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Arrow 2.05 "League of Assassins" Review: Truth, Forgiveness, and Acceptance

    This week’s episode of Arrow, “League of Assassins,” was written by Jake Coburn and Drew Z Greenberg and directed by Wendey Stanzler and delivers on every level: drama, action, and even some great one liners. The episode also sets the stage for some continuing storylines.

    The first thing I want to talk about in the episode is the amazing fight scenes in this episode. As I mentioned in my preview, James Bamford the fight choreographer/coordinator and stunt coordinator just keeps upping the ante on the fight sequences. His team delivers amazing fights each and every week and they just keep getting better. Each of the fights is unique in its own way. Each fight also takes place in one of the three principals homes – the first in Oliver’s (Stephen Amell), the second in Al-Owal’s (Navid Negahban), and the final in Sara’s (Caity Lotz). In the first fight with Al-Owal, the thing that I was most struck by was the use of “found” weapons as Sara (Caity Lotz) makes a staff out of a piece of molding. In the second fight, I was most impressed by the beautiful framing of the fight with the Canary fighting on the upper catwalk and Oliver and Al-Owal fighting below her. In the final fight, Sara and Oliver are joined by Quentin (Paul Blackthorne), and the three work together to achieve final victory, but at the price of Sara having to reveal all her secrets to her father. Quentin handles himself really well in the fight and I loved the Indiana Jones moment when he pulled his spare revolver and killed the assassin.

    Secrets and who’s keeping them is a major theme in this episode. Oliver promises Sara that he won’t be the one to disclose her secret. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) tells Sara that she will also keep her secret, and tells her to ask Oliver if she thinks she can’t. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is also keeping secrets. Moira (Susanna Thompson) still has secrets she doesn’t want revealed, and even Oliver still has secrets about his time on the Island. Once it becomes clear that Quentin will have to keep Sara’s secret, he says “It’s already the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” and he asks Oliver “How do you do it?” And that’s the thing about keeping secrets – it gets harder and harder to keep them. Diggle reminded Oliver in the last episode that he’d said that secrets carry weight, that they are heavy to carry around, and Oliver reminded Diggle about how much he works out – to be able to carry that weight. It’s clear that it is getting harder and harder for Oliver to keep his secrets and he takes a huge step at the end of the episode by finally opening up to Diggle (David Ramsey).

    In encouraging Sara to tell her family the truth or at least reveal she is alive, Oliver learns something about his mother. Sara doesn’t want to tell her family she’s alive because she doesn’t think they can possibly accept what she’s had to do to survive, and Moira faces a similar dilemma. Oliver arrives to the meeting with the DA Adam Donner (Dylan Bruce) only to find Laurel also at the table. As it turns out, Laurel is trying to help as best she can and it’s her intervention that has given Moira an alternative to the death penalty. Moira ultimately wants to take the deal in order to not lose her kids. Oliver ultimately realizes this and he and Thea (Willa Holland) urge her to fight. Holland and Thompson are terrific in the scene as Thea tells Moira that whatever she did, they won’t ever love her less.

    The other major theme of the episode is about forgiveness. Oliver tells Sara, “That’s the thing about forgiveness. You can’t get it til you ask for it.” Sara is willing to remain isolated and a ghost to her family to avoid the ultimate rejection from them. In the end, she has to reveal herself to Quentin in order to keep him safe from the League of Assassins. There are two very powerful scenes between Sara and Quentin and Lotz and Blackthorne really shine in both. It is telling, however, that Sara doesn’t tell her father anything about where she’s been. However, she under estimates his abilities as a detective, and I loved watching him piece the entire puzzle together as he realizes that she knows Felicity, so she knows the Arrow, so she’s the girl in the mask who’s been kicking ass in the Glades, and therefore she’s already been home for weeks. He asks her point blank if it weren’t for the League of Assassins would she actually have ever revealed herself. To her credit, Sara unflinchingly tells the truth that she likely never would have. And again, Quentin surprises her by accepting that too.

    The second scene between the two bookends the final fight of the episode. Sara tells Quentin that even as far away as she was, she never forgot her home or the sound of his voice. By killing Al-Owal, and sending a message through his henchman to Ra’s al Ghul, Sara finally reveals herself to her father. She apologizes for him having to see what she is and says she “can’t imagine what you think of me.” Again, Sara underestimates Quentin’s love for her and he says he thinks she’s a survivor and the bravest person he knows. He tells her he loves her and would love for her to come home. She can’t of course, and in order to keep her family safe, she must leave town. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it looks like we are going to continue to get her story in the flashbacks.

    In fact, the flashbacks in this episode are really telling Sara’s story. We begin with her rescue – onto the prison ship with the Captain (Jimmy Jean-Louis). We also get the introduction of another of DC’s super villains, mad scientist Dr Anthony Ivo (Dylan Neal). Ivo’s major phobia in the comics is death, so presumably whatever experiment he tells Sara he wants her to be a part of has to do with cheating death somehow. By the time Oliver is dropped at her feet on the prison ship, it is clear that Sara has already undergone some kind of re-conditioning and is about to do the same to Oliver. Perhaps she was forced to become a torturer to avoid being tortured herself? Ivo’s mad strength training through self-bullet extraction must factor into this somehow. I thought it was very interesting to parallel Sara and Oliver’s experiences. As the episode opens, Sara is dreaming of the Island and we know that Oliver is still plagued by nightmares. It may account for the fact that he is up watching tv when she emerges from having her nightmare.

    Oliver’s acceptance of her is really one of Sara’s first steps to accepting herself. It was a great moment of trust for him to introduce her to both Diggle and Felicity. Both are accepting of her and tell her they are happy she’s alive. I loved the interaction between Felicity and Sara too. It is a testament to how much both characters have grown that Felicity does realize that Sara merely did what she had to to survive and Sara is able to reach out to Felicity. Felicity is somewhat in awe of Sara – at least her pain threshold!

    The other side to forgiveness is acceptance. Laurel finally begins to show signs that she is accepting that she may be struggling. She’s still hiding that she’s using drugs as a crutch, however, and obviously doesn’t drink at dinner in order to prove to Oliver that she doesn’t have a drinking problem. The final scene with Blackthorne is another terrific one. Quentin tells her that a parent never stops worrying about his kids and that also resonates with Moira.

    Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of the episode for Oliver’s development is the acknowledgement that his past won’t stay buried and that he’s tired of trying so hard to keep it buried. He has friends and family that love and support him. Of course, this should make it easier for him to join other groups... like the Justice League!

    I thought this was another great episode. We get a new villain in the past flashbacks who is going to make that storyline really heat up. We also learned that Sara knew Shado (Celina Jade) because she remarks on seeing Oliver’s hood that she’d first seen it on Shado – so Shado is alive too! What did you think of the episode? Were these the best fight scenes yet? Was one your favorite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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