Arrow’s penultimate episode may not have Oliver Queen in it, but it serves as a testament to his legacy and sacrifice. ‘Green Arrow and the Canaries’ serves as the backdoor pilot for a new ‘Arrow’ spin-off, but it’s also a touchstone for the long term impacts Oliver had.
Earth-Prime’s Star City 2040 is a far cry from the broken dystopia we saw in season seven and the first half of this season. It’s whole and thriving as are its people, unburdened by crime. But the shiny new façade doesn’t last long before some cracks start to show. The episode kicks off with Laurel (Earth-2 Laurel if there was any question as to which Laurel Lance returned post-crisis) tracking down a party girl, Bianca Bertinelli daughter of Helena Bertinelli. Yes, the same Helena who dated Oliver and ran around in her own mask under the name Huntress. Bianca is in trouble, but she’s too busy on the dance floor to heed Laurel’s warnings. That is until two men in the classic mysterious black suits scoop her up before Laurel can intervene.
With Bianca in the wind, Laurel goes to a cosy little bar where the owner has a familiar face. A very familiar face. Dinah Drake, as we know her from 2020, somehow wound up in 2040 Star City without a clue how she got there and without a trace of her former life in the history books. Laurel’s from 2020 too, but her future trip was on purpose. A tip-off from Sara shows Star City 2041 is near destroyed and Bianca’s kidnapping was the first domino that set it off. The records show they have three days to find Bianca before she turns up dead. But the Canaries need one more part of this vigilante equation. They need a Green Arrow.
Problem is the Green Arrow successor isn’t much of the hood wearing hero in this new universe. Mia Smoak, wait sorry, Mia Queen grew up in this world with her brother, family, and friends, in the Queen Mansion and surrounded by everything she could want or need. She’s about to graduate university (something that Oliver didn’t). She’s engaged to the love of her life, John ‘JJ’ Diggle Junior and she doesn’t have memories from the old timeline to tell her fiancé was a murderous leader of a terrorist gang in another life.
That last thing doesn’t last long when Laurel and Dinah crash her graduation party. Using some Cisco tech Laurel restores her memories. She’s understandably shaken by the memories of two very different lives. She’s reluctant but is convinced to help find her friend.
The next day Mia distracts the Bertinelli family while the Canaries bug the house. Later, in Dinah’s fancy clock tower apartment, the Canaries have a heart to heart about their place in this new world. Dinah sees this world as only better without her in it. Star City isn’t the grim future she was told about and her protégée isn’t dead because she was never her protégée. Laurel doesn’t agree. Dinah didn’t send women to their deaths. She inspired them.
They learn Bianca’s cousin is moving something out of the city. Suspecting it to be Bianca the ladies suit up, though Mia’s outfit is any distinctive green. The Bertinelli’s convoy is full of bad intentions and gun touting thugs, but it doesn’t have Bianca, just some strange vials. Their ambush is ambushed by someone in a Deathstroke mask. Laurel and Dinah suspect JJ, but Mia doesn’t want to believe that’s who he is in this world. Confronting him about Bianca’s kidnapping only manages to strain their relationship.
With a bit of kick from Dinah, Laurel goes to apologise to Mia. For her, being a hero was the hardest thing to do, but it’s the thing that gave her purpose. She wanted to give Mia the chance to choose that path too, to find her own purpose. Mia spent her life, both lives really, living in Oliver’s shadow. How could she ever live up to the hero who saved the world and gave Star City its best future? It was easier to do nothing than trying and possibly failing to fill impossibly big shoes. In spite of that, she returns with Laurel because that’s what heroes do.
A social post from Bianca makes it seem like the young Bertinelli is fine but Dinah uncovers the post was doctored. Mia gets to flex her Felicity side, narrowing down the places Bianca could be. They find Bianca, but also her ex-boyfriend Trevor, the person behind her kidnapping. He reveals Bianca’s kidnapping was one part of a bigger plot, ominously dropping his boss won’t let them ruin ‘her’ plan. Before he blows up the building they spot a tattoo on Trevor’s arm that screams ‘plot-thread’.
