.
The episode provided some pretty intense action sequences. As if the homemade bows and arrows weren’t cool enough, we also get to see Oliver use a gun, which lived up to the hype in the season’s trailer. Laurel’s journey to vigilantism is raw and emotional, but it’s the primary plot regarding Thea that’s the most interesting.
It’s pretty easy to see where the show is going with her. Merlyn intends to return to Starling with his daughter, likely to conquer where he failed before. His plan to destroy the Glades is history now, but there’s still a clear course of action for him to take—revenge against the Arrow. To that end, he’s taken the task of turning Thea to the “dark side.”
Interestingly, this provides a contrast from what we saw in Oliver at the beginning of Season 2 after Tommy dies. They’re both dealing with grief, but they go in two opposite directions. Oliver uses that grief as motivation to become a better person and to put aside his killing ways, and genuinely help people. Thea swings in the other direction, turning to violence in a quest for power and self-sufficiency. She tells Merlyn that she wants to keep people from ever hurting her again.
This reminds me a lot of the two different reactions two audiences have to the gospel in the book of Acts. In Acts 2, many people react positively to Peter’s sermon, changing their lives and becoming Christians. In Acts 7, however, people hear the same message and instead killed the messenger. Was there anything wrong with the message? Of course not. The two audiences decided to respond in two different ways.
The audience is supposed to be sympathetic toward Thea, but there’s no question in anyone’s mind which course of action is the right one. The show has already explored the horrors of a lifestyle of killing, and has greeted Oliver’s no-kill rule with plenty of good correlations. It’s after he stops killing that things start coming together for him, not the least of which is the cooperation of the police. So while the show is exploring the emotional trauma of Thea, it’s not doing so in a way that will justify her actions. That sends a really good message: you can be sympathetic to someone without condoning their actions. If she continues on this path, her actions certainly won’t be condoned by Oliver. He’ll oppose her, but that won’t negate the fact that he loves her. That, in effect, presents a very Biblical view for how to deal with sin in the lives of those whom we love.
I originally thought Merlyn was the one who killed Sara. But he was clearly still in South America at the time, and we know that the League of Assassins doesn’t kill their own, which rules out Ra’s al Ghul. That means it will likely be a new villain. My bet is on Cupid, a female villain who’s obsessed with the Arrow and tries to kill any woman that gets close to him, making the Canary an obvious target. She’s not been introduced on the show yet, but has been cast for this season.
Roy’s still being underused. His personality seems way too tame compared to last season. That’s frustrating, especially because he has really good chemistry with Stephen Amell. Their conversation in the last scene shows how good they can be together. It’s kind of like having Robin in a Batman movie but he only has five lines. They’ve got a good actor for him and the two of them could really be effective if they were marketed more as a team.
Laurel is obviously going to be the next Black Canary. It’s always bothered me a little bit that the wrong person was the Black Canary, although I did like Sara overall. Her journey is going to be an interesting one to watch, especially since Oliver will be fighting against her (as I probably would be if I were in her shoes. It does seem pretty likely that she’ll just die at some point).
I’m not a huge fan of Nyssa, but it is interesting to see her back at the end of the episode. That confirms that the League knows nothing about Sara’s death and certainly had nothing to do with it. The next episode will likely have them tracking down another dead end related to the League’s foes. Because, if I’m right, the new villain is Cupid, who will probably not be on the League’s radar. In the comics, Cupid is ex-military, although they could always reimagine her as an ex-Assassin like Merlyn.