Now’s as good a time as any to check in on Arrow and actually review an episode since I’m on Spring Break and not at work at this moment as I usually would be. This has been a solid season for the show, a great one even, depending on which episode we’re on. For the most part Arrow‘s been on a consistent roll with only a few missteps here and there, and I figured “Birds of Prey” would be another misstep with the return of Helena Bertinelli, who the show just can’t let go. And I wasn’t really wrong, but it wasn’t a bad episode either just not up to par with what the show’s been dishing out lately.
Jessica de Gouw is a serviceable actress, just not in this role. She’s done exceptionally well in other projects, most recently Dracula (which probably wasn’t worth her time), but her performance as Helena has always ranged from deeply affected to deeply annoying. Arrow bringing her back time and time again to throw down the same tired hatchet is another issue. We get it. She’s vengeful and enraged and won’t rest until her father’s dead, but that horse got beaten to death with her final appearance last season. Bringing her back now did nothing more than reiterate already weary plot points about the character though it (thankfully) wrapped up things with her father.
The episode kicked off with Sara and Oliver suited up and looking out for Quentin as he and cops stormed a warehouse which Frank Bertinelli fled. After Frank’s arrest, Oliver concluded that Helena would soon be along to return to her usual activities of killing, torturing and threatening people who stand even a little bit in her way of exacting revenge upon her father. In the end Frank was shot to death by a crusading cop which did nothing to soothe Helena’s sorrow but did end up finally getting her caught and sent to prison. At the very least this will mean her inevitable return next season will have a different bent to it since her go-to storyline’s come to an end.
Though Arrow had nothing new for Helena this episode it made some strides with Laurel. Even though she’s still the first character to get shuttled off to the periphery when the show thinks it’s got something better to do, at least this season is keeping to whatever plans it has for her. It was nice to see Laurel being healthy and adjusted, gleefully jumping back into prosecuting Frank’s case and bragging about her lawyer skills as she reached the 30-day mark in her recovery. In the courthouse she was just as noble and heroic as she’d been in the first season, when she got to showcase those qualities in her legal work, and her push to save the other hostages despite her own potential escape got me excited for when Arrow will allow Laurel to don a mask and do her own crimefighting. Her final scene blackmailing her way back into her job seemed an odd addition since her story for the entire episode ran a bit perpendicular to the theme of Helena’s before she decided to quote Helena’s line about her darkness never leaving her after she let it in.
If anybody should have been quoting Helena it was Sara who made going up against Helena her main priority. Like Helena, Sara’s more than willing to turn to deadly means if it means accomplishing her goal and Oliver’s “baby arrows” don’t stack up. Naturally Sara defied Oliver’s order not to intervene and went to help Laurel after Helena took hostages. Sara and Laurel’s relationship has become a high point of the show so it’s nice to see them on such good terms now, and Sara leaping to protect Laurel made perfect sense despite Oliver’s (stupid) suggestion, a weird moment for him since no one would expect him not to participate in keeping Thea and his mother safe.
Usually the show’s done a good job of pointing out Oliver’s hypocrisy and self-centeredness but lately it’s been falling to the wayside. From Moira’s lie about Thea’s paternity to Helena’s return, Oliver’s really freaking good at making everything about him. He’s sticking to his No Kill Rule except when he deems it ineffective (as with the Count and Slade), and that’s fine because both of them are certainly too dangerous to be allowed to walk freely. But this is Helena’s fourth time making deadly trouble in Starling City, but Oliver still wants her to live despite the threat Helena continues to pose to people important to members of Team Arrow. Like season one, Oliver’s still playing God, but instead of killing people indiscriminately, he’s keeping them alive. But he’s the only one with the power to change his mind and go against his rule. Meanwhile Sara, with plenty of reason to want to kill Helena for targeting Laurel, has to concede because Oliver doesn’t think she deserves to die.
“Birds of Prey” seemed to want to focus on Sara and her own hero story, but like most promising Arrow arcs, it’s unable to back off from Oliver very much to give it the necessary weight. He’s the main character so his heavy presence is both vital and expected, but when the show wants to give its supporting players something to do, it would be nice if it didn’t need to come back to Oliver all the time. Arrow’s already proven capable of doing so as with last week’s “Suicide Squad”. Not every episode has to be as supporting character-centered as that one, but Arrow misses important character beats, especially recent ones between Sara and Laurel, because of its insistence on including Oliver where he doesn’t really need to be.
On the island, Slade’s torture of Oliver was put on the backburner (see? it’s possible!) to his negotiations with Sara for an engineer in their group who’d be able to repair the busted Amazo. Eventually Sara gave in, and though it wasn’t seen she’s going to turn him over to Slade to save Oliver which would mark the beginning of Sara’s policy of dealing with threats to herself and those she cares about with whatever means necessary. Sara’s family ties haven’t been given as strong a look as Oliver’s, but her initial anxiety about integrating back into her family and her new desire to be a better person (less assassin, more hero) for them now, as when she let Helena live at Laurel’s request, was a good transition.
- Say hello to my first and last review of Arrow. At least until the finale.
- It’s cute of Quentin to keep pretending Oliver isn’t the Arrow.
- Oliver did not “create” the Huntress. He gave Helena a crossbow and showed her how to use it, but she was well on her way before he got involved.
- “I thought I was helping you to control it.” “You are. I can’t look at a bowl of water without slapping it.”
- Roy and Thea’s breakup was so stupid. If Roy can only control himself by thinking of Thea, and if he’s a good source of protection from Slade, what exactly was accomplished in making them split up? All it did was get Thea to happily accept a ride home from Slade which is apparently all Arrow really wanted. It’s a plot-driven point that ignores established continuity for the sake of drama, and Arrow can do – and has done – better.
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