How do you solve a problem like finding a new Black Canary? Find your closest vengeance-seeking, crazy wall-making, sonic screaming killer, of course.
Team Arrow’s search to find a new Black Canary to replace — excuse me, take up the mantle — of Laurel’s superhero moniker starts out hilariously naïve. The gang sorts through the profiles of dozens of viable candidates with ridiculously impressive qualifications. I personally do not have the heart to tell them that all of those candidates are overqualified. Team Arrow doesn’t even offer health insurance.
Thankfully, Team Arrow is saved from being embarrassingly turned down by dozens of overqualified candidates by Oliver’s pickiness. Of course he can’t find anyone good enough to replace Laurel. She wasn’t just a halfway decent vigilante-type, she was part of his family.
During a prison visit to Diggle during which Oliver quickly brushes past Diggle’s ongoing incarceration and likely upcoming assassination to talk about his own feelings, Diggle explains to Oliver that he will never replace Laurel. That doesn’t mean he can’t find someone new to bring onto the team as Black Canary, though.
Enter Tina Boland, a.k.a. Dinah Drake, a.k.a. the new Black Canary. Oliver takes Rene and Curtis on a field trip to Hub City to try to recruit this sonic-screaming former cop to the team. She is… less than receptive, and it’s not hard to understand why. She has her own mission to complete: justice and/or vengeance for her partner/ lover who was shot right in front of her eyes by mobster boss Sean Sonus.
In what is a good move for Arrow, we see it all happen in the episode’s cold open, giving us some emotional investment in this character who, otherwise, might come off like a cold-blooded, mentally-unstable vigilante. (I mean, she is that, but we understand how she got to that point, which helps.)
It all went down three years ago, on the night the particle accelerator exploded. Because of course. Tina is screaming in pain at the sight of the man she loved dead, giving her the Canary Cry metahuman powers to match Black Siren’s. It’s a nice tie to the world of The Flash, one of two in the night, as we also see Oliver call Captain Singh to get information on Tina’s past. The Arrow-verse is getting better at these smaller crossover moments. (See also: Cisco and Gypsy’s trans-dimensional fight that took them through James’ CatCo office in last night’s The Flash.)
The middle of “Second Chances” drags a little as Oliver gives a non-receptive Tina pep talk after pep talk about eschewing the dark path and joining a team. Oliver doesn’t take the hint: she’s just not that into your vigilante superhero team. Luckily, this dragging second act is lightened by Oliver, Rene, and Rory’s frequent trips to Hub City’s Big Belly Burger. This show is so much better when it has scenes with its characters doing things that normal people also do. Extra points if they happen in the sunlight.
Eventually, Tina allows Team Arrow to help, but only when it becomes obvious that she needs them. You see, Sonus also gained metahuman abilities the night of the particle accelerator explosion, and they just happen to offset Tina’s. She needs Oliver & Co. if she’s going to take him down. It all comes to a head on a Hub City rooftop (that looks suspiciously like a Star City rooftop) in a fight scene that includes Oliver hanging off an enemy helicopter to better take down Sonus’ thugs.
Eventually, Tina gets Sonus at gunpoint, just in time to incite another Don’t Kill, Don’t Be Like Me speech from Oliver that ends with him asking “What would Vinny [her dead lover] want you to do?” Tina shoots Sonus, telling Oliver Vinny would want her to do that. Um, it’s kind of awesome.
The move was surprising and dramatically interesting, and told us a lot about who this woman is: namely, not just another recruit who is going to let Oliver boss her around. It’s also exactly what Oliver would have done in his early days of vigilante-ing, so it’s hard to judge her too harshly within the established morality of this fictional world.
Though Tina doesn’t return with Oliver, Rene, and Curtis back to Star City, she seeks Oliver out there. She wants to belong again. She wants to be part of a team. In another subversive moment of Arrow character dynamics that gives me hope for the future of this character and show, Tina calls Oliver out when he tells her she will be his second chance. “That’s a lot to put on my shoulders,” she tells Oliver. “Something tells me you can handle it,” he tells her. Not really the point, Oliver, but it’s a good line to end this storyline with, so I’ll let it slide.
Felicity reconsiders her hacktivist past.
It’s long been a source of disappointment for me that Felicity so rejected her hacktivist past, and that she saw her time hacking into government websites and corporations to protect the people as a childish phase of rebellion. Frankly, hacktivism seems much more in line with the socialist tendencies of the canon Green Arrow character than most of what goes on in this show. If you’ve read any of my rambling about Arrow, then you know I like to lament the loss of that first season sociopolitical framework that had Oliver taking down corrupt bankers and recruiting Diggle with a speech about the fall of institutions like the courts and the police.
Well, it looks like Felicity might be doing a 180 on her hacktivist past. When looking for the NSA file that could exonerate Diggle of his trumped-up charges, Felicity runs into another hacker online, one who wants to meet. She claims she has the files that could set Diggle free.
The hacker turns out to be a major fan of Felicity’s hacktivist past (not to mention she is played by the always-welcome Kacey Rohl), but one critical of her presumed lack of recent subversive hacktivity. She tells Felicity that she hopes to inspire her to return to some of her more politically-subversive hacking ways. (You and me both, Kacey Rohl. You and me both). Regardless, she gives Felicity the file that will free John.
By the end of the episode, Felicity seems excited to use the rest of the files on the clandestine flash drive to take down other corrupt individuals and organizations, though she is unwilling to tell Oliver about it.
This is the second episode in a row that Felciity doesn’t trust Oliver with information about her missions. It’s understandable, given Oliver’s track record when it comes to both a) controlling, unilateral decision-making and b) accidentally killing Felicity’s boyfriends. Still, it seems like Felicity’s more reckless behavior and her secret-keeping might result in some dangerous consequences for the hacker. On this show, secrets are rarely a good idea.
The flashbacks: Talia al Ghul gives Oliver some good advice.
When Talia al Ghul first started recounting the last five seasons of Arrow flashbacks to Oliver, I thought she might be the only Arrow fan who hasn’t repressed the last five years of meandering. Then, I realized her real master plan: to convince Oliver to return to Star City to finish these flashbacks once and for all.
Talia does this in a roundabout way. First, by revealing that Yao Fei (not to be confused with Yao Fern), a.k.a. the guy with a green hood who first saved Oliver on Lian Yu, was her student. Second, by tricking him into killing a random human trafficker. The slaughter itself was well-rendered visually (we don’t see the action, only Oliver’s blood-spattered face after the fact), but somewhat confusing in terms of Talia’s plan.
Basically, Talia wanted to convince Oliver that he has been avoiding his real fight all along: the mission his father left him to save the soul of his city. It’s baffling why Talia would care enough about Oliver to give him this pep talk, but it works better than it should because a) Lexa Doig does such a good job selling it, b) it’s nice to have a flashback that feels new and meaningful, and c) we have been conditioned to react emotionally to certain Arrow key phrases, musical chords, and images.
Watching Oliver put on his green hood and Arrow as the Arrow theme plays behind him may be an emotionally manipulative card for the show to play, but boy does it work. I’m ready for Oliver to return home to start saving his city.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
— Did anyone get any Alias pilot nostalgia watching that opening scene with Tina? The badass lady strapped to a chair. Missing molars. Aforementioned badass lady having to see the man she loves, dead, and blaming herself for it. Classic Sydney Bristow. All that was missing was the red hair.
— “If Top Gun is a maybe, how the hell did I even get on the team? Don’t answer that.” It’s because you’re best friends with Felicity, Curtis. Duh.
— “Astronaut ninja. You’re making that up.” — Rene
— In addition to having watched all of the Arrow flashbacks, Talia also seems like a Matrix fan. Both her outfit and hideout were very Matrix-esque.
