Arrow: Green Arrow & the Canaries

“The city’s safe.”
“It doesn’t stay that way.”

From the moment Felicity and Company gave their “you are the next generation of Star City’s heroes” speech in last year's finale I assumed that all the flash forwards were an extended test case for a spin-off. So my initial reaction upon hearing about this back-door pilot was “Why?”

Now I know.

I don’t think I was wrong in my assessment. However, I didn’t understand the extent of the changes The Powers That Be were hoping to make. The collapsed multiverse provided the perfect opportunity for a reset. I applaud some changes while others left me scratching my head.

Having Mia as the new Green Arrow allows them to ditch Oliver’s baggage. She is neither the billionaire spoiled brat nor the murderous vigilante her father once was. Her character arc is that of a young woman finding her place and purpose in the world rather someone in need of redemption.

Along with the new character arc comes a new tone and energy. Gone is the dark and gloomy world of Star City. There is still a nod to Arrow’s roots. Queen Manor is back along with the glitter and glamour of the first season. However, we are in a world that’s been crime free for 20 years. There is a lightness more reminiscent of Central City or National City than Star City.

This newfound lightness includes our cast of characters. Instead of the testosterone-laden backstory of its predecessor, Mia has the dueling Canaries as her companions and mentors. Laurel is similar to Oliver in that she comes to her hero mantel through the need to atone for her past sins. But she brings an irreverence that the post Lian Yu Oliver never had and a lack of concern for many of the rules white hats typically play by.

As a former police captain, Dinah would seem the perfect foil for Laurel. I’ve no doubt that if the show gets picked up The Powers That Be will use those differences to generate conflict for years to come. However, they have more in common than just their canary cries. Dinah traveled down some pretty dark paths of her own. And police captain or not, many of her vigilante exploits were definitively outside the law.

Which leads to the biggest head scratching moment. 2020 Dinah’s existence in the 2040 world. I get the practical reasons for this decision. It negates the daily need to spend hours in the makeup chair or having to make plot concessions on how a woman of her “advanced years” manages to keep up with her much younger companions. Yet, her mysterious 20 year jump and erasure from history is a big ask.

At least as far as this episode is concerned, the male characters are relegated to secondary positions. William, groomed to be the future’s version of Felicity was barely visible, requiring Dinah to tap previously unused technical skills garnered through her vast experience as... police captain. Right. If the show is picked up, I assume that will be rectified. In the meantime, William serves as a plot delivery device. Linking the now multipurpose MacGuffin, I mean, hozen of Arrow to the spin-off’s potential female Big Bad.

The reset has also reversed JJ and Connor’s roles with Connor now serving as the black sheep and JJ being Mia’s honorable love interest. Connor became one of my favorite characters over the last two seasons. So I found this version - an angry, man battling drug addiction, and disappointing his family and friends depressing. In a good way.

It made me want Laurel to use her fancy new tech to wake him up to his true nature. Instead, we have some masked individual, waking JJ up to his alternate past. Leaving open the question of which version of his personality will win the day.

This “pilot” has the advantage of being peopled with characters the audience has known, and hopefully loved, for nearly 2 years. The relationships and conflicts feel earned despite the changed circumstances and allows for narrative shortcuts that would never be possible with a true pilot.

That said, it suffers from the same thing many pilot’s, and particularly spin-off’s suffer from. Striking the right tone and balance is dicey. No one wants a remake of the original but straying too far from the previous version can alienate the audience. I don’t think they’ve solved that issue here, but these characters have bought enough good will for me to give any potential new series a fair shake.

As an episode of Arrow, I was disappointed. This episode has written checks the series finale will never have time to cash. Somehow, I think they'll resolve what happened to William but unless this show gets picked up we may never find out what happens to Diggle’s sons, why Dinah was erased from history and thrust into the future and how the mysterious Big Bad is tied into Lian Yu’s ever evolving hozen.

Besides, the jump to 2040 and the search for Bianca Bertinelli kept the show from answering the questions I really cared about. Namely, what does the post Crisis Star City look like? Where is Sarah Diggle? Or her parents? How much of what we’ve watched over the last seven years still occurred on Earth-Prime? And, most importantly, will we see Oliver in some way other than archival footage in his own finale?

If you haven’t guessed already, my feelings on this episode are very mixed. It wasn’t a bad episode, and I certainly didn’t hate it. But considering there were only two episodes left, it wasn’t what I wanted, either.

I don’t think I can objectively grade this episode. Let me know your thoughts.

Parting Thoughts:

Well, this episode passed the Bechdel test with flying colors!

The pictures on Mia’s night stand are of Oliver and Felicity holding the baby version of her and of child versions of her and William smiling together.

