‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 5 Episode 11: ‘Second Chances’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
On this week’s episode, Oliver and the Arrow Babies make a trip to Hub City to track down their potential new Black Canary, while back in the past of the never-ending flashback, Talia al Ghul has a proposition for Ollie that he can’t refuse. “Second Chances” was directed by Mark Bunting from a script by Sarah Tarkoff and Speed Weed.
Chris: Hello, dear Arrow-Heads, and welcome back to Pointed Commentary!
Emma: Have we been calling our readers Arrow-Heads this whole time? This pun feels like a Matt Wilson special.
Chris: I thought I just started doing it at some point this season, but I couldn’t say with 100% certainty one way or the other. Perhaps some devoted reader will let us know.
After both of us feeling a little under the weather last week, we’re back and feeling up to full health and ready to talk about this episode, and, boy oh boy, is it lucky that I was watching this one at full strength, because there is a chance it might have killed me otherwise! What did you think, Emma?
Emma: I’m happy they found a new Black Canary, and I like that we’re finally getting somewhere with Oliver’s backstory, but the episode felt a little tedious to me. Maybe I’m still just recovering and grumpy, though. (Watching both Arrow and Riverdale while feverish last week was pretty fun, maybe the best way to watch these shows.) How did you like this week’s episode, Chris?
Chris: Maybe that’s the trick, and I need to be in some kind of altered state to truly enjoy these shows. There were parts of this episode that literally made me groan and wail and want to claw my own face off, and it was at that point I realized, “Oh, wait, I’ve died and am in the literal Christian Hell.” But then it ended, so I was like, “Oh… I guess I’m still alive.”
It wasn’t all bad, but before we talk about some of the positives (and the plot!) I just wanted to get off my chest that there were times when I found myself sincerely wondering this week, “How do people enjoy this?” And I don’t mean that in a negative or insulting way to the people that do enjoy it, but I wish I could talk to everyone that really, truly enjoys this show and ask them what it is they like about it so much. As someone who has watched this show even when they weren’t being paid to do so, tell me what it is that you find joy in about this show, Emma.
Emma: Sure, just bust out the big questions!
Chris: I’m here to make things as difficult as I can in the name of entertainment!
Emma: I like big, absurd drama. I like living briefly in a world in which bad stuff happens, and I have certainty that things will get fixed. I like the stupid jokes in between (yes, this is why I like Felicity) that lighten the mood so it is truly some escapism. I like raising the question about what it means to be a hero, and whether that means we’re allowed to kill in the name of good. I like budding friendships between new heroes. I like watching people punch each other and shoot arrows into each other’s legs. I like watching beautiful people do impossible things.
That being said, I do need some kind of story that does not revolve around Ollie’s guilt. I need a big bad if we’re going to talk about all those issues, which we didn’t have this episode. This episode was all set up for future episodes, but there wasn’t enough craft there to carry the dead weight. Plus Lexa Doig’s accent sucks. I like trashy CW shows, but I do have some standards.
What parts did you really not like about this episode? I assume Felicity’s tête-à-tête with her hacktivist protege, but what else? I found this episode tedious and boring, but I didn’t actively hate it.
Chris: You guessed it. I realized there can be something worse than when Felicity talks, and it’s when Felicity talks to another Felicity! Also, all of the shows attempts to have technobabble that they then feel like they have to explain like the audience is five years old is just… you know what I just realized? I think my main problem with this show is when people on it talk.
Emma: Sometimes punching is better than talking, it’s true.
Chris: If I really try to think about what doesn’t bother me in this show; it’s not the stories or the characters or what the characters do, even though often all of those things could be better or don’t make the most sense. What ends up making me want to bang my head against the wall is the things these people say to each other, and how they say those things.
I’m starting to feel like there’s a version of this show I could edit that would take most of the talking out and just let the viewer try to fill in the blanks for themselves that would be much shorter, but much more fun.
Emma: I totally get that. Even when they do talk, when there’s exposition they have to get through, they breeze through that so quickly I have to back up to make sure my notes make sense. Like Adrian Chase’s plan to get Dig out of jail this week. But then they spend forever saying essentially nothing to each other, like when Ollie was trying to convince Tina to join Team Arrow as the new Black Canary. I tried to take notes, but nothing made any sense.
Chris: Yeah, things that actually could use a few more words don’t get them, but we get Ollie having basically the exact same conversation with Tina three or four times. And they change the visuals of the scene up a little (the first time it’s on a roof, the second time in a garage, the third time in a garage, but he’s not wearing his mask, the fourth time in his mayoral office), but it’s more or less the same dialogue!
Or when they’ve clearly gotten some new word they liked on their “Word-A-Day Calendar for Writers” that then gets said about a thousand times. It’s… irritating. To my brain.
Emma: Was there a particular word they overused this episode? I didn’t notice anything.
Chris: You didn’t think they said “hack/hacking/hacktivist” as though they’d just gotten some kind of amazing sponsorship deal where they got paid every time someone said it?
Emma: Now that you mention it… I figured they just wanted to be cool and hip. All the young kids on Twitter are hacktivists, right?
As for Tina and Ollie, it was basically the same dialogue, and still they said nothing of consequence. It didn’t help me to understand her reluctance to join Team Arrow. It just felt like one of those conversations where people say things but it’s all just… air. Which is pretty crappy dialogue.
Chris: Yes. Yes, it is. Like, why on Earth wouldn’t she want their help? And, why would Ollie care if she kills the main bad guy after the three of them have been killing the henchmen and helicopter pilots indiscriminately?
Emma: Ollie taking down that helicopter was one of the few good moments this episode.
