Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Second Chances”:

It was worth wondering how seriously Arrow was willing to take its quest for a new Black Canary, as despite suggestions that the series would always need someone in that role, Juliana Harkavy has not yet signed as a series regular, nor has Katie Cassidy’s overall deal bore additional fruit than Black Siren’s return. Obviously, the reveal of “Tina Boland” as a cover for DC’s Dinah Drake sets off alarm bells for the character going forward (as did Oliver’s investment in recruiting her and the dedication to displaying her origin), lending “Second Chances” a sense of Arrow preparing for its future, both in and out of flashback.

The search* for a new Black Canary understandably takes precedence, though “Second Chances” also likely marks the first occasion in several seasons that Oliver’s flashbacks carry a sense of urgency as well; spurred by the official debut of Lexa Doig as Talia al Ghul. As expected, that surname isn’t spoken aloud (or explained in a manner that might disrupt continuity), but her presence does lend the flashbacks a certain kick for Oliver to finally craft his identity as a hooded avenger, one whose quests for vengeance curiously never circled back to his father’s mission in Star City. It’s especially fitting that we’d start to wrap that arc in the same hour that that Tina/Dinah gives Oliver a new beginning (fine, “Second Chance”) in the present, cementing his role as a mentor to new heroes.

*Especially in light of the odd resemblance to certain politicians with Russian backgrounds, “Second Chances” didn’t have great optics with regard to Oliver rejecting a string of incredibly qualified Black Canary candidates based on his personal whims.

“And was it me, or did that Russian trafficker guy totally look like Steve Bannon?”

My only caveat to that foresight might be that Arrow still lacks significant handle on its definition of moral killing. Yes, Oliver himself has wrestled with that notion this year, and it’s still notably murky whether Season 5 has landed on endorsing lethal force, but it’s impossible to ignore that Tina/Dinah killed at least two people in her quest for vengeance. Stranger still is that Oliver would hold Rene back from pursuing any sort of justice, or that Oliver himself apparently murdered whoever piloted that helicopter in the final sequence. Understandably, Arrow has long offered a wide berth for redemption and morality; it’s just especially odd that a season that emphasizes Diggle paying for his sins behind bars wouldn’t hold Oliver or Tina accountable for their own.

On that note at least, “Second Chances” did manage to end Diggle’s season-long legal arc – perhaps a tacit admission of the writers’ uncertainty with that thread – by pivoting toward the return of Felicity’s (figuratively) darker hacking roots. However unexpected it proved that another young female hacker would push Felicity back into a greyer* morality, I do appreciate that the split from Oliver last week transmuted toward Felicity going a bit more rogue, and I’d hope we’re seeing the groundwork for another Season 6 conflict in the process.

 *Someone in the Arrow writers’ room is apparently fond/unaware of repetitive scene structures. Where last week we had at least three separate instances of Rene sauntering in to deliver Curtis advice, the same was true of Rory interrupting scenes of Felicity at her computer this time.

Certain stars at least have the luxury of CG doppelgangers.

We still haven’t heard from some of the more important Arrow players like Thea or Quentin this year, but I do think “Second Chances” did well to lay some groundwork for the beginning of the show’s new era, as well as the end of its current format; all without dragging its feet on Prometheus in the process. We still have Vigilante to deal with too, but it’s nice to have Season 5 on much more fertile ground this year than last, or even the season before that.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Kudos, for writers circling back to address why Lyla’s voice would have directed Diggle to an ambush last year.
  • I recognize the two series have to write stories independently, but at what point would Oliver give up, and call Barry to rescue Dig from certain death in prison? Obviously, he isn’t above calling in a quick favor.
  • So, is making Tina into Dinah Drake (the original comic Black Canary awkwardly retconned into “Dinah Laurel Lance”) a tacit admission that Arrow wants to start over with its take on the character?
  • Was Oliver fat-shaming Rene for enjoying the odd cheeseburger pileup?
  • I like how Sonos and his bodyguard clearly heard the other men fighting an intruder and screaming, but only reacted “Eh, I’ll check it out.”
  • Worth noting, both Oliver’s flashback and rooftop fights deserve points for choreography.

Arrow Season 5 will return next Wednesday with “Bratva,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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