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The Mandalorian “Chapter Four: Sanctuary” Finds A Limit With Love and War

The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode Four Review: “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”

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Some minor spoilers ahead

When watching The Mandalorian “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”, I was reminded of a couple of things: firstly, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones had Anakin and Padmé awkwardly falling in love whilst picnicking in the fields of Naboo (where the most interesting takes were cut from the film). Secondly, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels did “outsiders train the local populus to protect themselves” storylines, replete with Seven Samurai homages, multiple times between them. Most of all, however, a pernicious thought crept in: is this the limit for The Mandalorian’s storytelling?

Don’t get me wrong, “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”—directed by Bryce Dallas Howard and, as always, written by Jon Favreau—is good Star Wars. It’s still flabbergasting that fully-fledged live action Star Wars is on television, even knowing the progression of technology and approach to creating high-quality prestige television as a norm. Furthermore, in a string of consistently great Star Wars episodes, this mostly keeps that tally going (though I am still more partial to the moody vistas in “Chapter Two: The Child”). The success is largely derived from the women in the two pairings that are the focal points of this episode: Julia Jones as Omera, a widow and potential love interest for our increasingly stalwart Mando, and Gina Carano as Cara Dune, an ex-Rebel Alliance “shocktrooper”.

At this stage, The Mandalorian is too good to not try being different instead of rehashing the rest of Star Wars. May this episode just be an anomaly; it would be disappointing that such a fertile premise would remain tepid and uninspired.

Julia Jones gives a deeply empathetic touch to her performance that sells dialogue which otherwise might be slightly too hammy (in a galaxy full of potentially hammy dialogue) or detestably on-the-nose in less capable hands. For example, “This nice man is going to help protect us from the bad ones” is a little much, but Jones says it reassuringly to her daughter, while her tone also conveys reassurance towards Mando that he can be his better self, not out of ignorance due to living in the backwater planet Sorgan, but rather a knowing acceptance of his life. Jones believably creates Omera as a possible romantic partner without being overly cloying, aided by a subtle pink colour palette and the exchanges between Omera and Mando being framed in very close proximity.

Julia Jones' Omera confronts the Mandalorian in Mandalorian Chapter Four

Jones’ performance is responsible for Omera being anything more than a symbol for the villagers’ plight or a life Mando inevitably cannot currently attain, because the script certainly isn’t multifaceted. Beyond her immediate mixture of appreciation, clear infatuation, and practical consideration of the two of them jointly raising their children (yes, Mando’s absolutely a dad now), the most interesting aspect of Omera as a person separate from Mando is her competence with weaponry. However, the story behind that particular capability is left to the audience’s imagination—maybe she too has escaped a military past, learnt for survival, or perhaps her dead partner taught her. It adds a layer of interiority to the character, and a reminder that one doesn’t need a physical helmet to mask one’s life and person.

There’s also something to be said for the idea that The Mandalorian is just a sequence of briefly intersecting independent lives, and that is certainly realistic, as well as keeping to the series’ Western heritage. It’s quite melancholic, however, and maybe even dissatisfying at this point, especially when fellow mercenary Cara Dune’s wise-cracking is a fun complement to Mando’s at-most deadpanning.

Gina Carano’s mixed martial artist background naturally lends some effortless brutality to her role as Cara Dune (Mando once again goes down in melee), but it’s really the evident and infectious enthusiasm beneath her character’s sassiness that makes Cara Dune something more notable than a generic badass talkative bounty hunter to Mando’s quiet one. Still, the two get a couple of tussles against each other and other enemies, so Carano’s physicality isn’t forgotten. This episode also really emphasises the tactical side of Mando’s approach to combat, and Cara Dune is an able partner.

Gina Carano's Cara Dune faces off against the Mandalorian in Mandalorian Chapter Four.

So by comparison, it’s disappointing that the final battle against the orc-like Klatooinian raiders is memorable only because of the composition of wide shots: the AT-ST’s glowing red window panes emerging from the darkened forest is a plain image, but intimidating. The rest of the battle is also plain, but just conventional. Maybe one can’t blame The Mandalorian for using tried and true battle staging in a year when Game of Thrones managed to botch the impact of its notoriously dark, climatic “Long Night” battle by losing cohesiveness. Yet it’s still dull.

