Arrow - 2.05 - League of Assassins - And the Winner is… Review and Episode Award Polls
It's no secret that I love this episode. It's the second best episode, after Sacrifice, for me and the fight scenes alone are the best I've seen on TV maybe ever. The adrenaline and skill it took to shoot them had to be monumental because I was glued to the screen. As a TV action junkie, this was everything I hoped for and if the stunt coordinator, James Bamford, doesn't get an Emmy nomination this season, there is no justice in Hollywood. But it wasn't just the action scenes that soared. The sheer emotional drama was powerful as well. If I cried about TV, I would have been weeping each time Sara and Quentin were in a scene together. All the core relationships are so solid in this episode and you can feel the ache in the characters, as the plot zips by at rollercoaster speeds. Yet at the same time, nothing I thought would happen did, including the ending with Sara leaving either. Nor am I sure I like it. She's become an integral character within a few short episodes and I will miss her if she remains gone too long. In fact, the only thing I didn't like in this episode was the flashbacks, the beginning and ending flashbacks being the worst. They were a pair of useless bookends that dampened an otherwise excellent episode, as the beginning one was already shown albeit with another actress and the ending killed the momentum of the final Oliver and Diggle scene. It is the flashbacks that slay the rewatchability of the episode, and thus takes its grade down a notch. Other than that, it was a riveting 42 minutes.
In fact, that is the problem. The episode had so many excellent moments I got stuck on episode awards, especially MVP (most valuable player), best action, and most emotional scene. Since it's a copout to say tie multiple times, I broke each category down. For MVP, I had three nominees: James Bamford, coordinator of the fight scenes, Sara, and Quentin. Bamford did such an amazing job one whole category is devoted to his craft. I love how he adds fresh elements into his work like the door post Sara uses as a weapon in the first fight, the multiple assassins in the second, or the use of light in the last one. Each sequence felt distinctly different and yet the scenes flowed nicely together. Whenever Bamford's work was on screen, my heart raced and I held my breath. Looking away was not an option because I knew something awesome was about to occur. Still, the drama scenes were equally breathtaking and many of them involved Sara. What I liked most about Sara in this episode was that, except in flashback, she had chemistry with every character she interacted with. Whether confessing her role in the League of Assassins to Oliver, thanking Felicity for the support, or facing off against Diggle, her scenes came alive. For such a recent character, she interacted with much of the cast and held her own with them all, resulting in a well-rounded portrait. Caity Lotz gets much credit for how instantly popular Black Canary has become and she shows great acting range already. None more so than when opposite Paul Blackthorne. The Sara and Quentin scenes were the most powerful in the episode. I shocked when she revealed herself so quickly but I'm glad she did. The way Quentin broke down when first seeing her was heart wrenching. All the trauma in his life since believing Sara died could be seen on his face - his alcoholism, divorce, problems with Laurel, and general pessimism about life swirling in the disbelief and joy of having his daughter back. When he broke, I came closer to crying over a TV show than I have since early Supernatural. Paul Blackthorne sold that scene, but it was his slow recognition that things were not right with his daughter in the diner scene that really showcased his range. Then, the absolute acceptance he showed her in the clock tower when she felt so unworthy was golden. I am so glad they are finally using him to full potential on Arrow. Verdict - While all 3 made this episode, my MVP award goes to…James Bamford who is the unsung hero of Arrow.
It is fitting that the episode MVP be showered with another award…Best Action Scene. The opening fight had the element of surprise made more interesting because of the dramatic scene it interrupted and Oliver's shock that the assassin dressed like Merlyn. The highlight though was when Sara yanked down the door frame embellishment and used it as a weapon. I like how balanced the action was between Sara and Oliver fighting. Plus I think it's the first time we saw Oliver fight in the present day instead of the Hood. Ending it with the spectacular chandelier crash was stunning. Additionally, the fact that it was well-lit so we could see every element made this a very strong action scene. The second in the abandoned factory was the opposite and more traditional for Arrow in that the lighting was murkier (but still better than usual) and our heroes were costumed. Alas it also started with another arrow catch, this time from the back. Urgh! They really need to stop that. Everything after though soared. I enjoyed that this assassin trained Malcolm, but the dual level, multiple assassin, hand-to-hand combat really rocked. It was so well choreographed that the spins, deflections, and sheer energy expelled were awe-inspiring. Best though was that Black Canary took on two assassins at once while Oliver zipped them to safety in another nifty arrow trick. The final fight sequence in the clock tower once more interrupted the drama and was better lit, but this time the booby traps added a lot as did the variety of weapons. Still it was the quick paced footwork, twists, deflections, and gymnastic touches that made even this coach potato's adrenaline race. Little touches like Sara flourishing her weapon added flair. I also love how the pace went from sonic to a lull to high action again when Oliver broke through the clock. Even Quentin got a chance to shine. Then to end it with Sara snapping the assassin's neck in front of her father…wow. Verdict - This one was even harder than the first but right now I'm going with the factory because of the double decker fighting. So cool.
The final difficult award goes to Best Emotional Scene, which is tough for the sheer volume of excellent choices. 8 scenes made my short list, which I then halved. 1. Sara shows herself to Quentin. One of the most powerful moments in the series so far, this father-daughter reunion pulled at all the heartstrings. Mostly it was Quentin's shock and joy, and how tight he held his no longer dead daughter. When his voice went high and when Sara called him, "Daddy," even my cold heart softened. The acting in this scene was the episode's best. 2. Sara before Quentin after killing the assassin. The body language here is incredibly powerful. Sara stands, head low in front of her father, posture ready for her father's recriminations. This amazing warrior who just defeated a powerful assassin suddenly turns little girl, afraid her father will not love her anymore. Then Quentin, in an amazing show of unconditional love, tells her he's proud of her and most importantly, she's still his beloved daughter. It's the power of a father's love at its best and the fact that Sara must go right after that makes the leaving even harder. 3. Oliver and Thea will always love Moira no matter what. Polar opposite of the last, this scene it is no less poignant. A child's unconditional love for a parent is equally powerful. Moira also feels she doesn't deserve her children's love. Yet when Thea grabs her hand saying they are a strong family and Oliver reiterates that she will never lose them, the burden is visibly lifted off Moira and gives her courage to fight. Redemption through unconditional love conquers again. 4. Quentin reconciles with Laurel as she breaks down. Another powerful Quentin scene which also showcases Laurel at her most vulnerable. Yes, she broke down after the Dollmaker, but this is a breaking Laurel outside a crisis, one who needs her dad's reassurances that life gets better. While Sara needed his forgiveness, Laurel needs his strength and Quentin is there for both of them. I love how they don't bicker like usual. Laurel apologizes for not calling and recognizes something has happened. More importantly, when Quentin asks if she's okay, she shows vulnerability instead of putting up a façade. The walls crack as they both cling in a hug. Best Laurel scene yet. Verdict - All of these tugged at my heart, but in the end Quentin absolving Sara right before they part is the strongest emotional scene since Tommy's death for me.
Since I already put my episode awards in the preview, I thought it would be fun for the SpoilerTV audience to choose their favorites this time. I've included an other choice for each poll since your mileage may vary from mine. Don't forget to tell why you chose your votes in the comments below and happy voting!