By Rich Epstein
Yes! Not only do we welcome back Caity Lotz as Sara Lance this week, but we open with her kicking the crap out of everybody's least favorite Black Canary, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). Sara tells Laurel that she isn't a hero but a liar and a fraud then proceeds to kick some more Laurel butt. The beating stops as we are taken 48 hours into the past to see Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) chasing a bad guy on the rooftops of Starling City. Down a fire escape they go, and the bad guy runs right into Laurel, who kicks the crap out of him until Oliver pulls her aside to scold her.
Back at the Arrowcave, Oliver is pissed at John Diggle (David Ramsey) for letting Laurel go out as the Black Canary. As if Laurel ever listens to reason. Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) interrupts to tell them that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) coming down. Kind of surprised Felicity is still working with Oliver, given his association with Merlyn and Felicity's feelings on that subject. Malcolm tells Oliver that it's time to bring Thea Queen (Willa Holland) into the fold, that they can't defeat Ra's al Ghul without her help. Diggle reminds Oliver that if Thea finds out he's been lying all this time he will lose her forever. Great advice, John. Keep lying. That's always worked out so well for the Queens.
Flashback…Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune) tells Oliver that they need to run. Waller will know that Maseo attempted to steal the virus, and will torture Oliver to try to find out where Maseo is. And even if Waller doesn't get to them, China White knows where Maseo lives. He is going to take Tatsu and Akio and disappear in Shanghai. He tells Oliver to contact the media and his family. If everyone knows that he is alive, he'll be that much harder to kill.
Back in the present, Count Vertigo (Peter Stormare) is being transferred, but he stops to give an impromptu press conference. Laurel appears, and tells the guard to take him to the van. Only the guard starts halucinating and shooting the media before Laurel knocks him out and notices that Vertigo is gone.
It's time for the truth…Oliver shows Thea to the Arrowcave. He tells her that he lied to protect her. Instead of being angry, she's proud, proud that all those times she thought he was a flake he was out saving somebody's life, and she thanks him. This was, by far, the best moment between those two characters in the three years of this show. For the first time they were able to act like people with emotions, rather than people with walls between them. After all of the stupid petty arguments and lies between them, it was good to see a heartfelt moment that was truly earned. I think Thea intuitively understands why he had to lie to her, but regardless, she cares more about the fact that her brother has been a hero to the people of Starling City for three years than whether he has lied to her. For a character that has been a self-centered brat at times for three years, it was great to see.
At their apartment, Thea and Oliver continue their conversation. As the talk moves to Malcolm Merlyn, he walks in. Speak of the devil. Oliver and Malcolm tell Thea that the only chance they have against Ra's al Ghul is to work together. As understanding as she was about Oliver lying, she is that pissed at Malcolm for driving a wedge between her and Oliver. She says that she will never forgive Malcolm and stomps off. And there's the bratty Thea we all knew. Ok, I can understand that she is upset about being manipulated. But, your brother and father just told you that a master assassin is coming to kill all of you. Maybe now isn't the best time to throw a fit and run off on your own? I mean, we know that Ra's probably isn't coming after them yet. He isn't one to go in without a plan. But, Thea doesn't know that. All that she knows is a guy that her super hero brother and ninja father are super afraid of is coming to kill her. And so, instead of saying she's pissed and staying to deal with the problem of how to stop the killer, she goes off by herself. Ugh. Compare that to Felicity, who is really upset with Oliver, but is still helping him because sometimes you have to put your personal feelings aside to deal with more important things.
Back in Hong Kong, Oliver places a call to his mother when he is taken by Waller's men.
At the Arrowcave, Oliver, John and Felicity watch videoof Vertigo escaping. Oliver immediately recognizes the effects of the drug, which he is all too familiar with. Diggle wonders how Vertigo managed to dose the guard, when Laurel walks in and says it was a reporter. Maybe Oliver should think about changing the locks? Seems like anyone can walk in whenever they want. Felicity spots the dosing on the video and gets the name and address of the reporter. Oliver is getting ready to go when Laurel insists on going too. Time for a heart to heart. Oliver tells her that she's an addict chasing a high by going out and risking her life. Ouch.
