TV Show Review

TV Review: ARROW: Season 2, Episode 17: Birds of Prey [The CW]

Jessica de Gouw Arrow Birds of Prey

The CW’s Arrow Birds of Prey TV Show Review. Arrow: Season 2, Episode 17: ‘Birds of Prey’ set itself up with a fairly straightforward theme, behind its opening sequence. The Arrow (Stephen Amell) and Canary (Caity Lotz) were watching over Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) at work. Seeing her father getting shot, however, prompted Sara to throw the shooter out a window. Quentin was fine (he wore a vest), the shooter survived, and Canary would suffer some karma for her actions, but the subject of impulse control, where jeopardy of loved ones were concerned, was broached.

So when Frank Bertinelli (Jeffrey Nordling) wound up in custody, and redemption seeker Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) was restored to the D.A. office, for the sole purpose of persecuting him, there was something of a scramble to head off the stampeding elephant headed for the room: Frank’s daughter, Helena (Jessica De Gouw), aka The Huntress. The Huntress, of course, was more than just the product of Frank killing her fiance, she was trained by – and romantically linked to – Oliver. Cue conflict of interest, between Oliver and Sara, over Helena, Laurel, and doing what’s right, versus acts of love/ loyalty/ responsibility.

Never mind the title, or its nod to Canary and The Huntress’ comic roots, this episode was about Oliver, Sara, Laurel, and Helena working out their hang-ups about, and around, each other – as well as themselves.

Points for Laurel eventually getting her back up, in a useful way, with the right person; points for Oliver getting out of a potential identity give-away, courtesy of a ringing cell phone; points for not letting the Huntress singular vengeance story drag on any longer;  points for fight choreography (athletic women in flattering costumes, not pulling punches: what’s not to like?); and points to Arrow adding its own Howard Branden to the mix. Unfortunately, ‘Birds of Prey’ brought more attention to some of Arrow‘s drawbacks, than its strengths.

Roy (Colton Haynes) was once again reduced to a slave to his emotions. Sure, Mirakuru induced Roy’d rage had a lot to do with it; but the character has a history of acting out, when bridled. He’s been bridled. Laurel was set up as bait, by the A.D.A., but was really set up, by the script, to risk her new found sobriety. I’ve managed to suspend my disbelief, thus far, regarding the inability of characters like Laurel to see past a little eye make-up/ domino mask. Laurel’s inability to recognize her own sister, when practically nose-to-nose, however, just killed me.

It’s my understanding that officers of the law – S.W.A.T. in particular – aren’t allowed to draw on a suspect, in the midst of innocent bystanders, without at least making an attempt to get the area clear, or at least getting bystanders out of the field of fire. Get down, stay down kind of thing. Wasn’t done, in this case; so dead cops, and one clear demonstration of why it’s common practice. It’s not just about protecting the innocent; it’s about separating hostiles from non-hostiles, and just getting control of the space. It’s also about heading off potential hostage situations, but: script.

So The Huntress’ latest attempt on her father’s life, when met with an equally ham-fisted sting to get her, equaled a hostage crisis, with Laurel trapped inside. Cue guilt responses from Oliver, Sara, and Quentin.

I must say that this was the first time I found myself rooting for Laurel, since getting on board with this series (I had originally dismissed it as the one-true-heir to Smallville – put your torches away, I think better of it, now). That said, it would’ve been easy to single out her costly stubbornness, in the face of a narrowly focused rescue attempt; but however irritating that was, she was just the only one making things worse, without any skills for an out (hence: karma for Canary).

The Huntress, of course, put a lot of skill, time, and resources into getting herself into trouble over a singular piece of bait; both Oliver and Sara kept getting in their own way, thanks to personal attachments; the A.D.A. screwed the pooch with the trap he set for The Huntress; and there may be hell to pay for how two representatives of the police department took opposite courses in dealing with the fallout.

