Arrow 2-13: “Heir to the Demon”
There might be worse episodes of Arrow out there, but there are none I’ve hated with the fiery white-hot wrath I feel for this one. Arrow, you’ve got to stop turning your female characters—particularly the female characters who either are currently superheroes (Sara), are predestined to become superheroes (Laurel), or are the brains behind superheroes (Felicity)—into neurotic messes. It’s offensive. If you wouldn’t make Oliver, Digg, and Roy act in neurotic ways, don’t do it to Sara, Laurel and Felicity, or you’ll end up with people like me calling you out on your overreliance on crappy gender stereotypes.
We open, promisingly, with Nyssa (Katrina Law), deadly assassin and high-powered daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, making her way through the immigration checkpoint at the Starling City airport. When armed officers try to apprehend her, she calmly slaughters them and saunters off. No complaints about Nyssa. She’s competent, and, even though she has an emotionally-fraught plotline, at no point in this episode does her lower lip tremble whilst her eyes sparkle with unspilled tears, which means she’s already got a leg up on Sara, Laurel, Moira, and Felicity.
Oliver, Quentin, and Dinah Lance (welcome back, Alex Kingston, always good to see you) visit Laurel, who’s in the hospital for a suspected overdose after passing out at the end of last episode. She’s also got a subconjunctival hemorrhage—a broken blood vessel in her eye—which Arrow has decided to depict as a soft golden glow to her iris.
Just for comparison, here’s what my eyeball looked like after my subconjunctival hemorrhage a couple years ago:
Even Laurel’s eyeballs hemorrhage prettily.
Laurel privately tells Quentin that, before she lost consciousness, she hallucinated a vision of Sara. Figuring this means Sara is back in town, Quentin calls the Arrow and demands to talk to his wayward daughter.
There are no island flashbacks in this episode. Don’t rejoice yet: Instead, we get flashbacks to the Lance family six years ago, right before Sara went off on the ill-fated boat trip with Oliver. You know how I complained last week that the island flashbacks kill momentum and lack suspense because they move toward preordained end points? The Lance family flashbacks are worse in that respect, as there’s nothing we can glean from them that we couldn’t work out for ourselves. We see that Laurel and Sara used to bicker about Oliver (not a surprise), and we see that the Lances felt devastated and horrified (and, in Laurel’s case, betrayed) to discover Sara was on the boat with Oliver (really not a surprise). All the flashbacks do is kill time, padding out the episode to its full running length.
Present day: Sara meets with Nyssa. Nyssa, who is Sara’s former lover, wants her to return with her and rejoin the League of Assassins. The revelation of Sara’s bisexuality makes sense—there was maybe a hint of same-sex leanings in her early appearances, when she teamed up with Sin to crack down on men who commit crimes against women. In any case, her past relationship with Nyssa seems right for the character
(Remember how fantastic Sara was as Black Canary in her first couple of appearances on the show? Remember that scene with Sin in the clock tower, in which she was grim and competent and world-weary, and how it was obvious she’d been through some deeply traumatic stuff and yet had emerged stronger and with new purpose? And then she removed the mask and revealed herself as… Sara. Drippy, passive, weepy sad sack Sara. Huge disappointment. I loved Black Canary, but Sara is a strong contender for my least favorite character in the Arrow universe. I mean, she tearfully insisted Dr. Ivo wasn’t really a bad guy, after he shot Shado in the head in front of her. Black Canary is awesome; Sara is a mess.)
Felicity drops by the Queen mansion to talk with Moira: She’s been keeping tabs on one of Moira’s secret offshore holding companies, and she noticed that a recent hefty payment was made to the obstetrician who delivered Thea. Since Moira’s affair with Malcolm Merlyn took place roughly a year before Thea’s birth, Felicity has deduced that Malcolm is Thea’s biological father. Moira asks Felicity what she plans to do with this information. Felicity replies, “I don’t know. Confronting you in your living room was as far as my plan went.”
Yuck. I usually take a pretty strong pro-Felicity stance, but I don’t like her much in this episode. What she’s doing here is both pointless and destructive, seeing how the identity of Thea’s father is none of her damn business. Despite her relationship with Oliver, Felicity is not a member of the Queen family’s inner circle—she’s not Thea’s friend, and she’s certainly not Moira’s friend—and thus she has no right to plant herself in the middle of their family secrets.
Felicity urges Moira to tell Oliver, or she’ll do it herself. At no point in their discussion is the possibility raised that maybe Thea should know the truth about her parentage, and there’s something terribly offensive in the implication that Oliver’s right to know the truth is greater than Thea’s right. Moira warns Felicity to keep Oliver out of it: If he finds out about this, he’ll forever resent Felicity for telling him.
