As far as my TV memory is concerned, I can’t remember another show detonating a nuclear missile in a populated area since the 2006 show, Jericho. Perhaps that’s what it took for the writers of The CW’s Arrow to shake the superhero series out of its Season 4 funk. Was it the threat of nuclear annihilation (and the added bonus horror of the resultant death powering up Damien Darhk to near-god levels) that added a palpable sense of tension and high stakes to this episode? Or was it the skillful handling of pacing and dynamic action by episode director Kevin Tancharoen?
I’m of the opinion that “Monument Point” succeeded as a combination of this extreme plot point and a fresh point of view from an experienced director. Tancharoen may not have Kevin Smith’s renown or fanbase, but I actually enjoyed the former’s Arrow episode more than the latter’s hour of The Flash, this week. (YMMV) However, he’s quickly making a name for himself in fan-driven circles thanks to his experience on both DC and Marvel TV properties, as well as his own popular Mortal Kombat web series.
So what made this episode so effective? Well, for one thing, the brief, hectic flashback scenes actually connected (loosely) to the goings on in the present. On Lian Yu, as Oliver and Taiana attempted to save as many prisoners as possible in their plan to escape the cursed island, they learned that Baron Reiter was still alive. Despite Oliver’s efforts to punch, stab, shoot, and explode the man to death, the idol’s power still coursed through his veins. That same power soon took over Taiana, as evidenced by her eyes turning yellow, when she tried to spirit the idol away to a safe distance. This moment, coupled with Oliver’s very brief flashback sequence on last week’s episode, portends doom for Taiana; Oliver’s probably going to be fine.
Meanwhile, at the Missile Attack Warning Center in Kaliningrad, Russia… Tonight’s opening scene might be a glimpse of where we’re headed in Season 5, but whether the Russian homeland will be seen in flashbacks (probably) or some sort of contemporary result of this episode’s events (less likely) remains to be seen. But there’s going to be some explaining to do, because Russia’s nuclear arsenal (and that of other developed nations) fell into the hands of Darhk and his villainous organization Hive, thanks to the stolen computer program, Rubicon.
But where one evil computer hacker looks to wreak havoc on the world by bringing about nuclear winter, another team of hackers–the father/daughter pair of Felicity and Noah Kuttler, a.k.a. The Calculator–does their damnedest to prevent it. I actually rather liked the chemistry between the two as Emily Bett Rickards not only came up against someone she couldn’t outsmart in Tom Amandes, but it was also someone whose respect she desired to earn, whether she can admit that to herself or not. Let’s be clear, I don’t trust Noah, and neither should Team Arrow; I’m fully convinced that he managed to copy the code to
Felicity’s Curtis’ quantum subliminal processor at Palmer Tech even though he said he didn’t. To what end, I have no idea, but it’s too juicy a plot point to pass up.
While Overwatch and the Calculator are attempting to disable Rubicon, Green Arrow and Spartan are kept quite busy protecting Noah from the Ghosts and their new commander, Brick, as played by returning guest star Vinnie Jones. Brick didn’t impress in his first appearance on the show, and he didn’t do much to improve upon that in this hour, but it gave Oliver and Diggle someone to beat up on without regret. There were some great action and suspense sequences in this episode. I chalk it up to changing either the objective (a heist, a protective detail, buying time for Felicity and Noah) or the setting (the woods, Palmer Tech by day, the artificial light of a suburban lawn under the dome), but whatever it was, it worked.
Back under that dome, Thea has more or less resigned to her position under the guard of the Ghosts with no one for company but her ruthless father, her clueless boyfriend, and a psychopathic villain who’s obsessed with her. Yes, against all odds, Anarky returns as Alexander Calvert’s Lonnie Machin shows up in the safe zone of Tevat Noah (Biblical Hebrew for Noah’s Ark). Anarky has business to square with Darhk, but he’ll settle for trying to convince Thea to embrace her own anarchic feelings. Oh, and he maybe killed Alex … we’re not sure. (Thea checks for a pulse and apologizes, so I’m going to assume he’s still alive. Otherwise, I think she’d probably react a little more strongly.)
Believe it or not, there’s actually time for some nice character moments in this episode, and, outside of bro-ments from Oliver and Diggle, they come from some of the oddest pairings. Two characters who don’t get the most screentime together are Donna Smoak and Quentin Lance, whose relationship is tested when Donna finds out that Quentin is willing to lie about the knowledge that Laurel Lance was the Black Canary if it means getting his badge back. Her guilt trip quickly gets him to reconsider his decision, so he’ll pretty much have to settle for being Team Arrow’s getaway driver for a while. Another surprising moment occurred between the Green Arrow and the Calculator, both of whom live double lives and have failed Felicity on more than one occasion. It was a curious little almost-father-in-law/son-in-law moment, but wisely they didn’t linger on it. There were more important things to deal with.
Did I mention that this season’s big bad had access to nuclear missile codes? Yeah. And despite the best efforts of Team Arrow, one of those Russian nukes managed to sneak through their hacker net. In a clever bit of last-minute thinking (after Noah takes a bullet for his daughter), Felicity changes the GPS coordinates of the target, the heavily populated city of Monument Point, to a less-populated city called Havenrock, both fictional suburbs of Washington, D.C. In a surprise move that’s going to have huge repercussions going forward (one would think), the nuke actually made landfall and exploded, killing tens of thousands of people.
Now, wanton death and destruction like that is crazy enough, but the additional comic book threat on Arrow is that all of that death fueled Darhk to the point that he’s approaching god status. If Reiter was able to throw Oliver around like a rag doll and survive multiple gunshot wounds, a knife to the chest, and a grenade after a dozen or so deaths, I can’t imagine what Darhk is feeling like at the moment. We’ll find out how Green Arrow and Spartan try to bring him down on next week’s episode since the heroic duo tracked the villain to his nexus chamber beneath the Star City Mayor’s office at the episode’s end.
This was a pretty crazy episode and I have to give everyone involved credit for not only freshening up the action sequences but raising the stakes to the point that our very mortal Team Arrow could not come out on top. That’s rare in superhero fare. Additionally, this episode felt like an hour where the tension was constantly being wound up bit by bit, even if the obscenely long countdown clock did seem to drop precipitously at random moments. The flipside of that is that “Monument Point” also had a tendency to feel rushed, as if it was attempting to make up for some of the more sluggish episodes in this season, ones which had no intention of furthering the plot. As we head into the final hours, there’s still quite a bit to be resolved; let’s hope Team Arrow (or what remains of it) is up to the task.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Thea: “Predictability is your flaw, too. Every time my life starts to suck, you show up.”
Merlyn: “The world is what’s insane. It is beyond saving. It needs a do-over, a reset.”
Donna: “I like your tie, it’s very … awkward.”
I like when Donna’s slightly toned down from her usual high level of frenetic energy.
Merlyn: “I don’t think I can trust you with a weapon for some reason. You’ll just have to make do with Krav Maga, I’m afraid.”
Lyla: “The fate of the world is resting in the hands of an IT girl, a criminal, and two guys in Halloween costumes.” Green Arrow: “They’re not Halloween costumes.”
Anarky: “What is it with you? Why are you always at the mercy of some guy? You can make your own decisions, Thea. You’re not a pawn … you’re a Queen. … Get it?”
Anarky: “I’m liberating you, mommy!” Weirdest villain ever … and this show had a robot made out of bees.
Spartan (in his growly voice): “It’s like a whack-a-mole.”
Lyla: “It’s a direct hit on Havenrock.” This show just literally nuked a small city…
Darhk: “Hello, Oliver. I think you’re going to need much bigger arrows.”