While all these actors of, and reactors to, rogue action scrambled to make the most out of nothing going to plan, Thea (Willa Holland) was working hard on not accepting Roy’s letter of resignation. Of course he was selflessly pushing her away; she just wasn’t going to play along without finding out what would drive him into driving her away (the effort coming on the heels of an expensive gift didn’t help – mixed signals, and all). That’s how bad boys get saved by the good girl, you see. Of course, the really good bad boys bite the bullet, and do something really, regrettably, dickish, in order to get the good girl running away, for her own sake.

Nobody listens, on this show. The fact that it’s stubbornness borne of conscience/ principle doesn’t mitigate the fact that it’s become an almost clockwork means of ensuring things get worse, before they get better. I should spare myself the eye-roll strain, and just make up drinking games. The formula should be easier to stomach, then (provided I eat first).

The flashback component mirrored the main plot development, in that it was basically a drawn out hostage negotiation between Slade (Manu Bennett), and Sara. After the mostly successful escape from the freighter left it dead in the water, Slade wanted Sara to return one of the escapees. That escapee had the qualifications to get the freighter running, and Sara was apparently a really bad liar, at the time, so if the disagreeable nature of the escapee wasn’t enough, the torture and scheduled execution of Oliver informed her decision.

Frankly, handing over the one inmate that made a point of trying to kill her, first thing out of his cell, seemed like the stuff that moral dilemmas are not made of – unless the idea was just playing keep-away with Slade – but I guess there was a larger point to be made, about Ollie & Sara’s history of being compromised by loved ones under the gun.

The resolution to ‘Birds of Prey’ bothered me, a little. With all the power pout stubbornness that was on display, it was no surprise that Helena got no satisfaction from her father’s passing. The main reason for this, however, seemed like a cop-out, meant only to leave a hole for her to fill – never mind the Ollie “I told you so” line to that effect. Oliver, for his part, and for all his compassion, really didn’t help things. I can see where his open offer of support will enable her enough to show up again, for reasons other than her dad; but I suppose that’s just Oliver.

For all the cues Arrow (and Green Arrow, the source character) takes from Batman, Oliver Queen is no Bruce Wayne. Too much of a bleeding heart liberal, gets too personally attached, not all that up on psychology/ psychiatry. To that last point, of course he didn’t see the potential fallout, that could come from his  talk with Helena, anymore than he would from reaffirming Thea’s faith in his honesty with her.

Thea’s faith in Oliver will likely be tested, now that her distress, over Roy, has led her to accept an act of ‘kindness’ by a semi-stranger. Cue guilt response from both Oliver and Roy.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

  • bbussey

    It’s a comic book show. Civilians simply don’t recognize familiar faces behind vigilantes’ masks. That’s the way it is and has been since a certain Man of Steel first started using eyeglasses and a curl of hair as an identity concealer 70 years ago. That said, Canary used Arrow-like mannerisms to make it difficult for Laurel to see her face — staying in shadows, dipping her head, hiding behind her wig, turning away, and using the electronic voice.

    The SWAT team didn’t have to yell for everyone to hit the floor, as they already were there when Oliver shouted out previously. The only people standing in the room were Frank and the Huntress, and then Oliver.

    What resolution were you looking for? Eventually Huntress would have to begin the road to redemption and begin the transformation from villain to hero, and the only way for that to happen is for her to at least begin to atone for her crimes. With Jessica De Gouw currently headlining her own series and available only for one late-season Arrow appearance per season for the time being, that transformation had to start sooner rather than later. Oliver didn’t say “I told you so” – Helena told him that he was right, which he then didn’t agree with entirely. I don’t know what fallout you potentially see, but the scene was necessary to begin Helena’s transition. I doubt we’ll see the true Birds of Prey trilogy in the next Huntress appearance in Season 3. But she’ll probably be hero material by her Season 4 appearance, and we’ll probably see the team-up then – with Felicity in the Oracle role, and either Sara or Laurel in the Canary role.

  • dissncuss

    Well, lessee.

    I know to suspend disbelief, where the recognition factor is concerned (next best thing about the GL movie, after Sinestro). I just found the bonding moment, between Laurel & the Canary, hard to watch.