— “Costume Warehouse having a fire sale I don’t know about?” — Tina/Dinah, to Oliver, Rene, and Curtis
— Tina: “If you get in my way, I send the three of you back in Star City with your nuts in a sling.”
Rene: “I think that went pretty well.”
— Which voice modulator app do you think Oliver uses? Asking for a vigilante friend.
— “He’s legit.” — Signed, The Flash
— I love how Oliver automatically assumes Tina is trying to avenge her former partner, rather than just more generally trying to make the world a better place.
— “Let’s just say it is a family secret.” Lazarus pit reference.
— I’ve really enjoyed the burgeoning Rene/Curtis friendship in the last few episodes. I ship it.
— “Five stack, baby. Nothing better.” I also ship Rene and Big Belly Burger, Jughead-style.
— Rene (muffled, with his mouth full): “Tobias Church.”
— Curtis: “Your belly hurts? Yeah, that’s not surprising.”
— “Please tell me you didn’t sleep down here.” Rory’s role on Team Arrow is often hen mother. This is what happens when your superhero costume requires visual effects. Guess there wasn’t any money left in the Magic Rags Budget line item this week.
— Ghost Fox Goddess. Best hacker name?
— “What’s IRL?” “In real life.” Dude. Rory would know that. Anyone would know that.
— “As far as nut cases are concerned. Period. That was a period.” — Curtis
— “Maybe this team is all about finding second chances.” Who had Rene in the “Who gets to explicitly cite the theme and/or episode title?” in the betting pool this week?
— Arrow called the mobster guy Sonus, but I call him Dolly Zoom Man! (Or Dischord, in the comics).
— Rene understandably wants to prioritize saving kids from drugs over the salvation of some lady’s soul who doesn’t even want their help. I get that.
— OK, I need to take a second to talk about Kacey Rohl because she has to a) be the hardest working actor in Vancouver and b) has the best taste in roles. Shows she’s popped up on: Hannibal, The X-Files, The Magicians, iZombie, Wayward Pines, Once Upon a Time. And that’s only in the past few years. Will she be back on Arrow or will she disappear into the shadows of Star City to sprinkle her guest star/recurring character fairy dust on another worthy show? Only time will tell.
— “I spent five years in hell…” Oliver really likes to reference his opening monologue.
— “Not too fast, dirtbag.” “YES!” Guys, I can’t tell you how into the Rene/Curtis dynamic I am right now.
— Um, I guess that flaming helicopter that Oliver shot down into the heart of Hub City didn’t hurt anyone on the way down? (Editor’s Note: I’m sure it was fine, and the people inside were also fine. Totally fine).
— “Long story.” “Is there… something you’re not telling me?” The Olicity dynamic has undergone some intriguing role reversal in Season 5, and I am very into it.
— “It means that you can go home and hug your wife and son… [and hopefully get a storyline worthy of your talent again rather than this military crime bullshit.]” — Oliver/me to John Diggle.
— Talia: “There is a monster inside you, yes, but it is not you.”
Oliver: “I don’t see the difference.”
Talia: “No, you need to create one. You need to give the monster an identity. It’s only when the monster becomes someone else, something else, that you’re free to be Oliver Queen.”
— These are the kinds of conversations that distracted me from the fact that it made no sense Talia had become the patron saint of Oliver Queen.
— Oliver quotes Rene’s “second chances” speech back to Tina at the end of the episode. (As we all know, repeating advice he’s heard earlier in the episode is one of Oliver’s top hobbies). But I didn’t realize Oliver was listening in on their conversation. Was he on the comms or just skulking just out of sight, in the shadows? Discuss.
— I know Oliver called Rene “that guy in the hockey mask” to Tina because he didn’t want to give up his identity, but it kind of just made it seem like he forgot Rene’s name.
— So… is Thea still at that conference?