Monday, November 4, 2013

Arrow - 2.04 - Crucible - Black Canary Rises - Review/Episode Awards

I like kick-butt TV females - women who can save themselves, rescue those in distress, and throw out a little snark while they do. Call it the Buffy Effect. So I was already predisposed to like Black Canary. What I wasn't prepared for was to like Sara Lance too. She's as problematic a character as they come. She slept with her sister's boyfriend (once and future love triangle), was tortured into becoming an assassin (emotionless robot or whiny villain), and could easily be the Hood reincarnated (last year redux). Little of that is appealing to me. While I was excited to meet Black Canary, I was decidedly less excited to meet her alter ego. Imagine my surprise when she nailed every scene, no matter which part she was playing. While the action scenes were top notch as always and Black Canary and the Arrow trading weapons mid battle was a high point, I also liked the more emotional scenes and her interactions with Sin. For a character with so little screen time, she is already multi-dimensional and layered. Here's hoping she stays that way.

Her first appearance this episode was a little disappointing to be honest. To get caught by Oliver so easily betrayed the awesome fighting skills we've already seen her use. She also seemed too much like a one trick pony, since her sonic scream button has been her go-to escape several times now. It was not shocking that Oliver knew to how to counteract it, and the more she fights crime in the Glades, the less it is bound to work. (Luckily this problem is resolved later when she and the Arrow fight together, trading weapons halfway through. Black Canary is pretty handy with a bow as well, and it makes for an awesome action sequence.) Still, in that first scene, I just knew that she would get away from Oliver. I mean, surely Arrow would not let her identity be revealed already? I forgot what show I was watching. Only Teen Wolf moves the plot at a brisker pace. While their interaction while masked was supremely cheesy, the unmasking was great. Oliver looked stunned. Sara looked sorry for them both. It was a well-done moment. I particularly like how they did not draw out the initial meeting, but followed up later with Oliver's reaction to the team. It made the whole thing more powerful to me, although I could have done without the boat recap. I guess since they changed actresses, they thought it was necessary.

While the first scene was great for the quick reveal, I actually prefer Black Canary's time with Sin. Yes, it helps that Sin is my favorite new character. It also helps that she brings some great snarky lines. However, I was equally surprised by how vulnerable Sara allows herself to be with Sin. In a lot of TV today it feels like female heroes (supernatural, cop, or otherwise) are not allowed to show emotion to others, stifling their characters or worse, turning them into a caricature. Sara is obviously comfortable enough and real enough to share some of her troubles with Sin although it is likely the first time she has done so. Sin may not know Sara's past but she makes a good sounding board and Sara definitely needs someone to talk to. Plus, they do it without entering emoangst territory. Score! I wish this scene had been longer. Female interaction on Arrow is limited and I would like to know more about how they became allies, besides Sara rescuing Sin from thugs. I hope even after Sara reveals herself to her family, she still has time to mentor Sin.

However, the greatest Sara moment comes when she and Oliver are talking at Verdant. She starts snarky with Oliver, expositing some of her story but not enough to lose mystery. While Oliver is impatient with her flippancy, her answers intrigue me. What did happen to Slade? How did she "die" the second time? Who trained her - the League of Assassins or someone else? She's certainly the most mystifying character right now and I look forward to delving into her past. I also like how perceptive Oliver is when he's with her. Oliver is not known for reading people's emotions as he often has to be reminded of them, but he has Sara down cold. She seems to want to be with her family, but she doesn't know how to reconcile her new life with who she was with them. It's a paradox that Oliver is uniquely qualified to help with since he dealt with it all last year. Instead of this being a vengeance do-over, I am glad they are recycling the emotional fallout because in some ways that was shortchanged last year. To see Sara reunite with her family and all the issues it will inevitably create may finally make the Lances as interesting as the Queens. Indeed it starts when Sara overhears her father talking to Oliver about how her death has affected Laurel and himself. Sara's reaction to Quentin's confession that Laurel is spiraling out of control in the same manner as he did after Sara "died" hit me harder than I expected. By the way, the Oliver and Quentin portion of this scene was fantastic as well. They need more screen time together too. I was particularly moved by Quentin's admission that he took Sara's death hard. I don't blame Sara for fleeing after that. It was tough to hear.

