Arrow S04E19 “Canary Cry” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Wendy Mericle and Beth Schwartz
Director: Laura Belsey
Essential plot points:
- A heartbroken Quentin Lance arrives at the hospital too late – Laurel has died. And after Andy’s betrayal, Lyla has put protection on his family, and moved herself and baby Sara into a safe house to keep them from HIVE.
- Oliver tries to tell a grief stricken Diggle Laurel’s death was not his fault, as Thea’s boyfriend Alex confirms Laurel’s death to the media, telling them Damien Darhk is the prime suspect.
- Meanwhile a weapons deal between criminals in Star City is interrupted – by a blonde woman in a black catsuit armed with a super powerful sonic shriek. She grabs the guns, and runs off with them.
- At the Arrowcave the team – including Felicity – assembles to work out how to deal with Darhk, before Quentin appears with a copy of a newspaper detailing the Canary’s attack on the gun deal. He is hanging onto the idea that it was Laurel, given all the resurrections and fake deaths the team has encountered. Oliver checks her things and finds someone stole the sonic device.
- To prove it, he shows Lance her body at the morgue. Oliver thanks the doctor who operated on her last week for her discretion in not revealing Laurel was the Canary and asks about the stolen device. The doctor thinks it may be a regular to the ER, but can’t give Oliver her name.
- Thea goes out for dinner with Alex – but they’re interrupted when the fake Canary attacks him for working with the Darhks. Thea fights her off, and realises it’s definitely not Laurel, but the fake Canary fends her off.
- Oliver gives chase but the fake Canary says he abandoned her at Reddington before blasting him with the sonic weapon and escaping.
- The team realises she was one of HIVE’s test subjects at the gas chamber where they were held before Christmas – and track down her identity as 16-year-old Evelyn Sharp. Her parents were found suffocated just after Christmas – they had been brainwashed into being volunteers for HIVE’s experiments.
- Lance asks Nyssa to resurrect Laurel through the Lazarus Pit but she tearfully tells him she cannot help, as the pit has already been destroyed. A determined Lance says he’ll find another way to bring her back.
- Felicity and Oliver console each other over Laurel’s death, with Felicity guilty she wasn’t part of the team and for not helping Diggle deal with his grief more.
- Diggle attacks Ruvé in her mayoral limo, to find out where Andy is. Before he can hurt her, Oliver stops him, telling him Laurel wouldn’t want him to lose himself in vengeance for her.
- However, Ruvé uses the attacks on her and Alex to get the police to issue warrants for the team’s arrest – starting with the Black Canary, trying to associate the Canary with Laurel’s death and saying the Canary will be brought to justice as a tribute to Laurel.
- Nyssa warns Oliver what Quentin Lance is trying to do, so Oliver tracks him down and tells him she can’t be brought back. Quentin breaks down in grief once more, finally accepting his daughter’s death.
- Felicity finally tracks down Evelyn – who’s broken into a gala dinner Ruvé is attending. She confronts Ruvé at gunpoint in front of the other gala guests and prepares to shoot her, but Oliver arrives and talks her out of it, before both escape the anti-vigilante task force.
- At Laurel’s funeral, to prevent Ruvé from tarnishing the Canary’s memory, Oliver reveals Laurel’s secret identity to the mourners – including Evelyn, who is standing at the back – telling them to live up to her memory as a hero. Afterwards, as we catch up with the flash forwards from earlier in the season, Oliver tells Barry he is going to have to finish this, and Felicity urges him to kill Damien Darhk – although Oliver admits he doesn’t know how…
- In flashbacks to May 2013, we see Oliver and Laurel dealing with the aftermath of the attack on the city that killed Tommy Merlyn, and why Oliver fled to Lian Yu for the start of series two.
The fallout from last week’s shock death of Laurel is supercharged here with an emotional and note-perfect episode dealing with grief and legacies, and how the latter in particular can be a tool for manipulation as both Team Arrow and HIVE seek to exploit Black Canary from beyond the grave.
In comics, of course, the mantles of heroes is passed about like rugby balls, but in TV and film the faces behind the masks only tend to change as part of a reboot. Arrow’s already gone some way to addressing that, obviously, with both Sara and Laurel having worn the Canary catsuit – though while Thea may have taken on the role of Arrow’s sidekick from Roy, it’s as Speedy rather than Arsenal that she wears the red.
