“City of Heroes” – Arrow

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.29.04 PMQuite simply, this was one of the most satisfying returns of the season. It’s like the writers didn’t even miss a step. Right from the opening moments, we launched back in. There was no need to ramp back up. It was action, tension, drama and danger right from the first moments. We loved it.

As the episode opens, we see Dig and Felicity parachuting onto Liànyù to find Oliver. Apparently, when things are going badly, there’s no place like the island that tried to kill you over and over again. When they get him back to Starling City (by telling him that Thea and Queen Consolidated need him), we see how far the city has fallen. The Glades are still an inhospitable hellhole and there are copy-cat vigilantes roaming the streets. Thea is running Verdant, Roy is still running around trying to be a hero, Moira is in prison awaiting trial (and Thea won’t see her) and Queen Consolidated is about to go to Stelmore International in a hostile takeover. Laurel is working for the DA and Detective Lance is now a plain old beat cop. A bleak picture, sure.

So the episode focused on getting Oliver back on track. Since Tommy’s death, he has been determined not to be the Hood. He can’t reconcile himself to the fact that Tommy died thinking he was a murderer. And yet, in spite of his heroic impotence, “City of Heroes” did not lack for action. Some of that action was corporate – Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau, Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dollhouse), VP of Acquisitions at Stelmore, is ruthless and fantastic – and some literal. The copy-cat vigilantes, while Continue reading

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“Sacrifice” – Arrow

SacrificeIf we worried that last week’s penultimate episode was too good to follow, the finale ably dispensed that worry within moments of the episode’s start. The opening scenes of Oliver’s imprisonment in a dank basement somewhere prepared us for an episode full of confrontations, and tense and brutal cliffhangers.

We’ll deal with the island flashbacks first as they were few and far between, and largely unrelated to the plot. The only purpose they served was to show just how far Oliver has come and to mark his true inception as ‘the Hood’ (even though we’re still loath to call him that). In very brief scenes from the island, we see Oliver doing everything he can to save a plane full of people, searching for his ‘friends’ in the rubble of Fyres’ camp, and taking his first life – Fyres’ – with a bow and arrow. And thus, the vigilante was born.

Back to the present, and that vigilante is in full swing. The episode, naturally, focused on the attempt to save the Glades by preventing the device from activating. Along the way, there were several notable moments – Felicity’s arrest and release; Oliver turning to Detective Lance, first to clear the Glades and then to disarm the device; Tommy discovering that Ollie was right about Malcolm and choosing the side of good; Moira holding a press conference to save the people in the Glades, having finally made the right choice; Oliver fighting and killing Malcolm; Diggle getting stabbed, severely; Thea racing into the Glades to save Roy, and Roy risking his life to save people trapped on a bus; the Glades coming down because there was a second device they didn’t know about; and, finally, Tommy’s death.

A few of those moments proved to be big cliffhangers that left us unsure of what next season would look like. Moira’s arrest should prove to fracture the Queen family even further. It seems unlikely that Continue reading

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” – Arrow

Darkness on the Edge of TownThis was, quite simply put, the best episode of Arrow since some of the very earliest. Not only because of the Oliver and Laurel hook-up (which we will be discussing, unusually enough for us, on a broader and deeper level than just as hardcore ‘shippers), but also because of the great writing and storytelling, the in-depth plot development, the fact that things are finally coming to a head, and some truly spectacular Ocean’s Eleven style breaking and entering.

That plot, first of all. This week went beyond mere crossing of names off lists, or reactive crime fighting. This wasn’t a criminal-of-the-week, single-episode-conclusion kind of episode. This was the beginning of the culmination of seven months of mysterious hints and allusions. This was the Undertaking laid bare. This was all the detail we could possibly want. Finally. We know the ins and outs of the Undertaking, now, and are finally beginning to conjure a mental image of what it could look like. Next week’s season finale should let us know whether we were right, but for now all we can do is speculate.

