Arrow season 4 episode 19 review: Canary Cry

One of Arrow's characters has been terribly misserved by the show, as the latest season four episode demonstrates...

This review contains spoilers.

4.19 Canary Cry

I hate to say it, but the Arrow writers appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding of who Laurel Lance was. Not only have they written her off the show in the middle of her arc but, when crafting an episode pitched as being about the aftermath of her death, they’ve handed us Canary Cry.

We start with the first of many flashbacks taking place directly after Tommy’s death in the season one finale, but before Oliver flew to Lian Yu to hide from his feelings. That he didn’t go directly there feels out of character, but then it’s not the only thing about these scenes that’s going to bother me.

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We’re tricked into thinking it’s Laurel’s funeral we’re watching, but instead Laurel herself stands up to deliver a eulogy in place of Oliver. To be honest, just seeing Katie Cassidy on screen knowing it’ll be one of the last times was tough, but the bad wigs (especially Quentin’s) provided some much-needed light relief.

Despite the flip flopping that Arrow does on a weekly basis these days, however, Laurel has reverted back to her season one self aka the one everyone hated.

Not only is she constantly crying and reassuring Oliver when he’s being a self-indulgent ass, but we’re also subjected to romantic scenes between the pair despite there being no precedent for such a bond at this point in the timeline. This damages both the memory of Laurel and Tommy’s relationship, but also Laurel’s character in general. It draws a direct link between Laurel and her relationship with Oliver, which misses the point entirely.

The moment she was distanced from Oliver’s development and became her own character, Laurel came into her own. She was there to tell him when he was slipping into old habits or being unreasonable with other people on the team, but was otherwise a hero in her own right. To have this episode effectively erase that is unforgivable.

It also highlights an issue I’ve had with how Arrow‘s producers have handled the backlash. They perceive the anger as coming from shippers, and some of it has. But most of the upset is because of Laurel, and not a small faction of viewers who were still hoping for a romantic reconciliation. They probably thought this would be a last little treat for all those people complaining, because too much of the conversation around this show is about relationships.

Poor Quentin doesn’t get the lion’s share of screen time, but he does offer some of the episode’s only effective emotional moments. We all knew he would take it the hardest given that a) Laurel was his daughter, and b) he’s already lost Sara twice, but Canary Cry actually managed to do some interesting stuff with him.

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The fact that he doesn’t let himself believe she’s really gone makes a lot of sense when you consider his skewed view on the world, and I guess in some ways he’s meant to be the audience surrogate in that.

His final breakdown killed me, for the performance and the dialogue. Laurel was his rock, and their relationship was one of the only constants in this infuriating mess of a show. What ties does Quentin even have to Team Arrow now that Laurel’s gone? Does he team up with them proper now, with a mask and his own costume? Or does he finally decide that enough is enough and put the blame where it actually belongs.

Because a huge chunk of this episode wanted to be about blame, and the guilt that members of the team now feel. Specifically, it’s Diggle, Oliver and Felicity who find themselves taking responsibility – Diggle because he has trusted his brother, Oliver because he’s Oliver and Felicity because she wasn’t working with them at the time.

The Felicity stuff really kind of felt like an excuse to have her speak with both Oliver and Diggle without sounding completely condescending, and I really don’t want her to come back to the team this quickly. If the show wants to explore the good she might do when she’s not behind a desk helping others to fight crime, then they should do that. Let this not be another disappearing character motivation just to suit Oliver’s storyline.

Diggle steals the bulk of the hour with his stuff, which involves him attacking Ruve in order to protect his remaining friends and family (I appreciated the mention of Carly). Of course, he’s stopped by Oliver doing his usual holier-than-thou schtick, and they all agree that they must remain on the light side of things in order to not become one of the bad guys they’re supposed to be fighting.

One of my favourite moments from the previous episode was the sight of Oliver as The Arrow carrying Laurel into the emergency room. I liked that the doctor seemingly didn’t bat an eyelid and also how it implied that Oliver was so desperate to keep his friend alive that the concept of secret identities being important didn’t even enter into it.

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I’d really like that doctor to become a recurring presence, possibly as a trusted source who can offer information and treat the team without them worrying about being exposed.

The show carries those ideas on here, with the team’s primary concern protecting Laurel’s legacy as both the assistant district attorney and the Black Canary. I have mixed feelings about the gravestone, which simply dubbed her the latter, because it robs her of half of herself, but then again I like the concept of remembering her as a hero rather than simply another fallen soldier hidden from the world.

Aside from Ruve Dhark, the main threat to her legacy is one of Dhark’s victims from Revington who believes Oliver and the others failed to protect them. She has a point, even if Oliver does too, but again this feels like padding. I would have much preferred Canary Cry to be a quiet episode of reflection, much like the one following Sara’s death in season three, and seeing someone run around in Laurel’s old garb didn’t help things.

Above all, the funeral scene demonstrates how much of a mess Arrow has made of this reveal. Seeing the teases in the right order exposed all of the seams, how the writers have had to stretch and bend the characters and their actions to suit dialogue written months before the cause for the effect was decided upon. Barry has his speed, for one, and Felicity and Oliver’s exchange in the car feels out of sync with their earlier scene.

The promise of this episode was to pay tribute to a character who, however you look at it, had been treated badly by the show. It didn’t deliver on that promise, and may have actually done more damage in the process.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, 11:59, here.

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