"Birds of Prey" brings Arrow's resident doe-eyed nutcase back to town. This starts a cascade of shady ethical decisions, all of which I thought could be resolved by going evil.
The island flashback revolves mostly around Sara's decisions. Slade wants to get going, but the ship is disabled. There's a moment when he stares thoughtfully out into the distance and says, "During the attack, unfortunately, I decapitated the engineer." I dissolved into giggles at that. One of the prisoners can fix the ship, but he has made it back to the island. Slade demands a trade from Sara, the prisoner for Ollie. The prisoner makes this a lot easier, as he was a jerk in prison, and starts waving a gun around the moment he hears the call. KGBeast distracts him, Sara knocks him out, and it seems like the whole group decides to make the trade. Supposedly this is a murky choice, but I back it. From Sara's point of view, Slade has every reason to hurt Ollie, but absolutely no reason to hurt the guy she's giving to him. He only wants the prisoner so he can leave. Basically, she's purchasing Oliver's freedom and giving the guy a free ride out of there. Win-win.
The sequence is meant to show how far Sara will go to protect the people she loves. She gets some provocation in this episode, as Laurel is in danger. Again.
They've just captured Frank Bertinelli, and the Adam Donner, Laurel's former boss, wants her to come back and try him. Laurel is thrilled! The Arrow team? Less so. They know what happens when Laurel gets anywhere near the line of fire, and this time it happens even faster than usual. As Bertinelli gets taken into the courthouse, Helena drops in. It turns out the whole thing was a sham, perpetrated by Donner and an anti-vigilante cop, to draw Helena out. But Helena anticipated this, and has her own crew in the building. A shoot-out ensues, and Helena's crew falls back and takes hostages.
Helena paces the inner rooms at the courthouse, staring creepily at the hostages and making comments about their wedding rings. It's unpleasant for them, sure, but looking at the situation outside the courthouse makes it seem like the hostages got the best deal. Everyone is in a rage. The cop is screaming about how this is what happens vigilantes run wild, and planning for the cops to come in and shoot everyone in a mask. Quentin punches Donner right in the mouth. Ollie and Sara are fighting because he's using nonlethal arrows (Sara taunts him, calling them "baby arrows"), even though Laurel is in the building with the hostages (though not caught). Felicity and Digg are backing Sara and saying that Ollie is doing this because, "Anyone with boobs can get a frat boy to do anything." It's pandemonium!
Here's my plan to end all that - send in Frank Bertinelli to be killed. Last time I saw him he was in witness protection, and in this episode he's back with a criminal organization that shot at a bunch of cops. He's killed many people. He's the top guy in his organization, meaning that he's responsible for everything that goes on beneath him. Oh, and Helena will stop when she kills him. The world needs him to go away, the heroes need him to go away, the law needs him to go away - this is a problem that solves itself!
Unfortunately, the characters in the show don't consider that a viable solution. I suppose that's a good thing, as we would have missed a few nice moments in this episode.
One great moment happens when Quentin calls the Arrow, and Oliver is standing right next to him. Ollie quickly says that his mom is calling, which means that he has his secret police buddy listed under "mom" on his phone. I find this both funny and touching.
Sara goes barreling into the courthouse to free Laurel and has absolutely zero success - as Laurel ends up as leverage to get Ollie to hand over Frank, and Sara gets thrown out a window. She does, however, share a nice moment with Laurel, as Laurel lunges for a bottle and Sara talks her down. There is even some meta, as Laurel tiredly says, "Turns out I'm decoration. Expendable decoration." That's true of the character in and out of the show. Unless something drastic happens with her, we are just marking time with Laurel.
Laurel also has a moment with Helena. Laurel pleads with Helena, saying that she can redeem herself. Helena counters with, "Once you let the darkness inside you, it never comes out." We discover later that this moment wasn't just an exchange of philosophies, but a full soul transfer.
Towards the end of the hostage crisis, the entire cast plays the world's most entertaining round of musical chairs, as everyone switches places. The police officers rush in, ready to shoot, only to find Helena already gone and a hostage dressed up in her clothes. Helena's in a police outfit, sneaking Laurel out of the building to meet Ollie and Sara at a rendez vous point. Quentin goes rogue, kidnapping Frank to turn him over to Ollie and Sara. I gotta say, although she has the usual villain's weakness of speechifying when she should be shooting people in the head, Helena's a pretty competent villain.
It's a shame what happens to her. The fanatic cop disrupts their little meet-up, spraying them all with bullets while screaming, "You are not above the law!" In the melee, Frank gets a bullet to the heart, which pretty much takes the fight out of Helena. She drops to her knees and wails that it should have been her to do it.
And this is why I love Helena, because that milky complexion and perfectly straight hair covers a volcano of human crazy the likes of which most of us have never even imagined. One minute she's screaming that she's going to shoot hostages, and the next, she's in prison, giving Ollie her best remorseful eyes. She's like Arwen the elf, crossed with a sad puppy, stretched over the soul of Charles Manson. And Ollie falls for it every time. He holds her hand tenderly, and says that he, too, was once a killer, but that he stopped. That's fair, but it would be a great deal more fair if he offered to go to prison for his crimes, the way that she's going to prison for hers. What do you say, Ollie? No? What a surprise.
Meanwhile, Laurel is quoting Helena to the District Attorney, and blackmailing the woman into giving Laurel her job back. And, utter reprobate that I am, I love it. The only way Laurel is going to work is as a villain, and it's time the show embraced that. The fairy godmother routine she played last episode, fixing up Ollie and her sister, made me want to throw my shoe at her.
Now to the true villain! Roy's fits of anger during missions haven't been getting any better. Ollie sits him down and tells him to stay away from Thea. This might work better, dramatically, if Roy's past scenes with Thea didn't have all the terrible violence of a commercial for fabric softener. (Although I do appreciate the show not taking us down some godawful "He hurts me, but I know he loves me" path.) As it is, Ollie is basically pulling a Hulk-and-Betty. Comics fans know what I mean. It's shown over and over that Betty is the one person that can reliably calm Hulk down in his rages, and what does everyone do? Get her as far away from Hulk as possible. That's like storing fire extinguishers under kindling, or asthma inhalers at the top of five flights of stairs.
Thea apparently feels the same way I do. Although she sees through Roy's attempts to break up with her, she's hurt. She's especially hurt when she finds him in her office, his arms around a blonde and looking so shocky that he could make a compelling case that he was sleepwalking. In tears, she goes to Ollie, saying that she's so grateful that he never lies to her, and never keeps secrets from her. Anyone who has seen even one tv show knows that, in terms of dramatic narrative, Thea has just pulled the pin on a grenade. It explodes ten seconds later, when she's walking down the street, and Slade offers her a ride home. I wonder what will happen next.
I really hope Barrowman saves her.