Arrow 2-04: “Crucible”
Oliver blows off a black-tie gala he’s ostensibly hosting at the Queen mansion to fight some crime: As the Arrow, he’s trying to track down the source of an influx of military-grade assault rifles into the already trouble-plagued Glades. Turns out the weapons are being supplied by a gang leader known as the Mayor (Clé Bennett), who rose to prominence in the wake of the earthquake. Within seconds of his introduction, the Mayor kills one of his own loyal henchmen, just so we’re all clear on his bona fides as a villain.
A tuxedo-clad, blood-splattered Oliver finally puts in a tardy appearance at his own gala, at which Laurel, Felicity, Alderman Blood, and Isabelle Rochev are all in attendance. Felicity seems resigned to her awful new role as Oliver’s executive assistant, and at this point, I’m hoping this foul little subplot ends with her slapping Queen Consolidated with a sex-discrimination suit for transferring her out of IT and into an admin job due to her lack of a penis (to quote the EEOC: The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Forcing someone who was hired as a tech worker to become a secretary because the jackass CEO wants, and I do quote, a “Girl Friday” definitely qualifies as a violation of federal law).
There’s kind of a weird, unpleasant moment at the gala where Felicity gets cold and prickly when she sees Oliver paying attention to Laurel, and… don’t do that crap, Arrow. Don’t pit Felicity and Laurel against each other in competition for Oliver. You know what was one of the great things about Felicity in Season One, along with her smarts and her quirky wit and her propensity for hilariously awkward double entendres? She didn’t get saddled with one of those tedious, awful, dreary romantic relationships that bogged down the season. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?
After Felicity notes that Black Canary seems to be shadowing Laurel, Oliver stakes out Laurel’s apartment. Sure enough, Black Canary comes calling. When he confronts her, she refers to him as “Ollie”, even though he’s in his Arrow disguise. He incapacitates her, removes her mask, and discovers her real identity: She’s Sara Lance, Laurel’s sister, who presumably died in the boat explosion that led to Oliver becoming stranded on the island. She asks Oliver to keep her identity a secret from her family, then disappears into the night.
Back in his lair, Oliver confesses to Digg and Felicity that he already knew Sara didn’t die on the boat—he saw her alive a year after the explosion. Aghast, Felicity and Digg ask him why he never told Laurel or Quentin about this. Oliver, who seems close to tears, snarls that nothing good happened during his five years on the island, then refuses to say any more on the subject.
In the clock tower, Black Canary chats with Sin about her romantic history with Oliver. We learn that Black Canary once rescued Sin from a pack of rapists: “No women should ever suffer at the hands of men,” Black Canary says.
(Thus far, Arrow has done an excellent job with the depiction of Black Canary and Sin and their vendetta against violent men. Even though we haven’t seen much of them yet, they’re both interesting and consistent characters. This show tends to stumble badly with its portrayals of women, so it’s good to see progress in that area here. It’s still not enough to make up for this crap with Oliver forcing Felicity to be his secretary, though.)
Digg meets with Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), his federal-agent buddy who helped him track down Deadshot last season, to see what she knows about the military-grade weapons the Mayor has been selling. Digg and Lyla get cute and flirty with each other, which is good to see, especially after Digg’s tepid and unpleasant romance with his dead brother’s widow Carly last season (remember how Carly bawled him out for talking about his brother on their first date?).
Still traumatized and shaky from her kidnapping and near-murder at the hands of Barton Mathis, Laurel goes out for dinner with her boss. It starts seeming a lot like a date, which maybe isn’t the greatest idea, and then she drinks too much and drives herself home, which really isn’t the greatest idea. When a police officer stops her, she tries to talk her way out of a breathalyzer test by playing the “do you know who I am?” card. This could easily seem entitled and odious, but it comes across more as a desperate Hail Mary pass by someone who knows full well that she’s in the process of screwing her life up. Instead of arresting Laurel, the office calls Quentin, who offers her a ride home. Laurel snarls at her dad to mind his own business, adds a few snipes about his past history with alcohol abuse, and flounces off in a huff to catch a taxi.
Oh, Laurel. For a moment there, you seemed on the brink of self-awareness, and then you went and screwed it up again.