Take Asif Ali’s Caben and Eugene Cordero’s Stoke (hello The Good Place’s Pillboi!). Their existence perfunctorily grants Mando and Dune a vector by which to stay and fight the Klatooinians (transporting them shelter in the middle of nowhere). So while giving these characters a heroic moment at the end to round out their arcs is routine—as all battles tend to do these days for (barely) comedic relief characters—it’s insipid, because the audience was never meant to have much of a connection to them anyway. Conversely, while Omera does shoot a few raiders, she never really gets the same treatment in the battle. Her role in combat is forgettable, which feels much more egregious given how much more attention she has been given.

Most gratingly for the remotely cinematically-savvy viewer is the repetition of variations on the phrase “we just need [the AT-ST] to step forward” into the trenches and fishing pools to topple it. It’s very obvious that the AT-ST won’t fall over easily, and somebody (Cara Dune) will need to heroically put themselves in the line of fire. While in “Chapter One” it was clear that Mando wasn’t about to be riddled with torrents of plasma blasts, there was some uncertainty as to how things would be resolved. Here, there’s merely a veneer of tension.

An AT-ST Walker enters the battlefield in Mandalorian Chapter Four

Maybe that’s true for the entirety of “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”. While this is probably a necessary step for Mando’s development, it all feels a little rote and the dialogue occasionally pat. Even if one subscribes to Georges Polti’s analysis that there are only thirty-six dramatic situations anyway, Star Wars has done this particular situation before. Even The Mandalorian has already hit most of these story beats.

Generously, this episode repeating a narrative framework demonstrates the changes in Mando’s personality, and maybe that is the issue: Mando, as a character, is not static. Throughout these reviews, I have lauded the gradual shifts in his personality, and that is still true, but in the space of four episodes, he is no longer the icy, detached gunman first introduced. He’s significantly softened. The Mandalorian “Chapter Four: Sanctuary” has him take off his helmet while loitering alone in some really heavy-handed symbolism, and then never relenting to Omera’s attempts in doing the same in company—equally clumsy symbolism. It’s character growth, however, and maybe the only parts of the episode that utilises subtext.

Therefore, The Mandalorian keeping its story in a relative holding pattern and re-treading ideas is incongruous with its main character’s development and arguably antithetical to the spirit of Star Wars. For all their faults, the Prequel Era films are distinct from the more personal, adventurous Original Trilogy with their heavier socio-political angle. The Last Jedi is divisive partly because it defied certain expectations, for better or worse. Not to overly insert paratext, but Disney CEO Bob Iger reports that George Lucas criticised The Force Awakens for having “nothing new”.

It would be foolish to claim that Star Wars isn’t also a product of pre-existing influences (from the typical Campbell’s monomyth to Samurai films to Flash Gordon to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series), but it is responsible for pushing technological boundaries and instituting a grimy, technologically advanced though stagnant aesthetic that has profoundly affected science-fictional design and approach. The Mandalorian itself, within those recognisable Star Warsian trappings, has been toying with and successfully reinterpreting that set visual language up to now.

We’re now as close to the midpoint of The Mandalorian’s first season as we possibly can be, so it’s worth taking stock of where the series lies as an entity. In the first episode review, The Mandalorian was cast against the history of Star Wars up to now. Even then, its more contemplative approach set it apart from much of the more directly swashbuckling milieu. Star Wars has had complexity and meaningful themes that give it enduring appeal, but The Mandalorian primarily traded on elements like subtextual implications and atmosphere as ways to dissect the protagonist, which is rarer for Star Wars. So suffice to say, this show is largely an exceptional piece of Star Wars storytelling at a time when the idea of what makes Star Wars, well, Star Wars, is once again in flux.

However, in shifting its approach to being “Star Warsian” every episode, The Mandalorian is implicitly also trying to be more than just great for a Star Wars series. Therefore maybe, if it deserves to be considered simply one of the better series of 2019, it should be assessed on those terms as well. The artistic intent of series should be different, and The Mandalorian arbitrarily not meeting the expectation of having the same emotional nuance as, say, The Americans or Breaking Bad, doesn’t make it a bad or “worse” series. But these reviews maybe have been doing a disservice to the aspirations of The Mandalorian by only celebrating its greatness as Star Wars.

There is perhaps a level of implied condescension there, that Star Wars isn’t high artistic expression already, and that is not the intent, because Star Wars, regardless of its saturating brand, was in many ways revolutionary, Oscar Award-winning cinema in 1977. A series cannot resonate for forty years and be devoid of artistic merit. Personally, several of them are amongst my favourite films.