Sara's final big moment is again with Oliver, so I can't wait until she interacts with more people, especially the Lances - the exact point Oliver tries to get across. After stopping her in the hall of the hospital where she checks on Sin, Oliver says he's paid Sin's medical expenses. Sara tries to move on before Thea sees her, but Oliver calls her out on her performance as a ghost. That's exactly how she sees herself, a woman who no longer fits in her old life but is not yet able to move on to a new one, a specter trapped between worlds. The island changed her as much as it did Oliver, but in Oliver she may find hope. Not because of their past relationship or their future crime fighting, but because in the course of his year at Starling City, surrounded by his family and friends, Oliver has found himself again. Not the vacuous playboy of before, not the vigilante consumed with vengeance, but as a person beyond just a cause. If he can turn his life around, Sara can too. Oliver: "You can let it go and come home. I mean I know that the earthquake brought you here, but your family kept you here." Oliver extends his hand and encourages Sara to tell the Lances she's alive no matter the cost to himself. Say what? Um, what exactly does that mean? Yeah there's more to this back story than just being on the Captain's boat together and I look forward to this mystery unraveling. While one episode is obviously not enough in which to really judge a character, this taste of how Black Canary and Sara are represented gives me hope for a complicated, interesting story line, and Caity Lotz seems capable of handling the vast emotions the story will entail. I was already excited about Arrow's second season. It's proving itself to be superior to the first one. The introduction of BC and Sara are just two more reasons to look forward to Wednesday nights.

Episode Awards:

Grade: B+

Best Scene - The Arrow and Black Canary take down the Mayor, trading weapons as they go

Most Valuable Player - Black Canary

Biggest Shock - tie - Sara reveals herself to Oliver so quickly…and that she's trapped by him so easily
Oliver tells Diggle and Felicity that he saw Sara a year after the yacht went down

Most Emotional Scene - Quentin talks about Laurel at his AA meeting while she downs pills and wine

Biggest Aww Moment - Thea tells Roy he's a hero and they both stay with Sin until she wakes up

Most Disgusting Moment - Oliver pulls the bullet out of his side and stitches up the wound himself

Best Team Arrow Moment - Turning on the tracker
-Yes the most emotional was when Oliver told them about Sara but I actually liked all of Team Arrow in their second scene.

Most Creepy Moment - Blood's Mask of Intimidation - Yikes!

Best New Addition to the Show - Sorry Black Canary, this one goes to Sin

Biggest Idiot - The Mayor
-Seriously dude. First you kill your own people and then you go into a public place, a media event no less, and show your face. Put on a mask. Heck on this show, even a little eye shadow would do.

Best Introduction - Sin meets Thea - snarky fun

Weirdest Confession - Oliver asks Blood for advice about Sara and Laurel
-This could also be called the Anvil Award. Thanks for explaining the episode title, Alderman.

Most Welcome Return - Lila
-I really wish she would get a bigger part. It would be interesting if she ended up being a villain because it would tie Diggle better into the story and they sorely need to do that.

Least Inspiring Leadership - tie - The Mayor kills his underling for no good reason
The Captain tells Oliver that he'll kill him or he'll kill

Best Interruption - Diggle tells Felicity to shut up about Sara

Tiny Thing Bound to Become a Huge Deal - Star Lab's particle accelerator
-I swear I've heard it mentioned in passing twice already this season. This time as a news item before the cash for guns event

Worst Foreshadowing - Oliver says Blood should be mayor and he says, "There's more than one way to save a city."

Worst Rejoinder - Diggle: "You know Oliver, someone once told me that secrets have weight. The more you keep, the harder it is to keep moving." Oliver: "You see how hard I work out." Really Oliver?

Cheesiest Lines that Actually Worked - tie -

Russian prisoner: "Living - it's not for the weak."
Oliver: "Go to hell." Captain: "Can't. We're already there."

Other Great Lines -

Isabel: "Being fashionably late might do well for the club circuit but it does not inspire confidence in Wall Street."
Laurel: "Please do not ask me if I'm okay because I'm sick to death of everyone asking me that." Oliver: "I would never do that." Laurel: "Good." Oliver: "You okay?"
Felicity: "Do you have any happy stories?"
Sin: "I'll take a subpar breakfast over a bullet."
Oliver: "You both need to work on your definition of good news."
Captain: "Sewing is not your strong suit."
Sin: "You know you're dating a moron, right?" Thea: "It's my first and last thought of every day." Sin: "Cr**, I like her."

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