I’m not sure of whether it was because this is the most time we’ve spent with JJ or because of his personality shift but I completely buy that he is Diggle and Lyla’s son.

Helena Bertinelli is the adopted mother of Mia’s friend Bianca. Any chance her disappearance has to do with The Huntress?

They never established how long Dinah’s been in 2040 although we find out she married at 21. Was that an Earth-1 or an Earth-Prime memory?

Making Dinah a bar owner didn’t come out of thin air. It came from one of her many incarnations.

Quotes:

Laurel: “So when did you learn to sing?”
Dinah: “We didn’t have much time for karaoke back in 2020, did we?”

Laurel: “I’m not gonna lie, your Zen is kind of creeping me out.”

Reporter: “What would your dad think about your life choices?”

Mia: “Can I just enjoy tonight before I have to start adulting?”

Connor: “What’s the matter, Trust Fund? You don’t want me at your fancy little party?”
Mia: “As long as you don’t punch anyone or set anything on fire, we’ll be okay.”

Dinah: “We were friends of your parents.”
Mia: “Then how come I’ve never seen either of you before?”

Dinah: “See? A much better idea than punching our way in.”
Laurel: “A lot less fun though.”

Mia: “Okay. I just accused my fiance for nothing."
Laurel: “Oh, he’ll get over it. Or you’ll move on to someone who wasn’t a homicidal maniac in another life. Win-win.”

JJ: “Then how come ever since the party- Ever since I proposed to you, it’s like you’re seeing someone else when you’re looking at me? When I look at you, I see the rest of my life. I can’t marry someone who doesn’t feel the same.”

Laurel: “Mia, this is your city. And you are the Green Arrow.”

Trevor: “You can’t stop what’s coming. She won’t let you.”

Laurel: “To the Green Arrow.”
Mia: “To the Canaries.”
Dinah: "To the future, whatever it holds.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

5 comments:

CoramDeo said...

This is probably a fine episode, but I lack the ability to judge it objectively because I was so excited for the final two episodes of Arrow. Turns out there's only one episode of Arrow after the Crisis, plus this, which is an episode of an entirely different show. It was nearly impossible for me to overcome my disappointment and look at this episode on its own merits. That's a sad thing to me. I'd rather judge the pilot for this new show as a new show, rather than as an episode of Arrow.

Billie Doux said...

Shari and CoramDeo, I felt the way you did. As a backdoor pilot, it certainly wasn't bad at all. But it wasn't what I wanted and I'm not excited about this premise as a series.

Shari said...

Thank You! I'm glad I'm not the only one that felt that way.

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

Fortunately, I knew that this episode was just the backdoor pilot, and that we'd only have one "real" episode of Arrow left after the Crisis. I hadn't been excited for the potential series, mostly due to it being led by Mia. Her angsty, stubborn warrior character has annoyed me throughout seasons 7 and 8.

The reset fixes that a lot. It makes her softer and brings more conflict as she tries to reconcile her two pasts. And the socialite/vigilante double life she intends to lead will bring both pasts into contrast again and again throughout the series.

It was kind of rough, Laurel giving Mia her memories back like that. At least she now remembers those months she got with Oliver.

I'm not sure about Laurel and Dinah in the new series. Both seem far too settled and at peace with themselves. We've already watched their character growth for years, so I hope the new show shakes things up a bit, or they, aside from Laurel's snarky comments, are going to get boring fast.

But I'm interested in seeing how the other characters shake out after the Crisis. J.J. will have interesting choices to make regarding which past will determine his future. Will other characters like William, Connor, and Zoe also get their memories back? And there is a lot of "second generation of heroes/villains" possibilities to bring out.

I just hope they're able to keep the tech and such in the believable range. It's easier for shows that are set in the far future. 20 years is not that long, but cars and such looked very present-day. People may be laughing at the guesses this show made in two decades, so I don't think it's destined to be a classic. (I checked out which shows started in 2000 for reference - Gilmore Girls is 20 years old?)

Shari said...

Wow, Katie, a lot of food for thought.

I agree with you, that the reset softens Mia. I also love that her socialite by day and hero by night mirrors her father.

I didn't know about the pilot until a week or two before and I've heard nothing about it being picked up. I'll be really upset if this episode is the last we hear of 2040.

As for Connor, William and Zoe, I have no doubt they will discover their alternate histories if the show is picked up. And once they are brought into the fold I can see the older wiser Canaries trying rein in their hot-headed charges more than I see a ton of conflict between the Canaries themselves.

What Connor and JJ choose to do with their knowledge seems like grist for the first season.

All of which is contingent on the show getting picked up.