The CW’s Arrow has got to have the hardest working cast and crew on television today. Not only does the show feature some of the best stunt work in town, but the relentless pace and ambitiously progressive storytelling featured in every episode keeps the series feeling fresh as the season goes on. Tonight’s episode, “League of Assassins” made good on its title promise as we saw the killers in action and learned a bit about their backstory. There were also some surprising reveals tonight, both in the relatively narrow scope of the world of the characters on the show and in a broader context of DC Comics’ characters at large. Even though tonight’s episode lacked a big surprise moment, Arrow remains one of the most consistently enjoyable hours on television. Hit the jump for my recap and review.
Let’s take a trip back in time to revisit the ill-fated voyage of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) aboard the Queen’s Gambit. Rather than experience these flashbacks through Oliver’s experiences, we get to see what happened to Sara after she was pulled from the sinking ship by a violent storm. Unlike Ollie, she didn’t make it to the island, but was “rescued” by sailors aboard the freighter ship, Amazo (a nod to another DC villain or perhaps just a fun fan Easter egg). Once there, she was imprisoned and treated rather roughly by the crew, until a mysterious handsome stranger came to her aid. As he locked Sara safely inside his mad scientist’s lab (complete with molecular models and jars of who-knows-what chemicals), he revealed himself to be Dr. Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal), a name which DC fans will know as spoiler: a supervillain with genius-level intellect and longevity provided by a chemical concoction. Sara learns that the other prisoners are vital to Ivo’s work, and it appears that she’s decided to help him as we see her treat Ollie as a prisoner at the episode’s close.
Now, back in the present, Ollie’s treating Sara rather well considering the way their reunion on the ship went down. I expect much more of that storyline to come out over the coming weeks. Most of this episode focused on Oliver and Co. attempting to protect the Lances (Sara included) and realizing that they can’t, that the family will more or less have to fend for themselves. Sara’s big reveal to her father, Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) was a bit unexpected but helped push the Lance storyline forward and create new tension among all the players involved. Poor lost Laurel is left out in the cold – serves her right for assisting the prosecution against Moira (Susanna Thompson) – but a nice moment between father and daughter at the end makes me feel as if Laurel has a chance, even if she keeps popping pills.
Speaking of families, Thea (Willa Holland) and Ollie first berate their mother for thinking about accepting the District Attorney’s plea bargain for life in prison, but eventually convince her to reject it by saying that no matter what secrets she’s hiding, it won’t change how they feel about her. This is an example of a side storyline that actually has worth to the plot overall and keeps the human side of Arrow’s characters invested in each other; it also makes Oliver/Amell run all over the place like a crazy person.
Enough family talk, let’s get to the action because there was a lot going down in “League of Assassins”. The most unexpected bit came with the introduction of Al-Owal/The First (Navid Negahban), who burst through the Queen’s stained-glass window to fight both Sara and Oliver on his own. What a great intro! It was certainly a fun fight to watch, what with each of our heroes grabbing whatever improvised weapons were at hand to defend themselves. While it wasn’t exactly a shock to find that the League was after Sara, it was interesting to see that Diggle knew about them from his time with the military in Afghanistan, and that they chose to go after Sara’s family if she wouldn’t comply.
The unmasked fight in Queen’s mansion was my favorite of the episode, but the steam-filled factory brouhaha was a nice introduction for the rest of the shadowy League members and to remind audiences that our heroes are very human and very vulnerable (as shown by Sara’s nasty wound and scars). The final battle in the bell tower was also fun since Sara laid a few traps Home Alone-style, and Quentin proved he’s the worst marksman on the force (unless the bad guy is standing right in front of you). Sara continues to be a badass (that a father can be proud of) as she kills Al-Owal and sends the remaining assassin back with a very clear message.
Oliver and Co. took a back seat to Black Canary for the most part, this week, but all of the storylines felt fairly well and evenly advanced. It’s a safe bet that Canary went off to search out Ra’s al Ghul and see just what’s so important about her returning to his side. You can bet that we’ll see her again, and probably the leader of the League of Assassins as well.
Quotes & Quivers:
Oliver: “Who are you?” Assassin: “Just a warrior, like you.”
Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to Sara: “I was happy to hear you’re not dead anymore.”
Felicity to Oliver: “Gee, I didn’t get you a bag of dirt…”
Oliver to Diggle (David Ramsey)/Felicity: “Have you found somebody for me to hit yet?”
Al-Owal: “You barely defeated Malcolm Merlyn and it almost cost you your life. What chance do you have against the man who trained him?” Oliver: “It helps that I didn’t come alone.”
Sara: “Pain and I came to a little understanding a few years back.” Sara as scarred up as Oliver is.
Oliver, no matter how quietly you and Diggle whisper, Sara can probably hear you. She’s right there.
Apparently Sara is already okay with calling Diggle, “Dig”/
Sara to Diggle: “Dig, you may be a three-tour Special Forces specialist, but the people who trained me make Special Forces look like a kindergarten class, so step aside, or get put down.”
Felicity and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) share a funny scene during a sponsored mini commercial, “Blood Rush”.
Dr. Ivo: “I am going to save the human race, Sara. Maybe you can help me.”
Assassin: “Guns are a coward’s weapon. What are you without your sidearm?” BANG! Quentin Lance: “A guy with a spare.”
Sara to the remaining assassin: “Tell Ra’s Al Ghul that my family is off limits. His quarrel is with me.”
Quentin probably should have had a, “Whoa, wait, if Sara is the Black Canary, then Arrow is probably…naaaaaaaaaah.” (Yes, I remember that Diggle dressed as Arrow to give Oliver an alibi, but c’mon.)
Oliver and Diggle share another nice broment over a couple glasses of vodka. What, Felicity wasn’t invited? She seems like she’d like to party.
Sara to Oliver after kicking him in the face: “Prisoners do not speak.”
Next week: Looks like Diggle gets a bit of a world-traveling story and a special appearance by Deadshot.