Yet the first few episodes of The Mandalorian have been trying to do more than be excellent Star Wars, and etching away at that boundary with confidence, so tempering expectations of how far the series can go is not necessarily beneficial.

This quandary is laid out, because, once again, The Mandalorian “Chapter Four: Sanctuary” is good, solid Star Wars. Not the best episode thus far, but it’s fine. On a technical level, Director Bryce Dallas Howard and returning Director of Photography Baz Idoine accentuate the differing colour palettes in each scene, so that they’re vibrant. Omera and Mando’s conversations supersede Padmé and Anakin’s in Attack of the Clones in sounding natural. Yet “Chapter Four: Sanctuary” lacks an ephemeral quality that would make it brilliant television outside of Star Wars.

Omera hides with her daughter, Winta in Mandalorian Chapter Four

It’s more disheartening because there are hints of the episode potentially continuing exploring the relationship between predator and prey from “Chapter Three: The Sin” in a more unique way: The Klatooinian Raiders against the villagers; the hissing Tooka Cat almost eating the Yodaling; the Yodaling deciding to not eat another frog. I was hopeful that keeping the camera on Omera’s face hiding underneath the water from the Klantoonian invasion in the opening sequence would lead to the entire episode giving an outsider’s perspective to Mando’s effects on the galaxy, and follow on from the simple, but clever, visual trick of repeatedly cutting to the Yodaling’s point of view.

Not to impose inflexible ideals upon The Mandalorian “Chapter Four: Sanctuary”, or claim that such a filming technique would be the most creative or inventive idea, but something like the aforementioned approach would probably alleviate my qualms with Omera’s more superficial characterisation. You could probably even follow this episode’s story beat for beat, and it would be more intriguing.

Most of all, at least it would be different. At this stage, The Mandalorian is too good to not try being different instead of rehashing the rest of Star Wars. May this episode just be an anomaly; it would be disappointing that such a fertile premise would remain tepid and uninspired.

Other Thoughts/Observations:

The Yodaling’s still cute, but I feel it’s remained more of a prop than a lively baby since “Chapter Two: The Child”. I’m mildly nauseated by the repeated visual gag of the Yodaling popping up right behind Mando when he’s told him to stay or put him down. Don’t overplay a good joke, The Mandalorian!

I really hope that Kuiil and Cara Dune eventually join Mando permanently. They’re both interesting enough characters, and even Cowboy Bebop managed to keep its disparate, solitary characters, together by convenience, grouped for most of the series! You don’t have to be alone to be brooding Mando!

If there’s one thing that really should be appreciated about this series, it’s how naturally diverse it is. Pedro Pascal is Chilean-American; Carl Weathers is African-American; Julia Jones is mixed-race, including being of African American, Choctaw, and Chickasaw descent; Omid Abtahi is Iranian. It may just be a few examples so far, but the fact that these are pretty major or reoccurring characters in a Star Wars series is significant for redressing the imbalance in racial diversity. It sets a good example, and Lucasfilm should be commended. Now to work on furthering characterisation.

I’m a little miffed that “Chapter Four: Sanctuary” drops its definite article, but I suppose it’s defying convention in one way.

Declan Biswas-Hughes has led a very nomadic life, which influenced his decision to study European and International Law. He unwinds from writing essays on the minutiae of legalese by writing things like essays on the minutiae of anime, because he really knows how to party. You can find him on Twitter (@fringence), popping up on AniTAY, and occasionally out clubbing when he’s not trying to finish a novel.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    November 30, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Ooof … This episode was all kinds of bad. I think it has some of the worst dialogue and acting in any show I’ve seen all year. It had a few great moments, but most of the episode made me cringe.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

One Versus All

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

WrestleMania may be regarded as the Super Bowl of the WWE but of the other three major pay-per-view events, The Royal Rumble has often given us better matches over the years. Yes, the Survivor Series and King of the Ring have had their fair share of moments, but the Royal Rumble is without a doubt the second-biggest wrestling PPV on the planet.

What makes the Royal Rumble so exciting is how it sets up the most prominent storylines on the programming for the remainder of the year. The Royal Rumble is simply put, the start of playoff season and a steppingstone for WWE superstars to prepare for their big moment at WrestleMania. It really is a seminal event on the WWE calendar and has often launched the wrestlers to superstar’s status.

