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- Airdate: 1/29/2014
- Director: Guy Bee (Arrow, Supernatural, Criminal Minds)
- Writer(s): Marc Guggenheim (Arrow Co-creator/Executive Producer) & Drew Z. Greenberg (Arrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Warehouse 13) – They also wrote “State Vs. Queen” together.
Last week, Arrow set about solving a problem like Laurel Lance by having her be the sanest person in the room before completely shattering her confidence, stripping her of her job and Oliver’s unyielding support. Roy, on the other hand, finally become too loose a cannon for Oliver to ignore. It was an episode whose big emotional moments landed as intended even if the logic of the plot lines didn’t pass the smell test. This week, on the other hand, was just a big ole mess.
Let’s break it down:
THE MAIN PLOT THREADS –
No One Understands You, Roy, But Oliver Does –
Oliver’s attempts to train Roy mostly amount to Oliver yelling, “You have to learn control” only to have Roy then punch something so hard he breaks it. Not surprisingly, Roy loses control when Oliver reluctantly takes him into the field to investigate a heist at Malcolm Merlyn’s old mansion. Turns out Bronze Tiger has been busted out of prison and hired by someone to steal a prototype of Merlyn’s earthquake machine. Oliver would have stopped them right there if Roy hadn’t nearly punched one of the goons to death. Later, Roy tries to stop Bronze Tiger on his own, but it’s only with Oliver he’s able to save the day, stopping the hastily turned on earthquake machine. Granted, before that Roy went medieval on Bronze Tiger’s face, but an unmasked Oliver reveals his secret identity and gets him to snap out of it. In the end, Roy is initiated into Team Arrow, meeting both Felicity and Diggle, while Tiger is sent to prison where Amanda Waller recruits him into the Suicide Squad.
Moira – An Unexpected Candidate –
Moira has a dinner date with Walter. Oh, la la. Could love be in the air? Has Walter forgiven her for that whole “partially responsible for you being captured and held hostage for a couple of months” thing? Maybe, but love is not in the cards yet. Instead, Walter and a political consultant want Moira to run for mayor because Sebastian Blood’s campaign policies would bankrupt the city in 8 months. Speaking for any sane person, Moira thinks it’s a positively ludicrous idea, yet everyone keeps saying things like, “I’d vote for you.” So, Moira decides to run for mayor, although now her pesky doctor who knows Thea wasn’t Robert Queen’s daughter must be dealt with. Classic Moira.
Laurel’s Having a Bad Week –
Last week, Laurel was figuratively kicked down. This week, she’s struggling to get back up. Her dad tricks her into attending an AA (or something) meeting, from which she runs away with alarming haste. Her attempt to get a job at old pal Joanna’s new law firm actually brings her resume to the attention of a member of the state bar association, yada, yada, yada, now she’s about to be disbarred due to her substance abuse problem. Worse yet? This would be a great time to turn to pills, but those were confiscated last week. So, Laurel enjoys any alcoholic drinks that come with olives at Oliver’s club. When Oliver and Thea try to cut her off she insults both of them and maybe, kind of, sort of also an onlooking Felicity. Oliver’s calls someone to help her. We’re probably supposed to think he called Laurel’s dad, but the episode cliffhangs by revealing he really called Sara, who hovers over a drunken Laurel in her apartment.
Meanwhile, Back On the Island… –
Sara and Oliver track Slade to the cave with the dead Japanese WWII soldiers. Based on cave drawings left behind by Slade, Oliver deduces he means to use the rocket launcher from last season to sink Ivo’s ship, but that’s their only way off the island! So, at the rocket launcher Oliver talks Slade down, even after having a gun pointed at this head. His message? [paraphrasing]: “Shado loved you, not the way you wanted, but she sure thought you were swell. Now, you can’t blow up that boat because we’re going to steal it!” Oliver, you silver tongued devil.