The device created by Unidac (and turned into a weapon by Queen Consolidated’s applied sciences division) is a seismic manipulator which can create earthquakes. Malcolm’s plan is to cause an earthquake that will level the Glades. We now have a vision of Oliver unable to evacuate the Glades in time. Unable to even get to the Glades. When the quakes start, it will be Continue reading

“The Undertaking” – Arrow

The UndertakingNot a bad episode (but not fantastic either), “The Undertaking” did just what it needed to keep us watching for another week, but we feel it could have done more. The episode gave us great action sequences (the best we’ve seen since the return from mid-season hiatus), Walter’s return to his family, tension between Oliver and Diggle, Felicity being awesome, Laurel and Oliver revelations, revelations about the past, and our very favorite thing – flashbacks that weren’t set on the island!

There are a few important nuggets we should take away from this episode – Oliver’s dad killed a man by accident and everything he did to try and fix the Glades was to atone for that. Oliver’s dad was taking the Queen’s Gambit to China to find investors to help him buy up the Glades so he could block Malcolm’s redevelopment plans. The redevelopment plans are The Undertaking. We finally know what the Undertaking is.

Yes, kids, Malcolm plans to blow a crater in Starling City exactly the same size as the Glades. Until they’re gone, he says, the Glades will always be an unfixable, unsalvageable hellhole. Destroy the Glades to rebuild the city. Robert Queen, at the urging of his wife, was the only one willing to stand up against the murder of the innocents who live there. The destruction, going ahead now that Robert isn’t around to stop it (he was killed, incidentally, by Frank and Malcolm), will be wrought by Continue reading

“Home Invasion” – Arrow

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 1.18.14 PMY’know, we’re not sure we care for these island flashbacks much. At first they were fun – seeing Oliver before he was, like, not a spoiled, entitled asshole – and they’re a clever way to give ‘The Hood’ an origin story without totally commandeering a few episodes, but they’re becoming far too convoluted and pointless to warrant the screen time. The sole purpose of them now, it seems, is to give Oliver an excuse to gaze into the middle distance while we learn something slight about his character. This week’s vignette? He passed up an island affair with Jao Fei’s daughter, Shado, because he was determined to make it back to Laurel and show her how much she means to him. Like we needed another reminder that he’s in love with her…

Our boredom may be set to disappear with next week’s episode. In a fleeting moment in the final flashback scene, Fyres discovered Oliver, Shado and Slade’s formerly aeronautical hideaway and, in a parting shot, tells Ollie that his time on the island has come to a close. Are we about to see what Oliver got up to when he escaped the island the first time? That is the only potential story arc that could maintain our interest in the incessant flashbacks.

Off the island, matters fared slightly better (with regards to viewer appreciation, at least). The big story of the week, as indicated by the flashbacks’ focus, was Laurel and Oliver. This was explored through a number of other relationships, each of which hit stumbling blocks due to the central pair’s inability to escape from each other’s orbits. As Laurel’s life was put in peril again, Oliver and Tommy were each faced with choices.

Tommy’s first. Oliver’s secret has been weighing on Tommy since he found it out and this episode Continue reading

“Unfinished Business” – Arrow

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“Unfinished Business” felt more like a CW show than any episode that has preceded it. Here was the drama, and the moodiness, and the infighting. Our notes are peppered with ‘X is pissed at Y’ and ‘Y hates X because…’ It’s like 90210 with a hood and some arrows. We just can’t decide if that’s a bad thing. Sometimes a little human emotion does wonders for a show like this. A little reality. A reminder that it’s all supposedly rooted in real life, and a little acknowledgement that not everything can run smoothly all of the time. Not that we need that reminder for Arrow. Every week sees Oliver having some sort of trouble and facing some sort of contention with the people he loves. We’re never allowed to forget it. So was the heightened drama (and we mean that in the ‘bitches love drama’ sense, not the Shakespearean one) really necessary? The short answer is no.

That doesn’t mean it was a bad episode though. Just a bit different than expected. There were a lot of things about the episode that really worked and that advanced the story to a place where arcs could conceivably be wrapped up sooner rather than later. The overarching story focused on the reappearance of Vertigo in the Starling City market, and the fallout from that. This led to Tommy quitting the club and asking his father for a job – perhaps the most notable development in the episode. This puts Tommy in the uniquely uncomfortable position of, more than likely, finding out the truth about The Undertaking and then being forced to choose between his loyalty to his father and his loyalty to Oliver. For the first time all season, that loyalty is really in question.

