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Arrow 2x04: Crucible

So the plot of this one is basically nothing, it’s entirely there to be a backdrop for character development. One could argue that’s mainly what plot is for me, but’s especially true in this episode. And the lion’s share of that development is centered on Sara, so we’re going to talk a lot about her.

“No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men”
This is sort of half a point for this episode and half for the next when we get Sara’s flashbacks, but this line is kind of the main part of it. One observation I have is that this must be something that the comics Black Canary deals with, because basically every version of the Canary we’ve had goes around protecting women from the cruelties of men. Sara gets it twice, both with her introduction in Arrow where we mainly hear about her going after would be rapists and the like, and then in the LoT pilot she’s introduced protecting a woman from men.

But with Sara it’s always felt more personal than with Laurel or even Dinah. I’ve never quite made up my mind where I think Sara got her level of conviction on the subject. Considering when it’s brought up and the implications I see in the next few episodes, I have always assumed things were pretty dark on the Amazo but the further we get from s2, the less the importance the shows put on what happened in the s1-2 flashback era of Sara’s life, shifting most of her backstory issues over to the League. In spite of that, we don’t actually know that much about her time in the League, so it’s harder to put this on that time when there is a perfectly good explanation we have seen.

Pretty Bird
Another train of thought I will come back to periodically this season, is that for me Sara is basically the One True Canary. I still don’t know a ton about the comics, but to me if they were ever going to do Green Arrow and Black Canary (either romantically or just as a team), Sara’s the best it’s ever worked. They’re equals, they’ve been on similar journeys and are at similar – but not exactly the same – points in their lives. There’s some of it with Dinah, but while they’re teammates, they’re not true partners (they might have been if the show had really wanted to go there but it would have been a hard sell) and Oliver never respected Laurel enough along with her legitimately being behind the vigilante curve.

While Diggle has had Oliver’s back in some fights before, Oliver and Sara fighting together is kind of our first hero team up. They’re not really the same team yet, but they do work well together, and them trading weapons mid-fight seems especially meant to show that. And their personal scenes are quite powerful, with a lot of push and pull between...strong personalities in broken people. At the time I think it was just another option I saw as a better choice than Laurel (both romantically and not), but I still think Oliver and Sara are better suited; though as I always come back to, I’ve been way more invested in their relationship since I settled on who I actually shipped each of them with.

But while we’re on the subject of the Lance sisters, Laurel’s plot this episode has always been a little oddly put together. I don’t quite want to say the drinking comes out of nowhere, it wasn’t really set up, but that’s not the same as coming out of nowhere; the real problem is how quickly it escalates by the end of the episode. On top of that we’re not really shown or told what got her pulled over; we don’t see her driving poorly, nor does Daily make a reference to what caught his attention. She was drinking too much at dinner, and started driving too quickly after she left, so in terms of a ‘don’t drink and drive’ message...okay, but I still think there’s a step missing.

The message gets a little muddled since there are no immediate consequences though. While I don’t doubt Quentin would step in so there weren’t any problems, it rings a little oddly; he draws direct parallels between his drinking and hers and how people were letting him off the hook (presumably because it got bad after Sara died so people let things slide) while saying that maybe they shouldn’t have. I also remember one of their conversations last season about him stepping in and not letting Sara get into any trouble, and Quentin (at least in the moment during an argument) said something to the effect of maybe if he hadn’t Sara would still be alive. I’m not saying that’s a logical position that he actually believes, but added together, the Lance family tendency to let things slide has had some problems.

As difficult as I may find it having to tell the DA and Blood apart, this is a good Blood episode. This is a comic book world so a guy with the name Blood was never going to be a good guy, but this episode is good for establishing that in his mind he’s the hero of the story. His speech about crucibles has a lot of layers to it not just in establishing his character and a view he and Oliver share regarding Starling City, but for Oliver and for Sara.

Oliver isn’t really doing a lot of self-examination at this stage to really think about how Blood’s speech reflects his own experiences. I don’t think he’s completely blind to the fact that it does, his breakdown earlier about how he has no good memories from the years he was away show that he is still quite broken by the experiences. But I think in the moment it hits him in his worries for Sara, afraid she too far gone to come home (even as he’s wondering if she wants him to tell her family the truth); without quite realizing that what he’s worried about is that she’s like him and still very much in the fire and not sure how to live outside it.

Not-quite love triangles
There are a lot of borderline love triangles glanced at here, though none of them quite materialize into anything solid. I think I need a list within my subtopics approach.

-We’re definitely set up for Isabel thinking Oliver and Felicity are involved; Felicity is acting very wife-like and handsy in her efforts to play defense around Isabel. (Also I finally went to check the spelling and I’ve been spelling it Isobel, don’t be surprised if I’m inconsistent in the future anyway.)
-The always potential Laurel-Oliver-Felicity triangle, never does quite materialize, but Laurel gives Felicity a pretty dirty look here for interrupting their conversation.
-There’s all the backstory love triangle between Oliver, Laurel, and Sara. Sara points out that Oliver’s still obsessed with Laurel; that some things just never change.
-Felicity gets a little not-quite jealous when Oliver tells them Sara’s alive.
-Lyla’s clearly fishing for information about whether Digg and Carly are still together; not technically a love triangle as they’re both checking the singles’ box, but it might have been.
-It’s always been kind of shocking that Thea doesn’t assume something fishy about Roy and Sin’s relationship, because they act kind of fishy and Thea comes from a family of cheaters. But really Junior Team Arrow makes a pretty solid OT3.

Not-quite Lian Yu
I’m actually going to have to give some thought to labeling the flashbacks sometimes this season since they aren’t always technically on Lian Yu. This one is really kind of dumb, but we get to meet Anatoli so that’s good.


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