“Canaries’” Erratic Flight
It has been a rollicking week on television for strong female characters. Agent Carter took out the small army of agents who drew the unfortunate “go arrest Carter” assignment, Leslie Knope bowed out of the Pie Mary, and Lady Mary bobbed her hair. Even Taylor Swift got into the action telling a tone-deaf Nancy O’Dell, “I’m not gonna walk home with any men tonight.” Perhaps that is why Arrow’s “Canaries” felt so anti-climactic. Thea and Laurel both developed inscrutable cases of vulnerability and the episode’s plot holes left me asking, “Wait, was I supposed to do the reading before coming to class?”
As the title suggests, showrunners continued their dogged effort to transform Laurel into a credible Black Canary. The decision to shoehorn this story into Arrow’s narrative has led to the victimization of Laurel Lance in myriad ways. For example, “Canaries” treated the audience to her near-misogynistic beating at the hands of her sister Sara. Granted, Vertigo — not the dearly departed Sara — pummeled Laurel in the midst of her drug-induced haze, and in her quest to “wear Sara’s mask,” Laurel saw her sister instead. [BTW, does anyone else miss Seth Gabel as much as I do?] Apparently Laurel’s insecurities run so deep that they justify imaginary-Sara’s vicious characterization of Laurel as a “selfish bitch,” twice. The real Sara once declared, “I don’t like that word,” so the use of it here stings.
Oliver’s disgust at running into Laurel “again” while in the field says as much about her hasty decision to be there as it does about Oliver’s tendency toward paternalism. He took a much needed drubbing from Laurel after he had the audacity to suggest she was donning a mask to chase an addict’s high. She threw that barb back at him pointing out Oliver wears a mask to distance himself from those around him [read Felicity]. The episode moves erratically between empowering Laurel — “Maybe it’s best if we stay out of each other’s way” — to leaving her in a wild-eyed heap on the med table. At least Felicity remains consistent when she puts an end to Oliver’s “I’m trying to figure out why you’re standing up to me!” arrogance with her own barb, “You do not have the right to come back here and question everyone’s choices,” reducing Oliver to open-mouthed silence and then to slinking out of the lair like a scolded child. The team reshuffled the deck in his absence leaving little room for this Queen at the top.
In an effort to bring Laurel into the fold, showrunners are cautiously laying the groundwork for a friendship between Laurel and Felicity. Since Laurel Lance attracts a level of vitriol typically reserved for Kim Jong-un or one’s cable provider, this choice feels like a risk, but I can’t object. Felicity enlivens every scene she is in and Laurel needs a boost. During their quiet conversation, Felicity imparts the tough love that Laurel so desperately needs, telling her to embrace her own path and be herself. This moment left me thinking that the showrunners might finally abandon their quest to merge Laurel and Black Canary and let Laurel find her own way, wherever that might lead. Regrettably, they chose a different approach sending Laurel into the field near the end of the episode with Oliver’s blessing, thus bringing me to the ongoing Diggle conundrum.
Showrunners need to make some effort to craft plausible explanations for sidelining Dig in favor of Laurel. This has created plot holes of cavernous proportions. Here are some simple excuses to consider. Dig has a nasty case of the flu. He likely skipped this year’s vaccination given last year’s Great Flu Shot Fiasco. Influenza should be running rampant through Starling City right about now easily knocking the big guy back. Here’s another one. The nanny has the flu and Lyla has to hunt BGs for Amanda Waller requiring Dig to bring little Sara with him for playtime at the foundry. Strap a baby to his chest and we might accept that Diggle has suddenly lost his taste for hand-to-hand combat. Each of these options is more plausible than Oliver looking back and forth between Laurel and Digg and opting to take Laurel into the breach as his back up. I half expected Stephen Amell to look at the camera, break the fourth wall and say, “Don’t blame me; it was in the script.”
Oliver took Malcolm’s advice over Diggle’s and confessed his superhero identity to Thea. She surprised her big brother by thanking him for saving her and the city time and time again. While this reaction came as a relief to Oliver, it left me underwhelmed. Thea has often had stars in her eyes when it comes to Oliver, yet she has also valued honesty in her relationship with him. Who can forget the betrayal she felt upon finding out that Moira and Oliver withheld her true parentage from her thus sending her into Merlyn’s open arms? Perhaps Malcolm’s training has caused Thea to accept a new Zen approach to life.
Thea inexplicably turned against Malcolm after learning about Oliver’s identity prompting me to wonder which crucial line I missed that might explain this turnabout. What happened in “Canaries” that led Thea to condemn Malcolm, the man she praised as a loving father just a few days ago? We see the same kind of erratic writing for Thea that we saw with Laurel. Thea chooses to bring a boy home for some fun on what looks to be an uncomfortable couch and afterward quickly figures out that cute as he might be he is trying to poison her. Thea, who has been fully capable of defending herself all season, given that she is a trained swordswoman, suddenly requires rescue from her ex-boyfriend. Am I supposed to think it is sweet that Roy is lurking outside her apartment door dressed in full Arsenal gear while she was having sex with another man? Presumably Roy called Malcolm for back-up launching Roy from one position – keeping Thea away from Malcolm, to the opposite – calling on Malcolm to help him save Thea – in the span of a scene change. If you have access to the accompanying webisode that fills in this and other holes in the narrative, please send it my way.
“Canaries” ends with Oliver taking Thea on a camping trip to The Island and leaving his team, including a wonderfully irritated Felicity, to save the city in his place. Laurel breaks the devastating news to Lance that his daughter Sara is dead . . . again. The writers need to work harder to make Laurel’s transition to Black Canary a believable one. In the face of poor storytelling, Laurel, and probably a beleaguered Katie Cassidy, should take advice from the wise Taylor Swift and “shake it off.” Meanwhile, I’ll take comfort in knowing that “It’s A Good Day” to watch Peggy Carter crush a few kneecaps to this bubbly melody on her way to shattering the glass ceiling.