The latest episode of Arrow, “League of Assassins,” has put me in a tough position as a reviewer. On the one hand, Arrow continues to deliver the live-action DC Universe by the double-handful every week…something which has quite safely never really been done. Sure, the 1966 Batman TV series had the right costumes, the right villains, and the comic book aesthetic, and the 1990 Flash TV show brought in its fair share of costumed baddies (not to mention STAR Labs), and even the syndicated Superboy TV show had plenty of comic book action going for it. But none of them ever stepped outside their respective little supporting casts the way Arrow has…and the show continues to introduce heroes, villains, and supporting characters from throughout the DC Universe, not just those who are known for appearing in Green Arrow comics.
With a title like “League of Assassins” and recent revelations involving everyone from Black Canary (which was to be expected) to Ra’s al Ghul (which was totally NOT expected), it seemed like this episode was a sure thing. It’s certainly been the most anticipated one for the last few weeks. And while “League of Assassins” didn’t skimp on the action (we’ll get to that in a minute), it felt like a step backward in several other departments (we’ll get to those, too). Some spoilers WILL follow, so please be advised!
Here’s what you need to know: we’re well into the secret origin of Black Canary right now, and the vast majority of this week’s flashbacks weren’t about Ollie, but rather about Sara’s time after the boat sank. And where did she end up? Why, on the Amazo, of course! And yes…we DO get to meet Professor Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal), as he gets to meet the waterlogged Ms. Lance. Perhaps Sara’s strength and skill are a result of something a little bit more than just her League of Assassins training? We’ll see.
The time spent in the present, however, is split between Sara knowing that the League of Assassins is coming for her (and her family), while Oliver and Thea are dealing with the impending trial of their mother where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty. This is where the problems begin. You see…who is assisting in the prosecution of this case? None other than Laurel Lance. And while it’s even discussed that this is indeed a “conflict of interest” (which is an understatement), that’s quickly swept aside. Let’s be clear: She’s a friend of the Queen family…that’s a problem. She’s the on again/off again lover of the son of the accused. That’s tough to ignore. Her actual boyfriend was one of the 503 people whose murder Mrs. Queen is being tried for…yeah, you could say this is a conflict of interest. It’s so painfully nonsensical that it’s nearly enough to sink the episode. Nearly.
What saves it? Action. Lots and lots of action. There are three major action sequences in “League of Assassins” and all three involve Oliver and Sara taking on (surprise!) assassins. This basically means that Arrow may as well have changed its name to Superheroes Vs. Ninjas tonight…which, come to think of it, I would never miss an episode of that. Every one of these fights is well-choreographed, brutal, acrobatic, fast-paced, and generally pretty awesome. One of ’em is a “plainclothes” fight (which is actually the best of the three, believe it or not), while the other two are full blown “Green Arrow and Black Canary are fighting Ra’s al Ghul’s agents and I can’t believe how goddamn cool this is” beatdowns.
So, needless to say, this one is tough to call. Black Canary is an interesting enough character, Ollie doesn’t brood too much, and the superhero action is all out. It’s nice to see Quentin (I’m always tempted to call him “Larry” because, well…comics) continue to become someone you can root for and not just feel bad for/be annoyed with. The change of scenery and variety in the flashbacks has done the show wonders. But this b-plot with the murder trial is showing signs of some seriously lazy writing, as is the continued telegraphing of Laurel’s burgeoning substance abuse problem, which is like something out of Days of Our Lives. “League of Assassins” would probably have been one of the best episodes of Arrow season one…but given how much spark the show has displayed so far in season two, I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit of a step backwards in some ways.
DC Universe Watch: Surprisingly, other than the obvious (the League, Ra’s al Ghul’s name dropped a few times, Amazo, Professor Ivo), it felt like they dialed back the easter eggs a bit this week. That’s alright…it wouldn’t have improved the good moments, nor would it have helped the mediocre bits. We’re just a few short weeks away from “The Scientist” by the way…the episode that will introduce Barry Allen to the Arrow universe!