Am I crazy, or is Arrow actually kind of good again? Not in a return to its gritty roots kind of way. More in a return to a time when season 4 seemed like a huge improvement over season 3. The latest episode, “Monument Point,” is the third in a row which I enjoyed watching with minimal reservation. After “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” I wasn’t sure Arrow had that type of run in it anymore.
At this point, we are in end of season mode, with each episode leading directly into the next. Loose ends are being written out. Bye-bye Andy. Now, bye-bye Alex. Damien Darhk’s plans have finally been revealed meaning there’s no “figuring out what the bad guy is up to” plotting anymore. It’s now just a big race to stop him from ending the world, with “Monument Point” even dusting off the old tried-and-true ticking clock device.
It’s quite simple, really. The bad guy has a computer program providing him access to the codes to launch all of the world’s nuclear weapons. The team has to stop him.
To be more specific, Felicity can’t hack this problem away without a little help, especially since the programming language involved is actually more her father’s expertise, not her’s. So, the team needs to recruit her father before HIVE gets to him, but once they have him on their side to give their combined hacking a super boost they have to steal something from Palmer Tech (in a scene which so perfectly evoked the type of thing Arrow used to do often and well in its early seasons)
By the end, it’s the two Smoaks hacking away as father-and-daughter and nearly saving the day while Oliver, Diggle and ARGUS fight off the HIVE soldiers who tracked their location. The Smoaks temporarily delay the launches of every nuclear missile except for one, which Felicity manages to re-route to a less populated area, killing tens of thousands instead of millions.
Personally, it took me a minute to process what Arrow just did. Every season has come down to a fight to save Star City. Oliver hasn’t always been successful, such as when Malcolm still managed to blow up part of The Glades. However, much as Daredevil is only ever saving a rather small neighborhood in New York City Oliver Queen is a protector of his city, not of the entire continent let alone planet. Now here we are watching Felicity process the news that thousands of people just died.
It’s a sudden elevation in stakes and scale that recalls this stunning moment from the “Flashpoint” episode of Justice League Unlimited when Lex Luthor suddenly took control of the Justice League’s watchtower and used it to fire on a city thus causing massive collateral damage (and blaming the Justice League for the destruction in the process):
Of course, Arrow’s nuclear explosion is barely glimpsed, and it leads directly to Oliver and Diggle walking into a room where Damien Darhk is bathed in yellow clouds of energy emanating from his deeply stupid-looking magic totem, rewarding his murder of thousands with more power. It’s arguably more cartoony than what an actual cartoon like Justice League Unlimited did.
Honestly, I don’t know how well it works. Lyla insisted early on that this problem was so far above them it wasn’t even funny, name-checking the Department of Defense and President, but then she came back later and essentially said, “Yeah, I talked to all of those people. They said, ‘Good luck,’ and then made fun of your costumes.” It was like the show recognized that if this were a summer blockbuster there’d need to be a montage of conversations with the highest powers in the land, but since it’s a CW show this end of the world scenario comes down to Oliver and pals. After all, they only have (what was it?) 21 hours. There’s just no time for anything else but saving the world, dangit.
Of course, all of that is only what “Monument Point” was technically about. The plot was about stopping the bad guy, and they temporarily succeeded, albeit at a great cost. However, underneath all of that we had the dual narratives of two troubled daddy-daughter relationships. Felicity tried very hard to not fall for any of her father’s rhetoric about loving her and doing anything to save her. Thea clinged to her hatred for Malcolm despite his best intentions to save her.
Felicity’s father claimed he wasn’t a monster, sensibly arguing that he’s just a cyber criminal who steals money and technology, not a maniacal supervillain who wants to see the world burn. He framed it as wanting to help Felicity save the world because he has an invested interest in saving any world his daughter is a part of. Awww.
On the other side of the episode, Malcolm appeared to agree with Damien’s opinion of the world (broken, needs to be destroyed and rebuilt). I call bullshit, though. Malcolm has been continually depicted as working with Damien to ensure his own personal safety as well as Thea’s. He initially joined league with the bad guy out of revenge, but then it turned into a matter of pragmatism. To hear him now tell Thea he agrees with Damien and views the end of the world as inevitable rang false to me. Malcolm, as he reminded us, once wanted to blow up a part of the world out of revenge for his dead wife. But to now endorse blowing up the entire world? I only buy that if it is a choice made purely to protect his daughter and maybe to come out on the other end with a fair deal of power in the new world order. I don’t believe that came through as clearly as I expected it to in “Monument Point.”
So, now here we are. Thea’s boyfriend is dead, but she oddly got in some daddy-daughter bonding time or at least co-work time. Team Arrow is back to season 1-2 tricks, but also facing higher stakes than ever before. Now, they all have to save Thea, and hope that Oliver’s “just think good thoughts” strategy works to repel Damien’s magic.
1. Weekly Update from Pointless Island: That one guy with the magic came back and kept getting back up no matter how many times Oliver shot him, and that one girl ran away with Oliver but then her eyes turned yellow after touch….wow, I don’t even care enough to finish off this brief recap.
2. Poor Diggle: How messed up must your life be to be taking relationship advice from Oliver Queen?
3. Nitpick: During the heist, Oliver eventually covered his face entirely, but the first time we saw him in the building he simply had a baseball cap on. This seems like ages ago, but we do remember that he used to be CEO of that company, right? The former CEO walks through the front door in an obvious disguise, and not a single person noticed him.
4. Line Reaction: Felicity referring to Brick & pals: “Last season’s greatest hits.” Was Brick really a greatest hit? Man, how bad was season 3?
5. Was It Just Me…: Or were there waaaaaay more parkour flips than usual during the fight scenes?
6. Fashion Nitpick: I am by no means a fashionista. Most of what I know about fashion comes from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. So take the following criticism with a grain of salt, but what the heck was up with this coat Felicity wore for seemingly half the episode?
It’s like a polka-dot design where the polka-dots are all metal buttons. From far away, it was fine, I guess, but in close-ups all I could see were those seemingly endless metal buttons on that dang dollar:
I found it endlessly distracting. It (or at least the collar) was like a more feminine version of something 80s rock stars would have worn in music videos for the various songs in which they pretended they were cowboys.
7. I Can’t Wait…: To see who will be the next character to be fired as CEO of Queen Consolidated/Palmer Tech because they spent too much time being a vigilante and not nearly enough time being CEO.
8. Lastly…: I hope that moral highground feels nice for ya’, Papa Lance and Mama Smoak, when no police force will hire him.