Arrow 5×11 Review: 'Second Chances'

Arrow’s prevailing theme in its episode titled “Second Chances” was all about giving people another chance to redeem themselves where they’ve gone wrong. I mean as far as hitting episodic themes and proverbial themes on the head, this episode definitely did that.
This season hasn’t been a smooth ride to say the least. The writers have betrayed a lot of their fans to the point where it’s affected the buzz and ratings surrounding what once was the king of comic television. But my how the mighty have fallen.
But after last week’s midseason finale, there was a sense of optimism that I felt for the first time since before the start of the season. The show focused on the things that I enjoyed and planted some seeds of what was to come. It included some of the core elements that has made Arrow the show that a lot of love.
But following that episode, I admit that I was cautiously optimistic about where Arrow would go next. Could it manage to keep my faith and support? Or would it find a way to completely nullify the previous week’s progress.
Well, “Second Chances” was far from the mess that was “Human Target.” That was the moment where Arrow officially stopped feeling like the Arrow I fell in love with; the Arrow I knew. And that lasted right up to the midseason finale.
While “Second Chances” wasn’t perfect – and angered me in some regard – there was enough there to not entirely lose me. There was the introduction of Felicity’s descent into darkness as her former hactivist self has been reawakened, as well as Diggle finally being absolved of these ludicrous crimes (thank you, Felicity and mini Felicity.) I also really enjoyed the theme of the episode as Team Arrow has always been a place for people to get a second chance.
But the thing that kind of bogged this episode down was this insane desire to have to have a Black Canary. Most of this episode was insistent on establishing a new Black Canary, which showed in Oliver’s uncharacteristic pursuit of this stranger that gave him no real reason to pursue her other than the fact that she had a canary cry (and that the script told him to.)
While this episode felt like it dragged at points (there could’ve been more Felicity here, people), it wasn’t a complete disaster. And for Arrow this season, that’s a success.
P.S.: Where the hell is Thea? You know she’s a core character on this show, right? You do remember she exists, right? You do know what you’re doing with her, right?
Let’s break this down:

This Team is About Second Chances

When I think about what has made me love Arrow, apart from Olicity and Original Team Arrow, the thing that I’ve always enjoyed is how the show has represented and preached the chance for redemption. I mean, that’s what you get when your titular hero spends five hellish years on around near an island and returns home as a ruthless killer. If that guy can manage to redeem himself, then can’t everyone?
From the start of Team Arrow, the team has been about second chances, much like this episode title tells us. I’m talking way back when (you know, the good ol’ days) when it was Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity fighting crime in Starling City and finding satisfaction in how they managed to find themselves in this fight, on this team.
Obviously for Oliver the team was perhaps the real start to his redemption. Before Diggle (and later Felicity), Oliver was only intent on killing the names on his father’s list. It wasn’t until Diggle and Felicity that Oliver changed his tune. Where he started to realize that perhaps there was a different way to defeat the bad guys. Where he eventually realized that this team was his shot at redemption in a life that was more than unfair to him and brought out the absolute worst in him.
For Diggle, this team represented the second chance of getting to be a part of something that gave him purpose, that gave him clarity. He was never meant to be a bodyguard. That wasn’t him. But Team Arrow gave him the second chance to use himself as a weapon of good.
For Felicity, being a part of this team gave her a second chance at being a hero that she wanted to be. For so long she wanted to help people. While she might not have always gone about it in the best way (hactivist, goth Felicity days), the intent was always good. Team Arrow allowed her not only that chance to be the hero she is today, but it also gave her life meaning.
The list goes on. Roy Harper. Sara Lance. Laurel Lance. Thea Queen. All of these characters have found a second chance and a sense of redemption being a part of Team Arrow in some way. There’s something about being on that team that gives your life meaning and inspires you to be the best version of yourself.
But this episode was all about Team Arrow representing a second chance for the newer cast of characters: Curtis, Rory, Rene, and Tina (Dinah). We’ve seen firsthand what being a part of this team means. We’ve seen firsthand how it inspires. And this was the episode that the newbies got that sense.
While I might not be a fan of the wave of new Team Arrow members this season, I am a fan of how Arrow chose to represent this team. This is a team that allows you a chance to redeem yourself. It doesn’t matter about your past. It doesn’t matter what you did then. It matters what you choose to do now.

Why Does There Have to Be Another Black Canary?