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

A Brief History of the Royal Rumble

Credit for the Royal Rumble can be given to Pat Patterson who came up with the original idea when brainstorming an event that would be bigger and better than the Battle Royale. The concept was simple really; unlike the Battle Royale which begins with all twenty participants in the ring, the Royal Rumble would instead start with only two superstars and have the remaining participants join the match every two minutes thereafter. And to up the ante, instead of having only twenty wrestlers, the Royal Rumble includes thirty superstars who battle it out for a title shot in the main event of WrestleMania (except for in 1992, when Ric Flair won the WWE Championship by winning the titular match ).

If you had to choose just one reason as to why the Royal Rumble is one of the most anticipated pay-per-view events, it would be because you never really know what to expect. Aside from anticipating who’ll come out next during the main event— and guessing who will eliminate who— we’re also left wondering who’ll make a long-overdue comeback after being away from the WWE for months – sometimes years.

We’ve seen big men like Kane eliminate eleven opponents in a row, and a superstar like Shawn Michaels become the first wrestler to win the Rumble after entering first. We watched Undertaker get locked in a casket and set on fire and we witnessed The Rock and Mankind battle it out in an “I Quit” match that temporarily led to a power failure and left the entire arena in the dark. There’s just no shortage of over the top moments at the Royal Rumble such as Kofi Kingston’s creative ways to avoid elimination or the surprise entrance by AJ Styles. The Royal Rumble is where dreams are made, careers are ended, and over the years, fans have witnessed some of the most intense rivalries take shape at the event.

History of the Royal Rumble

The Royal Rumble is without question, an important PPV and has been a part of a tradition dating all the way back to 1988. We’ve seen many of the most iconic wrestlers win the multi-man brawl, including Hulk Hogan (1990, 1991), Ric Flair (1992), Bret Hart (1994), Shawn Michaels (1995, 1996) Steve Austin (1997, 1998, 2001), The Rock (2000), Triple H (2002), The Undertaker (2007), and John Cena (2008), to name a few. And we’ve seen plenty more superstars come close, but ultimately getting eliminated at the very last minute. Yes, it’s a simple concept but the Royal Rumble is also incredibly exciting to watch.

Apart from the titular main event, WWE’s annual January extravaganza has also given us some incredible matches in the undercard. From surprising sleeper hits to fast-paced tag team action to hardcore matches and strange gimmick matches— the Royal Rumble has time and time again, blessed wrestling fans with the perfect blend of great storytelling and in-ring action. As such, the event has given fans some classic matches over the years and many have stood the test of time.

Whether it’s the rumble itself or a high-tempo singles match, the list of great matches that took place during the Royal Rumble is rather long. Below is a list of the greatest Royal Rumble matches to date, with links to the full review of each match.

Simply click on the links below to read about whichever match interests you most and let us know in the comments, what you think is the greatest Royal Rumble match of all time.

Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series. You can find all the articles here.

  • Ricky D

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

1) Royal Rumble 2003: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

2) Royal Rumble 1992: The Royal Rumble Match

3) Royal Rumble 2000: The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz (Tables Match)

4) Royal Rumble 2000: Triple H and Cactus Jack Street Fight

5) Royal Rumble 2001: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (Ladder Match)

6) Royal Rumble 2007: The Royal Rumble Match

7) Royal Rumble 2015: Brock Lesnar Vs. John Cena Vs. Seth Rollins

8) Royal Rumble 1995: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

9) Royal Rumble 1998: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker (Casket Match)

10) Royal Rumble 1999: The Rock vs.Mankind (“I Quit” Match)

11) Royal Rumble 2009: Jeff Hardy vs. Edge

12) Royal Rumble 2004: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels

13) Royal Rumble 1994: Yokozuna vs. The Undertaker (Casket Match)

14) Royal Rumble 1991: Sgt. Slaughter vs. the Ultimate Warrior

15) Royal Rumble 1991: The Rockers vs. The Orient Express

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Diesel vs. Bret Hart

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Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Royal Rumble 1995

“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart

World Wrestling Federation Championship

The 1995 Royal Rumble was the eighth installment of the annual pay-per-view. It took place on January 22, in the USF Sun Dome located in Tampa, Florida and is remembered most for two things: Pamela Anderson’s one and only appearance in the WWE ring and Shawn Michaels becoming the first wrestler to win the Royal Rumble after entering first. But aside from that the iconic, game-changing ending in which Shawn Michaels dangled on the ropes, barely hanging on, before pulling himself over and eliminating the British Bulldog— there was another great match that is often overlooked.

