Arrow: 217 “Birds of Prey” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
As the second of three episodes with fan-servicing titles (after last week’s “Suicide Squad” and before next week’s “Deathstroke”), “Birds of Prey” is perhaps the one which has been anticipated the longest. As a quick crash course for the uninitiated, the Birds of Prey are a team in DC Comics founded by Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Commissioner James Gordon and former Batgirl until she was crippled by the Joker and became a tech-genius known as ‘Oracle’; and Dinah Laurel Lance, better known as the Black Canary. Soon after forming, they added Helena Bertinelli, also known as ‘Huntress’ to their ranks, and fought crime out of the Gotham Clock Tower. They’re a fan-favourite team, due partly to the fact that they are a mainstream superhero team made up entirely of kick-ass ladies, and their appearance in Arrow has been teased since Helena’s first appearance way back in season one. So did “Birds of Prey” live up to the promise made by its title?
In a word: no. In a few more words, the title is almost entirely empty fan-service, as other than Helena and Sara (who I’m counting as Black Canary since it doesn’t seem like we’ll see Laurel take up that identity any time soon) meeting face-to-face for the first time, the episode has basically nothing to do with the team. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to have much to do with Helena, who appears as a vague threat and is brought down fairly quickly and easily. So viewers looking forward to the formation of the Birds of Prey will be let down by the episode, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be an enjoyable episode.
The central thrust of the episode revolves around Frank Bertinelli, who is captured by police early on thanks in part to assistance from Oliver and Sara, and the realisation that, now it’s obvious where he is, that Helena will undoubtedly turn up and kill her father. As it turns out, Helena has been murdering her way across the organised criminals of the world in an attempt to find her father, and it just so happens he reappears right back in the place she left him – coincidence or what? Unsurprisingly, Helena does indeed turn up and storm the courthouse where her father is set to be tried, and even less surprisingly Laurel is present for the whole unpleasant business.
Backing up a little, this is because Laurel, now attending AA meetings and apparently becoming the most self-righteous recovering alcoholic in the world (that’s right, even though she’s getting herself sorted out, I still don’t like Laurel), has been offered her old job in the DA’s office, and her first piece of work is sitting in on the Bertinelli trial. However, this all turns out to be a sham, as the whole court case is a ruse to draw Helena out and arrest her. Naturally, as the Starling City Police Department appear to be the least competent police force in existence, this doesn’t work and Helena manages to take the entire courthouse hostage, Laurel included.
So Sara, as the Canary, heads to the courthouse in an attempt to rescue Laurel, but she is (somehow) overpowered and thrown out of a window by Helena, who then offers them a trade: Laurel for Frank. Naturally, Oliver delivers Frank, but he is killed in the crossfire as a particularly anti-vigilante SWAT captain tries to take down ‘anyone wearing a mask’, which Helena doesn’t like and has a minor breakdown over, after which she is promptly arrested by Quentin and the whole thing is over. There is some suggestion as Oliver visits Helena in the interrogation room that Helena may turn to the light after this, but all in all it’s as disappointing an outcome for the audience as it is for Helena.
Over on the island, Slade demands that Sara send back Hendricks, the nasty man who escaped from the freighter, as he is the only one who can fix the ship’s engines, and threatens to kill Oliver if she does not comply. There is a little bit of conflict between the escapees until they decide to knock Hendricks out and send him back against his will. However, the most interesting thing that happens in the flashback is that Slade gives Oliver his first tattoo against his will: he ‘brands’ him with the same tattoo that Shado had as a way of marking his ‘crime’ and showing the world what he did. It’s a resolution to something which was hinted at way back in season one, and an interesting little moment which symbolises some of the changes which happened to Oliver on the island.
Finally, after seeing that he absolutely cannot control his strength, Oliver demands that Roy break up with Thea to keep her safe, thus entirely going back on what he told him to do previously. After almost breaking a Verdant customer in half (slight exaggeration), he realises that Oliver is right and reluctantly allows Thea to catch him making out with another girl, and their relationship ends messily. Then, as Thea is walking home on her own, she is picked up by a ‘friendly’ face: none other than Slade Wilson, somehow being friendly and incredibly threatening at the same time in that way that only he can.
With the anticipation over the title of the episode, ‘Birds of Prey’ was actually something of a let-down: the titular team never really showed up, and I found the main plot somewhat uninteresting. There were some nice hints about future developments, but at this stage, and with this much anticipation built up around each episode, hints are not really enough.