Arrow season 2 episode 17 review: Birds Of Prey

Review Caroline Preece 27 Mar 2014 - 13:55

Arrow's latest episode is the best argument in favour of a female-led superhero movie, says Caroline...

This review contains spoilers.

2.17 Birds Of Prey

Continuing Arrow’s increasingly frequent foray into comic book lore, this week’s episode dove straight into the Birds Of Prey, in what was an episode equally strong if not more so than last week’s similarly faithful Suicide Squad episode. While Smallville might be a distant memory at this point, it’s worth noting that, while that series always shied away from established characters and teams wherever it could (Justice League aside), Arrow has managed to retain its integrity while also introducing fan-pleasing characters left and right.

Suicide Squad, however, felt like more of a standalone adventure than a traditional episode of Arrow, and that’s something that this week’s episode never suffers from. By including Laurel as well as Sara in the titular team, with a returning Huntress complicating things further, Suicide Squad makes the best argument for a female superhero movie than anything else to date, but it’s also a great episode of the show. Oliver, despite being involved in every story, is completely sidelined by the collective journeys of his various companions, and the hour never suffers for it.

As mentioned, this episode marked the first second season appearance of the Huntress aka Helena Bertinelli – a character not exactly beloved by the fanbase but important to Oliver’s story nonetheless – and she provides the crisis when, while attempting to finally kill her father, she takes Laurel and a group of faceless bystanders hostage during his faux trial. This could have been standard Laurel-is-in-danger fare, which I don’t think any of us have any more patience for anymore, but instead it achieved the impossible in making Laurel into not just a part of the story, but also one of its heroes.

Helena’s return might not be essential to the increasingly over-crowded show itself, but it did serve as a kind of full stop on season two’s mission statement to make Oliver more hero than vigilante. The Huntress was introduced as a distorted mirror image to the Hood back in the first season, when Oliver was much more deluded and damaged as a result of his experiences on the island, and now, having continued her rampage without the pointed reminder of her humanity that Tommy’s death provided for Oliver, she’s a portrait of what he could have become without the help of those around him.

And somewhere in between those two extremes is Sara, who was the de facto protagonist of the episode. We get lots of Black Canary in both the present day narrative and the island flashbacks, and the way the two storylines have started to impact each other is very reminiscent of earlier in the show. One of the joys of Arrow’s early episodes was seeing the innocence of flashback Oliver clash with the man who came back to Starling City, and watching Sara develop her ruthless streak without all (or any) the facts is just as intriguing.

Her relationship with Laurel is also helpful in that regard, as we see the sisters interact via the Canary mask in this episode. It shouldn’t have to be said, but Arrow is pretty unique in, as a male-led show that has only just built its girl quota to acceptable levels, it still finds the time for those female characters to actually talk to each other. Thankfully not content with having Sara and Laurel’s fractured bond be entirely down to the Oliver issue, their conversation about strength in Birds of Prey was a pretty wonderful moment for both sisters.

This episode marked the discovery of that corner we’ve wanted Laurel to turn all season, and now she can hopefully become a much stronger and more likeable character moving forwards. Another character that Arrow has been having trouble with since the start is Thea, of course, and her and Roy’s breakup this week will hopefully pave the way for not just the big paternity reveal, but also a larger purpose for the character in general. With no many characters and stories fighting for attention, there just isn’t any room for superfluous characters and, Oliver’s sister or not, not many would miss her.

The writers at least allowed Thea to realise the deeper meaning behind Roy’s apparent betrayal – not to hurt her but to push her away from something – but seeing her hitch a ride with Slade at the episode’s end makes me seriously worry for her safety. Considering that the title of next week’s episode is Deathstroke, my guess is that we won’t have to wait long to discover her fate. See you there!

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, Suicide Squad, here.

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