After limping around NBC’s bizarro steampunk version of Dracula, Jessica De Gouw returns to her Huntress roots to battle it out with the Black Canary (Caity Lotz).
Let’s bitch it out…Initially it appears that Helena and Sara will spend their time making snide remarks about the other’s relationship with Oliver (Stephen Amell), which prompted a fair amount of involuntarily yawning from me. The last thing I was interested in watching is two super powerful women cast shade at each other over a guy.
Thankfully that’s not the primary interest of the writers and ‘Birds Of Prey’ proves to be far more interested in the sacrifices it takes to be a hero. This is a near universal superhero theme – one that Arrow had often returned to, though usually in regards to Oliver. This episode, however, is far more interested in what Helena and Sara have given up to become the masked women they are. Oliver, in contrast, spends a surprising amount of time on the sidelines, trying to reason with the women as they do their thing.
For Helena, the story remains much the same as it did the last time we saw her. If the story were just of her return, it would be really disappointing. Thankfully the Huntress’ return is clearly meant to be contrasted by Sara, which brings something new to the table. Throughout the episode, both women are compared by their aesthetic (white wig vs dark hair) and purpose (Helena is out for revenge, whereas Sara is interested in protecting her family). They even have two physical confrontations, each “winning” one, which suggests that they are equally matched. There’s definitely a yin-yang going on, with Huntress representing one possible future for Sara if she can’t resist going down a dark path and killing indiscriminately.
The key difference between Helena and Sara is their mantra. Sara tells Ollie numerous times that she will do whatever she needs to to protect the ones she loves (highlighted by the flashbacks on the island). The question is whether Sara will let the darkness in and join Helena past the point of no return. Oliver ultimately prevents her from having to find out, but there’s a wildcard contributing to these events: Laurel (Katie Cassidy), the woman that Sara is protecting.
‘Birds Of Prey’ is really a three woman show (which makes sense given the allusion to the DC property). Helena’s return to Starling City occurs on Laurel’s 30th day of sobriety and the parts of the episode that don’t focus on Helena and Sara are squarely designed to provide insight on how Laurel has gotten her shit together since she fell completely apart a few episodes back. Of course sobriety provides the same kinds of challenges to a regular person that killing does for a superhero and Laurel has to pass her own test before the end of the episode. It’s legitimately jarring to see her go straight for the bottle when during a moment of levity after the courthouse attack begins; we’ve already seen her at an AA meeting (her second of the day) and things are seemingly coming together. I say seemingly because it’s pretty darn obvious that
Hot Paul Adam’s (Dylan Bruce) offer to reinstate her is completely false (the only reason we might accept it is because after all of the crap Laurel has gone through, there’s something appealing about seeing something good happen for her). After all of the sisterly challenges that Laurel and Sara have had this past season, it’s also nice to see the two of them look out for the other, even if the awareness of who they’re protecting is one-sided.
In general ‘Birds Of Prey’ makes a compelling argument for the complexity of Arrow‘s female characters – regardless of their status as superhero, super villain or something in between.
- I’m glad that Laurel stuck up for herself and blackmailed her way back into the DA’s office. I do wish she had avoided using the Huntress’ line, however…too cheesy.
- Considering I spent the entire review celebrating the complexity of women, Thea’s (Willa Holland) story can only be described as disappointing. I quite liked the scene when she refused to let Roy (Colton Haynes) break up with her, but it feels cheap and gross that his “solution” is to have her catch him cheating. Ugh.
- Also I have great difficulty believing that he would volunteer to break up with her (without even confronting Oliver about being a hypocrite considering the danger he’s put his girlfriends in). I expected Roy to fight for Thea, not give up so easily. This, unfortunately, is one storyline that hasn’t been given enough time this season to develop and the whole thing feels undercooked.
- The Slade (Manu Bennett) flashbacks when he barters to trade Oliver’s life for that of Sara’s engineer work because they concern more than Slade’s petty feud over Shado. Instead they’re an insightful examination of how Slade and Sara approach complicated situations. This strikes a much better balance than the one-note revenge angle that I fear we’ll have to watch for the remainder of the season (especially now that Slade has Thea).
- Finally, kudos to the stunt coordinators. The opening warehouse shoot-out is basically the definition of high octane adrenaline, as is Canary’s first (brief) battle when Huntress tosses her out the window. I literally gasped as Sara fell (bonus points for making the landing look like it was genuinely painful).
- Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity (when Oliver protests that he was a frat boy): “I rest my case”
- Roy (after Oliver calls him dangerous): “You are. I can’t look at a bowl of water without slapping it.”
- Sara (getting angry that Oliver won’t kill for her family): “Well hey you forgot your baby arrows”
Your turn: what did you think of the Huntress’ return? Did you find the contrast between the three women illuminating? Are you disappointed with Thea’s treatment or how her relationship with Roy is playing out? Sound off below.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW