Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Blast Radius” (S2/EP10) – A Fairly Enjoyable, Busy Transitional Episode

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Blast Radius

  • Airdate: 1/15/2014
  • Director: Rob Hardy (Trois, The Vampire Diaries, Criminal Minds, 90210, Arrow debut)
  • Writer(s): Jake Coburn (Arrow, Gossip Girl) & Keto Shimizu (Arrow, Being Human US, The Cape)

Arrow Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg recently told TVLine.com:

“One of the things we learned from last season was we built up to Episode 9, where we revealed that Malcolm Merlyn was the Dark Archer, then we kind of put things on simmer — and this year we’re coming back [from the break] with a bang!”

He’s not wrong.  Their first episode back from winter break last season (“Burned,” aka, the one with the homicidal firefighter) slowed things down from a sprint to a leisurely walk, spending an entire episode for post-Dark Archer beatdown Oliver to re-gain his confidence. “Blast Radius” aims to have far more forward momentum, detailing Oliver’s investigation of the scarecrow mask guy (who we know is Sebastian Blood), what’s become of Barry Allen, what Laurel is really doing with Sebastian, and how is Roy coping with his new powers in the present and Slade doing the same in the past.  Plus, they give us another standard Arrow villain of the week, i.e., a lesser DC comic book villain given a more realistic, almost completely different approach in the Arrow universe.

Let’s break it down:

THE MAIN PLOT 

Team Arrow –

Oliver really wants to know who that scarecrow guy was from the mid-season finale.  So, he’s shaking down street thugs, even doing the badass “I’ll stand in one solitary spot as you shoot at me, and you’ll still somehow miss because I…am..magic” thing.  That gets him nowhere, but he has to focus on a new case when a random guy (Firefly‘s Sean Maher) declares war on “self-interested politicians” and corrupt government institutions and starts blowing up places.  To help with the case, Felicity comes back from Central City, where Barry Allen is still comatose after being struck by lightning last time we saw him.  Her tech expertise fails them during their first encounter with the bad guy (he scrambles the signal so she can’t track him).  Oliver does his best dickish “I’m so mad at you right now, and it has NOTHING to do with Barry Allen” speech except, of course, it clearly has everything to do with Barry Allen.

From that point forward, an angered Felicity kind of kicks total ass, figuring out the identity of the bad guy (or at least his location and code name: Shrapnel), remotely helping Oliver to figure out how to diffuse Shrapnel’s booby-trap, and putting in field duty alongside Diggle.  The latter is forced on them by Sebastian Blood, who stands tall in response to the bombings by throwing a unity rally.  Oliver as Arrow tells Blood not do it as it would endanger his life and the lives of all who attend.  Blood does it anyway, and sure enough halfway through his big speech there are multiple explosions as Shrapnel has to act swiftly when he notices Felicity and Diggle attempting to diffuse his bombs.  No one gets seriously hurt, even though Diggle does get shot in the arm, and Oliver stops the bad guy.  Oliver later apologizes to Felicity, and they have one of their hard-to-read Olicity moments where it seems like he’s saying he missed her but accepts her relationship with Barry, but it also kind of seems like they were moments away from kissing.

Laurel Becomes the Most Sane Person On the Show –

The guy’s name is Sebastian Blood.  Sebastian….Blood!  And he runs a blood drive which has some shady goings-on!  And his white knight act is totally too good to be true!  That doesn’t set off alarm bells for the other characters? It sure as heck does for Laurel, who is following her gut and looking into Sebastian’s past.  She feels like the biggest jerk in the world when he tells her his sob story of an alcoholic, abusive father murdered by his mother out of self-defense as a pre-cursor to a childhood as an orphan.  Yet she keeps at it, discovers Sebastian has an insane aunt whose medical bills he pays, and visits the aunt only to discover she is in fact ….. his mother!  It was Sebastian who killed his own father, framing his mother in the process.  That sly bastard.

Thea & Roy –

Blast Radius

Roy’s going through some stuff right now, but Thea is the only thing keeping him together.  Awww.  Good thing, too, because dude looks seriously freaked out the two times in the episode when he displays superhuman abilities.  First, his make-out session with Thea is interrupted by a falling open box of wine glasses.  He suffers a deep cut to his arm – like the type of cut that requires a visit to the ER for stitches.  Nah, it heals up fine.  Later, he uses his back to protect Moira from a falling light scaffolding at Brother Blood’s unity rally.  Thea questions him about it later, but he does the whole evasive “it’s been a long day; you know what sounds good?  sleep!” thing.  Thea’s not a total idiot, though; she’s onto him.

Meanwhile, On the Island… –

Basically, Slade has crazy ‘roid rage issues now, and Ivo really, really wants that miracle drug back.  Plus, Oliver wants to tell Slade the truth about Shado’s death, i.e., that he’s partially responsible, but Sara gave him a stern “You want to get killed, fool?  Shut yo’ mouth!”  As per Sara’s warning, the miracle drug is messing with Slade’s head, and at one point he snaps, lifting Oliver from the neck off the ground with one hand after Oliver had tried to calm him down.  He snaps out of it, indicating the Slade we knew is still in there, but he won’t be for too much longer.

WHAT I LIKED

–Upon Sebastian Blood’s introduction in “Identity,” I was expecting some The Long Halloween/Dark Knight plot machinations where Arrow would team with Blood and Detective Lance to clean up corruption in Starling City only for Blood to be made a villain at some point in the process.  As such, I was stunned when Blood was revealed to already be a full-on villain just two episodes later.  Since then, as befits the life cycle of a recurring character on a TV show Sebastian has receded into the background and re-appeared at random intervals.  However, “Blast Radius” brought Sebastian Blood (as opposed to “Brother Blood”) back in.

While I’m not sure how long his alliance with Oliver will last (probably no more than an episode or two), I like the idea of Oliver in both his normal and vigilante persona being fooled by Sebastian.  It’s kind of like Batman working with Harvey Dent to battle corruption if it was possible for Harvey to already secretly be Two-Face without Batman noticing.

Blast Radius

–Laurel’s discovery of Sebastian’s big family secret being intercut with Arrow’s alliance (or truce) with Sebastian via handshake was executed perfectly, even if Cassidy’s reading of “you’re not his aunt; you’re his…mother!” was a bit too soap opera-y.  This is another bizarre plot twist for this once Christopher Nolan-grounded show, but if you know your comics no one should be stunned to learn that Sebastian Blood killed his father.  Having Laurel being the dissenting voice in the room about Sebastian does give Cassidy more to do.

— Favorite exchange of the episode:

  • Oliver: “I’m sorry.”
  • Felicity: “Were you apologizing to me, or were you talking to your quiver?”
  • Oliver: “I’d never snap at my quiver.”

After Oliver failed to thank either Felicity or Barry for saving his life in the mid-season finale, his thank you this week felt long-delayed and extra sweet.

–Detective Lance using Oliver to find phone records on his colleagues at the same time that Laurel is using Detective Lance to dig into Sebastian Blood’s files?  And the two wondering, “Why are you looking into this?”  Hilarious.  Laurel really is her father’s daughter.

Blast Radius

–Oliver’s getting trapped by Shrapnel’s booby-trap made for some 24-level fun tense action, with Felicity Chloe to Oliver’s Jack Bauer.  As for the earlier motorcycle chase, I know he’s startled, but would the bomb expert Shrapnel really just throw crappy little individual explosives at Arrow, including one totally worthless smoke bomb?  Plus, anytime they do a bike stunt sequence with Oliver’s wearing his full motorcycle helmet obscuring his face entirely it risks pulling us out of the scene because that lets us know immediately that it’s probably Stephen Amell’s stunt double under that helmet.

Blast Radius

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

–I think that whenever Stephen Amell or Emily Bett Rickards ask the directors how they want them to play the Olicity moments the response they get it is, “Do enough that it’ll keep the bloggers debating, but not enough that they’ll actually have the answer.”  When pressed for more specifics, the director might say, “Play it mostly down the middle, but keep your hand on her arm just a little longer than you should, or stare up at him with a wee bit too much intensity.”  As a result, I am perplexed at where they are taking these two.  In the form of this new Barry Allen arc, they initially seem headed toward a Oliver likes her but not like that resolution.  He seemed not jealous but concerned about Barry before, yet the flip is switched this week to something that is not full-on jealousy but also not mere concerned older brother either.    

If you take the dialogue of that final scene between Oliver and Felicity, it would seem as if Oliver is endorsing her nascent relationship with Barry.  Plus, when she mentions “finally finding a guy that’s into her” Oliver’s silence could be seen as confirming the already unspoken implication that this means Oliver is one of those guys who’s just not that into her.  Yet I honestly thought the scene was going to finish with the two kissing.  As Community recently joked about Jeff and Annie, in film and on TV when a guy grabs a girl by the arms the way Oliver did with Felicity to calm her nerves at the end that’s usually a prelude to something instead of a mere friendly gesture.  Sometimes I see total evidence of romantic subtext between the two; then other times, it evaporates.

At this point, I’d prefer the show would just make up its mind and commit one way or another, even if a more realistic depiction of this type of relationship would be for them to take a while to understand exactly what they feel about each other.  Or did I misread that final scene? Was it truly just about Oliver telling Felicity that he considers her a literal partner in crime, and when she is gone he misses her?

–Malcolm Merlyn’s plan was all about revenge.  As illogical as it was, his actions were motivated by grief as he associated the Glades as a collective guilty party in the death of his wife.  So, he wanted to blow those bastards to hell.  To put it more succinctly, he was playing the dead wife card, and his plan was ultimately of your basic mad man with a bomb variety.  Now, we’ve moved to the increasingly popular mad man with an army of super soldiers, but an army for what purpose?  Is it that Blood, via his run for mayor, aims to infiltrate all influential elements of Starling City to orchestrate change which benefits him, ala the Court of Owls from DC’s New 52?  But why an army of super soldiers, dubbed acolytes?  At this point, it’s impossible to know for sure, or how much is Blood’s planning or Wilson’s.  It’s just kind of inherently sillier than a mad man with a bomb.

Blast Radius

–If I understand the implication of this episode, it kind of seems like Laurel’s just getting close to Sebastian to pursue her hunch that there’s something off about him.  However, is this in response to the investigation into his blood drives she helped launch with Sin and Thea in the mid-season finale?  Or has she always felt this way, and we just didn’t see that before?  My guess is that Laurel is supposed to have developed her hunch about Sebastian after what Sin and Thea brought to her attention, and her investigation this week is an extension of that.  However, I don’t know that they made that very clear.  In “Blast Radius,” it more seems like she has a hunch about him because, well, she’s a good lawyer, and we the audience know Sebastian is a bad guy so we’re cool if Laurel investigates him, right?

–The mask.  Oliver mostly looking straight down and staying in shadows to obscure his face works far better for me when it comes to the, “Why didn’t Detective Lance recognize it was Oliver?” questions than him wearing the domino mask and no longer otherwise attempting to obscure his face.  Then again, this is a comic book show.

–Wasn’t the whole Felicity fails to track the bad guy at first, but pulls it together in the end thing done last season in the episode with the copycat vigilante?   

–Is “he’s an enemy of the negative influence of politicians and government” really all the motivation they could find for Shrapnel?

–Laurel can’t be the first person to learn the truth about Sebastian from his “insane aunt,” although maybe the first person to believe her.  Plus, how exactly did Sebastian frame her for his father’s murder?

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

–“Blast Radius” was Laurel’s first big episode in a while, with even more screen time than the mid-season finale.  Already I’m seeing plenty of people suggesting that Cassidy looks different this year, questioning why that is exactly.  This is the type of speculation I shy away from because it is has no real bearing on the quality of the show, but it’s clearly been a distraction for some viewers.  Some of it is because Laurel’s hair has been lightened this season, most likely to get her closer to blonde and thus subtly enhance the visual connection between her and her sister, played as a blonde by Caity Lotz.  Here she is from the pilot:

Arrow Laurel Pilot

Here she is from earlier this season:

arrow-broken-dolls laurel

Beyond the hair thing, I will say that there have been times this season, usually in close-up, where I’ve thought Cassidy looked vaguely different, although I couldn’t pinpoint how exactly.  It has yet to be a distraction for me, though.

