Episode Title: “Crucible”
Writers: Andrew Kreisberg & Wendy Mericle
Director: Eagle Egilsson
Previously on “Arrow”:
For some unfathomable reason, The CW’s President decided that it would be perfectly acceptable to spoil the identity of the new Black Canary immediately after the “Arrow” presentation at the Television Critics Association last summer.
It’s not as if the “Arrow” creative team didn’t drop a lot of hints to her identity last week, but I can’t help but wonder if the reveal in this episode would have played differently if I didn’t already know who was under the Canary’s mask.
Thankfully, Black Canary (Caity Lotz) has been one of the bright spots this season on “Arrow.” Which is more than I can say for the so-called antagonists.
There are full spoilers ahead for “Crucible,” so if you missed last night’s episode of “Arrow” then you should probably skip this review or else Laurel will pop a few more pills before bedtime.
As we quickly learn in this episode, Black Canary is Sara Lance, the younger sister of Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and the daughter of Police Officer Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Sara’s been assumed dead since the pilot episode of “Arrow,” when she was swept out to sea from The Queen’s Gambit. The sequence between Oliver and Sara from the pilot episode was at least partially reshot with Lotz replacing Jacqueline MacInnes Wood in the role. I wonder if that was born out of a desire to potentially remove Wood’s scenes from the series, but I believe that would require more reshoots.
Once she took off the mask, Lotz played Sara with more vulnerability and humanity than she had in her previous appearances. And it worked really well as Sara reconnected with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and agonized over whether to tell her family that she was still alive.
But the beauty of introducing Black Canary this early in the series is that it finally gives Oliver a true partner when he’s in costume as the Arrow. I loved their team up late in the episode and the brief weapon switch between them was inspired. Sara also seems to be more emotionally stable than the Huntress (Jessica de Gouw), who went a little crazy after just one double date with Oliver. But to be fair, spending time with Laurel does have that effect on people.
It appears that Laurel is going from one questionable plotline to another. While Laurel has seemingly stepped away from her anti-Arrow crusade, she now seems to be in an addiction storyline. This is hammered home when she starts mixing pills and alcohol late in the episode, but her DUI seemed comically uncalled for. What we’re being asked to accept is that the Lance family is unraveling and only Sara’s return may bring them back together.
Lotz and Blackthorne seem like they can hold up their end of the story. Sara and Officer Lance are emotionally relatable, but Cassidy doesn’t seem to be able to make the audience feel for Laurel in the same way. It’s just not working.
But the entire Lance family is still far more interesting than the villains on “Arrow.” This week’s adversary is The Mayor (Clé Bennett), a crazed leader of men who declares himself to be the new authority in the Glades, thanks to his stolen military grade weapons. Outside of the Dark Archer/Malcolm Merlyn, “Arrow” hasn’t been able to create any villains that are compelling. For a half second, I thought The Mayor might change that when he mentioned that he was nobody before the Earthquake. But he turned out to be just as one note as all of the previous “Arrow” villains-of-the-week.
Alderman Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) is also less than impressive. The reveal that he’s already using his Brother Blood persona came a little quickly, but he seems like a cheap knock-off of the Scarecrow from Batman Begins. Nor do I care for Alejandro’s performance. I can’t wait for this storyline to be over.
Unfortunately, Summer Glau isn’t adding much as Isabel Rochev, Oliver’s corporate adversary and reluctant partner within Queen Consolidated. Glau can do more than she’s asked here, but if Rochev is just going to nag Oliver about his duty to the company then she’s going to wear out her welcome quickly. There is a promising idea that Oliver’s financial resources are drying up, but it hasn’t really affected his story just yet. I’m more intrigued by the foreshadowing of The Flash’s pending appearance within the televised report about STAR Labs’ advanced collider.
In the flashback sequence, Oliver is imprisoned on the Amazo and shot by his captor as a test to see if he can treat himself and survive. Along the way, Oliver unwittingly gives up information via his facial expressions before he’s dragged before his next interrogator, Sara Lance!
Putting Sara in the flashback sequences was a clever touch that I hadn’t foreseen before this episode. Sara’s appearance at the end was a little undercut by her conversation with Oliver earlier in the episode. But it carries a certain weight when she asks about Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) in the present. Although it seems fairly likely that Slade will also resurface in the present, since Bennett is now a series regular.
Despite the lackluster villains, this was still a very good episode of “Arrow.” This show still has it’s shortcomings, but the second season has been remarkably improved… so far.