    The SWAT thing meant that The Huntress’ trap should not have gone as smoothly as it did. Under those conditions, anyone who takes sudden action becomes a threat, and subject to a justified shooting (why cops get away with killing people reaching for wallets). I was even kind enough to ignore the whole matter of standard assault weapons getting into a court building, in the first place (I should probably go back & address that).

    By “I told you so,” I was referring to Helena basically repeating to Oliver what The Arrow had been saying to The Huntress. If anything, that proved just how disconnected she had been, this whole time, which leads to the next point. Helena wasn’t just obsessive, she was possessive. Oliver has a messiah complex that drives a need to never be the bad guy to people he cares about. To someone like Helena, that encourages the obsessive/ possessiveness. Her obsession over killing her father could easily transfer to an obsession over reclaiming Oliver. Even if it doesn’t make for a dangerous situation, it would make for a messy one (*cough* Sara*cough*)

    I’m not formally predicting that outcome; I’m just postulating that in the event Arrow brings her back as the crazy ex, again, I’d cite this open arms moment as a primary motivator for her.

  • bbussey

    I thought the bonding scene was done well, and it set up the later scene with Laurel talking down Canary from killing Helena. So it’s all a matter of preference I suppose.

    You had SWAT personnel on either side of the room, plus innocents in the room, so they couldn’t very well start firing without risking hitting civilians or themselves. But again, given that it’s a weekly serial drama and not a full-length cinema feature or a documentary, I’m willing to give them some slack here in return for a compelling and advancing storyline.

    They aren’t going to bring Helena back as the crazy ex next year. The last Oliver/Helena scene clearly was the foundation for her transformation to becoming a hero. That Helena recognized Oliver was right about her vendetta doesn’t mean she’ll maintain her obsessive behavior — it’s quite the reverse actually, in that she finally realized that it was a self-destructive viewpoint and one that she was misguided to pursue. This was Helena’s “hitting bottom” moment, just as Laurel started recovering from her nadir in “Time of Death”. Marc Guggenheim has stated on-record that he knows what the Huntress episode story will be for Season 3, and that he wants to get to a Canary/Huntress/Felicity (Oracle)

    story at some point in a subsequent season.

  • dissncuss

    Like I said, it wasn’t so much a prediction, as a real time matter of character foresight (or lack thereof). Just because we know what’s in store, doesn’t mean characters should take certain things for granted. The audience learning, before hand, that the Lion has no teeth or claws shouldn’t absolve a character of pulling at its whiskers.

    We may know Helena’s on the comeback trail; but Oliver only had her word on it. The last time she took him up an offer to hang up the crazy, she sneaked back into town, and shot his girlfriend. I think he had grounds for being more guarded, this time around; but then, Ollie’s a sucker for his girls.

    I’m beginning to sense a perceived notion that I may be taking Arrow too seriously. That may be true. On the other hand, multimedia entertainment has expanded so exponentially, that critics & fans may have to be more discerning, in the face of so much empty calorie fare. It’s hard to go back to Missing in Action, after watching Saving Private Ryan.

    Clearly I’ve been spoiled by shows like X-Files, 24, and BSG, which have denied me the simple pleasures of shadow puppet theater, like Revolution; but I want shows like Arrow & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to work.

    I harsh because I love, damn it!

    Arrow has come a long way, from its more typically CW roots. As I have grown quite averse to most everything The CW now stands for, I’ve taken it upon myself to poke Arrow in the ribs, every time I see it’s standards slip to Tomorrow People levels.

    Only ’cause I cares.

    From your dogged pursuit of debate/ discussion, I assume the same of you, as well.

  • bbussey

    I understand your point-of-view. I guess mine is that we knew from day one that the series was based on established DCU history, even if they’ve modified the backstory here and there for episodic purposes as well as making efforts to ground the show in reality. I’m pleased that the producers are taking the material seriously. It’s clearly the best show on CW currently. The fact that you are harsh on them is a good sign. It means the show is well done and is worth caring about.

  • dissncuss

    Well, thanks for playing.

    Clarence, tell our contestant what he’s won.


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