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- 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 –
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.
–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.
–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.
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.
–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:
Here she is from earlier this season:
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.
1. Comic Book 101: Mark Scheffer, aka 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.
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