On the island Continue reading

“Salvation” – Arrow

I’m not sure I can say that this week’s episode of Arrow was good. It was certainly entertaining, and it was interesting in many ways, but good? That’s a little harder to quantify for once. While the story was solid, it was lacking the requisite tension to keep me on the edge of my seat. An episode that should have been fraught with danger and should have had me biting my nails just left me feeling more or less unconcerned. While the writers succeeded in upping the drama with the first two deaths, they never had me convinced that Roy was in any real danger. There was no chance that Ollie wouldn’t rescue him. Not even a sliver of one. Aside from the fact that I know Colton Haynes is signed on for an extended period, I also (as I said last week) have an inkling of his future – a future that would be hard for the writers to play up if he was dead.

And yet if that was my only complaint of the week, I suppose we’re in good shape.

Aside from the pseudo-copycat arc (which made up the majority of screen time this week), there were a couple of separate noteworthy strands. First among these is Roy Harper’s story. Thea’s desperate to get him out of his life of crime, but he’s been fighting against it. If this week’s kidnapping and near death don’t convince him he needs to change, nothing will. Though the way he was gazing at that arrow at the end of the episode makes me think change isn’t that far off.

Speaking of change, one thing changed for me this week – my perception of the Felicity and Oliver arc. No one is more disappointed than me to be saying this, but… it’s beginning to look completely one sided. For a while there I thought Ollie returned Felicity’s attraction but, in reality, he’s all about Laurel. While this week’s episode showed us that they would be perfect for each other (who else could they talk to about their real lives), I guess our hopes for an Ollie and Felicity relationship will, just like Felicity’s dreams of a future with Ollie, never be realised.

On the island, things took a turn for the worse and then, possibly, for the better. Fyres (surprise, surprise) double-crossed Ollie and Slade. While he distracted them, his soldiers searched the island and found the computer chip for the launcher, thereby removing their one bargaining, err, chip. In the process, though, they got Jao Fei’s daughter – a woman with surprising martial arts skills, and knowledge of Fyres’ master plan. She might come in handy.

In the search for Laurel’s sister, Sarah, everyone came up empty. The woman in the photo was a different Starling City resident. This was one of the more touching moments of the episode. It fully captured one of the hardest parts of grief – not the moment you lose someone, but the moment you remember that they’re gone.

Finally, we saw Moira betraying her assassination partner, Frank. She turned him in to Malcolm when the going got tough. She did it to protect her children but, as she ends the episode (literally) with blood on her hands, we have to wonder how she’ll hold up in weeks to come. Will the guilt become too much for her? And what will she try next to get out of the Undertaking? That should be interesting to see. – K

Quoteworthy: “It was right in front of our faces the entire time. My father, the other archer, the Undertaking… Whatever the plan is. It’s all connected to the Glades.” – Oliver, finally figuring something out

“The Huntress Returns” – Arrow

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This episode of Arrow, it has to be said, fell far below the show’s usual standard of enjoyability, watchability, and any other ‘ability’s you can think of. We didn’t particularly care for Helena Bertinelli the first time around and, if we’re being honest, we care even less for (and about) her now.

The episode, for the most part, revolved around Helena’s return, though it didn’t explore it in the way it could have, and perhaps should have. We’re not talking about the romance angle here, although there is undoubtedly lingering tensions between her and Oliver. We’re talking about the task she charged him with/threatened him into. She was, of course, back in town to take out her father, Frank Bertinelli. She kidnapped Tommy and threatened to kill him if Oliver didn’t help her murder Frank. The plan that was eventually decided upon involved the pair splitting up to follow identical armored vans (armored very poorly, if you ask us). Both vans were empty in the end – the Starling City PD had been on to her all along – but that didn’t leave us feeling relieved, only cheated. We wanted to know what Oliver would do if he were confronted with the choice between killing Frank and incurring Helena’s wrath. Instead, we got a dodgy shoot out and an anticlimactic ending.

We’re glad to see that Tommy couldn’t stay mad at Oliver for long. Though now that yet another person knows Oliver’s secret, how will the showrunners proceed? Will Tommy become a sidekick? A reluctant accomplice? The hostage that every villain takes when they want to get to ‘The Hood’? Should be an interesting arc in week’s to come.

