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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I didn't like how Laurel was given her job back. It was forced and made no sense to me. 'Oh you're going to tell people that the guy who had a dumb idea (which the police clearly endorsed) of using a prisoner as bait for Huntress and actually worked leading to the capture of Huntress (even if said prisoner did die, is that really a bad thing?) worked here and was then fired for that dumb idea?' Sounds like the law firm took appropriate action to me. What are they afraid of exactly? But then almost everything that has happened within the Starling City justice system has been pretty nonsensical so at least they're consistant. And also Laurel's "you're not a killer" line to Canary was ridiculous. Laurel doesn't know her right? Who is she to say that to this masked person kicking people's butt all over the place? Especially after Huntress threw Canary out of a window earlier. I'd be yelling "FINISH HER!!"
Laurel has been utterly wasted this season.(see what I did there?) It's a faux darkness she presents. But that's ok, I think Deathstroke will balance the scales.

Overall, Season 2 of Arrow has been nothing but a disgrace. The writers here have gotten so lazy that one wonders who is writing this stuff, K-5 students? Birds of Prey could have been a masterpiece, but, as usual, the writers took the easy way out. Does anyone think that justice was served yesterday? Helena is languishing in a jail cell for her crimes, but the same cop (Officer Lance) who arrests Helena sucker punches a Police Captain to save Oliver Queen, who has dropped more bodies than Helena ever did. And if anyone can put themselves in Helena's shoes for a moment, would you languish in jail for murder when you know the identity of the Arrow/Vigilante/Hood and not use that knowledge to bargain for freedom or a reduced sentence? Talk about suspension of disbelief, would anyone of you (if you were Oliver Queen) risk letting Helena stay behind bars knowing that she knows your secret identity? This writing is totally absurd. There are only two ways for Birds of Prey to have ended: 1. Oliver, dresses as the Dark Archer and breaks Helena out, on the condition that she gives up vengeance and becomes one of the good guys; 2. The Real Dark Archer, Malcom Merlyn breaks Helena out and recruits/trains her for revenge against Oliver and Sara for putting her behind bars. If the writers had any imagination, then certainly scenario 2 would be the better route to take. Can you imagine how unglued Oliver and Sara would really become in not only having to deal with Slade, but knowing that the Huntress is now teamed up with Merlyn and still out there lurking somewhere? That would be a storyline to follow. And yes, get rid of Roy. He serves no useful purpose other than for Oliver to have someone to berate and belittle. Or let Roy snap Oliver's neck. Either way, who cares at this point? Arrow is going downhill fast and will soon crash and burn......................
Since Slade is going to Kidnap Thea, wouldn’t one think that this would be the time for Malcom Merlyn to reappear, to team up with Oliver to save his daughter? Can’t think of anything better……………

GD Batman, Essentially, Arrow is all over the place, with regards to the (IN)Justice system in Starling City, Oliver berating other vigilantes even though he has killed more people than the Bubonic Plague, (an exaggeration I know but one gets the point), Cops breaking the law (nothing new there), hypocrits everywhere, (Oliver and Sara being exhibits A and B), families lying to each other and keeping secrets (Moira, Oliver being exhibits A and B in this department), psycopaths like Slade running rampant doing damage undheard of, and government agents who have no moral compass of any kind (skinny chicken-necked Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. come to mind). Yes, Arrow is all over the place, it has no focus, the writing is horrendous, and with the exception of Manu Bennett (Deathstroke), and John Barrowman (Malcom Merlyn), the rest of the action, aside from a few brief flashes of brilliance, has been subpar. Arrow's first season was superb, it took off running, but now, the writers seem to have run out of steam and fresh ideas, and the show is barely treading water. And Birds of Prey did nothing to change the current circumstances.........

haha your the disgrace go look for realism in a show thats not about a comicbook

Ok I'll give you the Amanda Waller because in my head CCH Pounder is Amanda Waller. It messy with my head when I see her in the West Wing. But for the rest... well really dude you should have got of the bus in crazy town because I think you missed your stop.

I reckon Season 2 of Arrow has been superb. Season 1 did take a while to get going but Season 2 has gone from strength to strength and looking forward to what the futures holds.

I think GD, your in a small minority. If you don't like the show, don't watch it. In fact, why are you still watching it? It's just a tv show. But Arrow is the only decent superhero tv series out at the moment. Won't even mention Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and later this year, you will have Flash & Gotham starting so it's exciting times at the moment & it seems to be the only thing DC Comics is getting right at the moment.

Another amazing episode of what has been an absolutely sterling second season. Arrow has gone from being a show I was excited for to arguably my favourite thing on TV at the moment and must watch viewing. A run of half a dozen very strong episodes, with Deathstroke next week, it's shaping up to be an incredible ending to an amazing season. It's been especially impressive considering how many characters and storylines its juggled and it's done well at that, although one or two characters, as mentioned here Thea, may get their moment in the sun soon hopefully.

Oliver only ever went after "bad guys", though. Helena was shown in this episode killing two cops to get to the bad guy. Even when Oliver was in killing mode he never killed innocents to achieve his goal. Lance knows this and also knows that the Arrow has changed his ways and is seeking redemption. Plus the guy has saved his daughter a few times and helps keep her safe as she fights crime, something Lance wants.

As to breaking Helena out: why bother? It could be argued that the reason Oliver went to see her is to gauge how much of a threat she is to him and his secret identity. As it turns out she seems to have finally got the message about killing not equating to justice and doesn't seem interested in using her knowledge to worm free. Besides, she knows Olly would kick her ass if she did that, being free is a fine thing, but it's tempered a bit by an arrow in the spine.

I agree that the episode wasn't great and far from the feminist perfection this review makes it out to be (it's all about three over-emotional women, two of whom come to realise that the man's way was the best way and the third turns to blackmail to get her way, not sure these are the messages a female superhero movie should send), but the season has been decent, overall despite some mis-steps.

I can Oliver breaking Helena out, by the by, but not to keep his secret. I think she might end up as part of the plan to take down Slade when the timne comes. Or possibly Slade will will use her in some way to hurt Oliver, either way I think she'll have a bit more mileage yet.

I figured the "not a killer" line was because she knows the Arrow doesn't kill anymore and she knows the Canary was working with him. Sure, it's pure assumption on her (and my) part, but it's a sensible enough notion to have in the circumstances.

I don't think I am in the minority because on the whole I do like the show, that's why I'm still watching it. But you can't convince me that Moira Queen running for mayor is a good idea or that Laurel has been used to her real potential this season. Those are my 2 biggest complaints. I do think season 2 has gotten better as it's progressed, all I'm saying is there are some missteps. I liked this episode up until the end and I agree Arrow is the best superhero tv series on-air right now.

You make a good point, I hadn't considered it that way.

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