Arrow 2-10: “Blast Radius”

Arrow is back from its winter hiatus. Good news first: This is the strongest episode for Laurel in a very long time. She’s lively and sneaky and fun to watch, and her storyline actually—wait for it—helps advance the main plot. Congratulations, Arrow writers. Job well done. Please keep it up.

Bad news: Well, pretty much everything else, but chiefly this: Oliver, you are such a dick.

We pick up five weeks after the events of last episode: Barry Allen got hit by lightning, Roy got injected with the mirakuru serum, and, back on the island, Shado got shot in the head. Sorry, Shado. I still feel crabby about that.

Let’s deal with the island flashbacks first: Slade and Oliver bury Shado and squabble over who should keep her leather hoodie. Neither seems to want it, so maybe they should’ve just buried it with her? Oliver wants to fill Slade in on the true circumstances of Shado’s death, i.e. that Ivo forced Oliver to choose to save either Sara or Shado. Sara thinks this is a terrible idea, as Slade has become increasingly unpredictable and dangerous since being injected with the serum. Slade wants to head after Ivo to avenge Shado’s murder; when Oliver tries to stop him, Slade manhandles him a little, then takes off on his own with the supply of the serum taken from the Japanese submarine.

Present day: Barry’s in a coma. A heartsick Felicity camps out at his bedside in Central City. Oliver, made especially pissy and prickly by her absence, has been unsuccessful in his attempts to uncover the identity of “the man in the skull mask”, i.e. Sebastian Blood. Now that he’s close friends with Oliver, Blood throws a party at Verdant to launch his mayoral campaign into high gear. Laurel, who is still popping pills on the sly, attends the rally as Blood’s date. Secretly, though, she’s been investigating his ties to cop-killer Cyrus Gold. She’s got a very bad feeling about Blood, and may I just say, it’s nice having Laurel be one step ahead of Oliver for once? Poor woman’s been spinning her wheels all season, doing nothing in particular except feeling bad about herself; she could use the confidence boost.

Laurel tries to wheedle information about Blood’s shadowy past out of him. She observes, with a glaring lack of tact, “You talk a lot about being an orphan, but you don’t talk about your parents.” Blood obligingly fills in the gaps: His mother shot his abusive father and skipped town. It’s a grim tale, and I don’t mean to be unnecessarily pedantic, but when one of your parents is still alive, maybe “orphan” isn’t the word you’re looking for?

Still suspicious, Laurel snoops around his office and discovers he’s been paying the medical expenses of someone named Maya.

The generic villain du jour turns out to be some dude with strong anti-government views, a penchant for lobbing homemade bombs all over the place, and a habit of delivering monologues to the camera to explain his motivations. He’s played by Firefly’s Sean Maher, who is squandered in this underdeveloped and poorly-written dust-particle of a role. After the bomber blows up a downtown building, Felicity hurries back to Starling City to help Oliver and Diggle track him down.

Team Awesome: Roy’s been all wild-eyed and squirrelly since Blood kidnapped him and injected him with the mirakuru serum, so Thea corners him in Verdant’s stockroom and tries to get to the bottom of what’s spooking him. As so often happens with these two beautiful, adorable kids, conversation falls by the wayside, and they end up enthusiastically grinding against each other instead.

Bless you, Roy and Thea, for having the closest thing to a healthy romantic relationship on this show, and for being the only characters who seem to enjoy cutting loose and having fun now and then.

Before their hanky-panky gets too far underway, a box filled with glassware falls off a shelf and lands on Roy. A huge chunk of glass embeds itself in his forearm. “That looks really deep. It might need stitches,” says Thea. She follows this up, terrifyingly, with, “I’m going to go downstairs and get the first-aid kit.” Roy, you’ll recall, spent half of last episode with a big fat arrow sticking out of his thigh while avoiding professional medical attention. Ah, Starling City, where the hospitals are so awful (as we saw in the fourth episode of this season) that Thea would sooner stitch up her boyfriend herself than send him to the emergency room.

Quentin Lance and Oliver, as the Arrow, hold a clandestine meeting to compare notes on the bombing. Lance gives Oliver blast fragments to analyze, then asks for a personal favor: Suspecting that a fellow cop tipped Cyrus Gold off to the raid that resulted in the deaths of multiple officers, he wants Felicity to pull the cell records for everyone in his department.

Their rooftop tête-à-tête is interrupted by another bombing. Felicity traces the signal of the phone the bomber used for the detonation, but the bomber scrambles it before Oliver can close in on his location. Oliver is furious about this. He chews out Felicity, accusing her of being distracted by her concern for Barry. It’s clear from the context of his remarks he’s deeply, poisonously jealous of her relationship with Barry.

It’s a pretty gross scene.

Hey, Felicity? Let’s sit down for jumbo margaritas and talk this out: Oliver is a dick, particularly where you’re concerned. He has, above your very loud and well-reasoned protests, damaged your future career prospects, he was incredibly foul to you after you saved his life by letting Barry in on his secret identity, and he’s being emotionally abusive to you right now. That he’s doing this because he’s jealous of Barry even though he’s made it clear he has no plans to become involved with you just makes it grosser. My advice? Leave. Quit. If you still want to leverage your formidable tech skills in the service of fighting the rampant crime in Starling City, join the SCPD; I’m sure Quentin Lance would be happy to vouch for you. Oliver isn’t worth it.

