So what did Arrow teach us this week, class? That's right: The truth is a terrible thing and should never ever be revealed to anyone. Bury your secrets very deep, buy off your OB, and join an association of ruthless assassins, because the truth will only make people hate you.
Unless you're Felicity. In that case, the truth will strengthen the bond with that guy you're head over heels for... except he just kissed another woman. Okay, yeah. The truth sucks.
All kidding aside, "Heir to the Demon" paid off a lot of the table-setting Arrow's been doing since it returned from the winter break, particularly with regard to Laurel's fall from her already shaky place in the world. The truth of Sara's existence only made things go from bad to worse for everyone's favorite punching bag.
Of course, we don't know the whole truth yet, and neither does Laurel. This makes all the difference. Before everyone kicks up the "Good grief, Laurel, get over yourself and your it's-all-about-me attitude!" reprise, let's take a deep breath and realize that Laurel's angry speech to Sara was pretty damn justified. Sara was gone for five years, and spent some of that time on the freighter and the island, and then some more of it with the League. When Nyssa found her, she was starving and nearly dead. But Sara didn't think to maybe try and make her way to an American consulate or embassy? Pick up a phone? There's still story to be told here, for both the audience and the show's characters, but without it, Laurel's got a pretty solid case for being angry.
Even without all the facts of the situation, Laurel's anger has been simmering since the Queen's Gambit sank. She never dealt with that pain. She plastered over it with her on-again-off-again relationship with Tommy, helped Quentin get into recovery, and worked at a legal aid office. Tommy's death only added to her strife. It became a hunt for the vigilante and then it became booze and pills. Nothing worked. Nothing made the pain go away. And, really, until Tommy's death, Laurel probably didn't even realize she still had any pain.
So to have Sara just return, happy as ever, to smiles and hugs from Quentin and Dinah—what's a little abduction when your dead daughter turns out to be alive?—only revealed how little Laurel's been able to move on. Oliver at least got to work through some of his issues by shooting half of Starling City's criminal element with arrows. Diggle had his Deadshot crusade. There's a sense of purpose in such actions—a goal that, once completed, allows a person to say, "I'm better now." Laurel tried all sorts of things to get to that "I'm better now" place, but all of them were taken away. Or, in the case of the drugs, her support system wants to take them away.
Yes, it's self-destructive and self-centered, but anger can be like that. Anger at yourself, anger at others, it warps everything around you, and sometimes you simply drown in it, even if you know you're behaving irrationally. It's shameful and horrible, and saying you were wrong, that you need help, just isn't easy. That's the situation Laurel has found herself in, while we get to sit and judge her for being a horrible (fictional) human being.
But Sara's not immune to these issues, either. We don't have a full sense of her first year dealing with Ivo, or her suffering before Nyssa found her. After joining the League, who knows what all she had to do. We do know that it involved murder—she was an assassin—and that it was scraping away at her soul, likely in the same way that made Diggle worry about Oliver's soul back in Season 1. There's shame and trauma at play here, piled onto her regret over joining Oliver on the boat in the first place. And it all probably built up in her mind until it became something along the lines of "They will not accept me. I've changed too much."
So while Sara's motivations for avoiding her family may have been "I'm staying away from Starling City to protect my family from the League...," they were also "...and to protect myself from them." It's similar to the emotional distance that Oliver struggled to put between himself and his old life in Season 1; Sara simply added a geographical layer as well. Hell, you don't get much more serious in your attempt to avoid dealing with your trauma than pretending to be dead.
Neither Lance sister is wrong in their feelings, but neither is right, either. That's the tricky thing about these emotional cocktails Arrow is mixing, cocktails that are right at home with the show's bigger concerns about coping and trauma. Some aspects are far more exciting—assassins! Crime-fighting!—than others, but just because some of them don't involve fight choreography and stunt work doesn't mean they're less important. Laurel's arc hasn't been the best managed, but it is starting to come together in ways that, frankly, I wouldn't have expected, ways that I attribute largely to the decision to have Sara not be dead (something I was rolling my eyes about before the season started). Without Sara as a catalyst, who knows where Laurel would've gotten to, if anywhere?
The Lances weren't the only ones dealing with truths and lies this week as Felicity discovered the identity of Thea's father after Moira and her new campaign shifted some funds from Tempest to buy the silence of Moira's doctor. This in turn led to Felicity confronting Moira, Moira attempting to manipulate Felicity into not telling Oliver, Felicity telling Oliver anyway, and everything blowing up in Moira's face.
And now I feel like I need to revisit large swatches of Season 1, probably post-Walter's kidnapping, to re-examine Moira's behavior. She was looking pure soap-opera-villain smug as she preyed on Felicity's emotions to keep Felicity silent, but I don't know that Moira has earned that smugness on her own. Certainly Oliver's "You're a lying liar who lies!" was attached to a bunch of stuff from Season 1, but a lot of it had was attached to Malcolm's influence and Moira keeping her head above water any way that she could. Moira's actions weren't the machinations of a master—or even willing—plotter. Perhaps I'm off base, and you can all refresh me on this matter in the comments. At the very least, Moira keeping this secret was still an effort to protect herself and her family, and that's all she's ever really been concerned with.
– I never watched Spartacus, so I had zero exposure to Katrina Law prior to this episode. I thought she was pretty good, and if you enjoyed her, you'll be glad to know that she's slated to return before the season is through.
– The Arrow Cave is now super-crowded with Sara (probably) joining. Diggle's going to end up working as a bouncer at Verdant. Or becoming drinking buddies with Laurel. I would watch those webisodes.
– Diggle's head tilt as he watched Sara use the salmon ladder? Priceless.
– "I wasn't trying to be a bitch." "Title of your autobiography."
– A non-DC Comics note for you all that's also a rare comic book recommendation. Marvel released the first issue of the rebooted Ms. Marvel title today, and it features the new character Kamala Kahn, a Pakistani-American 16-year-old who assumes the Ms. Marvel mantle. It's a super-charming Issue No. 1, and is easily accessible even if you're not familiar with the ins and outs of the Marvel Comics Universe, so I encourage you to pick it up.
– Like many U.S. broadcast shows and a few cable shows, too—I WILL MISS YOU, ARCHER!—Arrow (heh, Archer/Arrow) will enter a Winter Olympics hibernation to avoid getting its ratings teeth kicked in by figuring skating, hockey, skiing, and curling. We'll reconvene on February 26 to discuss "Time of Death." See you all then!
What did you think of "Heir to the Demon"?
AIRED ON 4/27/2016
Season 4 : Episode 19
TONIGHT AT 8PM
Season 4 : Episode 20