True to the episode’s title, this hour opens up with both versions of the Canary fighting, except not in the way you might expect; they’re fighting each other. Sara is beating the tar out of Laurel, taunting her all the while. It’s clearly Laurel’s lingering fears and doubts acting against her, but is it a dream? A hallucination? A bad trip? Perhaps tonight’s feature villain has something to do with it…
Before we go any further, let’s take a trip back to Hong Kong five years ago:
Maseo is trying to help Oliver disappear before Waller can assassinate him. Oliver makes a rather poor decision and places a call home for help on a pay phone. Some thugs quickly show up to take him down with a taser. Surprise! It’s Waller’s gang. Oliver gets a few minutes of water-boarding before Waller asks him for the location of Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro. She also throws in a little family threatening herself, choosing not to attack Moira Queen, but Thea instead, using her addiction against her. Oliver appears to give up his friends, and before long, Maseo is thrown into the cell with him. Oliver confesses he sold out Maseo; luckily this was part of the man’s plan all along. Part of Waller’s plan? Take the duo back to Starling City …
In the present, a rooftop chase ends with the bad guys getting caught, but the hooded archers cross paths with Laurel in her crime-fighting get-up. Oliver, now apparently fully healed and back in action, is still trying to strong-arm Laurel off the streets. Though Laurel isn’t a great heroine just yet, at least she has the stones to stand up to the Arrow, even if they go their separate crime-fighting ways.
Malcolm drops in on Arrow HQ again to give Oliver & Co. a warning against waiting for Ra’s al Ghul to come for them; he wants to bring Thea into their secretive arrangement. Oliver (obviously) opposes this plan, but Malcolm makes a pretty good point about it being a better strategy to have everyone on board. Diggle acts as the voice of reason when he reminds Oliver how Thea reacted the last time she found out he’d been lying to her. Apparently Ollie sides with Malcolm on this one, as he shows Thea the sub-basement beneath the club, revealing the “Arrow cave.” He tries to head off her anger by saying he’s been lying for (two and a half seasons) all this time to protect her. His gamble pays off as she realizes that he’s been saving lives every time he acted like a flake or a lazy jerk. Well, that was resolved rather quickly!
In a nod back to the first episode of season three, the police parade Count Vertigo in front of the press. Somehow the mad chemist has managed to infect one of his guards with a hallucinogenic toxin, which causes the officer to freak out just long enough for Zytle to escape. The team cues in on the news footage showing Zytle’s escape, Laurel’s right hook, and the reporter who helped the fugitive. While Felicity digs up some intel on the accomplice, Oliver cautions Laurel against using her alter-ego in search of dulling the pain caused by the loss of Sara. Laurel throws that accusation right back in his hooded face.
The Green and Red Hoods track the reporter down, only to find out that Zytle threatened to kill his family if he didn’t help the Count escape … and if he didn’t also attempt to kill the Archers with a suicide bomb. Luckily our boys have no qualms about jumping out of a third story window onto the hood of a car, chased by a ball of flame. (Cool shot of Zytle in the side-view mirror watching the explosion from his car.)
While Oliver catches up with Thea about his crime-fighting ways and their temporary ally in Merlyn, Quentin pays a visit to Laurel to ask if she’s heard from Sara. He’s starting to dig into her appearance (or rather, disappearance) thanks to Sin’s off-hand comment in the last episode. Undeterred, Laurel dons the Canary costume once more to go after Zytle down at the docks. Oliver finds out about her plan thanks to a tracker he placed on her earlier, but they’re too late. Vertigo sticks her with his patented toxin and then proceeds to beat her up, appearing as her dearly departed sister, Sara. (If you like blondes in black leather beating each other with sticks, then this is certainly the scene for you!) Luckily, Team Arrow shows up in time to save Laurel’s skin and take out a few of Vertigo’s thugs, though the Count himself gets away.
