UK TV recap: Arrow Season 4, Episode 19
Matthew Turner | On 07, May 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
It’s always difficult when a show kills off a main character – you have to strike a tricky balance between giving them an appropriate send-off and keeping the wheels of the show spinning more or less as normal. Occasionally, you’ll get an exception – The Body in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (one of the stand-out episodes of any television show) – but mostly, it’s dealt with quickly, or the show finds a clever get-out option, like 24, whose 24-hour structure left no room for funeral planning or eulogies and allowed the show to kill off characters more or less every other week, just for LOLs. Arrow takes the time in Episode 19 to mourn the loss of Laurel Lance / Black Canary and more or less bungles it, despite obviously good intentions.
First of all, it appears that Laurel really is dead, at least for the time being. The show’s smartest move is to address the audience’s lingering doubts head-on through a grieving Quentin, who has, after all, buried a daughter three times now and he only had two of them in the first place. Quentin has seen one daughter come back from the dead twice, so he’ll be damned if he’ll let the other one die without at least trying to find a Lazarus Pit to chuck her into. To that end, he spends most of the episode in denial, asking Nyssa to help bring Laurel back to life and casting around for alternative other-wordly solutions before finally accepting Laurel’s fate at her funeral, with her mother, Dinah (Alex Kingston, making a welcome return), at his side.
Needless to say, Paul Blackthorne once again knocks it out of the park, performance-wise, and his story-line is the best thing about this episode as a result. Poor Quentin. He just doesn’t seem to be able to go a season without losing or gaining a daughter in some way.
Quentin’s not the only Arrow character who’s grieving this week, of course. The show has never shied away from general hand-wringing and angst and that element is front and centre here, with pretty much everyone getting in on the self-recrimination angle. This is particularly true of Diggle, who can’t get over the fact that it was his trust of his brother over Oliver that got Laurel killed. In perhaps David Ramsey’s angriest scenes to date, he hits the streets seeking vengeance and tries to kill Mayor Darhk Wife, only for Oliver to get there in the nick of time and stop him.
Oliver does this by attempting to persuade Diggle that, effectively, this isn’t what Laurel would have wanted and that she had a commitment to fighting evil in the light, or something like that. The problem, as with much of this episode, is that in seeking to define Laurel’s legacy, it latches onto pretty much any old nonsense it can lay its hands on, which only really highlights how poorly Laurel was written.
Elsewhere, the episode is slightly more successful – Oliver has a great conversation with Felicity where he says, “Do you know why I always blame myself in situations like this? Because at least it’s an answer. Sometimes, we just need a reason when a situation is completely unreasonable.” That’s a lovely little bit of dialogue and an entirely appropriate thing for Oliver to say, given his tendency towards blaming himself for literally everything. Even Felicity gets a good moment in this scene, as she confesses that when Diggle blamed himself, out loud, she kept quiet, because she didn’t want to acknowledge her own guilt, i.e. her absence from Team Arrow at the time, which may have made a difference.
But back to Laurel’s so-called legacy and the show’s need to at least make some cursory nod towards some superhero action in an otherwise pretty miserable hour. Its solution is to introduce a False Canary, a 16 year old named Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), who blatantly steals the Canary Cry device right out of the hospital (a hilarious re-shoot of last week’s corridor scene gives her a blatantly obvious and immediately suspicious walk-on, even before we see her in costume) and repurposes it for her own intentions, despite Cisco having ensured that only Laurel could use it. (To be fair, Cisco’s had a lot on his mind lately, maybe he just had a bit of an off-day.)
Anyway, Evelyn has a specific reason for dressing up as the Canary and committing crimes – it’s to tarnish Laurel’s legacy, because Team Arrow apparently left her parents to die during one of Damien Darhk’s masterplans from about a dozen episodes ago (the one with the brainwashed victims – no, me neither). In the end, Oliver basically just talks her out of killing Darhk Wife by persuading her that, once again, Laurel was a great hero… except that in the specific context of leaving this girl’s parents to die, she kind of wasn’t. At any rate, none of this really works, because the show doesn’t spend any time at all getting to know who Evelyn actually is – Felicity basically just looks her up on the Internet – so her storyline lacks any kind of emotional connection and thus fails to make any real dramatic impact, other than giving Oliver an excuse to publicly reveal that District Attorney Laurel Lance was – gasp! – really the Black Canary at her funeral.
As for the funeral, it’s handled pretty poorly, perhaps due to the show’s fake-out at the beginning, where we think we’re watching Laurel’s funeral and then, um, Laurel gets called to speak and it turns out we’re watching Tommy’s funeral in a flashback. This gives the episode one too many funerals and, although it’s a relief to have the flashbacks actually serve a purpose this week (and take a welcome break from Lan You), as well as provide a nice excuse for Katie Cassidy to appear again, they only end up clouding the issue of Oliver and Laurel’s relationship still further, because what we end up watching looks like a bunch of deleted scenes from the end of Season 1. So what we come away with is a reminder that Laurel and Oliver were lovers once and that they were close even when they were apart, but that’s about it. Honestly, the show would almost have been better off doing a Laurel-themed clip show for all the drama and emotion it wrings from this set-up.
All in all, Episode 19 is the weakest ofSeason 4 so far. Hopefully, things will pick up again next week, what with us finally moving forward from Oliver’s graveside vow to kill Damien Darhk.
– Thea gets very little to do this week, which is a shame, because Thea’s friendship with Laurel was one of my favourite things about Laurel.
– Evelyn is apparently very loosely based on Evelyn Crawford, whose superhero alter-ego is Starling in the new Birds of Prey comics. In theory, the show has left the door open for Evelyn to return and maybe even become the new Black Canary alongside the rest of Team Arrow in future, but they don’t really do enough with her character to make that an attractive proposition, so don’t bet on it.
– “You’re just one illegitimate child away from a really awesome Oliver Queen impersonation.” Let it go, Felicity.
– I’m not sure who’s responsible for continuity when it comes to Arrow and The Flash, but someone should have pointed out that this is the one week when Barry wouldn’t have super-sped away from the funeral, as he’s currently lost his powers on his own show. That moment should probably have been cut. Besides, isn’t it kind of crass to use your super-speed powers at a funeral? What’s the etiquette there, anyway?
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.