Oliver and Roy pay a visit to the reporter, who has a bomb strapped to his chest. He tells the dynamic duo lite that Count Vertigo threatened his wife if he didn't agree to kill the Arrow. As the bomb explodes, Oliver and Roy barely make it out the window.
Oliver goes home to another talk with Thea. He tells her that he hates, and will always hate, Malcolm Merlyn, but they need him. Thea says that she can't and won't trust Merlyn and walks away. Ok, I don't need another rant, but can I just point out that you don't have to trust Merlyn to work with him? Instead of walking away, how about you agree to do what needs to be done?
Hong Kong Oliver is being waterboarded. Waller is impressed with how long he holds out. She tells Oliver that his mother never got the message. She then threatens to go after Thea if Oliver doesn't give up Maseo. He does.
Captain Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) sees Laurel and pretty much tells Laurel he knows she is the new Canary.
Thea talks to Roy about Oliver, and about whether they truly need Merlyn's help. He tells her she should get far away from Merlyn, when Oliver interrupts needing Roy's help. It turns out that a tracking device went off at the city docks. Oliver slipped one on Laurel while they were talking. Considering that she is now in costume, and wasn't the last time she spoke to Oliver, I am really curious where he slipped a tracking device.
Laurel is staking out the docks when she sees Vertigo. Unfortunately, he manages to get the drop on her and doses her with the drug. Great, now we can watch Sara kick Laurel's ass again. I really missed Caity Lotz. Oliver manages to show up just as Vertigo/Sara is about to kill Laurel. He and Roy take out the henchmen, but Vertigo gets away.
They bring Laurel back to the Arrowcave for treatment. Thea walks in and Oliver tells her to leave. Roy sticks up for her, telling Oliver that he brought her into this, he can't just order her out. She goes on her own, and the group has it out. Felicity reminds Oliver that he was gone, dead they thought, and the group had to do things differently. Oliver expects things to go back to how they were now that he is back, but she tells him it can't. Oliver asks that she let him know if there is any change in Laurel and walks out.
As she leaves Verdant, Thea runs into Chase (Austin Butler). She kisses him, looking for something simple, and takes him home.
Oliver and Diggle have a deep talk. Diggle tells Oliver that this thing he started has become more than him, and asks whether Oliver can live with what that.
Hong Kong Oliver is being held prisoner in some kind of storage room Maseo is thrown in. Oliver immediately confesses to selling him out, only to find out that Maseo had lied to him in the first place. He was never on the train to Shanghai like he said, he only let himself be captured when he heard Oliver was taken. He isn't going to let Oliver die for something that he did. Maseo demands to speak with Waller, and he and Oliver are both knocked unconscious.
Unfortunately, we return to the present to see Laurel waking up. Felicity hands her a cup of tea, and Laurel tells her all about seeing Sara in her hallucinations. Felicity tells Laurel that "Sara wore her mask just as much to hide from her demons as she did to help people. I don't see that with you. You have a light inside of you that Sara never had. Maybe you should stop trying to be Sara and just be yourself." It's a nice little speech, if only it wasn't wasted on somebody completely useless. Just then they are interrupted by a tracking signal going off telling them where Vertigo is.
Chase and Thea are naked on the couch, which is really weird, when you consider that she doesn't live alone. It's worse when you consider that she lives with her brother, and her father has a habit of coming in unannounced. Is it that hard to use the bedroom? Chase pours them each a glass of wine which Thea is about to drink when she suddenly stops. It seems that Malcolm has taught her more than swordplay. She recognizes cyanide in the drink and pulls a knife on Chase. He grabs it from her and has it to her throat when Roy enters in full Arsenal gear. He is clearly no match for Chase, but Merlyn barges in next and shoots Chase in the back. Merlyn offers a quick death if Chase begs for forgiveness but instead Chase kills himself. I was expecting a bit more of a payoff with Chase. What was the plan after he killed Thea? Merlyn runs, and then what? Why not stay positioned close to Thea where you can hopefully end up close to Merlyn as well? Oh well, nice to see Roy save the day. Kind of wonder how he hd Merlyn appened to be at her apartment in full gear. I also like that Thea wasn't completely useless. She recognized the danger herself, and she was able to fight off death just long enough for help to arrive.
