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‘Arrow’ Review: “Second Chances”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor

This week’s episode of Arrow is an episode that sets the hit CW show back on track. After several misses during the front half of season 5, Arrow seems to be finding its footing once again. With focus on the characters and their journey’s taking center stage, we can’t help but get excited for what’s to come. Arrow delivers a character driven episode with “Second Chances.”

While Arrow may thrive in the action heavy moments, the real heart of the series lies with its characters. An explosion, a cool trick arrow and Stephen Amell leaping off a building, can only take a show so far. It’s the characters and their “heroes journeys” that make us tune in week after week. Arrow seemingly forgot this in the beginning of season five. New characters were introduced at the drop of a hat, but they were never fleshed out. And don’t even get us started on old, fan favorite characters. They were barely mentioned.

With two episodes out of the gate for season 5B, Arrow is finding it’s footing once again. The show has realized that while you can give us all the flashy villains and explosions you want, if the characters aren’t thriving, what’s the point? The latest episode “Second Chances” gives us the opportunity to love every, individual character in the best way possible. While the episode centers on finding a new Black Canary, it holds so much more weight.

As Oliver (Amell) tries to recruit Tina (Juliana Harkavy) to join Team Arrow as the Black Canary, the theme of second chances becomes prevalent. Every single member of Team Arrow is part of this team because they are searching for a second chance. It’s a team of misfits at its core and that’s why we love them. Oliver hopes to find a second chance with Star City and his family. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) wants to be something more than herself. Diggle (David Ramsey) wants to stand up for justice. Curtis (Echo Kellum) hopes to defend the little guy. Rene (Rick Gonzalez) is running from his past. And Rory (Joe Dinicol) is starting over after his home was lost. They all have their reasons for joining the team and it’s really great to have those underlying reasons take center stage this week.

While the new additions to the team have been problematic, in a number of ways, Rene’s storyline in this week’s Arrow is some of the best work with his character. Gonzalez brings his A-game opposite Kellum as Rene embodies the theme of second chances. While some of his storyline may have hit home if we knew more details of his past, it’s still an incredibly moving episode for him. Gonzalez has been a welcomed addition to the Arrow cast and he’s finally utilized effectively this week. His moments with Kellum have been bright spots in the last two episodes. After being introduced and seemingly pushed aside, Rene’s character is starting to grow and develop. This leads back to Arrow being about characters at its core. Rene is starting to becoming a character we want to see succeed. We can’t wait to see where Gonzalez takes him moving forward.

Juliana Harkavy and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "Second Chances." Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW
Juliana Harkavy and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “Second Chances.” Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

The real spotlight this week is on Tina as Team Arrow tries to recruit her. A meta-human with an ability similar to the Canary Cry, Tina is the badass character Arrow is in desperate need of. While Felicity Smoak can hold her own with the best of them, more female characters were necessary and we’re VERY happy Juliana Harkavy is there to fill the void. Tina jumps right into the fold as she tries to avenge her CCPD partner’s death. She holds her own alongside Green Arrow, Wild Dog and Mr. Terrific and it’s a joy to watch. Harkavy brings the character to life with such fierceness, it’s hard not to love her from the moment she steps on screen. She’s a welcomed addition to the cast and we can’t wait to see her flesh out the character even more.

While we’re happy Tina is the new Black Canary, we almost wish they retire the mantle. Yes, it’s great to have Laurel’s legacy continue, but Tina (or as we later find out Dinah) deserves her own hero name. This Dinah will differ from Laurel and Sara Lance, who have both held the Canary mantle before, but we almost wish that it stayed a sacred Lance family moniker. That being said, we’re thrilled another female character will be suiting up in the Arrow Bunker alongside the boys. Harkavy will no doubt make the character her own as a new Canary suits up.

While Felicity doesn’t travel to Hub City to help recruit Tina/Dinah, her storyline this week helps usher in the “darker storyline” we’ve been promised. As Felicity works diligently to help clear Diggle’s name, she stumbles back into her old hacking ways on the darknet. What ensues is a meet up with an adorable young girl, who is a big fan of Felicity’s hacktivism, and Felicity turning to the darknet once again.

First of all, if we were to ever meet Felicity Smoak, we would also fangirl like this fan did. Second, Rickards is already showing signs of an incredible storyline with just the small glimpses we get in this episode. This will be a completely new journey for Rickards to explore and we are super excited to see her dive into it. While we love when Felicity is the comedic relief, a darker storyline will be the perfect place for Rickards to stretch her talents. We’re so excited for what’s to come.

Lexa Doig and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "Second Chances." Photo Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW
Lexa Doig and Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “Second Chances.” Photo Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW

In all our years of reviewing Arrow, we can honestly say that this episode’s flashbacks are some of our favorites. Since season 2, Arrow’s flashbacks have simply felt like filler for most episodes. While they sometimes connect back to the present day timeline, the payoff is never as great as we would like it. In this week’s episode, we finally get some flashbacks that keep us engaged and carry some emotional weight.

Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig) makes her grand entrance into the Arrowverse and it’s simply stunning. Lexa Doig brings her A-game as Talia shows up in Russia to help put Oliver on the correct path. She comes to convince him to return to Starling City and cross off the list of names in his father’s journal (sound familiar?). What ensues are dynamic flashbacks that lead us to Oliver suiting up as The Hood for the first time. A truly chill inducing moment.

Doig and Amell work flawlessly together this week as they bring Oliver’s backstory full circle. In particular, Doig brings the character of Talia al Ghul to life in a way no one else could have. She seemingly has parts of Ra’s and Nyssa al Ghul in her characterization, which is impressive to say the least. The flashbacks this week help remind us why we loved them back in season 2. Honestly, Talia al Ghul just saved the final season of flashbacks for Arrow.

The only disappointing thing in this episode is honestly the fact that Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and Thea (Willa Holland) are all but absent. Two main characters and they’ve only been mentioned so far in the back half of season 5? It seems a bit odd to us. Both Blackthorne and Holland bring so much to the table and this season their storylines seem like they were thought up last minute. Quentin has been slapped in rehab while Thea hasn’t had a substantial plot line all season. While the new characters are great and we are starting to focus on them some more, we do wish Quentin and Thea became bigger roles on Arrow once again. We miss you both dearly.

Arrow gets back to its roots this week with an episode that centers on characters. Two amazing female characters make their grand entrances and are already becoming some of our favorite additions. As Felicity begins to head down a path of hacktivism once again, we can’t help but get excited for what’s to come.Elsewhere in the episode, Diggle is released from prison although this seems a little too easy. More on that front next week, we’re sure of it. Season 5A was rocky, to say the least, but with two episodes down Arrow season 5 is starting to look like the season we were excited for back at SDCC 2016.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW

Overall Grade: B+

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