Digg shares my opinion of this nonsense. Good man, Digg.

Speaking of Quentin Lance, there’s an awesome little moment at the police station where he mentions to Officer Daly that: a) his arm injury, sustained during the fight with Cyrus Gold that killed several of his fellow officers, has been hurting a lot lately, and b) he somehow lost his pain pills. Yeah, that’d be the pain pills Laurel was cheerfully popping earlier in the episode.

Oh, Laurel, Laurel, Laurel. Laurel. Man. Laurel.

In the wake of the bombings, Sebastian Blood announces that he’s going to throw a big, public rally to show the bomber that Starling City isn’t scared of him. Oliver thinks this is a Very Bad idea, and I swear, this is the only moment in this whole damn episode where Oliver and I are on the same page.

The bomber, naturally enough, immediately plants bombs all around the rally. As Felicity works frantically to disarm them, the bomber pulls a gun on her, shoots Digg in the arm (he’s fine! Just a flesh wound! Doesn’t even slow him down!), and detonates one of the bombs before Oliver manages to apprehend him. In the resulting chaos, a humongous piece of heavy scaffolding falls on Moira. Roy shields her with his body, then hoists the scaffolding out of the way. He tries to insist to a flabbergasted Thea that his burst of super-strength was just an adrenaline reaction, but Thea, noticing that his wounded arm has already healed, clearly suspects something odd is going on with her boyfriend.

Back at the lair, Oliver apologizes to Felicity for his bad temper. This scene is… still pretty gross. Filled with meaningful looks and long-suffering sighs, the usual. In the first season, fans got behind the idea of a potential Felicity-Oliver hookup because Oliver’s dynamic with Felicity was so refreshing in comparison to his dynamic with each of his bona fide love interests: Laurel, Helena Bertinelli, McKenna Hall, Shado. Felicity was fun. She was lively, and smart, and snarky, and she seemed totally immune to Oliver’s charm (or “charm”), which was a nice change of pace from the mopey drippiness that seeps into every romantic pairing on this show (except for you, Roy and Thea. You two rock. Stay gold, kids, stay gold). So the writers and producers apparently got the wrong end of the stick and started shoving Felicity and Oliver together at any cost, stripping all of the fun out of their dynamic in the process. And now? Mopey drippiness.

Still pursuing her investigation of Sebastian Blood, Laurel tracks down the mysterious Maya to a mental hospital, where Maya is a patient. She’s also Blood’s mother. Per Maya, Blood killed his own father, then arranged to have her falsely institutionalized.

Middling marks for this episode, overall. The whole Evil-Midnight-Bomber-What-Bombs-At-Midnight plotline was pretty lame, the island plotline lost the momentum it had gained in recent episodes, and this Felicity/Oliver business is rapidly turning into a big, foul, stinky mess. However, the weak parts were at least partially mitigated by Laurel’s tentative foray into awesomeness. Sebastian Blood’s plotline, also, has been consistently handled well. And Roy, like Slade, now has dangerous-and-almost-certainly-damaging superpowers. Should lead to some interesting developments down the road.


DKoren said…
I am rather fascinated (train wreck style) by how awful this show is willing to make their lead character appear. I sooooo wanted to belt Oliver multiple times. Or shoot him with one of his own arrows. His behavior towards Felicity is pretty inexcusable, but I might even have disliked his attempt at an apology and Felicity's reaction (or lack thereof) even more. Honestly, I really did expect her to walk out on him after the first blowup. It would have delighted me if she had, but no. Mopey drippiness is right! (And that phrase totally made me laugh, it was so spot-on.) I'm not quite sure what watchers are supposed to come away with watching them. Superheroes are usually role models of some make and model... not Oliver. Quite the opposite. I think I'm ready for modern Slade to step in and wreak some havoc.

I did love Roy and Thea, as usual. And I want to see where Roy's going to go with his powers. And Laurel did have more to do, and it is cool that she's figuring out Blood is bad news way faster than Oliver. But overall, not so thrilled with this ep.
Morgan Richter said…
I really want to know what the writers/producers have in mind with Oliver's behavior toward Felicity. It bothers me how he treats her much differently, and much worse, than he treats Diggle (he's been a dick to Digg before, but nothing like how venomous he's been toward Felicity in the past two episodes). That there's a good chance he's lashing out at her because he's jealous of Barry makes his behavior seem worse. I don't know, Arrow, but maybe you shouldn't have your superhero main character verbally abuse his female associate, particularly when he doesn't act that way toward his male associate?

I don't mind unlikable main characters. What makes me uneasy, though, is I get the impression the writers don't mean for us to find Oliver unlikable. And yeah, his whole apology scene made it worse. Nasty undercurrents of "I only treat you badly because I care so much about you."

Ugh. Yeah, at this point, I want to see present-day Slade causing big trouble for Oliver. That'd perk things right up.

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