My name isn’t Oliver or Emiko Queen, it’s Mike, and here are my thoughts on Arrow‘s “Lost Canary.” It’s all about Laurel as Arrow has a reckoning with who they think Laurel Lance of Earth-2 should be, how they think of her, and maybe she wants out of this whole experience.
1. Redemption and Laurel Lance, both version
When Arrow finishes up its 8 season run, one of my favorite characters is likely going to be the many incarnations of Laurel Lance played by Katie Cassidy Rodgers. Here was a character that clearly diverged from audience expectations of importance based on the overall IP, and a character who ran into the limits of being a supporting character and the overall structure of the show. Of all the characters, keeping Laurel in the dark about Team Arrow physically removed her from most of the shows action and did damage – while it was with purpose Laurel dealing with depression and alcoholism, mostly alone, as a recurring c-plot wasn’t that entertaining in season 2. Once she was brought in, things looked up we got that delightful friendship with Nyssa in season 3. Overall though Laurel was the voice for and victim of the Queen Family’s destructive actions in the show. Something the writers, smartly, leaned into from time to time. It gave Laurel Lance a spark of self-awareness and desire for agency, even as it was thwarted at just about every turn due to her nature as a supporting character on Arrow.
When showrunner Beth Schwartz said the main operating theme of this season was redemption, it slightly confused me. Sure the last season wasn’t the best, but it was more competently boring than the ill conceived and boring season 4. Redemption is also something inherently baked into the show. Everyone on this show needs to be redeemed somehow. In the background, however, was Laurel Lance of Earth-2 the villainous Black Siren turned Laurel of Earth-1 impersonator. Redemption for Team Arrow tends to follow Richard Slotkin’s masculine idea of Regeneration Through Violence. That mode of redemption, like the comics that inspire this show, is self-perpetuating and until recently illegal. Laurel meanwhile became a competent lawyer and was doing good work as the DA, fighting her violent tendencies. That is until everyone decided to turn their back on her.
I wish this question of redemption and what Laurel wants could’ve run for a couple of episodes longer. The episode is overall fine, but for an episode that bears the Canary symbol and features all the various incarnations of the character in the DCWverse, it didn’t really feel like Katie Cassidy Rodgers episode. Once again she was the supporting character that existed as a sounding board for the main character (Felicity) to convince everyone with. We don’t really see Rodgers or Laurel struggle and make the turn. Cassidy Rodgers did play Laurel with the right kind of performative petulance, but the episode is supposed to be about her struggling to be the Laurel she wants to be not the one everyone expects her to be.
2. How to make someone look good
In prowrestling if you wanted to make someone look good, you’d send the person out to squash a jobber for a couple of weeks. You can’t quite do that in Arrow, the stunt actors have good unions for one, and the show doesn’t really have the time. “Lost Canary” director Kristin Windell, the stunt team, and cinematographer, and Katie Cassidy Rodgers do an all-around good job however of visually narrating the change in mood between Laurel and Black Siren in the episodes opening tease. This is Black Siren on a mission and we finally get to see the ruthless killer she once was.
The choreography in the overall sequence was a good one sided beatdown, punctuated by external sounds of bone crunches in time with the diegetic/non-diagetic electronica soundtrack. Those little beats added emphasis and gave you an oral que for how bad all of this must feel. The snapping of Guy #2 arm in time with the music is an excellent giffable moment, and the same basic audio formula used in the Bourne and John Wick films. Doing the sequence in a single take also helps to sell things, as the camera follows Laurel from the back as she dispatches three would be guards.Continued below
Overall I found the action sequences in this episode to be boringly competent. This opening tease, however, stood out and helped sell audiences right away that this Laurel has got a new kind of mean in her and she’s hunting.
Also, shoutouts to the costume designers for finding the right mix between hooded cape and Trenchcoat in the beginning. It just had this delightful Mall Goth/Hot Topic quality.
3. Star City 2040: The Canaries
Meanwhile in the future of Star City 2040, audiences are introduced to something I wish we’d gotten to see more of: The Canaries. Eventually Dinah makes her own Boys and Girls club for vigilante justice to protect young girls and empower them. As a concept I love it since it reminds me of the Batgirls from “DC Bombshells,” this rag tag group of mostly girls who do the proper female Bat-Family thing and just take the symbol of the Bat and use it for their own purposes. It would’ve been nice to see more of this team in the lead up to “Lost Canary” as we learn Dinah did it initially out of regret for not standing by Laurel in the first place. However, they’re all pretty much murdered in this episode …
4. Adaptation: Final Crisis Helmets and Shadow-Thief
“Lost Canary” featured a return of one of my favorite things this show does, the Villain-of-the-Week adaptation. In the early days of Arrow they were constantly trying to find ways to make more fantastical villains work in their stripped down aesthetic. They’ve gotten away from that in recent years as things have changed, but this season has featured a solid return to the standard assassins and crime lords formula. For “Lost Canary” the creative team put their spin on an old Hawkman villain Shadow-Thief, Carl Sands. Instead of having extra-dimensional shadow powers this Shadow-Thief is an ex-Mossad agent who uses a catsuit and tech to be like a shadow and steal things. She’s more of a heavy than a character but Carmel Amit plays the character with enough verve that she’s interesting.
When those ARCHER helmets first showed up, I compared them to those Anti-Life Equation helmets from “Final Crisis.” After seeing them in action, that isn’t far off as they turn the wearer into a Jason Vorheese-esque killing machine (not unlike Chimera from “Emerald Archer”.) In terms of “Final Crisis” ties-ins, not really but that’s more due to the Morrison opus being such a specifically comic book thing that when you just list things like plot and not the storytelling involved, it falls apart.
5. Role Reversal: Ollie and Felicity
As Felicity comes home from a girls night out of saving their friends soul, she finds Oliver dozing on the couch. Overall this episode has been quite the role reversal as Felicity spends a fair amount of time in the field and center of attention compared to Oliver. Even when Ollie was in prison he was still in the A-plot for the most part. I wish they’d leaned into that reversal a bit more for the episode. I get why they needed Arrow and Spartan to find Emiko’s mystery assassin in the B-plot to move the overall seasonal plot forward – turns out it was Kodiak and Dante’s been pulling the strings all along – but it would’ve been a nice change of pace if Ollie was more in the bunker in the Overwatch role.