It was the first WWE Championship defense of Diesel and it came against the face of the company, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.

The storyline behind the WWF World Heavyweight Championship match began in 1994, when Bob Backlund with the help of Owen Hart, beat Bret Hart for the championship at Survivor Series. Three days later, Bob Backlund was scheduled to defend the title against Bret Hart at Madison Square Garden only on the eleventh-hour, Hart was replaced by Diesel. Despite spending most of the evening protesting the last-minute change in the card, Backlund was forced to square off against Big Daddy Cool who defeated Backlund in a nine-second match to win the World Title.

With Bret Hart looking to recapture the title, a match with Diesel was then scheduled at the Royal Rumble. It was a rare instance of two babyfaces assigned to compete against each other with the audience having to choose sides.

Unfortunately, the match ended in controversial fashion, but not without its share of drama and plenty of highlights.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Diesel’s match with Bret Hart was a pivotal moment in his career. Not only was it the first time he had to defend the WWE Title on a PPV, but for someone who was often criticized as being over-rated, this match proved that with the right competition, Diesel could put on a great match while also telling a great story.  

It was a face vs. face, but Hart played the de facto heel for much of the match, going so far as slamming a chair on Diesel’s back and taking advantage of his injured knee by applying the figure-four leglock twice. The match itself lasted a good 28 minutes with plenty of finishers including Diesel’s Jackknife powerbomb and of course, Bret Hart’s signature Sharpshooter. It was physical; it was exciting, and it was an example of great storytelling thanks to the ongoing interference.

First, Shawn Michaels came out and attacked Diesel. After being thrown out of the ring, fans anticipated the referee would disqualify Bret Hart and end the match — only instead, the ref ordered it to continue. After a back and forth brawl, Hart hit the Sharpshooter on Diesel’s injured leg but before Big Daddy Cool could tap out, Owen Hart ran in and attacked Bret from behind. And just like before, the referee cleared Owen out of the ring and ordered that the match continue, causing the fans in the arena to explode in cheers.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

While the match isn’t as notable as the Survivor Series fight between Diesel and Bret Hart, it’s still a genuine classic and one of the best matches of Kevin Nash’s career. With the help of Bret Hart, Kevin Nash had risen again and delivered a performance for the ages.

The match, however, would end in disappointing fashion. After the referee was knocked unconscious, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie, Owen Hart and Bob Backlund all came out to attack Bret Hart and Diesel. Realizing he had lost full control of the match and could no longer officiate due to the constant interference; the referee officially ended the match and rang the bell. In the end, it was ruled a draw and Diesel retained his championship.

Royal Rumble Diesel vs. Bret Hart

Despite the interference, the match itself lasted a good half hour and featured two stellar performances by Bret Hart and yes, Kevin Nash. It was just another example of how with the right opponent, Kevin Nash could really work the ring and whatever mistakes and turmoil led Kevin Nash to the WCW, whatever demons that plagued him – you can’t forget that at one point in time, the man was at the top of the WWE.

All in all, the Championship match was well choreographed; perfectly scripted and packed with non-stop action from beginning to end.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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Arrow Season 8 Episode 9 Review: “Green Arrow and the Canaries”

Arrow looks to the future in an intriguing, clumsy penultimate episode/backdoor pilot.

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Green Arrow and the Canaries

It’s not often the penultimate episode of a long-running series is constructed as a backdoor pilot to a spin-off. But even rarer is a show heading into its final two hours with its titular character already enjoying a hard fought, well earned dirt nap after casually saving the universe – a fate both hero and viewers alike were aware of well over a year ago. It is under those strange, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths circumstances that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” exists, a backdoor pilot trying to leap frog off a near-decade of world and character building, to continue building the next generation of Arrowverse heroes alongside shows like Supergirl and Batwoman.

It is tough to strike a balance to find between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling.