Oliver spirits Laurel back to their HQ, but she’s tripping pretty bad, seeing Sara everywhere. When Thea pops down to see what’s going on, Oliver snaps at her and treats her like a child. Roy calls him on his attitude, and Felicity supports him. It seems that while Ollie was gone, the team got used to doing things without his leadership, and to see him just waltz back in and start ordering people around again, well it rubs them the wrong way. Ollie retreats and has a drink with Diggle to blow off some steam. Laurel comes back around a few minutes later, and Felicity gives her a pep talk. It’s a nice moment between the ladies, something that doesn’t happen too often on this show, what with all the masked men running around.
Meanwhile, Thea continues to make bad decisions by hooking up with the DJ/assassin spy, moments after Roy stands up for her … Fortunately, Thea’s senses pick up on an attempt to poison her, and the assassin’s cover is blown. Though Thea briefly manages to defend herself against her attacker, Roy soon busts through the door as Arsenal. He’s quickly taken out by Ra’s al Ghul’s lackey, but Malcolm puts an arrow in the youth’s back in order to put a stop to him. The DJ’s still kicking though, long enough to drink a vial of poison at least.
Back to the main matter at hand, Zytle has taken over a lab in order to process his drugs. With Roy out of commission, it looks like Oliver will recruit Laurel to provide some much-needed backup. Zytle ignites a vial of chlorine trifluoride in order to provide a diversion for his escape. Arrow rescues the lab workers while Laurel goes after Zytle … and promptly gets another dose of Vertigo. The Count once again takes on the appearance of Sara, before changing to Laurel’s own father. Vertigo’s spell is broken when Laurel’s confidence rises to the surface, and she manages to beat the hell out of the count. All good, right? Nope, Felicity’s calling them back because of Thea’s predicament.
Thea, Oliver, and Malcolm share in one of the show’s most awkward family moments. Thea and Oliver are thankful for Malcolm’s help, but they still don’t trust the Dark Archer. Malcolm couldn’t care less; what he wants is for them to conquer their fears so that Ra’s al Ghul can’t use it against them. This means that the intrepid trio is once again packing up to head on a family vacation of sorts. (Did we learn nothing from the last time Arrow left the city in the hands of his minions??) On the plus side, before she leaves, Thea is at least a little sweeter to Roy. In a cool reveal, it seems Oliver has taken Thea back to the island of Lian Yu.
Tonight’s episode is apparently when everyone has decided to reveal whatever secrets they’d been holding onto. Thea knows Ollie’s secret, Ra’s’ assassin is unmasked, Quentin soon discovers that Laurel is masquerading as the Canary, and the real kicker, Laurel breaks the unbearable news to her father that Sara is really dead (this time). Tough scene.
When I heard that Arrow would be going back to visit Count Vertigo after the title hero’s recent return, I was skeptical. It felt like treading over old ground again, especially since we kicked off the season with him. However, the Count’s particular brand of drugs do provide a useful plot point: when injected with the toxins, our heroes get to envision their worst nightmares in flesh and blood. Oliver got to face Dark Oliver in the first installment, but the twist was a bit more interesting this time around as Laurel faced off against her dead sister, a much more complex relationship. Unfortunately, while Laurel eventually managed to save herself (thanks to a little nudge of confidence from Felicity), Thea is still at the mercy of the men in her life. Perhaps she’ll get a chance to forge her own path in the episodes to come. Still, Arrow felt like it’s starting to get back on track with tonight’s episode.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
Arrow (to Canary): “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
Thea: “You smell like smoke. Korean BBQ?” Oliver: “C4.”
Amanda Waller: “Poor Speedy.”
Good on Roy for standing up to Oliver because of his treatment of Thea. About time!
Malcolm Merlyn: “If you beg forgiveness for trying to hurt my daughter, I’ll grant you a quick death!” (Why’s he geared up as the dark archer just to bust into Thea’s apartment?)
Oliver: “We’ve been here for two hours. Are you complaining already?”