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Blast Radius” was a classic example of a transitional episode, moving the puzzle pieces around.  The mid-season finale started some big things “Blast Radius” had to check in on, e.g., Roy being strong, Slade being all crazy.  Plus, they had to do something about the emotional fallout for Felicity after what’s become of Barry Allen.  They did all of this while fitting in a new villain-of-the-week, starting a new story arc for Laurel, and managed to pay it all off with a climax which involved all of the show’s principle players and guest stars of the week.  To do that meant some corners were cut (I know Moira aired her concern, but why on Earth did Moira, Thea, and Roy attend that rally?), and the villain was half-baked.  However, there was some reliably solid action sequences, even one where the only visual threats to Oliver were security lasers.  Plus, the shippers were given just enough to re-argue their viewpoints (pro-Oliver/Felicity, anti-Oliver/Felicity, pro-Oliver/Laurel), and we got some soap opera-y revelations about Sebastian Blood.  Maybe they tried to do a little too much, and their handling of the Oliver/Felicity relationship could use less uncertainty.  However, this was ultimately a fairly enjoyable episode.

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Mark Scheffer, aka Shrapnel

300px-Shrapnel

  • First Appearance: 1988

The Arrow version of Shrapnel is also named Mark Scheffer.  That’s about the end of their similarities.   In the comics, he’s a one-time normal human with a wife and two daughters who somehow becomes your basic metal monsters (we’re not sure how it happened).  He’s actually made up of a series of organic cells which together form a consciousness, but, whatever, he’s a giant metal dude who kills people (apparently because their blood gives him power).  For some reason, he is first encountered in (of all places) Kansas by the super hero team Doom Patrol.  They fight.  Things go boom.  He gets away.  Since then, he’s popped up here (a Cyborg mini-series) and there (the Final Crisis event).  As a being comprised of organic metal parts, his powers entail superhuman strength as well as the benefit of needing neither food nor drink to survive.  He can also detach elements of his body and fire them as projectiles.  Don’t worry – if they don’t come back he just regenerates new ones.

What did you think?  Like “Blast Radius”?  Hate it?  Love it? Let us know in the comments section.

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

11 comments

  1. Have you seen the early seasons of bones? Or the beginning of tiva or caskett?
    Olicity have the same material with them, they didn’t just kiss or declare love for each other from the start, but build the relationship slowly, it’s great to watch actually, two partners fighting crime with a hint of romance

    Great review though and I’m so happy the writers gave laurel great story on this eps, she deserve it

    1. That’s a fair point. I have actually watched Bones as well as Castle though not NCIS. I even wrote an article about the supposed moonlighting curse:
      https://weminoredinfilm.com/2013/09/18/debunking-the-moonlighting-curse-18-tv-couples-who-did-or-did-not-kill-their-show-when-they-got-together/.

      I am aware that what Arrow is doing is kind of textbook will they/won’t they. It’s just that I don’t know how very consistent they have been with it. Plus, it has been a little jarring how much they have foregrounded it this season as opposed to last. Felicity was all awkward sexual innuendos last season whereas this season she is often far angrier at Arrow, like a jilted lover sometimes.

      Personally, I more associate will they/won’t theys with sitcoms and episodic, procedural dramas. In that environment, you usually have no grand story arc across a season meaning the main serialized element hooking an audience is the sexual tension. When this is transplanted to a far more serialized show like Arrow I just expect it to go faster just as the show burns through storyline. Then again, Vampire Diaries kept the tension between Elena and Damon going for several seasons, and Arrow’s producers have joked about doing the same with Olicity. Maybe I’m hyper aware of it since I write about this show so often. Maybe it’s just TV sexual tension 101. I just sometimes struggle to read their scenes, i.e., is there a romantic subtext, is there not.