The little romance that was in the episode was without excitement, by and large. Ollie’s current squeeze, McKenna, got shot and is now moving to Coast City to rehab with her sister. But we were never invested in that relationship, so it’s hard to care. The ongoing simmering tension between Felicity and Oliver may come to the fore over the next few episodes, however. The way she looked at him when he rescued her from Helena tells us that much. In other news, it looks like baby Queen Thea is about to embark on a Romeo-and-Juliet, wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance with Roy Harper (Colton Haynes). Our knowledge of the Green Arrow universe (link contains Spoilers!), and Harper’s uncanny and innate skill at parkour, tells us he won’t be a purse-snatcher for long.

The appearance of Laurel’s mother (Alex Kingston, ER, Doctor Who) and her insistence that Sarah is still alive will make for interesting and compelling viewing as the series progresses – the way Detective Lance, Laurel and even Oliver deal with this possibility will have a huge bearing on the season’s storylines. And yet, even over all of this, there was an overwhelming sense of just filling time. Of waiting for something more exciting to come along.

Even the happenings on the island felt altogether interim, though that was, perhaps, where the most (potential) excitement lay. The antics of Oliver and Slade were uninspiring right up to the end, when Oliver offered Falls the missile launcher’s computer chip in exchange for a way off the island. It seems as though we’re about to uncover the truth behind that casual remark Oliver made about escaping the island before he was rescued. – K

Quoteworthy:

“Helena.”

“Yes. Or, as I like to call her, your psycho ex-girlfriend.” – Ollie, Dig

“Vertigo” – Arrow

This episode was almost sweet. There were some really nice familial moments as Oliver strives to get Thea out of trouble and as Thea apologizes to Moira. The rest of it was pretty standard fare for Arrow – Felicity and Ollie had sizzling tension, Oliver fought bad guys and had to war with his inner darkness (perhaps more so than usual) to stop himself from killing The Count (Seth Gabel, Fringe). Three moments during the episode were particularly noteworthy: A) Felicity came to Oliver with his mother’s notebook, giving him the first inkling that maybe his mother isn’t as innocent as he had thought; B) On the island, Yao Fei (we learned awesome-haired-Asian-guy’s name!) isn’t a bad guy, he helped Oliver escape and he gave him a map with directions to something mysterious; C) In The Count, Oliver potentially has his very first super-villain arch-nemesis – one he created himself! We think The Count will be making a return to the show soon enough. – B+K

Quoteworthy:

“I’m very particular about what I put in my body.”

“I’ve noticed. …I said not noticed, right?”

– Oliver, Felicity

PS We were introduced to new cast-member Janina Gavankar (True Blood), who plays Det. McKenna Hall – an ex of Oliver’s, and someone we’re highly suspicious of…

“Trust But Verify” – Arrow

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This episode taught us that Thea needs to either get significantly better at spying, or give up the game for good. We were so glad to see her eavesdropping on Malcolm Merlyn and her mom – finally, we thought, everything’s about to come out in the open. But then she disappointed us by crying ‘affair!’. Wrong. She also turned 18, got high, and wrecked her convertible. Then got arrested. Talk about entering the adult world with aplomb. Time to be tried as an adult, little girl. Despite her inadequacy we do learn that Walter’s still alive, and that gentrifying the Glades would work against the Master Plan. We also get to wonder if the Master Plan somehow involves the complete degradation of the poorer citizens of Starling City, as Malcolm is trying to shut down his late wife’s Free Clinic. Diggle and Oliver grow closer after an episode during which they barely speak. Diggle was wrong, Oliver was right. Diggle is in love with his sister-in-law. That has nothing to do with anything; we just wanted to put it out there. On the island, we discover that awesome-haired-Asian-guy is, in actual fact, working with the mercenaries. And Oliver may have gotten off the island before he got rescued. The episode left us wondering: is Moira on the list? Surely she must be. So does Ollie already know what she’s involved in? Also, it gave us a chance to start thinking about how awesome Oliver and Felicity Smoak would be as a couple. You know you’re shipping that too… – B+K

Quoteworthy: “So. No wine then.” – Felicity (you would have had to be there)