Arrow 2-17: “Birds of Prey”
Best Arrow episode of the season. Nicely done, show.
During a raid to take down a dangerous crimelord, Quentin Lance ends up arresting fugitive Mafioso Frank Bertinelli, father of Oliver’s vengeful, mobster-slaughtering vigilante ex-girlfriend Helena (Jessica De Gouw), who is also known as the Huntress. Knowing Helena is still hell-bent on murdering her father, Oliver figures Frank’s arrest will draw her back to Starling City. Since Helena tends to leave a trail of death and destruction in her wake, Oliver is duly concerned about this.
Newly-sober Laurel is offered her old job back in the DA’s office. Assistant District Attorney Donner waves away the messy ongoing disbarment proceedings against her: “I got a buddy on the disciplinary committee.” Donner is not a very good ADA. Donner asks her to head up the prosecution on the Bertinelli trial, and while prosecuting her ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend’s father sure seems like it’d be a conflict of interest, especially when you consider that Laurel personally knows Helena, this is Starling City. As no one had a problem with Laurel prosecuting her ex-boyfriend’s mom in a capital murder trial earlier this season, surely no one’s going to raise a stink about this.
Starling City, man. Arrow plots usually make a whole lot more sense if you just accept that Starling City is a hilariously corrupt cesspool of rampant incompetence and villainy.
Oliver, Sara and Roy intercept Helena’s rental car, but she’s one step ahead of them: While she discreetly carjacks her way into town, her rental car is being driven by a decoy. When the decoy driver shoots Roy, Roy flips out into his mirakuru-induced super-rage mode (sigh) and tries to kill him, until Oliver brings him back to reality by calling him by his nickname for Thea: Speedy.
(“Speedy” is, of course, the dorkiest of Roy Harper’s various superhero aliases in the DC Comics universe. Roy expresses disgust and embarrassment at the Speedy moniker, which probably means it’s going to stick, thus depriving him of his shot at being known by one of the vastly cooler alternatives, i.e. Arsenal or Red Arrow. Sorry, Roy. Speedy it is.)
Back at the lair, Oliver sits Roy down and, very nicely, orders him to break up with Thea: Since Roy can’t control his fits of rage, he’s too dangerous to be around her. As much as I like Roy and Thea together, as much as I want those two crazy, sexy kids to make it work, it’s the right call.
Sara and Oliver squabble over the best course of action re: Helena. Oliver wants to apprehend his deranged ex-girlfriend peacefully; Sara is all for taking her down with as much gratuitous violence as possible. She asks Felicity and Digg for their opinions on the subject of Helena. Felicity strongly advocates kicking Helena’s ass. Digg nods in fervent agreement.
Island flashbacks: On the freighter, Slade chains up a shirtless Oliver, beats him, tortures him with electric shocks, and, er, gives him an elaborate shoulder tattoo. It’s… well, frankly, it’s a little kinky, and believe me, I mean that in a positive way. As I’ve noted before, Arrow tends to be disappointingly sexless and dry (which is really weird when you consider all the fit, attractive actors scurrying around without their shirts). Slade giving a chained-up Oliver a nonconsensual tattoo? Say what you will, that’s not sexless.
Slade contacts Sara, who has holed up in the plane wreckage on the island along with the rest of the freighter escapees, and lays out the situation for her: It seems the freighter is dead in the water (“Unfortunately, I decapitated the engineer,” Slade dryly observes), and unless Sara hands over Hendrik, a cranky escapee with an engineering background, he’ll kill Oliver. Sara refuses at first, but after Hendrik grows violent and surly, she whacks him over the head with a crowbar, ties him up, and agrees to the trade.
Well! Now that Slade has wholly embraced the dark side, these flashbacks just became a lot more fun.
Frank Bertinelli arrives at the courthouse for the start of his trial. Helena, garbed as the Huntress and toting dual crossbows, pops up and tries to murder him in the lobby. SWAT officers storm the courthouse and open fire on Helena and her assorted henchmen. In the chaos, Oliver smuggles Frank outside to safety, leaving Laurel trapped inside (I’m not altogether sold on Oliver’s priorities here, but I suppose it makes sense. After all, Helena will almost certainly murder Frank, whereas it’s only very, very likely she’ll murder Laurel). Helena vows to start killing hostages unless the police hand Frank over to her.
