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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arrow 2x4 - "Crucible"

Arrow is shot in Vancouver. Though in many past episodes, Arrow has shown aerial establishing shots of Starling City's skyline and the skyline has been of other cities, similar to how Christopher Nolan made Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York City stand ins for Gotham. Last night's Starling City skyline was extremely fortuitous:

Congratulations to the Starling City Red Sox for winning the 2013 World Series! It's great to live in Starling!

While the Red Sox were killing it at Fenway Park, Starling City's venerable ball park, Arrow itself was killing it on television. The show was firing on all cylinders, if arrows are fired on cylinders. At a fund raiser at Stately Queen Manor, which raised no funds according to Isabel Rochev, the nimble brain of Felicity watched Oliver and Laurel have one of their awkward, stiff, standoffish conversations between two ex-lovers who've been friends since childhood, and while the viewer may have suspected she was feeling jealous, no, Felicity was feeling sleuthy. Her hunch: each time the mysterious leather-clad blonde bird of prey encountered the Vigilante, Laurel was also there. It didn't take long for Oliver to rig up a rooftop with trick arrows to catch the pretty bird. (Oliver's method of getting her attention is to shoot an arrow that barely misses her head. He did this twice.) But she already knew who he is, and in a I Showed You Mine, You Show Me Yours moment, Oliver unmasked the Canary to reveal Sarah Lance! Laurel's long lost sister and Oliver's ex-fuck buddy who we all watched get pulled under when the Queen's Gambit sank six years ago (played by an actress who is not Caity Lotz.) Sarah vanishes from sight in that ninja way she does, and Oliver's got some 'splainin' to do.

Oliver's 'splainin' came not to Laurel or Quentin Lance, but to Diggle and Felicity, who were grilling him pretty good. Oliver has been holding back on them, and us, and everyone, on some important details about Sarah. Like how, a year after he landed on the Island, he saw Sarah again on the Amazo. Oliver was caged up and shot by his captors, forced to perform battlefield medicine on himself to prove he was tough enough to live. Oliver revealed nothing about the mysterious graves he, Slade, and Shado found on the Island, or the misshapen bodies of World War II Japanese soldiers. And he saw Sarah, alive. All of this information Oliver withheld, and the pertinent Sarah stuff he continues to withhold from the Lances. Sarah ventured to Verdant to see Oliver and they engaged in some sparkling comic book porn double talk where she asked what happened to Slade (she knows Slade!) and Oliver avoided the questions. Sarah's not exactly forthcoming about her whereabouts in the last six years either; only that she met "some rough people" and had to get rough herself. The words "League of Assassins" and "R'as Al-Ghul" were never uttered. While neither is willing to reveal any details this early in the season, in their leather-clad superhero modes, Oliver and Sarah are a dynamic duo. They are, however, not calling themselves the Arrow nor the Canary. "The Arrow" remains a Lance family-coined moniker never uttered in the episode, much less to Oliver. No one calls Sarah's nocturnal alter ego anything comic booky. Arrow and Canary certainly are not color coded yet. They have to earn their colors.

Military grade armaments from a nearby base called Camp Kirby (subtle) are finding their way into the Glades and into the hands of a self-styled gang lord calling himself The Mayor. Oliver: "I thought the copycat Hoods killed the mayor." Oh yeah. Starling City doesn't seem too interested in that as a whole. Anyway, this Mayor, has ambitions to control the Glades and Alderman Sebastian Blood wants those guns off the street. Oliver offers to finance a Cash for Guns exchange, which made Isabel Rochov, Oliver's partner/superior, talk down to him in that way she does about how Queen Consolidated doesn't have the money to do things like that. Oliver opens up his personal checkbook and does it anyway. We've only seen Isabel twice thus far and frankly, she's a bit of a pill. Blood remains skeptical of Oliver, until the Mayor barrels into the Glades guns a poppin' and pops caps in whoever was there (which included Oliver, Blood, Thea, Roy, and Sin, Sarah's street urchin Girl Friday.) Thanks to Felicity's appropriation of the FBI's database (at some point, she's going to prison for everything she's doing for Oliver. We all know this, right?), she ID'd the Mayor as some guy named Xavier Reed and his location. The Vigilante recruits the, uh, Female Vigilante, and they swoop in and take on the Mayor and his heavily armed gang, plus his army buddies.

Superheroes are insane. They just are. They have to be. What Oliver and Sarah did was take on about a dozen men armed with machine guns with grenade launchers attached and they did it with a bow and arrows and a metal bo staff. The very fact they survived was due to the Mayor simply not opening fire on them when he had ample time to. But then, if he'd killed Oliver and Sarah, we wouldn't have seen the cool moment of them trading weapons so that Oliver wiped out some dudes with the staff while Sarah let loose some arrows. Oliver and Sarah fighting together was awesome and sexy in a way that Oliver and the Huntress never quite was (though hey, the viewer can discern for him or herself if it's as sexy as Oliver and Diggle fighting together.)  Sarah had the Mayor dead to rights and had to listen to Oliver make his new "no killing" speech, but then the Mayor called her a bitch and OH SNAP! went his neck. I love Justice Leaguers snapping necks. High five, Clark.

But yes, Sarah is indeed back in Starling City and stalking Laurel because she's concerned about her family. She's not doing anything about her family and their troubles, per se, just stalking them from afar. High five, Clark. You see, in this episode's One To Grow On delivered by Blood to Oliver, every person goes through a Crucible and comes out one of three ways: Dead, Stronger For It, or Dwelling On The Pain Because It's All They've Known For So Long (I'm paraphrasing.) Sarah falls in that last category. She has lots of secrets, even stuff she hasn't told Sin, her only friend in the Glades who brings her take out burgers (not Big Belly Burger) in the clocktower. Sin was shot during the Mayor's rampage, and her life was saved by her personal hero, Roy Harper, who traded in $250 worth of his own personal guns and didn't accept the money. Oliver handled Sin's medical bills and Thea got to see Roy be a hero without tumbling around a dark alley with strange men who want to put some sweet hurt on him.

As for Laurel, she's in a bad way. Recent events have turned her into a pill-popping burgeoning alcoholic in denial. I mean, you can't really blame her considering all the stuff she's been through lately, like Tommy dying and the kidnapping and how she was almost murdered a couple of times, but most people don't like Laurel so they'll blame her anyway. Laurel stonewalls her boss District Attorney Adam Donner when he takes her out to dinner, and she gets pulled over for a DUI. This sends Quentin to Oliver asking for help (unaware his long lost dead daughter is eavesdropping), and to counseling himself about his daughter. Laurel's got a demon in a bottle. Funny, Arrow is one heroin needle away from doing the classic Roy Harper drug addiction comic book story with Laurel instead. And then there is Blood, Oliver's new best friend. Blood loves Oliver now for saving his life. Later, in a secret chamber somewhere secret, we find the Mayor is not dead. Sarah only sort of snapped his neck? A mysterious hooded man who could be the Scarecrow but isn't has the Mayor injected with a mysterious serum that could be Vertigo but probably isn't, and the Mayor dies. Because he isn't strong enough. "Find me another," the masked man orders. "Yes, Brother Blood," his lackey responds. Sebastian Blood is Brother Blood! Who could have ever guessed?

Great, great Arrow episode.

Finally, that particle accelerator in Central City is ready to be tested. In, oh, four episodes? That's coming up fast.