It’s the rare episode of Arrow where you know you’re in trouble based solely on the cold open (the pre-title card sequence). However, “Tremors” immediately overreached by asking us to buy a man having smuggled into a prison each individual item of Bronze Tiger’s (Michael Jai White) metal claw under his skin. The immediate reference point is the prisoner with the bomb sown into his stomach by the Joker in The Dark Knight. Plus, maybe history has shown this type of thing to happen from time to time. However, when I saw a guy randomly pulling blades and a claw out of different parts of his body at the beginning of “Tremors” my reaction was an indignant, “Oh, come on!” Then the stupid prison guard turned his back on Bronze Tiger even though he was clearly hiding something, and I said it again. Sadly, that was a common reaction for the remainder of the episode:
- Oliver’s disguise and modulated voice is good enough to fool anyone who doesn’t know him, but how did Roy not recognize him? It’s not like that warehouse was as dimly lit as that rooftop Oliver always seems to meet Detective Lance on.
- Malcolm Merlyn just happens to have a prototype of the earthquake machine stored in the basement of his mansion that criminals know about, but every law agency which has surely gone over every details of Merlyn’s life and possessions after last season had no idea?
- The bad guy paying Bronze Tiger just panics and turns on the earthquake machine?
- Oliver can’t open the shipyard containers on his own?
- All they had to do to stop the machine was blow it up? Really? I know it’s a prototype, but don’t we remember how much trouble Detective Lance had shutting down a full version of the machine last season?
- Moira Queen is going to run for mayor? No, seriously, you’re actually having her run for mayor? This is the same Moira who got off scott free in such an obviously unjust way it’s a wonder there wasn’t rioting, and when Oliver threw her a “welcome back to work” party hardly anyone showed up to support her. Now, you’re telling me nearly half of polled voters feel sympathetic toward her?
- Felicity and Diggle are all “Can we really trust Roy?” one minute but all smiles and “Welcome to the team!” the next?
However, this is a comic book show. On top of that, we are a long way removed from the Christopher Nolan mimicry of season 1. Realism is no longer their dramatic calling card but instead an anchor they are not entirely concerned with maintaining. So, is it possible I am just nitpicking “Tremors” the way it is so easy to nitpick big comic book movies? What was Arrow really trying to accomplish here?
“Tremors” clearly references the potential literal tremors associated with the earthquake machine as well as the trembling hand symptom shared by Slade and Roy as a result of the mirakuru. Furthermore, Sara’s early line about love being the most powerful emotion but also the most dangerous applies to the resolutions reached with Slade in the past and Roy in the present, both pacified by Oliver’s appeal to think of the person they loved to keep on the path of good. The intent to parallel Slade and Roy is obvious, with this connection being just another method by which the writers are attempting this season to make the island flashbacks far more directly (instead of just thematically) relate to present day story lines.
However, it seemed bizarre that for both Slade and Roy’s storyline they would roll out last season’s two big doomsday devices, the rocket launcher on the island and a lesser version of the earthquake machine. Those were both such big deals last season tying into season-long story arcs. However, now here they were in a normal episode with no build-up. For Roy’s story, the device doesn’t really matter. They simply tried to create a situation where Roy had to be the hero when Oliver couldn’t and save Thea without reverting to a more standard Thea as damsel in distress scenario. That makes the earthquake machine an obvious solution, but whenever you do a callback like this to your big bad device from a year ago you are playing with fire because it introduces questions you usually don’t answer.
Elsewhere, involving Moira in a mayoral election in opposition to Sebastian Blood seems like another way in which the writers are following through on their stated goal to streamline all stories this season to more revolve around Oliver. Last week, the show at least temporarily removed the main opposition to Blood’s criminal persona by destroying Laurel’s credibility. Now Moira enters as the counterpoint to Blood’s public persona. This is the same Sebastian that Oliver has publicly endorsed and considers to be his friend, thus re-introducing the potential for conflict in Oliver’s relationship with his mom. Plus, it finally brings back the backburnered drama about Thea’s true parentage, thus now placing both Moira and Thea into the Sebastian/Slade story line.
