Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S04E19 - 'Canary Cry'

With the way in which the previous episode of Arrow ended, there really wasn't any mystery concerning what plot-thread this latest episode would be devoted to exploring. The season long question concerning exactly who it was in that graved had finally been answered, it seems – and, the answer was Laurel Lance. Of course, whether you actually felt any of the emotion that this episode clearly intended on making you feel really came down to how you felt about this character over the past few seasons.

For my part, at least, I have always appreciated the effort that the series made to actually show us something of Laurel's gradual transition from lawyer to costumed vigilante. I had appreciated the fact that we had been shown something of her struggles, and early failures – and, especially, the way in which she had actually had to earn her place on the team. It wasn't perfect, of course – but, it was definitely handled better than the few months of off-camera training we had with Thea.

At the same time, though, Laurel Lance has also often been an inconsistent character – and, an occasional source of genuine frustration for me, as a member of the audience. More often than not, it had felt like Katie Cassidy was simply doing the best she could with an inconsistent, and occasionally thankless, role. So, while I certainly wouldn't say that I'm glad to see her go, I also can't really say that I feel any of the regret that I would have felt if, for example, Diggle had been the one to die.

Still, though, the tragic death of Laurel Lance was clearly a big event for the series, as a whole – so, it makes perfect sense that this episode would be devoted to exploring the fall-out for the rest of the cast.

Oddly enough, though, the episode actually made the interesting choice of opening with something of a 'fake-out' – showing us a funeral entirely different from the one we had been led to expect. Obviously, there was something of a thematic parallel to Laurel's death, here, and the death of Tommy Merlyn back at the end of the first season. They were, after all, two of his closest friends from his old life – and, their deaths had clearly affected him in much the same way. So, rather than continue with this season's 'Lian Yu' story-line, the interesting decision was made to focus this episode's 'flash-back' sub-plot on the way in which Oliver and Laurel had supported each other after Tommy's death – a decision which, incidentally, also allowed Katie Cassidy to appear in this episode, in spite of her character's death.

It was an interesting idea, certainly – so, it's really just a shame that these scenes don't really add much of value to the episode. With the exception of the opening scene set during Tommy's funeral (which provided a great moment for Katie Cassidy, as Laurel found herself delivering his eulogy in Oliver's place), those scenes served no real purpose other than taking up screen-time – which, considering how much ground needed to be covered, here, ultimately only hurt the episode, as a whole.

Along with this 'flash-back' sub-plot, of course, this episode also needed to cover the 'present day' reaction to Laurel's death – something which, arguable, was much more important. Taken individually, the other character's various responses to Laurel's death provided some great moments – but, unfortunately, when taken together over such a small space of time, it all began to feel a little overwhelming.

Oliver and Diggle which, naturally enough, seemed intent on blaming themselves – with Diggle, in particular, entirely convinced that his willingness to trust his brother over Oliver led directly to Laurel's death. This made sense, of course – and, it was a source of some great moments for both Stephen Amell and David Ramsey (with Diggle, in particular, having a character-arc, concerning his anger at himself and his brother, which deserved much more screen-time than it received, here). But, when it turned out that Felicity also blamed herself, for some reason, the episode almost seemed to have taken an odd turn toward self-parody. Having all three of the show's main cast seemingly trapped in the same cycle of self-blame just started to seem a little silly – especially when we had multiple scenes dedicated to one character trying to convince another not to blame themselves.

By contrast, though, this was a great episode for Paul Blackthorne (even if, obviously, the same couldn't be said for the character he plays). Quentin Lance's own character-arc, throughout this episode, had him following a painfully real process of denial, and gradual acceptance, as he found himself forced to accept that he may have lost another daughter. The idea that he would reach out to Nyssa al-Ghul, convinced that she can use the Lazarus Pit to bring Laurel back, was an especially tragic touch.

Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of all of this taking place over such a short period of time was an episode which just began to feel increasingly messy. By the time that a sub-plot concerning the theft of the Black Canary's costume, and her 'canary cry' device, by a mysterious woman intent on stealing the vigilante's identity for reasons of her own, it had started to feel as though there was simply too much going, here. It was a plot-line which simply felt out of place, in an episode like this one – a poorly considered attempt, perhaps, to add a little action to the episode when it probably wasn't truly needed.

Perhaps if all of this had been spread out over two episodes, it would have made the impact that the writer's clearly wanted. It's a shame, too, since this was still an episode that featured some truly great moments – but, as it is, the episode ultimately just ended up feeling overly cluttered with too many plot-threads.

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