As Arrow – and inevitably, The Flash – ride off into the sunset, The CW’s grasped the opportunity to diversify its starting lineup, on full display during the five-part Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. No longer is the Arrowverse just led by Oliver Queen, Barry Allen, and Rip Hunter: with characters like Jefferson Pierce, Sara Lance, and now Mia Queen-Smoak, the Arrowverse is heading into the next decade with a refreshed starting lineup, a creative re-invigoration that reverberates through “Green Arrow and the Canaries” in some really interesting, if limited, ways.

Like most of the CW’s attempts to introduce new characters and worlds, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” is an awkward mash of ideas and tones, establishing a new Star City in 2040 post-Crisis, with all the inconceivably ridiculous machinations it takes to get there. Frankly, it does not do a great job of catching anyone up who is new to the Arrowverse, or is checking in with the final few episodes of Arrow to see what’s next: anytime it tries to explain how Mia lost her memories of 2020 (and how Dinah Drake ended up in 2040 Star City), “Green Arrow and the Canaries” strains credulity with its own premise.

Though, there is something to say for the episode’s very Legends of Tomorrow-esque approach to not really giving a fuck: we get cool shots of Dinah singing in a bar she owns (under her apartment, which looks like it is in the original clock tower Sara used as a hideout? Please don’t quote me on this if I am wrong), and it never lingers too long on trying to justify its existence. After all, how do you logically explain how the Earth-2 version of Laurel Lance, a Dinah who hasn’t aged in 20 years, and Oliver Queen’s adult daughter end up working on the same case (trying to find a kidnapped granddaughter of the Bertonelli family)? Smartly, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” only makes a few flimsy attempts before saying fuck it, and running with its narrative.

It makes for a fairly engaging experiment; with Mia Queen at the center, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” basically hits the reset button on Arrow‘s story of legacy, with Oliver as the deceased patriarch of the family, and Mia facing a world without either of her parents around (they do not mention Felicity at all, which is… very weird). How does someone follow in the footsteps of the man who saved the entire universe? “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t directly attack this issue, but the pressure of reputation, and the echoes of the trauma of losing him, provide this potential spin-off with an interesting emotional framework.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

It also features Black Siren, as the Kate Cassidy redemption tour continues; after years being stuck in a laughably thin character (and equally limited performance), the integration of Earth-2’s badass, morally ambiguous Laurel Lance was a boon for Arrow‘s late season resurgence – a renaissance that welcomely continues into this new series, channeling Laurel-2’s goth bitchiness into a powerful, driven portrayal of a rich supporting character.

“Green Arrow and the Canaries” is not without its limitations, though: despite the inherent pleasure of seeing these three characters team up together (and the simple fact it is vastly superior to the languid, mediocre Batwoman), the actual dramatic arc of the episode is cookie cutter material, formulaic in the way any experienced Arrow or The Flash viewer will recognize. There’s plenty of intriguing notes there (like the maybe-return of Deathstroke 3.0, as Mia’s now-estranged fiancee), but unlike Legends of Tomorrow or Black Lightning, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” doesn’t really introduce any wrinkles to a well-worn storytelling style, which could quickly lead any spin-off down a disappointing road of dwindling returns.

Green Arrow and the Canaries

The Arrowverse as a whole is in a strange place; as The Flash winds down (or at least, appears to be), Legends of Tomorrow continues to fucking rule, and shows like Supergirl and Black Lightning cement their place in The CW’s lineup, the massive universe Berlanti and company have built (and with Crisis, completely integrated) is both in a great place, and at a critical crossroads.

If “Green Arrow and the Canaries” becomes Green Arrow and the Canaries, it must be careful not to follow in the footsteps of the disappointing Batwoman (which suffers from the unwieldy combination of poor plotting and dismal performances). Following the series that started it all is a challenging affair, and one that comes with the high stakes of tainting what came before it (after all, it wasn’t long ago that Mia Queen-Smoak was one of Arrow‘s weakest points, through most of season seven’s flashbacks).

But there’s a lot of potential here; if Green Arrow and the Canaries harnesses the energy of its central trio, it could be so much more than a carbon copy of its hallowed predecessor – which, at its worst moments, briefly turning Dinah into Felicity and Mia into proto-season one Oliver, it comes dangerously close to being. It is tough to strike a balance between carrying the torch of an iconic series, while still finding room for its own identity; that is the challenge facing both Mia and Arrow, as the Arrowverse looks to its next generation of storytelling, and a question that “Green Arrow and the Canaries” ultimately only provides a partial answer to.

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