At the Arrowcave, Oliver is getting ready to go after Vertigo. He can't find Roy, so he invites Laurel along. Vertigo is holed up at a lab that he took over at gunpoint. Oliver and Laurel come in and Vertigo starts a fire. All of the lab workers are chained to the ceiling, but lucky for them, they are all chained to the same spoke in the ceiling which Oliver promptly shoots with an arrow. As he leads the workers to safety, Laurel goes after Vertigo and is promptly hit with another dose of the drug. God she sucks at this. Once again she has visions of her sister, kicking her ass, this time interspersed with visions of her father blaming her for not telling him about Sara. When the Sara-vision asks Laurel whether she thinks she can be Sara, Laurel says "no, and I'm done trying" and promptly sees through the hallucination to Vertigo and beats the snot out of him. When she looks up, she sees her sister smiling at her. I didn't know drugs worked like this, that you can overcome halucenogenics just by believing in yourself. I'll have to remember that if I ever have a bad trip. Anyway, smiling Sara is really Oliver, and he tells Felicity that it's done, only to have her tell him he needs to get back to Thea right away.
Laurel goes to see her father, and it's time to deliver the bad news…finally. Five months after the fact she finally tells him that Sara is gone. Hey, he didn't have a heart attack. Guess Laurel was lying to him for so long for no reason at all. Have I mentioned recently that I really don't like her? She does nothing right. Ever.
Oliver goes home to see Thea. She tells him that she thought she was strong, that she could keep herself safe. Thea tells Merlyn that maybe she and Oliver do need him, but she will never forget who he is or the things that he has done. Merlyn tells them that they need to conquer their own fears or Ra's al Ghul will prey on them. There is only one place where Oliver can do that.
At the Arrowcave, Oliver tells the team (with Laurel) that he is off again, promising that the city is safe in their hands. Roy goes to talk with Thea and she gives him a kiss on the cheek. He obviously still has feelings for her, but I don't really see much the other way. She and Oliver head out to the Island. Oliver says it was home to him, but for other people it was purgatory. Was that a Lost reference? Did Oliver find time to catch up on television after he got back from the Island?
Last flashback, Oliver and Maseo are in a car with Waller. She needs his help again, they tracked China White to Starling city.
This was a really good episode, although the whole vertigo thing is played out. I think this was the fourth time in three seasons that they went to that well. But other than that, the episode really had everything you want to see. Watching Laurel get beaten up was great. She really deserves it, she has no business going out as a vigilante with as little training as she has. Plus, even if it was only for a couple of minutes, it's always great to see Caity Lotz. She was the first woman on the show to kick ass on a regular basis, and was a welcome relief after how helpless Laurel and Thea were in the first season.
Plus, the episode did a good job of moving things forward. Not only do Oliver and Thea begint their training for Merlyn, but a lot of things that were being hidden to various characters were revealed. Thea learned about Oliver, and how evil her father is. Quentin Lance finally learned that his daughter is dead. And everyone learned that Chase was a Ra's al Ghul plant, which also means that Ra's knows who Malcolm's daughter is. But it wasn't only that the plot moved forward. There was a lot of character development in this episode. Thea in particular showed a lot of growth in this episode. Her reaction to Oliver's reveal was great, and then she finally grew up at the end and agreed to do what needs to be done.
Next week, we get the return to the Island, which means the return of Deathstroke. Cool. Caity Lotz in one episode and Manu Bennett in the next. Can't wait.
Rich Epstein writes for Bleeding Cool. He can be found on twitter at @kaspe_r11.