Arrow Season 2, Episode 5 “League of Assassins”
Written by Jake Coburn and Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by Wendey Stanzler
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW
Exploring the burden of secrets in superhero lore is a pretty common thing – even Arrow‘s dipped into the well a number of times, be it Oliver and his many secretive endeavors in the past, or Moira’s involvement in the Undertaking and the assault on the Queen’s Gambit. Given that, it’s no surprise a lot of the material in “League of Assassins” feels very familiar, with the women of the Arrow world (and Quentin!) doing whatever they can to avoid telling the truth to themselves and the ones they love. But to the episode’s credit, “League of Assassins” finds enough interesting wrinkles in the Lance family to make it a satisfying journey back to the world of shadows and vague half-truths.
There is one noticeable flaw: while Sara is dealing with telling her family that A) she’s alive, and B) the League of Assassins is after her, Moira is taking a life sentence to avoid telling her kids she let their father get killed… and Laurel is hiding a growing pill addiction because “everybody leaves her”. Could the stakes be any lower for Laurel? Not only is she inexplicably assigned to Moira’s case – which somehow is going to be allowed in court, a wholly ridiculous notion – but she again finds away to make the tragedies of the world all about her, once again. With such a strong character as Sara as her genetic counterpart, it’s borderline pathetic to watch Laurel wimp around and complain that nobody loves her, even as her father and best friend are constantly checking in on her to see how she’s doing.
But enough about her: Laurel’s presence continues to drag down every scene she’s in, and without any “possible life partner in distress” angle to work with Oliver anymore (he shuts that down REAL quick at her apartment door, sending her into a crying fit), she’s become the least essential character on the show. The only real drama with her right now is her dad not telling her about Sara (which obviously, has to kill him inside) and whether she’s going to overdose: these really aren’t great foundations to build an interesting character arc out of.
“League of Assassins” does finally shine some light into what happened to Sara after all those years (kind of), bringing her past swiftly up to speed with Oliver’s flashbacks in a few quick scenes. Clad in lingerie (*shakes head, slaps forehead*), she is picked up by the same freighter Oliver is currently on, where she meets a very interesting, long-lived DC character: Dr. Anthony Ivo, a man defined by his insanity and his genius. He reveals to Sara that he’s doing some “work” on the prisoners below, part of his project to “save the human race” – which apparently includes Long Hair Ollie, who ends the episode getting kicked in the stomach by a meaner-looking, clothed Sara.
(medium-sized spoiler: Ivo is a doctor obsessed with death, and is most likely working on the immortality serum that will eventually disfigure the shit out of him).
Off the island, “League of Assassins” focuses on Sara’s decision to not tell her family about her return to Starling City, dropping some hints and details along the way about the League of Assassins. Of course, circumstances lead her to predictably change her decision – but smartly, the show uses her connection to her father both as a moment of resolution and potential conflict, giving the Laurel/Quentin relationship its first interesting wrinkle in awhile (which will most likely culminate in “Laurel almost overdoses and Q tells her Sara’s alive”, but let’s not count chickens yet). It’s such a weight off Quentin’s shoulders to know his daughter is alive; for the first time in his life, he’s getting a piece of his family back – and one that won’t always ignore him for petty reasons (once again, League of Assassins trumps “nobody wuvs me”).
Although the episode ends with Sara leaving, I’d hardly expect it to be her last appearance this season in present-day Starling City. She’s definitely going to have a role in the flashbacks for the immediate future, until we see how Oliver watched her “die” a second time – and on the island, it’s only a matter of time before the League of Assassins comes back to make another visit to the fractured city, which still hold the mysteries of Brother Blood, that particle accelerator we keep hearing about (spin-off alert!), and the fate of Moira when the truth about that fateful night on the Queen’s Gambit comes out.
So far, every episode of season two’s focused on rapid expansion, both in its characters and the size of its world – “League of Assassins” gives all these seemingly unconnected bits of plot a bit of thematic unity. This episode is all about secrets, and how ignoring them or refusing to verbalize them makes them the real threat – in other words, allowing anger to fester and grow into something monstrous (like murderous streaks and pill addictions). In that sense, the darkness in the world of Arrow is just beginning to grow, both from within the city itself and in the ever-expanding landscape around it.
– goddamn, that scene on the street with Quentin and Sara was satisfying.
– random theory time! Is Brother Blood working with Dr. Ivo’s formula?
– “How did it go?” Oliver: “Not good… have you found anybody to hit me yet?”
– Felicity: “We’ve all joined clubs we want to quit… It took me a year to get rid of my gym membership.”
– Diggle doesn’t look so happy when he tells Sara “we have our moments.” What’s wrong, my dude?
– Quentin, talking about keeping secrets to Arrow and Canary: “How do you live like this?”
– I’ll bet we find out who that old, Russian-vodka donating friend of Oliver’s was before the season is over.
– the two-level fighting scene was a cool, ambitious idea, but in execution it was a bit incomprehensible (a few choppy cuts and a frenetic camera didn’t help).
– the ONE thing I didn’t like with Sara: what is this crap about her being “the prophet”? No thank you.