"I felt pretty lame not recognizing my own brother just because he's wearing a hood."
If you haven't watched any promos and don't follow any news about the show online, then "Canaries" is going to have a jaw-dropping and attention-grabbing opening. You'll wonder how this is happening and odds are you'll be anxious to find out. However, seeing as you have the internet and watch the show (otherwise, how and why are you here?!), this opening mystery was spoiled to you at least a week ago. When an episode begins with a "how is this happening and how did we get here?" kind of mystery, it's kind of baffling that the promos did everything possible to spoil that. Still, that's a complaint about collaborating with the promos team and not the quality of the episode we're discussing, so I can't blame the episode itself for that one!
"Canaries" works for one simple reason: character. This isn't an episode that stuns you with brilliantly handled action sequences or wins you over because they dropped a gazillion exciting bits of fan service. No, this captivates you because it's focused on who these characters are. This is an episode that humanizes them instead of making them feel like they're just actors with a script. Oliver's alpha male mentality has to deal with team Arrow having more confidence; Laurel questions what she's doing; Thea is forced to react to drastic situations. Ray? Well, he's too busy, I guess. Usually, the show has someone that many of us think is frustrating. I didn't think that's the case here. When Oliver says something that upsets me, I think he's acting like a total jerk but I understand why he's acting that way. It all makes sense, even in someone's most aggravating moments.
Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne have a scene that allows them to give really powerful performances. I admit it was getting to me, but then a single line took me completely out of the moment. "Not again." Those two words made the situation suddenly feel surreal instead of relatable. It's a minor criticism and what's important to take away here is the two did a mighty fine job with the material.
Without spoiling anything, I'll just say this is an important episode for Thea and her arc is a good one. My only complaint is how quickly she shifts to hating someone, but everything else was enjoyable. From the heart-to-heart conversations to showing how sharp she's become, this was a really good episode for Speedy -- one which totally went against what I expected. You also thought it would conclude with the DJ bringing her to Ra's, right? So happy they didn't take that obvious route.
Team Arrow had some standout moments in this one. Watching Roy stand up to Oliver made me cheer on the inside. I know Oliver means well, but man, the dude could use some manners. The way he tried to help Laurel made me want to jump in there and say, "Dude, not cool." However, there is one person who gave Laurel a good talk: Felicity. Their scene wasn't that extensive but it sure was engrossing. It's always nice to see characters supporting each other instead of clashing. It's a little surprising we didn't get to see more of Diggle chatting with Oliver, but what we did see was effective enough.
I'm left with mixed feelings on Count Vertigo. Peter Stormare's a charismatic actor, but it feels like there isn't much to do with his character aside from "make the hero face their own fears!" Seeing as that's Scarecrow's act and they've used it twice now, it would be cool if they changed the character's direction moving forward. There's plenty to draw from in the comics, after all!
This episode makes an impact because of the character-driven material. The action, on the other hand, unfortunately didn't do anything for me. Nothing about the handling of the it really made it rise above what we've seen or even match previous sequences. From the various shots to the choreography, this one just didn't deliver any solid thrills. Little things like Laurel jumping into a shipping container or characters seemingly flailing didn't help. We know this show has an excellent stunt team and they can deliver some exciting action scenes. Sadly, that wasn't the case with this one.
I'm sorry, but I can't get over how easily Oliver has recovered from his insanely harsh encounter with Ra's al Ghul. At this point, it looks like we just need to accept it and move on, but honestly, that's very disappointing. In a world where the Lazarus Pit does exist, I'd much rather have them be predictable and use that instead of just glossing over Oliver survived a ridiculous amount of punishment. Maybe they'll eventually justify this, but as of right now, its a bummer. I won't bring it up in future reviews, but I was hoping we'd see he's still struggling a bit. Instead, he's running around and smashing into cars like nothing's wrong.
When you have such strong character dynamics going on elsewhere, the flashback feels like it's just slowly moving towards something important. I can't say I'm all that excited about the direction this storyline is taking, but let's wait and see how it plays out. At least it promises to switch things up. Oh, and Oliver was knocked out until he made it all the way back to Starling City?
Random thoughts: How did Roy know when to step into the apartment? That would imply he's been watching and/or listening. A little creepy, yeah? And Roy did worse than Thea did against that dude. Just saying. Also, I couldn't help but say "ugh" when he was conveniently there to see Thea and epic DJ extraordinaire holding hands. Was anyone else wondering what Vertigo was doing as he was just holding Black Canary by the neck and giving her time to hallucinate an extended conversation? Aside from "because story" of course. Lastly, I understand why they're going to the island and I'm excited because that means more of Deathstroke, but I'd say Ra's al Ghul's advantage isn't fear; it's the fact he's ridiculously skilled. How about just switching to only trick arrows against the foe? That should do well!
Thanks to a strong focus on character dynamics and giving us a better insight into key characters, "Canaries" manages to impress. Sure, the action isn't all that great and I have plenty of minor criticisms, but when the episode's focused on humanizing these individuals, both the actors and the script delivers. Plus, the ending promises we'll see more of one of the show's best characters and we don't need to deal with characters blatantly lying anymore! Yay!