Here we have an interesting attempt to try and take that to the next stage, with a wannabe hero taking on the Black Canary name out of vengeance for the actions of HIVE, but in doing so becoming an unwitting tool for HIVE to exploit in their efforts to shut down Team Arrow. It makes for a nice resetting of the pieces as the season enters its final stage – with the Lance family no longer representing justice in Star City, the key allies for the masked vigilante community are gone, and Team Arrow is increasingly exposed.
But while the pursuit of the faux Canary provides the plot, the emotion in the episode comes from the aftermath of last week. Everyone on Team Arrow has their acting moment as they deal with Laurel’s exit, but credit especially to Paul Blackthorne and David Ramsay, so often the performance core of the show anyway, for their respective turns as grief and anger threaten to consume their characters. Lovely too to see a cameo return from Alex Kingston and her awful American accent at the funeral.
Curiously, the show seems to be going out of its way to ensure we know there’s no return for Katie Cassidy’s Laurel going forward. It’s emphasised repeatedly that the Lazarus Pit is destroyed and no magic can bring her back. We see her fridged in the hospital. Oliver outs her secret identity to the world, and her death – like Coulson in The Avengers – is the catalyst for the team to take decisive action.
Given that Arrow is a show constructed around flashbacks, it’d not be a surprise to see her show up in cameos in future seasons, but as an exercise in underlining that Dinah Laurel Lance is really, definitely, truly gone, it’s done with great emphasis. The curse of a superhero show is that people recover from death repeatedly – when you really need to write someone out, you need to do so with hammer-strike subtlety.
Cassidy does get one final moment in the sun, however, with a clever weaving of the flashback sequences showing us the gap between series one and two, and the flash forwards we saw earlier this year finally paying off. As such, she gives a lovely final performance as Laurel, trying to move on with her life following Tommy’s death and her friendship with Oliver.
Now we know exactly why Oliver’s back on Lian Yu at the start of series two, and the relationship between Oliver and Laurel is strained – he effectively runs out on her as he tries to run from the grief and guilt he felt at Tommy’s death. It provides a nice bookend to their story – and a reminder of the personal nature of Arrow from its earliest days.
We get a nice introduction too to Madison McLaughlin’s Evelyn, the victim of HIVE turned teenage vigilante out for revenge. She doesn’t really get much to do, beyond beat people up and scream at them with the sonic weapon, but there’s enough there in both character and performance to suggest value to her coming back. Whether this is the lead-in to a recurring role on the show, or just a one-shot deal remains to be seen, but it offers an interesting new dynamic if they go down the former route.
Arrow’s at its best when it hits the right mix of action and drama, to quote a Bis song, and “Canary Cry” gets the blend just right. This is an episode that doesn’t need a ton of action and makes sparing use of what unfolds to not overshadow the emotional core of the story – no Big Fight In A Warehouse This Week, thankfully. Now let us sing sad songs and prepare for the final four episodes, as series four approaches what promises to be a thrilling climax.
- It’s been a bit of a running theme with Arrow this year to praise the performances of David Ramsey and Paul Blackthorne, but “Canary Cry” turns that up a notch or 20, with both turning in incredible performances as the grief-stricken Diggle and Lance. Blackthorne especially sells the absolute devastation of Quentin at losing his daughter again. Heartbreaking.
- There’s some lovely, entirely non-verbal acting going on from Janet Kidder when Evelyn threatens to kill her; Ruvé is so confident that she won’t – or that if she does, it will tarnish the Canary’s reptuation further – that she smirks all the way through it. Proper supervillain stuff that.
- The episode leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how Evelyn has managed to adapt and improve on the sonic weapon that Cisco created for Laurel, and how the new girl even manages to use it given it was only keyed for Laurel to use.
- Oliver confronting Diggle as he threatens Ruvé is a great moment, but somewhat ruined by Dig taking off his stupid helmet, and both of them ditching their voice changers. Guys, she’s only run across the road, and her bodyguards are just knocked out. Okay, she knows your identities already, but kayfabe people, kayfabe…
And the Random:
- Laura Belsey makes her directing debut in the Arrowverse with this episode, having previously helmed episodes of Law And Order: SVU, NCIS: New Orleans and Criminal Minds over the last few years. She’s also responsible for a fantastic collection of photographs of a puddle in New York. No, really.
- So, Evelyn Sharp is the Arrowverse version of Ev Crawford, better known in the comics for being Black Canary’s gun-totting pal Starling in the New 52 reboot of Birds Of Prey.
- Actress Madison McLaughlin’s probably best known to readers of MCM Buzz for her recurring role as Krissy in Supernatural, although she’s popped up in everything from Mad Men to Teen Wolf.
Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com