Last week’s episode of Arrow had a shocking last-minute conclusion, the repercussions of which were felt in tonight’s hour, “City of Blood.” The title is graphic, conjuring images of violence and chaos, but while the episode lived up to its moniker on one level, it mostly served as a setup for all of the expected anarchy in the season’s final two episodes. That’s not to say it was a wasted effort. In fact, a good number of supporting cast members turned in their best performances of the series tonight, all in the service of restoring the confidence of one of their own. But was it the right call? Would a simple sacrifice have prevented the streets of Starling City from running red with blood? Hit the jump for my take in tonight’s Arrow recap.
Ollie, Sara, Anatoly, and Peter (a former prisoner of Dr. Ivo) board the sub with the plan of blowing up Slade on the Amazo, and then piloting themselves to safety. One problem: the sub’s pretty busted up and is currently run aground in the shallows. Their solution is to use a torpedo to blast them free. Second problem: the torpedos must be manually piloted. (Practical aside here … It’s my understanding that the manned torpedos were more like powered submersibles that divers piloted to the underside of a ship to plant an explosive, and then retreated before detonation. I could be wrong. Whatever. Comic books!) They solve this problem with the show’s theme: sacrifice. It seems Peter has suffered severe radiation poisoning due to Ivo’s experiments and will die soon anyway, so he figures, “What the hell!” and offers to bust them all loose. Everything goes more or less according to plan, until Ollie radios back to Sara, who he presumes safe, and we’re left with wondering what has her so distressed…
There are cliffhangers and then there was tonight’s episode, which felt like it cut off right in the middle of a two or three-hour movie. It wasn’t enough to leave us hanging in Island Time, but the main arc of the episode literally stopped in the middle of the action as well. There are better ways to handle cliffhangers, folks. I digress.
This was one of the longer opening sequences of the show so far. Add to it the fact that Oliver doesn’t show up for the first 20 minutes, and it all felt rather strange and disorienting. What a great way to show the ill-at-ease mood of the team after the events of Moira’s death and the disappearance of Oliver. It also gave other characters, notably Thea and Amanda Waller, a chance to share the spotlight. (I’d like to make a point as to how strong the female characters and actors are on this show in general, and specifically tonight. Thea, Laurel, Amanda, Felicity, and even Isabel got some great moments in “City of Blood” and took their performances to another level. Cheers!)
It turns out that Oliver has been stewing over at his secondary facility, the one he uses to get some Ollie-time (and in case the Foundry ever gets shut down, which looks like it may happen in short order). It’s here we get the first glimpse of a broken hero, a man who has convinced himself that he cannot win against his foe, but that he has one card left to play in order to save the ones he loves: sacrifice. Amell does a good job of brooding (something he’s done all along), and we really get the sense that his heart is no longer in the fight. He’s essentially taking the easy way out. His team lets him know it, with Felicity and Diggle taking the first crack at him, and, in a surprise reveal, Laurel takes the second. She brings him back around by informing him that Blood and Slade are in cahoots and have orchestrated the whole thing from the beginning. You can really see the fire burn in Oliver’s eyes at this point as he sets to getting back to business.
Great stuff up until this point, especially with Blood assuming the responsibilities of Starling City’s Mayor (nicely juxtaposed with Moira’s funeral and wake), and all the cat-and-mouse games between Slade’s side and Oliver’s team. So what’s the problem? Time management. This episode built so much emotional tension up over the first 55 minutes that the last sequence just couldn’t quite pay it all off, especially since it was split over multiple settings. Olllie – who had his ass handed to him by one lone mirakuru soldier – is now trapped underground with Laurel, Diggle is about to square off against a jacked-up and pissed-off Isabel/Ravager back from the dead, Thea’s suffering the shame of riding coach (and likely being held hostage by another mirakuru soldier at the train station), and Quentin Lance & Co. are getting knocked around by yet another of Slade’s followers at the police station. The only saving grace appears to be in the form of a S.T.A.R. Labs call from Cisco to Felicity as the soldiers pour out onto the surface streets … annnnd, scene!
My issue with the timing is a small one. It’s not the gut-punch of a cliffhanger that leaves you without an answer or gives you a last-minute WTF moment; it’s just too much show in too small a time slot. We’ve only got two episodes left, “Streets of Fire” and “Unthinkable,” but the scope of it really does feel like one three-hour long conclusion. Oh well. Til next time!
Quips & Quivers:
A commenter brought up the comparison of Arrow to Angel and I couldn’t agree more. Brooding Stephen Amell really channeled his best David Boreanaz tonight.
Isabel: “If Oliver’s smart, he ran back to his island to hide. Maybe he’ll attend your funerals.”
Felicity: “Hey! That computer’s running an XK15 processor. That’s not even supposed to exist yet! … I want one!”
I love the bright-red, flashing “bug” that Laurel placed on Blood’s desk. Not conspicuous at all.
Anatoly: “Like riding bicycle … under water.”
Oliver/Ivo/Peter: “The essence of heroism is to die so that others may live.”
Poor Ollie. He was all set to speak his last monologue into the bay breeze at the pier … and then his team shot him in the next with a knock-out dart.
Oliver: “Diggle, what the hell?!”
Laurel: “This city needs the Arrow.”
Felicity and Diggle’s interrogation scene was a brilliant flip on a tired trope. Nicely done, team!
Blood: “How do you know I’ve been working with Slade Wilson?” Oliver: “Because I’m the Arrow.”
Yes, now EVERYONE knows he’s the Arrow…
Blood: “What are you gonna do? Are you gonna stab the Mayor in a restaurant full of people?”
Oliver: “This started with the three of us … it’s time we got back to that.” Some people in our comments section seem to agree with this quote.
Isabel/Ravager: “You killed me. I’m here to return the favor.”
So presuming Thea makes it out of the train station by season’s end, do we still think she’s running away from Starling City? Or will Ollie have figured out a way to reclaim his family’s company and their property by then?
As you can see in this next Arrow promo, Malcom Merlyn returns (as some of you reminded us in the comments, kindly or otherwise). Watch below: