It may be the dead of winter, but Arrow is certainly turning up the heat in this week’s episode, bringing characters back to life in more ways than one.
Ollie wakes up from a disturbing nightmare in the cabin where his former partners Maseo (now with the League of Assassins) and his estranged wife Tatsu are nursing him back to health after he was seemingly killed by Ra’s Al Ghul. Ollie pleads with Maseo not to return to the League, but Maseo warns him that he should be more concerned with what is happening to Starling City in Oliver’s absence.
Quick cut to a woman being chased down by a mugger (perfect timing, Maseo!), who is then confronted by Laurel, taking up the mantle of the Canary from her dead sister. Unfortunately for Laurel, a few weeks in a gym and an axe to grind don’t translate into street-fighting prowess, and she is almost taken out by her quarry. Luckily, Roy shows up in his Arsenal getup and saves her, before both he and Diggle chide her for her attempted vigilantism. They explain to her that her inexperience and her grief are a liability in the war on crime, which she scoffs at before departing HQ.
Ray once again hints at Felicity that he needs her help to complete the nanite chip that powers his A.T.O.M. suit, but she sticks firmly to her guns and refuses, not wanting to help Ray on his “suicide mission.”
Malcolm Merlyn comes to Thea, telling her that they both need to leave Starling City, which Roy overhears. Thea considers it, but balks at Merlyn not explaining why.
Later, Brick raids the SCPD in order to kidnap the Starling City aldermen, and in the ensuing scuffle one of his men is captured, Ray Palmer is shown as not being particularly powerful without his proposed A.T.O.M. suit, and Laurel proves herself to be slightly useful. She’ll get there eventually!
Back in the shed, Ollie switches tactics, instead asking Tatsu to beg for Maseo to stay, as he is still her husband. Tatsu confesses her frustration, but also that she understands Maseo’s stance, explaining that “sometimes, death is preferable to the agony of life.” Suddenly, I remembered that Tatsu and Maseo had a son…who hasn’t been mentioned at all.
We then flash back to Hong Kong, where Ollie and Maseo have tracked the kidnapped Tatsu to a Triad-run club. They’re dragged into the back by security, where China White is waiting. She asks Maseo for the sample of Alpha, which he gladly offers up in exchange for Tatsu’s safety.
Laurel gets Jim Huffman, Brick’s captured thug, a working over in the interrogation room. Either he gives up Brick, or she’ll arrest him for the murder of a prominent gang leader before sending him to Belle Reve Penitentiary…the location that the majority of said gang is imprisoned at. Not wanting a virtually guaranteed death in prison, Huffman gives up Brick.
Felicity is helping Ray clean up his wounds from the scuffle at the SCPD, when Ray confesses that putting on the A.T.O.M. armor is no longer about avenging the death of his wife, but about protecting the people he cares about, particularly Felicity.
Roy and Laurel track down the three kidnapped aldermen as they’re being transported by Brick, but Laurel’s inexperience indeed proves to be a liability (they called it!) as Brick makes his getaway with the three aldermen in tow. Roy manages to tag an arrow into Brick’s shoulder, and Brick retaliates by shooting one of the aldermen and dumping his body out of the back of the moving van.
Malcolm finally comes clean (sorta) with Thea, explaining that they are on the run from Ra’s Al Ghul, and that he will not stop until they are dead. Conveniently, Malcolm left out the whole part where he brainwashed Thea into killing Sarah Lance, a.k.a. Nyssa Al Ghul’s lover. Whoops!
Felicity goes to Laurel, who is mourning the death of the alderman that Brick killed. Laurel explains that she’s not cut out for the role of the Canary, and that she won’t be donning the mask anymore. Felicity explains that they’ve both been wrong, as the mission is about protecting the ones that they care about now, not mourning or avenging the dead.
Brick makes his demands to the mayor: clear all police presence out of the Glades, and he’ll release the aldermen. With nowhere left to turn, Detective Lance calls Felicity, asking if she knows if the Arrow is really gone. She confirms that he is, but explains that she knows where Canary is…
Back at the cabin, Maseo goes to leave, only to be stopped by a trio of League assassins who were sent by Ra’s to collect Oliver Queen’s remains. They explore the cabin and stumble upon Tatsu, causing a fight to break out and all three assassins are killed.
Flashback to Hong Kong, and China White determines that the Alpha offered to her by Maseo is a fake. Betrayed, she orders Ollie, Maseo, and Tatsu killed. A fight breaks out (of course!) and all three escape the club unscathed.
Back in the present, the mayor has decided to give the Glades up to Brick, and the team is scrambling to take the hostages out of play. Laurel calls up her father pretending to be Sarah in order to get more information, and he reveals that one of the aldermen has a pacemaker. Felicity determines that they can track the pacemaker via GPS, but the team needs a more efficient mode of transport to the Glades.
Felicity asks Ray if she can “have the keys to the company helicopter,” which Ray protests. Felicity explains that she knows how to fly, to which Ray responds “I’d have more confidence in your aeronautical abilities if you knew helicopters didn’t have keys.” Heh.
Roy and Laurel take the chopper to the warehouse where the aldermen are being held, and manage to just barely make it out when Brick steps in to stop them. Laurel is trapped in the warehouse with Brick, but uses a recording of her voice to provide misdirection and allow her to crash through a window and to the waiting helicopter.
Maseo finally leaves the cabin after disposing of the assassins’ bodies, Laurel once again talks to her father in the guise of Sarah (a surprisingly emotional scene), and Merlyn once again asks Thea to leave with him. Thea refuses, explaining that her father taught her to never give quarter in battle. Merlyn agrees to stay and face Ra’s Al Ghul.
Felicity finally gives Ray a quantum processor–the replacement for his nanite chip–to power the A.T.O.M. suit, explaining that it’s no longer a “suicide mission” if she can help him stay alive. Finally, Thea’s DJ, secretly a member of the League of Assassins, makes a phone call to Maseo, explaining that Malcolm and Thea are no longer leaving Starling City. Wait, he’s a DJ and an assassin? Talk about a renaissance man!
This episode did the unthinkable: it actually made me care about Laurel becoming the Black Canary. After being thoroughly unlikeable for seasons 2-3, the writers have finally made Laurel seem vulnerable, emotional, and human. She’s not suddenly a capable vigilante after a few weeks of training; she falls, she stumbles, she messes up. But I’ll be damned if she’s not starting to show a bit more resolve and more competence as the Canary.
I do call some shenanigans at Oliver’s “resurrection,” with Tatsu explaining that the cold weather and his will to live kept him alive. He was stabbed through the stomach, sure, so no vital organs may have gotten hurt, but he fell really far, without a broken bone to show for it. And he’s getting better with herbs and tea? There was plenty of internet buzz about Ollie getting tossed into one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits, but instead we’re told it was willpower that kept him from death’s door.
However, Ray Palmer is once again proving himself to be a breath of fresh air. In the mire of loss and grief that the show is in right now, Palmer’s plucky, hopeful attitude is steering people back in the right direction. While I hope that Arrow never really becomes the level of lighthearted fare that The Flash is, it is nice to have some light in the darkness of Starling City.