The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.

This week, we see some flashbacks from a different perspective, assassins roll into town, and Officer Lance cries a bunch!

We're startin' with a flashback this week: an extended version of the scene from the pilot, and that we saw again a couple episodes ago, where Sara gets swept out of the Queen's Gambit during its sinking. I feel like this all went down differently the first time around, when it wasn't Caity Lotz playing the character.

For example, I don't remember a phone call to then-Detective Lance in which Sara attempts to fake being at "college." Not only does that seem like a very difficult lie to keep up, how in the world is she getting reception out there in the middle of the South China sea? Particularly since they're in the middle of a storm where the lightning is followed by thunder just three seconds after.

We know this because Sara counts it off. "That's not very scientific!" Ollie stiltedly says as a way of leading into a weird seduction line about "biology." These events are all pretty different from what I recall, but the "being pulled into the murderous depths" thing is the same. Only this time, we follow Sara instead of Ollie.

In the present, Sara wakes up from her traumatic flashback dream and we see that she's staying at Casa Queen to hide her being-aliveness from her family. I'm not really sure why she needs a place to crash; she already had a clocktower. But this is a way to set up a piano-music conversation between Sara and Ollie about Moira's trial, Sara's situation with her family, and Ollie's relationship status with Laurel.

Iron Heights prison. The DA hits the queen family with a couple surprises. One, Laurel is second-chairing Moira's case now, even though that's a cut-and-dried conflict of interest. Two, he's offering a plea deal for life with the possibility of parole, despite his seeming insistence on trying for a death penalty a couple episodes ago. Moira says she wants a few days to think it over. Team DA leaves.

Ollie follows and asks Laurel what's up with her being on the case. Laurel says it wasn't her decision, but the plea was her idea. She doesn't "have a lot of pull," but she got her boss to completely change course on what's probably the most high-profile case of his career, just FYI. She also says "the DA is serious about the death penalty." Even she doesn't know the character's name.

Looking at pictures in Casa Queen -- including one of the Queen's Gambit, which the family inexplicably kept after Ollie and Robert apparently died on it -- leads Sara to another flashback. In what has to be the most surreal moment of the series so far, Sara, floating in the middle of the South China Sea in her underwear, sees a canary flit down onto a piece of wreckage.


I'm fairly sure birds only fly out into the sea by themselves like that to die, so that's not really a good omen. The bird goes flying off and Sara sees the Amazo churning through the water. She weakly starts calling out.

Ollie comes back home and the flashback ends. Stephen Amell is really, strangely awkward this episode. The way he says, "I know a thing or two about secrets" is just so, so odd. Maybe it's a character thing and Sara just makes him super nervous. I don't know. Anyway, she doesn't want to see her family because she's a murderer and they probably wouldn't be cool with that.

Speaking of murderers, yet another guy in Dark Arrow gear comes crashing in through the window and starts attacking Ollie and Sara. Ollie momentarily mistakes the guy for Malcolm Merlyn, which is actually sort of reasonable considering someone he was really sure was dead just came back to life. Ollie eventually throws the guy through a table and takes off his mask to reveal...some guy with a goatee (David Negahban, a.k.a. Abu Nazir from Homeland).


Ollie asks who he is. The guy says he's "just a warrior." Then Ollie asks why he's dressed like our old friend Boe. The guy throws a knife at a chandelier and disappears in the commotion.

Arrowcave. Ollie introduces Sara to Dig and Smoak, who does her Smoak thing. "You're cute," Sara says. I think she might represent the audience.

Ollie gets Smoak cracking on tracing some dirt the attacker left behind in Casa Queen. Sara makes them stop the search. She knows who he is. He's Al-Owal, a member of the League of Assassins. She's a member, too. (She even name-drops Nanda Parbat, which is also a place Malcolm Merlyn has been.) Dig offers up his knowledge of the League, which he learned in Afghanistan. They're pretty much what you'd expect.

"There's only one way to leave the League," Sara says, implying that they're definitely going to kill her. Then she tells an anecdote about when she killed a guy once that kind of doesn't go anywhere, then she says her family won't want to see her. Oratory is not something the League teaches, it would appear.

