This articles contains spoilers for the Arrow episode – Second Chances.
Funny how two people can view the same thing and have two very different reactions. I finished watching Arrow last night, returned to my desk and found one of my collaborators having said, "Worst episode of Arrow in a long time." I, on the other hand, did not come away with that feeling. I actually thought it was one of the better ones from both a character growth standpoint as well as story. This is also a story that gets the character back on track in a lot of ways. Let me break it down.
There are three basic plots going on here: New Canary, free Diggle and flashback. The A story focuses on Oliver Queen finally feeling ready to keep his promise to Laurel Lance to continue the legacy of Black Canary. But in his usual frustrating way, he keeps rejecting all the awesome candidates the others on the team suggest. But Oliver is looking for something that he's not even sure what it is… but only the right person will fill that little birdhouse in his soul. Because that's what it is, his chance to honor someone he loved and, in his mind, failed. He's not looking for someone who wants to be Black Canary… he's looking for someone who needs to be Black Canary.
Switch over to prison where Oliver and John Diggle found out from Adrian Chase that the general who framed Diggle was being investigated by the NSA, but pulled enough strings to get the case dropped. Which moves it onto Felicity Smoak's plate to hack the U.S. Government and find the files on the general. Felicity is eager to do this as its something in her wheelhouse and it pushes all the other bad things aside. With what she's been going through, this is a good thing.
In the flashback we see Oliver interacting with Talia al Ghul. She has tracked him down because he was taught by Yao Fei, her former student. She comes to him with information about someone crucial to Kovar's operation and an offer to help take him out, to hurt Kovar and to get Oliver to listen to her. The mission seems more like a test though, to see if Oliver really is the cold blooded killer that has taken down men like Fyres, Reiter and the rest.
Curtis Holt finds an Urban Legend of a vigilante traveling the country, taking on bad guys and using a sonic scream. Video footage shows she's also excellent at hand-to-hand fighting and has better control of her scream than Black Siren. Oliver packs the van with Curtis and Renee Ramirez and head off to Hub City where she has last been seen. They confront her and make an offer. She of course refuses, but Oliver doesn't give up easily. They find out that she is Tina Bolland, former Central City Police Detective who was being held hostage with her partner / lover when the particle accelerator exploded. He was killed, she became a meta and after his funeral, she went on a vendetta trying to find the man who killed her partner.
To get some of the information, Oliver calls Captain Singh of the CCPD and identifies himself as Green Arrow. When Singh is reluctant to believe him, Oliver texts Barry Allen, then a split second later the Flash races into Singh's office and puts a posted note on the monitor saying "He's legit". This concludes mini-crossover week that included Vibe and Gypsy going to Catco on Earth-38 and Legends making a quick stop at the Central City Jitters.
Felicity discovers that the file they need has been deleted and she is trying to find a backup on the Dark Web when she is contacted by someone named Kojo Sledgehammer who offers to help but wants to meet in real life. She takes Rory Regan with her as back up, but finds that Kojo is just a young woman hacktavist as Felicity used to be. She's part of a group called Helix and gives Felicity a giant NSA hack they call Pandora. It includes enough information to free Diggle, and a lot more. Kojo says she was inspired by what Felicity used to do and hopes by giving her the information, it will inspire Felicity. You can assume there is a LOT more going on here then what's on the surface. Helix is a name of a DC group of villains, but I'm fairly sure they're just borrowing the name and we won't see characters like Mr. Bones, Baby Boom or Kritter. They also got Kacey Rohl to play Kojo, who is also appearing in the Magicians as Marina and just returned to that show last night as well. This is going to cost Felicity something. But it get Diggle out of prison and cleared.
In Hub City, Bolland keeps rejecting Oliver's offers to help until the very end when he approaches her as Oliver and not the Green Arrow. Talking about the horror's they've gone through and how to survive. She agree to take their help after it's discovered that her target, Sonus is a meta and counteracts her sonic scream. They work together to take out his men and then She's about to kill Sonus when Oliver tries to talk her out of it to no avail. She kills Sonus and leaves. Later, back in Star City, Bolland shows up at the Mayor's office. She is lost without revenge to drive her. She doesn't seem to have anywhere else to go. Oliver repeats something Renee said early in the episode, that Team Arrow is about second chances. She asks how he copes with it, he says he's still figuring it out. And it looks like she's on the team. And she reveals that her real name is actually Dinah Drake… Bolland was her undercover name and it seems like she needs to be Black Canary.
The Flashbacks end with Talia trying to convince Oliver he can go back and do what his father wanted him to. But he needs to take the monster he has become and make it another person… to become someone else, to become something else.
This episode is setting up a lot of things. Dinah Drake was the name of the original Black Canary, part of the Justice Society and the mother of Dinah Laurel Lance. So in a way we were just introduced to the original Black Canary. And the chemistry between the two is pretty good from the start and there is not, "I slept with your sister", baggage… that we know of. Ollie did get around. And the show is bringing the Oliver who got on the Queens Gambit around to the one who got off the island and came home to Starling City in the pilot. Talia is going to be his last teacher which explains a lot about his training. Bringing the first five seasons full circle.
The writers are also doing a really nice job adding depth to characters like Rory and Renee. Over the last few weeks, Renee has had some of the best lines and scenes and Wild Dog is becoming my favorite of the new recruits.
Next week, with a new Canary and the return of Dig… the team heads to Russia.