“In medias res,” a Latin phrase supposedly coined by the poet Horace meaning “in the middle of things.” In other words, “in the middle of the action.” That’s how this week’s Arrow begins with a Russian military base and talk of a launch. Oh, no! Does that mean Team Arrow has failed in preventing Damien Darhk from destroying the world and restarting it again with his little subterranean Stepford village under the dome? Well, that would be anticlimactic. Still, the week’s mission, as one person succinctly put it, involves the fate of the world being the hands of an I.T. girl, a criminal and two guys in Halloween costumes.
Despite my reservations last week about Damien Darhk’s big plan being revealed as a ludicrous scheme that would not feel foreign as one being pursued by Dr. Evil in an Austin Powers movie, this week’s Arrow had the urgency of a classic episode of 24. Darhk’s attack was set to begin in less than 24 hours, and Felicity could only work around the nigh unhackable Rubicon with the assistance of the one hacker better than her, the Calculator, AKA: her father. Coincidentally, Noah Kuttler was one of the criminals that escaped Iron Heights at the same time as Damien Darhk, and Darhk knows that Kuttler’s got the skills to upset his plan.
There were a lot of villainous comebacks this week. Brick and Murmur are employed by Darkh to take out Kuttler, while Anarchy breaks into the dome in an attempt to kill Darhk. I don’t think it’s ever explained how Anarchy knows about the dome, let alone anything about its mechanism, but it was a way to let Thea face some of her demons, and give her something to do beyond being a hapless prisoner in the dome. One thing’s for sure, Malcolm’s shtick is getting old with his constant “you’re my daughter, I’ll protect you” and even Thea can recite it verbatim.
But if Thea still feels like a pinball in her own life, or even if she doesn’t, Anarchy uses the occasion to try and shake her up, and get her to take some agency for herself. She’s being used by her father to get to Anarchy after all, and she’s overly concerned about her doofus, pill-popping boyfriend, who’s now drunk the Kool-Aid it seems. Although Anarchy’s line was as cheesy as it was on the nose, “you’re not a pawn, you’re a queen” (Thea’s sarcastic response to that was perfect by the way), it’s been in the back of my head all season that Alex was not a very interesting guy despite his prominence in this season’s storylines, so why would Thea be invested in him?
There was room for another side note in the episode, and that given how consequential he was just a few weeks ago, he felt kind of shoehorned in. Yes, we caught up with Captain Lance, who was looking at the end of Star City PD career if he didn’t admit for the record that he didn’t know that Laurel was Black Canary. Donna, who’s still around and was unusually toned down this week, makes the point that Quentin was proud of Laurel’s legacy as the Black Canary, and that lying about it on an official document does a disservice to him, and to her. I realize there’s a lot going on, but Arrow really needs to figure out what to do with Paul Blackthorne because they’re really letting a great asset go to waste half the time.
The show’s credit through, thinking about any of that was secondary to the main thrust of the action, which was Team Arrow trying to stop Judgment Day. The script by Jenny Lynn and Speed Weed wisely uses the plot to drive any chance for Noah and Felicity to work some personal stuff out, and it was nice for once to see any Olicity drama emerge organically rather than feel like something crammed in like a suitcase that’s too full to close. That moment, of course, was when Green Arrow tells Noah that he can’t lead a double-life as a criminal and as Felicity’s dad, and Noah notes that coming from the Arrow that sounds like the voice of experience. How long until Noah puts two and two together?
Throwing another monkey wrench into Felicity’s life is the fact that she’s now been outed as CEO of Palmer Tech, which has seemed to be the sole preoccupation of the guy that runs the Board since he was introduced at the beginning of the season. So at least he’s gotten to experience mission: accomplished. Seriously though, what are the odds that Ray Palmer himself will come back from the future in a couple of weeks to declare that he endorses Felicity and he endorses her plan to share life-changing technology as opposed to selling it for a profit. That storyline, I think, could have been better exploited, and maybe could have been allowed to stand on its own rather than be a footnote in a busy episode.
Felicity’s ouster though forced her to try and steal a valuable piece of tech needed to shut down Rubicon, but I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t just ask Curtis for an assist? I guess we would have been robbed of a really great close quarters fight between Oliver and security guards in the stairwell, which let both director Kevin Tancharoen (Mortal Kombat: Legacy) and Stephen Amell to show off their action chops, but it still seemed like a problem that was easier to solve that it was in the course of the episode.
Let’s cut to the end because while Felicity and Noah end up saving Star City – the titular Monument Point was the target of the one nuke that slipped through the hack – the small coastal town of Havenrock was hit instead. There’s no mass-casualty event, just medium casualties, which is enough to give Darhk some kind of energy boost, but we smash cut to black before we (and Green Arrow and Spartan) find out how much. How Darhk will come to defeat is still a question mark, but the real head-scratcher this week, for me anyway, was if Oliver’s faced a similar situation on Lien Yu (as chronicled in the flashbacks this year), why has he been so far behind the curve fight Darhk? The two bad guys, Darhk and Reiter, practically mirror each other now, is that a function of design or is it an accident created by the lack of focus in the flashbacks? Hard to tell.
It’s been a difficult journey to get here this season of Arrow, but “Monument Point” made it easy to overlook the misfires of its own logic, and the sometimes trying course it took to get here. The last two episodes have been cued up wonderfully by making Darhk almost too powerful to be defeated, but as the old saying goes though, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.