Another flashback. On the Amazo, the pirate dudes throw Sara in a cell. She's upset and also still in her underwear.

Iron Heights again. Moira wants to take the plea deal. Ollie, Thea, and the longtime family attorney who only showed up this season disagree. Thea and the lawyer storm out. Ollie asks Moira what she's hiding, because she's telegraphing her evasions so hard she might as well change her name to Morse. Moira tells Ollie to convince Thea to accept her decision.

Back to the Arrowcave. Smoak has found Al-Owal in -- get this -- an abandoned factory. The League can't turn down a classic.

In that warehouse, Al-Owal catches one of Arrow's arrows and gives him a hard time about using them as a weapon, despite the fact that Black Arrow was pretty fond of them, too, and Al-Owal trained him. Al-Owal tells Black Canary that Ra's al-Ghul wants her back. She says she ain't going. Then a couple more assassins come out from the shadows and a big throwdown starts. It's not amazingly choreographed, but at least people have lots of room to move around in and it's fast.

Arrow and Canary escape through a skylight and Al-Owal threatens Sara's family.

In the Arrowcave, Ollie sews up a wound on Sara's back. It's almost as scarred up as Ollie's chest is. "Pain and I came to a little understanding a few years back," she says, like she's a tough girl in a high-school movie.


Also, giving someone stitches apparently makes gross squishy sounds. Who knew. Team Arrow decides to warn the Lance family about their impending demise by ninja guy without telling them Sara's alive.

Flashback.The pirate dudes drag Sara away to... something, but before they can, a guy who looks a little bit like Alan Thicke stops them and tells Sara to come with him.

The present. Officer Lance, finishing up his shift, calls Laurel and tries to make amends. Smoak runs up to him and tells him the League of Assassins is targeting him. He quite understandably asks why they're targeting him. Smoak stumbles and he stomps away into his building, unfazed by news that a shadowy league of killers wants him dead. There's grizzled and then there's this.

At the DA's office, Ollie comes by Laurel's desk and tries a ploy of being Laurel's "friend." She thinks he has an ulterior motive. She's right, but it's not about Moira's case. They leave together to go get some dinner.

At the Arrowcave, Smoak returns to report that Officer Lance is being an old hardheaded yutz. Sara decides she's got to reveal himself to him, which seems like a step too far, since she's also got that masked vigilante persona that can be pretty persuasive. I mean, she knows she's probably going to die, right? Telling her father she's alive just before a bunch of ninja-like dudes kill her seems just cruel.

Anyway, Dig offers to go with her, and she spouts some high-level BS about how his military training is nothing compared to what she's got going on. It's not totally unbelievable, but she's about half his weight and he was special forces. They can be equals. It feels like the writers are trying too hard to make Sara a badass at times. We saw her scarred back. That was enough.

Lance leaves his building and has a moment of paranoia before he sees Sara standing in the street. They embrace. Lance bawls. They settle down at a Chinese restaurant, where Sara reveals she knows Chinese because a waitress walks up to two white customers and just starts talking Chinese to them. Starling City must have some kind of Super-Chinatown.

Father and daughter catch up. Sara gets really jumpy when a waitress drops a napkin holder, and Lance, who I guess really is a detective, pieces it together: Sara sent Smoak to tell him to skip town. She knows Arrow. She's Black Canary. So how hasn't he figured out he could sit outside Verdant and see Arrow coming in and out of there, to clearly prove he's Oliver Queen? It would not be hard!

Lance asks if Sara would have even revealed herself to him if he wasn't in danger. She says no. Then she says those assassin guys are almost definitely going to kill her. Lance reacts badly. Then she starts in on how tough and awful these guys are, and that they're going to kill her dad, too. They leave together.

Flashback again. Not-Alan-Thicke takes Sara to his quarters and describes the ruthless, murdering pirates on the ship as "not the nicest bunch." Maybe he is Alan Thicke. No, he's actually Professor Ivo (!).


So maybe Amazo is more than just the name of the boat, but I'm not really holding my breath on that.