Chris: Oh, for sure, it was certainly a neat visual, but what’s the moral difference here? I mean, I liked him swinging around from the bottom of the helicopter and hitting bad guys because it looks cool, but “looking cool” doesn’t equal “makes sense.”
Emma: I don’t think it was an issue of morality for Ollie here. It seemed to me that he didn’t want Tina to kill Sonos because he wanted her to have a different kind of story, one that wasn’t just about vengeance. Does that make sense? Like she had an opportunity to not get trapped in hate like Ollie did. But this is the same kind of discussion he had with Rory, and Evelyn, and basically any of his recruits. It’s been done.
Chris: As if this is the only story they know how to tell.
Emma: Yes. And that’s my main issue with this show. Give me something new! They’ve been doing fairly well this season, I thought. The Arrow Babies were really working for me, but they just keep doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve got superheroes on this show, you can literally do anything you want and it’ll be within the realm of plausibility in this fictional universe.
Should we at least give a hat tip to the plot this episode? Team Arrow is looking for a new Black Canary, Ollie vetoes everyone, even a non-existent astronaut ninja, because nobody’s as good as Laurel, blah blah blah. They do find a metahuman from Central City who has essentially a real Canary Cry and they go off in search of her while Rory and Felicity hold down the fort and Felicity reignites her “hacktivism.”
Chris: Yeah, I mean, sure. It was nice having a number of fun connections to The Flash, and the idea that all these characters really do live in the same world, even if it’s completely ridiculous that they need a new Black Canary and by absolute chance, there’s someone whose personality and life experiences fit with an interest in vigilante justice that just happens to have also gained the exact matching superpower.
Emma: She’s a metahuman with the same powers as Earth-2 Laurel! How convenient! That stuff I can forgive if they at least make it interesting.
I did enjoy the Flash connections, and they even mentioned Blüdhaven.
Did you at least enjoy Curtis getting to be more techy this episode? He suited up as Mr. Terrific, but he also did some sitting in the van with equipment, running stuff from behind the scenes.
Chris: Yeah, but I don’t just want him to be an extra Felicity, I want him to be in the field using his amazing high-tech science stuff to help him fight. They went out of their way to keep pointing out what an amazing athlete he is, so use that and his super-genius brain that’s able to make sonic dampeners, etc. This show seems to think there are two kinds of heroes possible, people who punch and/or shoot guns, and people who sit at a computer.
I know a lot of these things I complain about are probably time and budget limitations that the writers and showrunners are equally frustrated by, and I shouldn’t always just assume that they’re lazy or bad at their jobs. I’m trying to be less negative and more understanding here, but also, if I don’t get these things out my head will explode, and no budgetary limitation makes them write such awful dialogue.
Also, I never want to have to watch Renee eat a giant hamburger again.
Emma: I could watch Rene eat a Big Belly Burger all day! Especially one with five separate patties, mm. Actually, I’m getting hungry.
Chris: You’re fun.
Emma: I got hungry and then my boyfriend brought me popcorn. The world still has some magic in it.
We did get some flashbacks of Ollie in Russia this episode as well. Talia lays out what she knows about Ollie and his history, and her connection to Yao Fei. “It’s a family secret” how she looks so young but still taught Yao Fei, ha ha ha. She suggests they go after a colleague of Kovar, Yurievich, who provides Kovar with women. During the fight, Ollie pistol whips Yurievich to death and has a nice big mope about it. Talia tells him “There is a monster inside you, yes, but it is not you.” He needs to give the monster an identity outside of Oliver Queen… and that’s how the Green Arrow was born. We did it, Chris. The show can now end. It’s come full circle.
Chris: Oh, thank goodness!
What’s that? I’m being told the show is not over.
I know you were looking forward to Talia showing up, so what did you think?
Emma: She sucks. She absolutely sucks, and her accent is bad.
Chris: Hahaha! Emma coming for Talia knives out! I love it. Are you really disappointed?
Emma: Talia is a fascinating female character with brains and brawn, and they just didn’t do much with her. She’s a fricking genius, why does she care at all about Oliver Queen? I imagine they’ll get into that more in the next few episodes, but her character in this episode was just a big phhhthhhb to me.
Chris: Nothing about this character they presented to me made me think it was the Talia al Ghul I’m already familiar with.
Emma: Right? And I know they use names all over the place without keeping true to characters, but come on.
Speaking of names, we find out at the end of the episode that Tina Boland, the new Black Canary, is not really Tina Boland. Her name is Dinah Drake.
Chris: Another ludicrously unlikely coincidence, but hey, at least they now have a Black Canary with the right name… kind of.
Emma: Want to place bets on how long it’ll take before she and Ollie make out?
Chris: Remember how Ollie was romantically involved with that reporter before the break, and now we haven’t had a single mention of her?
Emma: It’s only been two episodes, she’ll come back. She has dirt on Ollie, remember? Dinah will be the slow burn kind of romance that Ollie will struggle with because she reminds him so much of Laurel. The reporter was sexy fun, but not even real sexy fun.
Chris: The real question for me is how long until she gets blonde hair? Also, is it not weird to Ollie that this new lady coincidentally has the same full name as Laurel’s mom?
Emma: Chris, you’re assuming that Ollie remembered Laurel’s mom’s name. He was kind of a jerk back when he knew her. World’s worst boyfriend.
Chris: I guess we’ll see what happens next week. Will reporter lady return? Will Ollie remember his dearly departed friend’s mother's name? Will Black Canary get her hair done? Let us know what you thought of this week’s show (and our recap of it, of course) in the comments and be back here next time for the possible answers to those questions, Arrow-Heads!