Back in Oliver’s lair, Felicity and Digg discover that the Mayor’s latest shipment of military weapons contains a tracking beacon designed by Queen Consolidated. The Mayor already deactivated the beacon, but due to a design flaw, Felicity is able to reactivate it and pinpoint the Mayor’s hideout. The Arrow raids the hideout and recovers the weapons, but the Mayor escapes.
(Regarding the tracking beacon, is this the first time we’ve had confirmation that Oliver’s company actually, like, produces something? Until now, it’s been one of those strangely generic rich-person corporations you see a lot on television, with big glass offices and CEOs in expensive suits who call meetings and frown at laptop screens and fret about hostile takeovers without ever actually seeming to do anything. But no, Queen Consolidated apparently does something: It produces defective tracking beacons.)
Sara Lance, out of her Black Canary costume, confronts Oliver outside Verdant and asks him whether he’s told Laurel or Quentin that she’s still alive. Oliver promises he’s kept her secret. They talk in enigmatic terms about their time on the island (“What happened to Slade?” Sara asks), until their conversation is interrupted by the surprise arrival of Quentin. Sara flees into the night while Quentin fills Oliver in on Laurel’s DUI. He asks if Oliver would consider talking to Laurel to see if he can get at the root of what’s eating her lately. (Oliver tries. Laurel responds by making snotty digs about Quentin’s alcoholism and Oliver’s party-boy past.)
With Alderman Blood’s approval, Oliver anonymously sponsors a guns-for-cash event in the Glades. Alderman Blood, who seems to be finally warming up to Oliver, gives him a rambling yet passionate speech about crucibles while Oliver looks confused and tries to nod in the right places. Mostly-reformed felon Roy shows up, with Thea in tow, and cheerfully hands over a whole stash of guns. Sin is there as well, apparently for the sole purpose of making Roy nervous that she’s going to spill the beans to Thea about his verboten nighttime shenanigans. The Mayor and his heavily-armed henchmen crash the event and spray the crowd with gunfire; Oliver protects Alderman Blood, but Sin takes a bullet to the abdomen. Roy and Thea scurry to get medical attention for her.
Felicity discovers that the Mayor has a foster brother with access to high-grade military weapons. Together, Black Canary and Arrow crash the next scheduled weapons delivery and apprehend the Mayor and his brother. Black Canary gets a little grumpy about Arrow’s whole don’t-kill-anyone shtick, but apart from that, they make a swell team.
Thea and Roy visit Sin in the hospital, where she’s expected to recover. I love these three crazy kids. I know they’re Arrow’s junior-varsity players, but they’ve got so much more personality and spark than the major-leaguers (hi, Oliver and Laurel!).
Meanwhile, Laurel drinks wine and pops pills and sinks deeper into the abyss. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with this. She’s a self-pitying mess right now, but maybe she’ll come through this tougher and more self-aware.
Island flashback: On the boat, a caged Oliver meets one of his captors, who announces his intention to torture him into giving up the location of the skeletons of the Japanese soldiers with misshapen skulls. The captor is played by the impossibly handsome Jimmy Jean-Louis, a former model who is best known as The Haitian on NBC’s Heroes; per IMDB, his character on Arrow is simply known as The Captain, which seems like a lateral move. Surely by now he should have graduated to roles where his characters get real names. When Oliver gets mouthy with him, the Captain shoots him in the gut, then hands him forceps and gauze and forces him to remove the bullet and stitch himself up. This turns out to be a fun orientation ritual that all new prisoners on the ship undergo. Oliver is game for the task.
And then, after Oliver has somewhat recovered from getting shot, the Captain drags him out of his cell and introduces him to his future torturer: It’s Sara.
Back in the present day, the police officer who’s supposed to be taking the Mayor to jail instead brings him to a shadowy figure wearing a skull-like mask. The figure removes the mask… and it’s Alderman Blood.
Okay! A couple of good surprise reveals, a slapdash main plot, an interesting subplot, some annoying stuff, and some cool stuff, all crammed together to make forty-two minutes of mostly-enjoyable television. Seems to be the Arrow pattern.