Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Arrow "Heir to the Demon" Review

Nyssa al Ghul visits Starling City for personal reasons, which was the first clue that she didn’t come on orders from her father. Nyssa defeats a legion of airport security agents in her grand entrance and introduction to the audience. Oliver has faced many talented fighters but never an al Ghul. “Heir to the Demon” concerns Sara’s relationship with Nyssa and her family more than it concerns Oliver’s one fight with Nyssa. Sara and Nyssa work through their past relationship together, and, well, Sara works through quite a lot by the time she and Oliver make out and undress one another in the final scene of the episode.

The Lances are at the center of “Heir to the Demon.” The pressing matter in the present is intercut with scenes from the past, days before Sara snuck away with Oliver on the Queen’s Gambit. Flashbacks reveal a general scene of familial bliss. Quentin and Dinah have their lives together and in order. Laurel is about to apply to law school and looking for apartments with Oliver. Sara surprises the family with a weekend visit that’s really a cover for her trysts with Oliver. I know the flashbacks were meant to show what’s changed in the last six years because of Sara’s decision to leave with Oliver. A totally together family, healthy and loving, came apart. Laurel struggles to get through days without prescription drugs and alcohol, and she struggles more with those two when getting through the day. Quentin’s been bumped down to beat cop. Dinah’s frayed. The flashbacks merely offer glimpses at what was. Short scenes try to show, and tell, enough to clearly contrast what’s been with what is. The problem is the shortness of the scenes. Sara decides to leave with Oliver because of a silly fight with Laurel. (I think Quentin spends the entire flashback cooking.) Last season and half of this city made clear what the flashbacks tried to further clarify. Flashbacks to the island would’ve been a better choice, but no island story would line up thematically with what went on in the A story.

Nyssa poisoned Laurel to get Sara’s attention, and to get her back to Starling City where she’d force her to return with her to the League of Assassins. Their past romantic relationship was surprising, which was a thoughtful choice because it subverted my expectations about why Nyssa came to Starling City. Nyssa wanted Sara back for reasons of love. Reasons of love make a mess of things. Someone’s personal motivations or feelings or what-have-you always complicate matters more than resolves. Dinah’s kidnapping, Laurel’s poisoning, and other threats to her family are drastic steps to get Nyssa her girl back, her girl she saved from starvation and nursed back to health, who once loved her with the same passion and intensity. Sara challenges Nyssa’s love for her, too, by forcing her hand as Nyssa forced hers. Laurel was poisoned with snake venom. A fellow assassin uses a higher volume of venom to kill himself when pressed for answers by Oliver about Dinah. Sara swallows a full tube of venom, effectively killing herself to save her family.

The drastic choice saves her family and frees her from the league. Oliver saves her from death. Nyssa gently releases her from the league. She and Oliver engage in an awesome fight before Sara staggers in, on the cusp of death. This episode had a few nifty fight scenes. Nyssa perceives Oliver as a romantic threat. She dismissively addresses him to Sara as her boyfriend followed by a threat on his life. Whatever else he is Nyssa doesn’t care about; she only cares for what he means to Sara and what that means for her. Of course, she’s most threatened by the family. They are why she wants to leave.

Sara has basically died twice already. Her initial death damaged her family, but her second death brings about a restoration of sorts. Laurel reacts venomously to Sara’s return. Laurel’s feeling of happiness as she lay on the floor in her apartment, staring up at her sister, is replaced by anger. She blames Sara for what has went wrong, for leading assassins to Starling City, assassins who kidnapped their mother and poisoned Laurel, for running off with her boyfriend, and for starting a domino effect that cost her another boyfriend as well. The scene’s not pretty. Laurel throws a glass at Sara as she leaves, which is straight out of Lifetime. Sara, naturally, goes to Oliver and has sex with him, which is also straight out of Lifetime and let’s be honest The CW. Laurel’s downward spiral seemed concluded last episode. It should’ve been. No one likes watching melodramatic spirals on The CW. Arrow’s writers and producers make many smart choices, but their fondness for soap-opera stories does detract from one’s enjoyment of the series as a whole. Laurel’s story is dramatically uninteresting and thematically bare—it’s happening because there’s nothing else for the character.

Elsewhere, Oliver learns the truth from Felicity about Thea’s biological father moments before he’s to publicly support and introduce his mother as 2014 Starling City mayoral candidate. The revelation leads to a severance of his relationship with her, telling her he’s done with her. Moira tried to threaten Felicity into silence through her obvious affection for Oliver, but when Oliver asked for truth, Felicity told him the truth. Sebastian also threatened Moira, but in an overtly political way. Slade later threatens Sebastian for his soft threats. “Heir to the Demon” is full of empty threats. Oliver’s issues with his mother, like Laurel’s issues with Sara, extend back to the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit and days and weeks and months before that as Moira worked with Malcolm. These emerging conflicts are rooted in places deep and were like the swell of a tsunami. It all started moving long ago, now the wave’s breaking.

Other Thoughts:

-The fight involving Sara, Oliver and the assassin was the best of the episode. Arrow’s fight choreography is nearly flawless. One close-up tonight clearly had Caity Lotz’s stunt double in frame. So, nearly flawless.

-Jake Coburn wrote the episode. Wendey Stanzler directed it.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.