Yep, the characters get twisted right round, baby, right round. And since the episode is all about learning to focus on what you like, instead living in what you hate, I'll follow its advice and recount what I like. (Okay. And a little bit of what I hate.)
I can't decide if the plot of this episode is flimsy, or if it just supports the emotional twists really well. I can sum it up with one line, though. A guy called "The Mayor" is bringing guns into Starling City and wants to be the ultimate ganglord of the Glades. This makes several people unhappy, but not me.
Dig, who is only mildly unhappy, goes to his ARGUS agent friend Lyla. If you'll remember, he and Lyla seemed pretty friendly last season, until Dig butted into her attempt to arrest Deadshot. Suddenly, they disliked each other, and she was suspicious of his activities. This time around, she's right back to where she started, giving Dig information on the gun heists. And why? Well, we can guess her motivations when Dig sheepishly admits that he broke up with Carly and "checks the box mark single," and she says, "Hey, Johnny. These days I check the box marked single, too." This, I like! I want them to have a brusque, ex-military romance that includes phrases like, "let's rock and roll," "top gun," and "Hooah!" (My knowledge of the military is limited.)
Laurel, who ended the last episode somewhat more relaxed and sympathetic, goes careening back towards pointless surliness. Literally careening, because when she gets asked out by her boss she all but jumps out a window to get away from him. That's fair enough, but once she's away, she goes zooming home in her car after having consumed too much wine. She loses more points when she gets pulled over and tries to get the cop to let her go by mentioning that she's an assistant district attorney. When Quentin actually gets her out of an arrest, and when Ollie tries to talk to her, she goes rabid-dog mean on both of them, calling one a drunk and the other an "alcoholic ex-party boy."
Look, Laurel, I know it's an achievement - and something of a tradition - to get a law degree before you turn into a drunk, but that doesn't mean you're better than anyone. Fortunately, she redeems herself, in my eyes, by spending the end of the episode downing pills in a way that reminds me of a Lifetime movie or one of those biographies about troubled, tempestuous starlets. Next episode I want her to drunkenly slur, "Sure, I take dolls…I gotta get some sleep…I gotta get up at 5 AM in the morning and sparkle, Laurel, sparkle!"
Sebastian Blood, who ended the last episode going on a wild-eyed rant about crucifying the rich, softens up a bit. When Ollie sponsors a cash-for-guns exchange, he meets up with Ollie and sympathetically draws Ollie out about his perpetual Laurel problems. Okay, yes, Blood does drop the word "crucible" into the conversation, but it's in a rational way. Some people fail during a crucible, and some successfully pass through it - but some "learn to love the pain." He doesn't want the people in the Glades to learn to love the state they're in, so he's trying to fix it. Then there's a satisfying manly handshake. So I'm somewhat disappointed when, at the end of the episode, he greets the newly-captured Mayor with a scary mask, with a coterie of cultish followers, and with a needle to the neck. Oh, Alderman Blood. Why did you have to go back to religious lunacy? I foresaw so many respectful handshakes in your future!
And then there's Black Canary, who is, so far, the stand-out character in this season. She starts out the episode as Ollie's opponent - especially when he finds out that she's following Laurel around. He catches her with a, I don't know, string arrow? He rips off her mask. And it's Sarah Lance, which should surprise anyone who hasn't read IMDB or the comments on these recaps. But first, while she's tied up, let me say this.
I hate that costume's neckline. I hate it so much. I hate it enough that I have to look away while I take notes. I hate it when she's standing upright, in black, with her sensible mask and wig and her upper chest blazing like a big "Shoot Me Here" badge. I hate it when she's bent over and the stiff leather pushes her boobs up to her chin. I hate it even when she's in close-up, or when she's turned around, because I still know it's there. I hate it every minute of every show, and I will never, ever stop.
Other than that? I like her. Firstly, she brings all the secrets back to a show that was running low on intrigue. Ollie's lines to and about her are full of stuff like, "If [Sarah's family] knew the truth they would never talk to me again," and soft wet eyes of deep regret. CW superhero shows work best when they embrace the soap. And the deep, tormenting mystery of this relationship plunges me butt-deep in suds.
Secondly, I like her because she says, "No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men." Granted, taking out attempted rapists and serial killers isn't exactly an edgy political stance, but I hope this will blossom into a broad philosophy of militant, radical feminism. I hope this because I like the idea of that kind of politics on television and because clearly this version of Ollie is not going to supply the lengthy, gratuitous political speeches that, quite frankly, need to be in Green Arrow. Stand up, sister. Stand up and rhetorize.
Thirdly, I love the fight she has alongside Ollie when they finally capture the Mayor. It's fun, and they have fun during it. Ollie shoots a grenade out of the air. Sarah forces one of the bad guys to whack other bad guys with her staff. They both trade weapons and kick ass with each other's tools. It's awesome.
Fourthly, I like her freckles. Anyone else loving the freckles?
But things aren't always smooth for Sarah and Ollie. In the flashback, Ollie wakes up in the container ship prison. After his captors torment him for a while, and satisfy themselves that they have found the island with the "graves" of prisoners with "misshapen bones," they drag him into a little room. In walks someone with a knife, and as Ollie looks up, into the final scene of the episode, that person is Sarah Lance. She's back to being his opponent again.