Monday, 6 February 2017

Review - 'Arrow', S05E11 - 'Second Chances'

A frustratingly common trend for me, when watching these sort of shows, is the way in which wishful thinking can lead to disappointment. There have been many moments, both in this series and in others, in which I thought that I knew where a story was headed, or where I formed an idea of where I actually wanted it to go, only for the writers to take things in another direction, entirely. That's not so bad when the writers' decision actually turns out to be for the best, of course – but, in this moments where I quietly cling to the belief that my way would have been better, it can be frustrating.

I'm sure that's a common enough experience for many fans, though. The only reason why I even bring it up, here, is due to the fact that it very accurately explains how I feel about this episode. With Black Siren (Laurel Lance's evil, Earth-2, double) making her first appearance on Arrow in the previous episode, I had thought that we might be seeing the series about to launch into a very interesting redemptive arc that would have seen Katie Cassidy officially brought back into the series, in an entirely new role – with the reformed villain possibly even taking up the 'Black Canary' mantle, in the end. Given how poorly handled I have always found the original, and recently murdered, Laurel Lance to be, it was a potential development that I was cautiously optimistic about.

Even with her apparent commitment to playing the 'villain', along with her capture, in the previous episode, it still felt as though the possibility wasn't entirely off the table. It just felt as though it might take longer to get to that point. But, of course, with this episode officially shifting its focus away from Black Siren, and onto an entirely new character who Oliver intends to recruit as the new 'Black Canary', it seems as though I have no other choice but to put set aside my own preferences.

It is certainly a strange thing to have to admit that my main issue with this episode, in the end, is the simple fact that it the story that I wanted it to be – but, that's exactly where I find myself. Setting aside the fact that I would really much rather see some more of Katie Cassidy as Black Siren, I do have to admit that the episode is quickly able to establish Tina Boland (Juliana Harkavy) into a potentially fascinating figure.

Her suitably tragic back-story definitely fits with the tone of Arrow, at least. As we learn in the opening scene, Tina is an ex-cop in Central City who, like so many others, found herself caught up in the particle accelerator explosion which set the first season of The Flash in motion. Gifted with her own (incredibly convenient) sonic-scream ability, Tina has spent the past few years hunting the man who killed her former partner – a man who, of course, has also inherited his own meta-human abilities.

While Sean Sonus (Steve Bacic) isn't a terribly compelling figure (he's much too similar to the sort of 'aspiring crime-lord' characters we have often seen, in the past), the combination of his abilities, and the resources her has at his disposal do, at least, make him a credible threat. With Tina obviously in over her head, but very reluctant to accept the aid of the costumed trio who have arrived in Hub City to recruit her, Oliver is left with little choice but to practically force himself into the middle of this tense confrontation.

It's a situation which certainly provides the audience with some great moments. There's some great moments of character drama between Oliver and Tina (whose real name, we later learn, is actually Dinah Drake – a name which should be familiar to fans of the comics) – which, while covering very familiar ground, is still well-played by Stephen Amell and Juliana Harkavy). Then, there's the various moments of action throughout the episode, all culminating in visually impressive roof-top battle that even sees Oliver taking on a helicopter with his trusty bow and arrows. In short, the episode's primary plot-arc provides a good mix of drama and action which has me somewhat hopeful that this new character could go on to become a worthwhile member of the team. Now, I just have to hope that the series does actually find some worthwhile way to use Black Siren, before the end of the season (if she is set on being a villain, than maybe she could join the Legion of Doom).

Along with this, we also have some genuinely great developments in this season's 'flash-back' story-line, as Oliver finds himself working with Talia al Ghul. Not only did this sub-plot provide us with some more great moments of well-staged action, but Lexa Doig also managed to quickly prove herself to be more than capable of playing such a well-known character. There was a definite edge of danger to her, despite her overall calm demeanour, that made her time on-screen especially compelling. Oliver's adventures with the Russian mob had been somewhat interesting, over the course of the season – but, I have already found myself much more interested in whatever it is that Talia al Ghul might have planned for Oliver.

As entertaining as the season's eleventh episode did ultimately prove to be, though, I do have to admit that there were a couple of other aspects that bothered me. For one thing, while that roof-top confrontation was entertaining, there was something a bit off about Oliver launching into an argument regarding the morality of killing the episode's primary villain only moments after we had just watched them, seemingly, slaughter an impressively large group of henchmen. This is not the first time that Arrow has fallen into this odd brand of 'video game' logic (where only the lives of important characters actually matter), of course, but it felt particularly conspicuous, here.

Also, as important as a think it is for Felicity to have a story-line of her own for the rest of the season, I can't help but find that I am already a little bored by her potential return to 'hacktivism'. On a similar note, the ease with which Felicity's new hacktivist contacts allowed her to resolve Diggle's current problems felt incredibly lazy, to me – especially since I had genuinely enjoyed the sub-plot that Diggle and Adrian Chase had shared, in the previous episode.

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