The problem is that they had to spend an entire episode trying to convince us that Moira running for mayor actually makes sense. For their storytelling needs, it absolutely does-it’s her new redemptive arc. However, for the universe of Arrow it’s a harder sell. Remember, that in “State Vs. Queen” (also written by Guggenheim and Greenberg) the prosecution’s argument was Moira confessed to being guilty on live TV, is a bad mother, and was also a bad wife with a romantic relationship with the man who supposedly coerced her. Her defense pretty much had no case, and no one, not even Oliver, understood how she ended up being found not guilty (they still don’t know Merlyn bought the jury). This is the woman who will now run for mayor in that universe. They try to compare her to politicians who sought redemption in the public sphere, but a couple of sex scandals are not the same as being partially responsible for the homicides of 503 people. This is a ludicrous concept they’re hoping we’ll just go with, maybe because we realize Susanna Thompson’s Moira Queen will be amazing opposite Kevin Alejandro’s Sebastian Blood.
Laurel, on the other hand, returned to existing in her own separate TV show before crossing over into Arrow proper at Verdant and at the end with Sara in her apartment. Katie Cassidy’s drunk acting was a bit big, but no worse than what Martin Freeman/Benedict Cumberbatch just did on Sherlock this week. At some point, they have to let Laurel get back up off the ground, in this case literally. Hopefully Sara’s return will help lift her up, and this is the end of the at-times-annoying-to-watch tearing down of Laurel to build her back up. Please let this be the rock bottom moment for Laurel because we really don’t need any further downward spiraling from her.
Someone in the comments section of my review of last week’s episode, “Blind Spot,” argued they weren’t interested in finding out more about Laurel when there’s a character like Felicity around whose background remains mostly a mystery. However, my bigger criticism might be that the recent ascension of Roy to sidekick status has meant the demotion of Diggle to, what, cracking jokes from the peanut gallery and serving as point to Felicity’s counterpoint in debating the case of the week. You can make Roy Oliver’s sidekick without also forgetting that Oliver already has a pretty tough dude around who can help out in the field.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The first two episodes (“Blast Radius,” “Blind Spot”) since the mid-season finale were busy, transitional pieces which were easy to nitpick but still managed to land their big emotional moments. However, “Tremors” is an episode which happily brings back Walter, gives Moira more to do yet ultimately feels a tad messy. Not even the emotional moments manage to completely land because the crazy leaps of logic are too big to ignore this time, with no great action scene or impeccable sense of pacing around to distract us by entertaining us. Even then, Stephen Amell continues to shine as Oliver (even back to being shirtless for no reason this week), Felicity still gets a good line or two, and the cliffhanger promises a far better episode next week. We sure hope so because this one wasn’t that good.
1. Comic Book 101: Ben Turner, aka, Bronze Tiger
- First Appearance: 1974
At the age of 10, Ben Turner killed a burglar with a kitchen knife. Alarmed by his ensuing rage, he funneled his energies into martial arts, eventually traveling East and studying under a legendary sensei. He and a partner, Richard Dragon, bounced around from organization to organization until the CIA had them attempt to take down the League of Assassins. That went…poorly. Turner was brainwashed by the League into becoming their masked assassin named Bronze Tiger. As Tiger, he most famously defeated Batman in one-on-one combat while attempting to assassinate Batwoman. After that, Turner was deprogrammed and recruited into Amanda Waller’s group of incarcerated supervillains known as the Suicide Squad who serve government missions in return for a commuted prison sentence. Turner is actually one of the few kind of nice guys, sometimes serving as leader of the Squad.
Michael Jai White played Turner mostly as a thug earlier this season, and although his costume hasn’t greatly improved he appear to have ever, ever-so slightly more shading in “Tremors” as in he doesn’t seem 100% okay with the earthquake machine, more like 98% okay.
2. Am I the only one who finds it kind of funny every time someone on this show utters the word “Mirakuru“? They’re taking it so seriously when the word literally translates to “The Miracle,” and is clearly a bogus comic book miracle drug that gives people superhuman powers. However, for the universe of Arrow I guess they absolutely have to take it seriously.
3. So much now apparently rides on Slade’s love and anguish over Shado that it seems all the more glaring how relatively little they did to establish their connection prior to her death.
4. How on Earth will Roy ever explain to Thea what the hell was going on that day he came into the club, commanded her to leave town with her family, just about crushed her arm, and then ran away while staring at his trembling hand?
5. Favorite joke of the night? Oliver playfully looking up at the roof of the Arrow cave/floor of the club when Thea calls him and asks how close he is to the club.
What did you think? Like “Tremors”? 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.
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