Here’s the thing, I really want to give this Tina/Dinah girl a chance to win me over. But Arrow certainly isn’t helping matters by forcing her into a mantle that has already worn out its use. This is the third Black Canary on Arrow. I understand that the writers feel like Black Canary is an important part of this story, but I don’t understand why there have to be so many Black Canaries. Hell, Sara was just Canary before Laurel eventually became Black Canary. Can’t Tina/Dinah take on a new moniker?
Sure, the writers had Laurel tell Oliver that she wanted someone else to carry on the Black Canary name. But why?
If you look at the events prior to this season, Black Canary wasn’t a figure like Green Arrow or The Flash. Sure, Star City residents knew her. But it wasn’t until after the Arrow writers killed Laurel that they began to talk her up and establish this glorified legacy that we hear about literally every episode. I don’t know what show the writers think we were watching, but it wasn’t one where that was a thing. It could’ve been a thing. But they didn’t write it that way.
This episode focused on finding Laurel’s successor as Oliver, Curtis, and Rene traveled to Hub City to find this woman with kickass fighting abilities (well, that’s a plus) and a canary cry. The way the writers wrote this, it was evident that Oliver continued to seek her out (or found her “worthy”) because she possessed fighting skills and already had a canary cry. That much was obvious. Oliver was basically the writers.
Here’s the thing, I actually like Tina/Dinah. I don’t love her yet, but from what I’ve seen she’s a character that can really grow on me. But something that’s inhibiting that from happening is how she’s being forced to be another Black Canary. Can’t she just be a kickass woman that joins Team Arrow? The team could certainly use more of that after Thea quit (and has now been MIA for two episodes.) I just want Tina to be her own person.
Here’s the frustrating part: I love Black Canary. She’s one of my favorite comic book characters. But the way that Arrow is treating the character as disposable is frankly annoying me. It’s like they’re using her too much to the point where the name is overused so much that you begin to dislike it. It’s like the writers realize they need her on the show to appease their comic hearts, but they have absolutely no idea what to do with her.
Not to mention the way that Arrow has treated Black Canary on its show hasn’t been good in the slightest. It wasn’t until they killed Laurel that they actually started portraying her as this grandiose figure that was representative of everything that was great about being a superhero. But the truth is, those “impossible shoes” that the writers made Felicity mention weren’t impossible in the slightest. If anything, Arrow actually showed that it was Sara’s shoes that were impossible.
Honestly, I feel like it’s a disservice to Laurel’s fans how there’s this desire to replace her. There’s a difference between replacing Laurel and having someone carry on her legacy. Laurel carried on Sara’s Canary legacy. And Sara carried on both of their legacies as White Canary. So why can’t Tina/Dinah be someone who carries on Laurel’s legacy without taking on her name? A legacy isn’t a name. It’s what the name represents.

Let Felicity’s Dark Journey Begin

Ever since we got the tease that Felicity would be experiencing her island this season, I’ve been wondering how exactly that would play out. More than that, I was wondering what it would involve. Well, this episode certainly revealed how Felicity’s journey is going to turn dark. And it involves a darkness from her past.
We all know Felicity Smoak is a badass. We also know that just because she doesn’t have an official costume doesn’t mean she’s any less of a hero than those wearing one. In fact, she’s more of hero than a lot of those.
We also know that Felicity Smoak has a fan base. A massive fan base. I count myself as part of that fan base. There are many reasons to love her. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that over the years that Felicity has developed some fangirls in this Arrowverse, as well. I mean, with a code name like “Ghost Fox Goddess” how could you not?
As Felicity attempts to hack the NSA and locate the files that’ll exonerate Diggle, she happens across a fan that wants to meet her IRL, a phrase which here means “in real life.” Felicity is expecting someone much different from the young, fangirling woman that greets her. She tells her that she inspired her to become a hacktivist like she was so many years ago. Felicity is her hero. And this girl wants to inspire Felicity like Felicity inspired her. So not only does Felicity receive a gift in the form of NSA documents to exonerate Diggle, but she also gets access to Pandora (which may or may not be a reference to Pandora’s Box because how awesome would that be). And you can start to see the allure of that past life and the allure of Pandora beckoning to Felicity. That, no doubt, will be the focus of Felicity’s descent into darkness.
There’s a monster inside of everyone, like Talia told Oliver in the flashbacks. There’s a darkness inside everyone – even the lightest of people. Yes, Felicity has overcome that darkness before. But just because you’ve defeated it once doesn’t mean that it really goes away. No. It’s just that you’ve been able to control it. And, as we’re beginning to see, it appears as if Felicity is about to give in to that darkness following everything she’s gone through this last season.