Sebastian Blood meets with Moira to advise her to drop out of the mayoral race. He points out the obvious: Either Moira is, in his words, “a fragile creature living under Malcolm Merlyn’s thumb”, i.e. she was complicit in mass murder because she was too cowardly to stand up to Malcolm, or she was complicit in mass murder on her own volition because she thought killing hundreds of people was a good idea. Either alternative means she’s a poor choice to run for higher office.
Poor Starling City. Corrupt, doomed Starling City. You’d think this place could find at least one mayoral candidate who isn’t a murderer.
Laurel’s medical report shows she didn’t overdose—knowing Laurel’s sickness would lure Sara back to Starling City, Nyssa had one of her henchmen poison her with (sigh) the deadly venom of a Tibetan pit viper. Hard to imagine a doctor could confuse the symptoms of a snake bite with the symptoms of a drug overdose, but it’s been established that Starling City has really crappy hospitals, so let’s go with it.
Nyssa kidnaps Dinah Lance and threatens to kill her unless Sara comes back to her. Sara discusses her love for Nyssa with Quentin, who simply says, “I’m just happy to hear you had someone to care for you.” Good for Quentin. It’s a nice moment, with no unnecessary melodrama.
At a press conference to announce the start of Moira’s campaign, Felicity takes Oliver aside right before he’s scheduled to give a speech. She tearfully talks about how she’s not very close to her own family and how it would devastate her if she lost Oliver’s friendship… and then tells him about Thea and Malcolm.
Wow. Felicity, you just took a dark and destructive Queen family secret, one that does not affect you in any conceivable way, and, in a moment of stunning narcissism, made it all about you.
A stunned and shaken Oliver fumbles his way through his speech. Later, back at the Queen mansion, he calls Moira a monster: “Thea can never find out about Merlyn, and she can never find out the truth about us. Which is that, as of now, we have no relationship.” Then he storms off.
Oliver should give strong consideration to changing his first name to Drama. Because upon hearing that speech, the phrase “drama queen” popped into my head.
Too many secrets are being kept from Thea, by the way. Her brother won’t tell her he’s the Arrow, her boyfriend won’t tell her about his dangerous new powers, and her mother won’t tell her that her biological father is a villainous mastermind. Thea is an adult, and she’s pretty level-headed and stable, especially by the ever-flaky standards of the Arrow universe; she can handle all this. If Oliver knows about this—for crying out loud, if Felicity knows about this—then Thea should know as well.
In exchange for her mother’s life, Sara surrenders herself to Nyssa. Vowing never to return to the League of Assassins, she injects herself with snake venom and collapses. Nyssa swears vengeance for Sara’s duplicity and tries to kill Quentin and Dinah; Oliver swoops in and battles her. Oliver gets the upper hand, but a dying Sara pleads with him to spare Nyssa’s life.
Oliver administers an antidote to Sara and saves her. Nyssa agrees to release Sara from the League of Assassins, then leaves.
Sebastian Blood meets with Slade. Vexed that Sebastian was unable to stop Moira from running for mayor, Slade mutters darkly about how he’ll have to take care of her himself. I really hated this episode (as in, haaaaaaaaaated it), but any scene with Sebastian and/or Slade perked things right up.
Back at Laurel’s apartment, Quentin and Dinah are ecstatic about being reunited with Sara, who can now freely remain in Starling City without fear of endangering her family. Laurel, however, is downright pissed off at discovering that, in six years, her sister never bothered to tell her she was still alive. She swills wine and berates Sara: “Every single thing that’s gone wrong in our lives is your fault.”
Oh, those zany Lance sisters. Do they know how to throw a homecoming party, or what?
Sara runs off to find Oliver. They end up snogging and tearing off their clothes enthusiastically. This might have more impact if Oliver’s romantic affections weren’t already spread so thin. I mean, there’s his former (and, let’s be real, future) girlfriend Laurel, there’s his growing feelings for Felicity, there’s his past love for Shado, and then there are all the romances and flings he’s had in between: Helena, McKenna, Isabelle (hey, whatever happened to Isabelle, anyway? Didn’t it seem like they were setting her up for some big plotline early in the season? It’s almost like the show had no more use for her character after she shagged Oliver).
So that’s where we are. Arrow, I think it’s great that you have female characters who are formidable warriors (early in this episode, Sara does some cool work on Oliver’s salmon ladder), or brainy tech gurus, or ruthless CEOs of multibillion-dollar corporations. But you’re dropping the ball with these characters, badly, by making them behave exactly the same way, i.e. like teary, self-absorbed messes. Raise your game.