Arrow‘s second season ended its first half on a real high note. Oliver (Stephen Amell) is firmly cemented in his role as Starling City’s hero, Roy (Colton Haynes) survived his injection of Miracle (aw shucks), Barry (Grant Gustin) was successfully electrocuted and is on his way to becoming The Flash, and Slade Wilson (Manu Bennet) was revealed as the man funding Blood’s (Kevin Alejandro) slow take over of the city. Basically, the mid-season finale was fantastic. Can the second half keep up that momentum?
Somewhat. With even more plot threads left dangling than those mentioned above, last night’s episode “Blast Radius” only touched on a handful. Which is perfectly all right. It’d be far too easy for Arrow to become bogged down by too many characters with too many subplots. Unfortunately, the plot points chosen for their big comeback episode could have been better, but hey, at least we weren’t given another villain of the week to needlessly clutter things–oh wait.
While Team Arrow – minus Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) who’s off in Central City keeping vigil at a comatose Barry’s bedside – has been desperately seeking out the “man in the skull mask” a mad bomber is on the attack. Looks like it’s Sean Maher‘s (Firefly) turn to have a spot on Arrow as their villain of the week. Calling himself Shrapnel *snort* Maher’s bomber is a political terrorist who’s upset over corruption or something. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what his big gripe with Starling City was. During the scene where he gives a big, villainous speech explaining his motivations I was too distracted by the show’s obvious misunderstanding of how laser sensors work.
Admittedly, I’m no expert and all my knowledge about this comes from TV and movies, but here’s how I understand things: when there’s a field of red lasers the trigger is having one of those lasers broken, as in something blocks the laser from completing its circuit and a bomb goes off or an alarm sounds or whatever. Well, once The Arrow is in Shrapnel’s trap the tip of his drawn arrow hits one of those lasers. Like from the get go, meaning once the laser grid is on one of the lasers has already been broken and the building should have blown. It doesn’t and The Arrow keeps perfectly still as if he’s worried moving and un-obstructing the laser will trigger the explosion. That doesn’t happen either because once he fires the arrow into a fuse box conveniently situated where he was already aiming the grid shuts down, no explosion.
What!? LASERS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.
The show completely fucks up the plausibility of Shrapnel’s laser light show of death, but they do manage some excellent action sequences. The chase scene where The Arrow is hunting a cohort of the “man in the skull mask” is a great opener, and I loved the bit where The Arrow uses himself as a pulley weight to string up his target. But then it’s kind of ruined by Amell screaming with his quasi-Christian Bale growly voice. I understand the need to disguise his voice, especially when talking with folks who know Oliver Queen, but I’m tired of having heroes with bad cases of laryngitis. The car chase where The Arrow is pursuing Shrapnel’s van is also pretty spectacula . One moment in particular was super cool: Ollie using the motorcycle (Can we call it the Arrowcycle? Please?) as a shield while still in pursuit. Kudos to the stunt coordinator, seriously.
As for Maher’s Shrapnel he’s forgettable at best. And it’s a real shame because for a split-second I was genuinely excited to see him on screen. Then I remembered this was Arrow where one of their few lingering hangups are boring weekly villains. I get it, a crime fighting show about a guy who runs around in a hood shooting arrows needs villains, but come on. The audience deserves a better class of criminals. (Yeah, I went there.) Shrapnel ends up in police custody so hey!, there’s a chance we haven’t seen the last of him! I can only hope if Maher returns as Shrapnel in the future he’ll be a more compelling villain.
The meat of this episode lies in Oliver letting his fears and his jealousy cloud his judgement. For once, it’s not over a girl–well, it is a girl, it’s Felicity but it’s not like that. (Sorry, Olicity shippers, I feel confidant that ship has sunk.) Felicity was still in Central City when the first bombing happened and later while Arrow was pursuing Shrapnel he scrambles his signal and she loses his position. When Ollie comes back to the Arrow Cave he wigs out on Felicity, accusing her of not giving the mission her full attention. You’d be right in thinking such an accusation was uncalled for and that Oliver was acting like a complete dickhead–he was, though his reasons are (sort of) sweet.
First of all, the fact Miracle is in the hands of a maniac who at any moment could create an army of insane super soldiers is terrifying, and Oliver seems to be the only one aware of how grave the situation is. Secondly, having Felicity MIA when the first bombing rocks Starling City made Ollie realize how much he’s come to rely on her, and Diggle (David Ramsey) too. Initially his plan was to operate solo but Team Arrow has expanded into a network of allies. Allies he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Dig and Felicity. Amell and Rickards play both the fighting and the eventual reconciliation scene beautifully, and it’s wonderful see their relationship develop. If anything, Oliver acts more like her big brother than Thea’s (Willa Holland).
Speaking of Thea, she’s going to have an interesting time coming to terms with her super boyfriend. As if his arrow wound or glass shard gouge magically healing wasn’t a clue, while attending Blood’s rally that’s targeted by Shrapnel Roy saves Moira (Susanna Thompson) from being crushed. Obviously, something lame, non-powered, and totally useless Roy wouldn’t have been capable of doing. However, Roy with superpowers won’t likely be all sunshine and rainbows. Besides the concern over Blood unleashing a super soldier army, Ollie is worried about the psychological affects of Miracle after witnessing Slade’s decline into an irrational, rage fueled maniac back on the island.
Before the mid season break I had assumed Slade and Oliver parted ways after Shado’s untimely fridging, but both them and Sara (Caity Lotz) were present when Shado was laid to rest next to her father. Very soon it becomes apparent Slade isn’t acting right, and Sara cautions Oliver from revealing the truth behind Shado’s death as it could easily send Slade into a rampage. Not that he really gets the opportunity because Slade slips away in the night with the remainder of Miracle, putting Ollie and Sara is a right shitty position when Ivo gives them an ultimatum: turn over the Miracle serum or become his personal guinea pigs. Yikes!
All right, who’s left? Oh yeah–Laurel (Katie Cassidy)! Laurel’s been pretty ineffectual for much of Season 2, spending most of her time either in need of rescue or working on her prescription drug habit. “Blast Radius” sees the return of her inquisitive nature as she begins investigating Blood. Just about everyone seems a-okay with Sebastian Blood. Oliver hosts a fundraiser for his mayoral campaign at Verdant, The Arrow vows to protect him, and even Laurel’s dad warns her away from trying to sabotage her relationship with Blood by suspecting he’s up to something. Laurel’s bullshit/bad boyfriend senses are tingling and dammit!, she’s gonna do something about it!
Finally, this is the Laurel Lance we’ve been missing since Season 1. I’m not saying she makes the best decisions, she is a little too eager to believe the ravings of a mad woman after all, but at least someone has a healthy suspicion of Blood. Whether she’ll contact The Arrow with her findings or if she’ll continue investigating, go too deep, get herself caught, and then need rescuing remains to be seen. Sadly, my money’s on the latter, but hooray!, Laurel’s a proactive character again.
This back half of Season 2 hinges on when Oliver realizes Sebastian Blood and the “man in the skull mask” are one in the same. At the end of last night’s episode The Arrow and Blood made a pact, shaking hands even, in what will undoubtedly be a dangerous deal with the devil. I’m hopeful this revelation comes sooner than later because as great as Alejandro’s been as Blood, all I want is to see Manu Bennet as Deathstroke. Bring it on, Arrow!
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm on the CW.