To be honest, I’m actually loving where this appears to be heading. I say “appears to be heading” because with Arrow nowadays you can’t be too sure. But with Felicity leaning towards returning to her hacktivist roots, she knowingly kept a huge secret from Oliver. Because she wanted to keep that part of her life separate.

I mean, sure it’s different because they’re not together together – like when Oliver withheld that information about his son – but for the most part Oliver and Felicity have always had a very trusting relationship. I feel like Felicity is going to keep this secret from Oliver as a means to keep him and everyone else safe once things turn bad. Then eventually she’ll be able to see where Oliver was coming from in keeping something from her. It’s kind of like having to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. You don’t understand it until you do. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Oliver be Felicity’s light like she’s been his for so long?

Talia al Ghul Molds the Arrow

Where Arrow has seemingly let me down with one of its new female characters, the exact opposite couldn’t be more true with the introduction of Talia al Ghul. Talia’s introduction into the story – as part of Oliver’s Russian flashbacks – feels like it’s completing this story we’ve been waiting to be fulfilled. She’s not merely a name on a comic book show. She’s already shown that she’s going to serve a purpose in the long run.
Talia al Ghul is a capable woman. She’s incredibly gifted physically, as well as in intelligence. She’s done her homework on Oliver. She knows everything about him. How he arrived on Lian Yu. The people he’s encountered. The terrible things that have happened. His connection to Yao Fei. Turns out, Talia is the one that trained Yao Fei. And while this could be something that you take as convenient plot-wise, I don’t even care because it actually makes sense. As in, it’s plausible even though this season wasn’t written four years ago.
This is the final year of Oliver’s flashbacks. That means that this is the darkest that we should find him. When Talia finds him, he’s convinced that he’s a monster. But she has a different opinion. He might have a monster inside of him, but that doesn’t make him a monster. Unless he allows it to. She tells him that he needs an outlet to separate himself from the monster in order to be able to live as Oliver Queen.
While Oliver seemed convinced he’d live his days out in Russia, it was Talia who attempted to convince him that he has a greater purpose to serve. There’s actual good he can do. That involves going home and fighting the Constantine Kovars of Starling City. Only he can’t be Oliver Queen when he does it. He has to be – get ready for it – something else.
Talia sees something in Oliver. She sees the same pain and darkness that she hinted she’s endured over the years as Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. But she was able to overcome it by channeling that monster inside of him. And she wants to help Oliver do the same. And suddenly, for the first time since the season premiere, I’m beyond excited for these flashbacks.

Six Things…

  1. Felicity Smoak has a fan club. She is a hero to so many people. Don’t you dare forget it. While the masked heroes were parading around Hub City attempting to convince a woman to join their team that made it damn clear she didn’t want to, Felicity was putting her ass on the line to save one of her closest friends. And in the process she met one of her super fans. One that had been inspired by her. One that has seemingly inspired Felicity to return to her dark roots. (Just please not the literal dark roots.)
  2. For the love of God, do not force a Green Arrow/Black Canary romance for sake of comics. When this show starts forcing things it pisses me off. I want a chance to like Dinah (I guess we have to call her that). But if Arrow starts pulling this shit – and forcing things to be that aren’t – it’s going to take that from me.
  3. I’m sorry, doesn’t Dinah Drake already exist on Arrow? Isn’t Laurel’s mother the designated Dinah Drake in this universe? There’s that lack of logic once again. The only reason Tina’s name is Dinah Drake is because they need an excuse to make her Black Canary. Oh, look. She has the name. Oh, look. She has the canary cry. Why can’t she just be her?
  4. So much for keeping superpowers out of Arrow. Wasn’t this something that the producers said wouldn’t happen in season five? How we were going away from the magic and super abilities and more towards that season one vibe where the closest thing to a metahuman was a superskilled archer? Once again, missing the logic. (But if there’s one metahuman I want to keep it’s Rory, who isn’t really a metahuman so much as he’s someone who wears mystical garbs. I don’t care. I still want to keep him.)
  5. Is Curtis going to be sidelined with the new Black Canary on the team? With Felicity seemingly headed down a dark path and Curtis getting more work acting as Felicity, it appears as if they’re grooming him to be merely tech assistance at this point.
  6. Hallelujah, praise Jesus! John Diggle is free! Seriously, I’ve been waiting for the man to be exonerated so he can hug his family and return to the team to complete an incomplete Original Team Arrow.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.


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