  2. As usual your review was spot on! And your feelings about the whole Oliver/Felicity “are they/aren’t they?” thing mirrors my own.

  3. I also agree with you that I want them to stop with the Ollicity will they won’t they scenario. It is distracting to the show, imo. And it has led to some ugly reaction to Katie Casside/Laurel and Lauriver, which is very unfair.

    And I really enjoyed having Laurel given more of a good story line and more time on the show, she is an integral part of Oliver Queen’s story, and I think this was a very good start to her road to becoming the Black Canary.

    1. In the Laurel Lance reclamation project that will presumably be the second half of Arrow’s second season, “Blast Radius” was a good start. Maybe it’s a bit of a leap that both her father and Oliver would be so easily duped by Sebastian leaving her as the only sane person, but I liked seeing her in investigative mode.

  4. Felicity has been so out of character this season, it’s not even funny. I appreciated her calling Oliver out of his attitude but was the moment his life and the lives of everyone at the rally the right time to do it?

    Re: the arm grabbing. That’s an Amell acting choice, not a character choice. Oliver has even grabbed Thea that way.

    They spelled it out pretty explicitly that Laurel is suspicious of Blood because of his connection to Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy, the guy that killed four cops and nearly killed her father.

    1. Well, shut my mouth. You’re totally right. They did pretty neatly connect the dots with Laurel to Solomon Grundy to Blood. My mistake.

      If you’re not distracted by Olicity, the arm grab could be seen as kind of sweet. Felicity tends to ramble, and Oliver is her friend and knows that. So, that was just his way of re-assuring her, as if to say, “Stop. Everything is going to be okay.” However, in general, last season Felicity was an audience surrogate figure with great one-liners whereas this season she behaves more like a character who knows she is in a love triangle. The difference has certainly forced both her and Oliver to act out of character.

      1. I think Felicity is the only one who doesn’t know she’s in a love triangle. She’s always played it as a crush last season and caring for Oliver this one, but all the while knowing she doesn’t have a chance with him because he’s out of her league. As she said, it’s typical for her that finally a guy asks her out and he gets struck by lightening.

        I agree the shoulder grab was to get her to stop rambling. But before that, Oliver had told her she was not his employee, she was his partner and Felicity smiled. Then Oliver took a step back, and brought up Barry going to wake up. From the acting choices, it seemed like it got too close for Oliver, and he deliberately brought up Barry to push her away.

        The show can still back away from it but right now, my money’s on them building this to a relationship. It would be so much easier if shows knew how long they would be on and could build decent storylines that way, like Babylon 5 or DS9.

        I liked Laurel in this episode, and I hope she’ll continue to be active and not turn into a Damsel in Distress.

      2. What you’ve described is certainly a common scenario often played out on shows doing will they/won’t they with a couple-the touching speech/bonding moment undercut by one of the members bringing up the other members’ apparent spouse to prevent the sweet moment from progressing to infidelity. Although I am drawing a blank on naming a specific example, I know I’ve seen that done a ton of times.

        Your interpretation may in fact be the right one. I would argue, however, that Felicity behaved at least a little bit like someone who knows she’s in a love triangle at the end of the Russia episode, which is probably when the show transitioned her mere crush and recurring sexual innuendos to being something more significant. With Oliver, sometimes I see obvious hints of romantic subtext in his scenes with Felicity, and then others times (like the Barry episodes) he seems more like a protective older brother type. So, while I agree that right now it seems like they are building to an Oliver/Felicity union if you’d asked me a couple of episodes ago I would have said they had decided to go the Chloe-Clark unrequited love route from Smallville.

        On paper, if you look at how Oliver and Felicity keep getting drawn together as of late then it seems like pretty obvious will they/won’t they stuff. However, I don’t think they’ve necessarily had a consistent tone throughout it all, forcing Felicity to act a bit out of character on occasion. If they do put them together this season I wouldn’t expect it to happen until the end of the season during the May sweeps period. The producers have joked about teasing it out for as long as possible, though.

