“My father saved Star City so that we can enjoy it, and he also never graduated college. So I think he’d be pretty impressed.”
Yeah, he probably would.
There are two ways of looking at “Green Arrow & The Canaries.” It’s first and foremost a backdoor pilot for a potential new corner of the Arrowverse (and based on what we see here, I’d say it’s pretty likely we’ll see more of that corner next fall). It’s also the penultimate episode of Arrow—the primogenitor of all such corners. Does “Green Arrow & The Canaries” work as an argument for the existence of Green Arrow & The Canaries, the future series? Yes. Does it work as one of the final chapters of Arrow? Also yes, though somewhat less successfully. In the end, though—and this is pretty much the end, it’s all over but the crying—the second question matters a lot less than the first. “Green Arrow & The Canaries” is about what the survivors do with Oliver’s legacy, and how they choose to keep it alive. Green Arrow & The Canaries is, at a metatextual level, much the same.
“Okay,” it seems to say, “you want a successor to Arrow? Here you go: it’s Arrow, but our central hero is a heroine and it’s her brother that’s in need of rescuing. Let’s do this.
We re-enter the world of Arrow in 2040, with a 2020-looking Laurel/Black Siren (Katie Cassidy) flying down the highway toward a dark nightclub. The whole sequence gives off a very dystopian-meets-Killing Eve kind of vibe, and Cassidy’s Black Siren energy is a perfect match for it. That dark revelry calls to mind early-days Arrow, when Oliver’s base was still beneath an active nightclub and he was playing the society douche as a cover; it’s unlikely that’s an accident, because the very next scene introduces a brand new, much less traumatized Mia Queen.
Credit where it’s due: Katherine McNamara, the episode’s four credited writers, and director Tara Miele make it abundantly clear that this person is fundamentally different from the Mia we knew pre-Crisis. The same is true of the Mia we meet after Laurel zaps her with that J’onzz-ring—we see some of the old Mia, and some of the socialite Mia, but mostly it’s someone new. (Opening titles voice: “She’ll have to become someone else. She’ll have to become something else.”) Each is distinct; that first Mia even moves differently. She’s also engaged to JJ (Charlie Barnett, whose entrance made me yelp with delight), not a fan of Connor (Joseph David-Jones), who seems to be in and out of rehab, totally pleased to see the not-dead Zoe (Andrea Sixtos, another welcome return), and seems to also be missing her mother (she uses the past tense when discussing the family ring, although maybe that’s just referring to the fact that Oliver is long-dead).
She’s also adrift—not in an Oliver pre-Gambit way, but adrift all the same. Then she gets zapped with that ring by a super-judgmental Laurel and everything changes instantly.
The show handles her dueling memories (and, though less directly, those of Laurel and Dinah) efficiently but thoughtfully. She doesn’t get over the trauma of that, if you can call it getting over, until the episode’s end. There’s no situation where she can trust her gut because she’s got two guts now. She loves someone who killed her friend, and kind of hates someone she was falling for. She never knew her Dad, except when she knew him really well. And she hasn’t done any training but she will absolutely catch whatever glass doodad you can throw at her.
Dinah’s predicament is even stranger, and makes for some really rich, emotionally knobbly stuff for Juliana Harkavy to play. (She also plays the piano and it is divine.) Here’s where the episode gets a little bogged down, perhaps necessarily so: Laurel and Dinah have to play a lot of catchup and explain/not-explain how the hell they are where they are. When we last saw Dinah, she was standing in the bunker, newly woken by J’onn J’onzz (no ring necessary); after the final Crisis reset, she just woke up in 2040 where there was no record of her existence. First of all, I’m gonna need that episode. I want at least five minutes of Dinah figuring out how to create, fake, or steal an identity; I want her waiting in line to try to get a social security card. All of it. From the moment the story picks up, it makes a lot of emotional sense—of course she’d be hesitant to return to hero life, when everyone (sans Connor) is seemingly better off without the Black Canary. But the leap to get there takes some getting used to, and the same is true of whatever brought Laurel there.
It all feels a bit like a chapter or two got skipped (and it’s possible that’s actually true—next week might fill in some blanks.) That’s okay for a pilot, when dropping someone in a new world with little explanation can be acceptable, and can even be a strength. Here, though, it’s hard to resist the urge to connect the dots, and the lines between them are long and pretty wobbly.
Again, it’s hard to care too much about that when everything else is so engaging, affecting, and (sometimes) fun. There’s a great fight scene, featuring a spectacular flying punch that’s as entertaining and impressive as any trick in Arrow’s history. There are some great scenes between Barnett and McNamara, with the promise of more once a mysterious figure hits him with the J’onzz-ring. And best of all, there’s tons of interesting, layered conversation between the three central figures, each of whom is trying to figure out what she wants to do, who she wants to be, and how either will or won’t honor the sacrifice of the person who brought them together.
My hopes were always pretty high for Green Arrow & The Canaries, but it’s safe to say this backdoor pilot met and sometimes exceeded them. It may not be an ideal prelude-to-farewell for Arrow in a narrative sense, but in a symbolic and practical sense, it could not be more perfect. Here’s the future, green and full of fights and car rides and masks and secrets and family members in peril, just like its predecessor. And hey, look: the future is also female. That’s pretty cool, too.
- A hearty thank you to Kate Kulzick for filling in for me last week!
- I do not ever want to stop calling this Laurel ‘Not-Laurel.’ It’s a term of endearment! But I fear that such a thing won’t work for Green Arrow & The Canaries, which is likely to attract new viewers. So RIP Not-Laurel—but I reserve the right to use that name in the comments.
- A quick refresher on Helena Bertinelli and the Bertinellis in general.
- I’ve been at the Television Critics Association press tour for what feels like a tiny age and as such have not had time to catch up with any of the three Arrowverse shows that have aired episodes since the end of the Crisis. It’s possible some of my very minor confusion would have been eliminated had I seen the latest chapters of Batwoman, Supergirl, and Black Lightning, but since there are people who only watch one or two of these shows, I don’t think mine will have been an unusual experience.
- Was there any salmon ladder?: I’m beginning to fear we’ve reached the end of the road with the salmon ladder. That said, the folks behind The Americans found a spot for a mail robot cameo in their series finale, and if they can manage that, there’s hope.
- TAMVP: I think all three of our leads were great, and so were Charlie Barnett and Ben Lewis, but come on:
- Ah, screw it, three-way tie. Harkavy/Cassidy/McNamara for the win. I’m fully on board, bring on the series. But it is a legitimately great interpretation of that song, and as Laurel’s question was the same as mine, I’m glad Dinah answered it: Not a lot of time for karaoke back in 2020.
- This week’s Arrow as a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song. This one is perfect. I’m afraid I already used it, but I refuse to check because it’s too, too good. For the record, Mia = head of censorship and mind control; Dinah = puts drugs in the water supply; Not-Laurel = czar of torture.