Toasting to their victory the trio decide to make this one-time gig a more permanent thing. There are forces at work in Star City and they’re the only ones who can stop it. After Mia leaves Laurel drops one more future bomb – whatever causes Star City to implode in a year, Mia is at the heart of it.
Meanwhile, Mia and William are at their dad’s memorial. William has the hozen with him, but when she looks at it, the marks on the rock match the ones she saw on Trevor’s arm. Before she can even process this she and William are hit with knockout darts, William getting dragged off. They’re not the only ones in danger. JJ gets attacked by someone with the same tech Laurel used on Mia, awaking his other timeline memories.
The finish line is so close now. Looking at ‘Green Arrow and the Canaries’ as a pilot there’s a lot of stuff it gets right. It reintroduces us to an old setting that’s changed, establishing the new status quo. The core trio gets plenty of time to shine and establish their dynamics with each other. By the episodes end there are many threads left dangling, all just waiting to be picked up if and when the show starts in earnest.
This new Star City is shiny and bright. It’s like those damp warehouses that housed every other fight in Arrow have been demolished to make way for the sleek and new. Though the episode made a point of how there’s ‘no crime in the city anymore,’ it’s clear already that’s not the case. Bianca’s kidnapping wasn’t just a revenge plot by a pissy ex-boyfriend. Trevor didn’t just pick up a Deathstroke mask. Helena went missing, but this somehow isn’t counted as a crime? Even the Bertinelli’s red herring proved Star City isn’t as crime-free as everyone says. There’s no chance those vials were carrying something innocent like a sports drink formula. The city is better than it’s ever been, thanks to Oliver no doubt, but nothing’s perfect. Compared to the previous future setting this 2040 feels right. There was always a hopelessness attached to the dystopian future we got glimpses of. The idea that despite all the efforts of our heroes they’re still going to fail their city felt like a disservice to our heroes in the present. Now we know they’ve truly changed the future.
Laurel and Dinah’s chemistry as always been palpable and that’s no different here. Their heart to hearts layered with just the right amount of sass brings out the best of their dynamic. Then add to that Mia the fledgling vigilante who hasn’t quite found her footing in the world of the heroes. She hasn’t even found her footing with her old and new memories. It’s something the other shows with characters that have memories of both worlds haven’t really touched on yet, what kind of toll will it have on a person to hold the memories of two different lives. Though the other characters won’t have two completely different upbrings warring in their heads. McNamara plays Mia on the borders of her two sides. She’s not entirely the Mia we met in a cage match, but she’s also not the Mia who woke up in the Queen Mansion at the start of this episode.
Then there are the little bread crumbs left untouched for now, waiting to be followed when this becomes a show in its own right. Who kidnapped William? Who awoke JJ’s memories? Who’s this mysterious ‘she’ pulling strings from the shadows? Most intriguing thus far is Dinah being dropping into the future. It’s vague enough and in line with the kind of storytelling I expect from the Arrowverse for me to accept it here as the reason she’s unaged twenty years in the future, but going forward it needs to be addressed in the series.
As much as this could be looked at as it’s own thing, it’s impossible to divorce it from Arrow. It’s disconnect from the rest of the series storywise, but there’s a symbolic tether. Star City, this Star City where his kids grew up happy and together is everything Oliver sacrificed for. If we had stayed in 2020 for this episode we could have never seen this, that Oliver truly got his wish.
Some Stray Shots
- William will be an amazing man of honour (if there’s still a wedding happening which doesn’t seem likely).
- Speaking of William I hope his kidnappers also want to restore his Earth-1 memories. Don’t you dare erase his coming out speech with his dad.
- Zoe lives!
- Dinah’s clock tower reminds of Sara’s days in Arrow season 2, when she hung out in a similar clock tower.
- A single arrow framed in the Queen home is such a bittersweet touch.