Outside the courthouse, Quentin and Oliver discover that Frank’s trial has been part of a foolhardy plot between Donner and the gonzo, vigilante-loathing SWAT captain to trap Helena. Upset that his daughter is in mortal peril (again), Quentin calls the Arrow to ask for help. As soon as Quentin dials, Oliver’s phone rings. “It’s my mom,” Oliver haplessly explains to Quentin.
Heh. Okay, that was awesome. One could argue that Quentin really should have worked out the Arrow’s identity by now—after all, he knows Sara is Black Canary, and he knows Sara is dating Oliver, and he knows Black Canary and the Arrow are in cahoots, and, let’s not forget, he once arrested Oliver on suspicion of being the Arrow—but setting aside Quentin’s willful ignorance, it’s an adorable moment.
Sara, in her Black Canary costume, breaks into the courthouse to rescue Laurel, who’s been hiding from Helena’s goons. Laurel, who is strongly considering breaking her sobriety and having a drink, realizes Donner was just using her to trap Helena: “Turns out I’m decoration. Expendable decoration,” she tells Sara. It’s a weirdly meta moment—after all, Laurel has been expendable decoration all season long—and it seems like the show is finally acknowledging that it hasn’t been using Laurel as effectively as it should.
Laurel refuses to leave until all the hostages are saved, so Sara takes on Helena by herself. It goes poorly. Helena tosses Sara out a window, then offers Oliver a trade: Laurel’s life for her father’s.
Back at Verdant, Roy tries his best to break up with Thea. Through sheer force of will, Thea adamantly refuses to be dumped, leaving Roy baffled and frustrated (“You can’t make me date you!”). He resorts to desperate tactics, i.e. getting caught by Thea while snogging a hot blonde waitress. This time, it works. Thea storms off, heartbroken and furious.
Oliver and Sara, with a valuable assist from Quentin, smuggle Frank away from police custody. They meet up with Helena and Laurel in an abandoned building and prepare to make the trade.
The vigilante-loathing SWAT captain interrupts the exchange, spraying everyone with bullets and killing Frank in the process. Nothing about the SWAT captain’s motives or actions makes much sense; he pretty much just exists to provide a little random deus ex machina. Chaos erupts: Quentin punches out the SWAT captain, Sara and Helena battle again, Laurel manages to talk Sara out of killing Helena (Sara seems like she’s had quite enough of Helena, thank you very much), and… I don’t even know what Oliver does during all this. Checks his email, maybe. Quentin hauls Helena off in handcuffs.
Oliver visits a gloomy Helena at the police station to give her a little moral support. He apologizes for being a cruddy boyfriend-slash-mentor in the past and confesses that he sometimes has trouble preventing himself from turning into an unstoppable killing machine. It’s a nice change of pace from his dealings with Helena during her appearances on the show last season, when he kept sanctimoniously lecturing her about the dangers of seeking vengeance while he himself was murdering people all over the place. Oliver’s whole “my vengeance is more valid than your vengeance” shtick got old very fast.
You know, I actually like Oliver this episode. He seems kind of self-aware and sympathetic and much less dickish than usual. Weird.
The District Attorney informs Laurel that Donner has been fired for grotesque incompetence, and thus Laurel’s job offer has been rescinded. Laurel, who has decided to embrace her dark side, cheerfully threatens the DA with blackmail: If she doesn’t get her job back, she’ll inform that press that Donner was responsible for the hostage situation.
Oliver finds Thea at Verdant, miserable over the breakup. No fool, Thea knows Roy was only fooling around with the waitress to force Thea into dumping him. She expresses her frustration about how everyone in her life keeps secrets from her: “Why is it so hard for everyone to tell me the truth?” Oliver, Starling City’s preeminent secret-keeper, looks sheepish and guilty.
Inconsolable, Thea slumps home by herself. A car pulls up alongside her… and Slade, looking all handsome and diabolical, offers her a ride.
Great episode, downright awesome ending. Can’t wait for next week, though for the life of me, I can’t decide whether whoever it was in The CW’s promo department who came up with the “Get Slade or Get Slayed” tagline for the next episode should be promoted or fired. It’s either brilliant or monstrously stupid, no middle ground.