Ivo explains he's got people in cells to "save the human race." He does not elaborate, and that's definitely the sort of statement you should run away from immediately. Sara does not.

In the present, Ollie and Laurel are returning to her apartment after dinner. She says Ollie and her dad "overreacted last week when you thought I was becoming a drunk." That's the real line. "Last week" and everything. Disagreement in the writers' room? (Though in a minute we'll see Laurel pop a bunch of pills. Maybe the argument's just over her drug of choice.)

She goes in for a kiss. Ollie says no. Laurel takes it badly. She's having a hard time. She turns toward her door and sees it ajar. Hey, wasn't Ollie's whole thing that he was going to keep Laurel away from the assassins and stuff? He just took her out to eat and then home. Pretty ineffectual, Mr. Hero.

Inside the apartment, Ollie finds a fancy knife jammed into the wall.


He hides it from Laurel, tells her to stay in the apartment where assassins have been, and then leaves. What are you even doing, Ollie? He calls Smoak to say Al-Owal was there, but moved on. How does he know that? He didn't sweep the room, and Al-Owal's a master assassin who can hide in the shadows. I think he's just being lazy.

Sara takes her dad up to the clocktower. Again, not a great place to take a Lance you don't want to be murdered by assassins. We get some background about Officer Lance buying Sara a canary as a kid. When Sara had to change her name for the League, she made it Ta-er al-Sahfer, which she says is Arabic for canary, though it looks like the actual Arabic word for canary is just "canary." Also: No "black"? What is with the people on this show hating colors in names?

Anyway, Sara says she never forgot where she came from and shares a moment with her dad just as Al-Owal and his goons appear out of nowhere. After a break and an establishing shot that is definitely not of the same clocktower at all, another fight breaks out.

And this is pretty cool: Sara has booby traps set up! I like the stuff where she's just smart and clearly plans ahead. More of that and less awkward tough talk.

Arrow shows up, as he does. More fighting. Lance pulls out a hidden gun and shoots one of the assasins in the shoulder. That's fun. When the assassins are finally subdued, Sara snaps Al-Owal's neck and sends the other assassin away to tell Ra's al-Ghul to eff off, basically.

Sara openly displays her shame to her dad, but he says he thinks she's brave. He hugs her and cries some more. Sara leaves. Arrow says Lance has to keep Sara's secret.

Now for the episode threatening to ruin itself: Ollie and Thea go back to Iron Heights and tell their mom about the lesson Ollie learned over the course of the episode and how they won't stop loving their mom if they find out she pooped on a baby or something. Moira says she'll reject the plea deal. The episode has a moral, guys. Surprisingly, it doesn't end with everyone laughing, then a freeze frame.

Officer Lance goes to see Laurel at the DA's office. He asks if she's all right. She says she doesn't know. He tries to comfort her.

Arrowcave. Ollie opens his Magic Island Box and pulls out some vodka. He says on old friend told him he'd know when the right time to drink it was. Dig asks if it's the right time. Ollie says he isn't sure. Then it's probably not time to drink it yet, dude. But he and Dig do anyway.

Ollie cuts loose with some stuff about his past; namely, that he spent some time off the island.

S.S. Flashback again. We see that moment where Ollie was dragged into the room and met Sara again. She kicks him and says, "Prisoners do not speak."

Final thoughts

I liked this one. I'll take it one step further, even: This is pretty easily the best episode of Arrow I have watched. Sure, there were little problems I nitpicked (Stephen Amell was weird as hell in some of this scenes and the "here's what we learned" scene was rough), but the flashbacks and the present-day stuff actually tied together, the assassins were genuinely threatening bad guys, and, most importantly, Black Canary has turned out to be a really interesting character.

She's very different from her comic-book counterpart, and that's totally OK. She feels like a successful version of what the writers tried to do with the Huntress last season. That whole thing led to two of the worst episodes of the show. But Sara is complex, tough, conflicted. She's unpredictable. This episode kinda busted the formula of the show to pieces, and it was all the better for it. Take away her tough-talk, which is overdone at times, and the show will have really hit a sweet spot. It's harder to write jokes when the show is good, but I genuinely hope they keep it up.


More From ComicsAlliance