Oliver, Thea, Laurel and Captain Lance had to face and reveal hard truths this week to reunite Team Arrow, stop the recently escaped Count Vertigo and prepare for the arrival of one Ra’s al Ghul. And most of those truths revealed will have significant consequences.
The first truth has been an issue since Season 1: When we met Thea Queen, she was a society brat with a substance-abuse problem and a mile-wide streak of bitterness. Oliver Queen hid his vigilante activities from his sister, because he didn’t think she was mature enough to handle his dual nature. When their mother was murdered by Slade Wilson, Thea was the only family Oliver had left, so it became even more vital that she remain oblivious to his nocturnal activities.
But this week, Thea proves she’s no longer that spoiled little rich girl. When Oliver reveals he’s the Arrow, her reaction is the last thing Oliver suspected. Now a grown woman, Thea recognizes the sacrifice in Oliver’s actions; she sees a man willing to lie and deceive his only family so he can save the lives of others. Instead of hating Oliver for his deceit, she now loves him even more. It’s the biggest character change in Thea to date. Considering how far she’s come, it doesn’t seem out of place for Thea to one day don a hood and mask and make the moniker Speedy more than a nickname.
Speaking of Thea’s family, Oliver’s revelation makes Thea question her father, Malcolm Merlyn. She now sees him for what he is, but that doesn’t change the fact that she and Ollie need him for when Ra’s al Ghul arrives in Starling City. In fact, the League of Assassins makes its first move against the Queen as Thea’s DJ boy-toy Chase finally reveals himself as one of Ra’s al Ghul’s killers. Chase had been introduced as a potential threat, but he turned out to be all bark, as he’s dead within moments of revealing himself: In a post-coital state, Chase attempts to kill Thea, only for Roy to burst in. Sadly, Roy gets his red-clad butt kicked, leaving it to Malcolm to save his daughter. Oh, Roy. That was your chance, but you were knocked out, again.
But enough with the Queen family drama. The meat of “Canaries” involves Laurel Lance and her struggle to prove herself worthy of carrying the mantle of Black Canary. Diggle, Roy and Felicity already believe in Laurel’s abilities, but Oliver doesn’t want to put her in danger. Even more importantly, Laurel subconsciously doesn’t believe herself worthy of wearing Sara’s jacket and becoming Starling City’s newest champion.
Now, I’ve been rather rough on Laurel. I’ve criticized her selfishness and her lack of integrity; I even called her a sociopathic adrenaline junkie. Well, Laurel goes a long way to winning me over this week, as she not only overcomes her guilt in replacing Sara but also comes clean to her father about her sister’s death in a heart-wrenching scene that finds her cradling her sobbing, grief-stricken father.
To find her worth as a hero, Laurel has to take down Count Vertigo, who escaped police custody by dosing a federal marshal with Vertigo juice. He’s at his over-the-top best this week, but he really needs a costume. He talks and cackles like a movie-serial villain, but he wears a Men’s Warehouse casual suit. Get this maniac a costume, for God’s sake! Still, Vertigo is the perfect thematic villain for this episode, as he deals in lies with his hallucination-causing weaponized drugs, and the only way to defeat him is to embrace the truth. Dosed by Vertigo, Laurel sees visions of Sara, who accused her of stealing her identity and tells her she’s a failure as a sister. However, Laurel defeats her foe, passes the test and finds comfort in her heroic identity, mustering the courage to tell her poor father the truth.
As all our heroes struggle with, and find comfort in, the truth in the present, but this week’s flashback deals with Oliver in the clutches of a greatest deceiver, Amanda Waller. She’s after Maseo, who betrayed her to find his wife. Waller tortures Oliver, who cracks after she threatens to kill Thea. However, it turns out that Maseo played Waller, allowing himself to be found so he can return and help Oliver.
The episode ends with a perfect bookend of Maseo and Oliver returning to Starling City with Waller in the past, and Thea and Oliver returning to the island in the present. Merlyn tells the siblings that to defeat Ra’s al Ghul, they must face their fears, and those fears are to be found on the island. I suspect we’ll be treated to the return of Slade Wilson next week.