        I agree about Laurel. It’s funny you would mention the damsel in distress thing, though, because the trailer for next week’s episode indicates that’s exactly what she’ll be, not that she (or even Felicity at this point) hasn’t been that before.

  5. I thought you might think of the Russia episode, but I think it’s exactly what Felicity said it was, that she thought Oliver deserved better than Isabel who is not a nice person. If you don’t mind, here’s my reasoning:

    Felicity hasn’t been shown before to be a jealous person. She wasn’t jealous of Laurel in season 1 and she was so welcoming and unjudgemental of Sara into the Arrow Cave that Sara even remarked on it. But as early as their arrival in Russia, even before Oliver slept with Isabel, Felicity says “Don’t make me take a taxi with her” when Oliver and Diggle leave to meet up with the Russian. That suggests there are already issues between Isabel and Felicity even before Oliver gets into the mix. Since Felicity, is smart, kind and a self-starter (she re-vamped the Arrow computer even before she agreed to join the team and re-did the whole cave while Oliver was away), I lean toward Isabel being the sand in the relationship. Then Isabel basically calls Felicity a slut twice, implying that the only reason she has her job as an EA is because she’s sleeping with Oliver. The second time she says it in front of Felicity as she leaves Oliver’s hotel room with her dress unzipped, telling him that he can give Felicity the night off now that she’s met his sexual needs and completely ignoring Felicity. This is Mean Girl behaviour dialed up to 11, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she’s been telling other people at Queen Consolidated the same story. If it had been anyone else that Felicity said that about, it might have been jealousy but given how Isabel was treating Felicity in that episode, I agree that Oliver deserves much better.

    Re Laurel and Damsels in Distress — it’s an epidemic on this show. Oliver gets in the most trouble and has to be saved by Yao Fe, Shaddo and Slade in the past, and Diggle, Felicity and Sara in the present. Diggle only found out Oliver’s secret when Oliver had to save his life. I don’t think there’s a single character on this show who hasn’t had to be saved by someone else, including Walter (who then saved Oliver with a loan). I don’t mind because that’s the kind of show it is, but what I’m looking for is someone who saves others as well as is saved herself/himself. I don’t think Laurel’s had that kind of chance before, so I’m really hoping she gets to kick some metaphorical butt in these episodes.

    1. Damsels – I guess to your point Felicity also only found out about Oliver’s secret when he needed her to save his life, like an inverse of Diggle’s scenario. I get what you’re saying, though, where you’d like some of the characters to maybe have a bit more self-reliance. Laurel’s scenario in “Blind Spot” certainly played with that where she was yet again made a damsel in distress, but it is actually she who ends up saving herself and Oliver, not the other way around.

      You’re not wrong about Isabel’s Mean Girl behavior, although so much of it in that episode was about Felicity but didn’t involve Felicity. I think I failed to pick up on the nuance you highlighted with Isabel’s reaction to Felicity’s discovery of her tryst with Oliver. The argument is that Felicity has no real reason to be upset with Oliver as she has no claim to him. However, I guess it comes down to how your interpret Felicity’s motivation. Is she acting out of jealousy? Or is she, as you argued, simply responding to the antics of the resident Ice Queen (Isabel) and putting herself out there a little bit as a good friend willing to tell Oliver that he deserves better? Even so, does she inherently mean by “better” that she would be a suitable substitute, or is there no such implication but instead simply, “Do what you want, but don’t mess around with that girl – she’s a bitch with a capital B!” My bigger issue with that episode is not Felicity, who I ultimately think responded in a classic one half of a will they/won’t they fashion. My bigger issue is even now looking back on it I still struggle to totally buy that Oliver would sleep with Isabel in that situation, as I discussed in my review: https://weminoredinfilm.com/2013/11/14/tv-review-arrow-keep-your-enemies-closer-s2ep6/. I also still struggle with how to take Felicity’s comment about “Fantasy Island” in the mid-season finale when Oliver was bout to tell her about Shado, as that seemed a bit more hostile, Olicity-bait than how I would expect Felicity to actually respond (unless she was still just really, really mad at Oliver over Barry).

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