Episode Title: "Time of Death"
Writers: Wendy Mericle & Beth Schwartz
Director: Nick Copus
“Time of Death” was a rarity for “Arrow” in that its DC universe villain of the week was actually a Green Arrow villain and a fairly faithful translation of the comic book character. Of course, it helps that the Clock King (or William Tockman, if you prefer) was played by TV’s go-to-psycho, Robert Knapper, who seems to naturally give off a sense of menace.
But it was Black Canary (Caity Lotz) who disrupted the lives of her sister, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and her new associate, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). As Sara, she alienates Laurel and as the Canary, she makes Felicity feel inadequate simply by being so good at so many things.
While there was some movement on the emotional warfare front, “Time of Death” was largely concerned with marking time while the real Big Bad of “Arrow” waits in the shadows. And as we saw in the closing moments, the wait is over.
From this point on, there are full spoilers ahead for “Time of Death,” so if you missed last night’s episode of “Arrow” then you should probably skip this review or else Laurel will cry and blame you for her problems.
Somewhere along the way, Laurel has become the most unlikable character on “Arrow.” And I think it comes down to both the writing and Cassidy’s lackluster performance. The entire second season has followed Laurel’s descent into despair and addiction. Ordinarily, that happens so that the audience can get behind a character when they put their problems behind them. The problem is that the “Arrow” writers have been laying on the melodrama to a ridiculous extent, as demonstrated once again when Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) tells Laurel that he was worried about her even while she was pursuing the death penalty against his mother.
It feels like there’s a lack of sincerity in Cassidy’s portrayal of Laurel’s problems that makes it really hard to buy into her as a character. And it also doesn’t help that Laurel does a complete 180 by the end of the episode to reconcile with Sara. That was an unearned redemptive moment with dialogue so terrible that it felt like it came from “Arrow” Season 1.
On the other hand, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) had a very effective emotional subplot in this episode as he pushed for a reconciliation with his ex-wife, Dinah (Alex Kingston). The return of Sara was teased in the first season of “Arrow” as Dinah’s crazy theory; which turned out to be not so crazy. Sara’s “death” fractured that family, and her return has brought most of them back together. Everyone but Laurel welcomed Sara back with open arms.
The reason that Quentin’s subplot worked is that Blackthrone brought a lot of heart to Quentin’s story. He seemed genuinely excited about the prospect winning Dinah back and reconnecting with both of his daughters. Quentin even had an overdue moment with Oliver in which he apologized for blaming him for Sara’s death last season.
Still, I have to question Quentin’s deductive skills if he still hasn’t figured out that Oliver is the Arrow. Oliver is openly dating Sara and they both ditch her return from the dead party at the same time when Quentin is called in to investigate a murder committed by the Clock King. But maybe Quentin is just tired from investigating every single crime in Starling City. The man needs his rest!
Meanwhile, Sara is integrated into Team Arrow and John Diggle (David Ramsey) is quick to warm to her. Felicity is less than enthused because she’s still mooning over Oliver and she’s so dismayed that Sara is so talented (even with computers and lab work) that she feels inadequate. In a nice touch, Sara actually seems to like Felicity; which makes it even harder for Felicity to hate her.
I’m not a fan of the inevitable Oliver and Felicity pairing, but Felicity is unquestionably a big part of the show now. Even more so than Sara, at least until Lotz gets a well deserved promotion to series regular instead of being written out of the show (which also seems inevitable).
One of the fun aspects of having both Arrow and Black Canary on the show is that they can be in two different places at once and they can be equally formidable. It was a great moment when Black Canary went after Clock King while the Arrow saved a bus full of people from a head-on collision with a train.
The island flashbacks this week were largely Sara-centric, as the story behind Sara’s relationship with Sin (Bex Tayor-Klaus) was explored. Well, I say “explored.” It was actually a pretty weak explanation of a story point that needed no explanation. Basically, a random plane was shot down over the island, and the dying pilot happened to be Sin’s father. Think about this: if Sara was asked to look in on Sin and she waited until last season’s earthquake to actually do it then she wasn’t exactly attentive to this last request from the pilot she didn’t really know. That just doesn’t work.
On Oliver’s homefront, his conflict with his mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) is already starting to get on my nerves. But the very strong conclusion brings in Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) as Moira’s newest supporter, and it’s a great cliffhanger. Up until now, Slade’s been using Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) as his instrument to crush Oliver. I didn’t think that Slade would reveal himself so relatively early in the season, but this could be a game changer. Slade has amazing potential as this year’s Big Bad, certainly more than Brother Blood has.
Without Slade’s reveal, “Time of Death” would have been a very average episode of “Arrow.” That ending redeemed it, but it was still a weaker installment compared to “Arrow’s” solid run of episodes this season.