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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Arrow 2x8 - "The Scientist"

Barry Allen. An unassuming yet earth-shattering (in a different way from the Undertaking) name introduced into the Arrow television universe. Here he is, played by Grant Gustin in all his boyish (pointed out several times by gruff, square-jawed and manly Oliver) and nerdy charm. He's always late for trains, "not good on his feet," reads Scientist Showcase magazine (issue number 4, no doubt), doesn't seem to have the same hots for Felicity (in the Roy Harper way) that she does for him, he worships the Starling City Vigilante, and he's not what he says he is. Posing as a CSI scientist from Central City, Allen is indeed a scientist, but merely an assistant looking for answers to his mother's murder and his father's wrongful imprisonment for that murder. We're now in brand new Barry Allen territory here, with a tragic past where one senses the guiding hand of DC Comics' chief creative Geoff Johns. 11 year old Barry was attacked in his home by "a blur," in which he saw a man (was it this guy?). His mother was killed and his father was blamed for the crime. (Allen could unwittingly be talking about the Red Tornado for all we know.) Now, Barry Allen has come to Starling searching for answers, and though he does not yet don the scarlet of the speedster he will soon become, the Arrow universe will never be the same.

The best gag in the episode was the wink wink to the Flash's comic book origin: Barry Allen, standing in front of a window during a lightning storm, complaining to Felicity about how the chemicals in the Queen Consolidated lab are dangerously shelved. While the presence of the future Flash is the harbinger of the introduction of superpowers into what has up til now been a gritty and 'realistic' Arrow universe, it turns out superpowers are already here and beat the Flash to the party. Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle are called in to investigate a mysterious break in at the Queen Consolidated Applied Sciences warehouse. None of them appreciated Detective Lance's crack about Queen Consolidated having another earthquake machine lying around. A huge, muscular brute who looked kind of like Bane but is probably the yet-unnamed Solomon Grundy (brother Cyrus, as Brother Blood called him last week) bashed his way in, murdered security, and walked off with a centrifuge. (Cue a lot of exposition about what a centrifuge is plus a shout out to Kord Industries.) While Felicity is taken by the nerdy science talkin' ways of young Mr. Allen, Oliver knows way, way more than he's letting on and is being his typical withholding-vital-information-from-his-team self.

In the most direct collision of events five years ago on Lian Yu affecting events in present day yet, it turns out the centrifuge theft is part of an overall scheme to manufacture more mirakuru ("miracle," someone always helpfully adds.) Mirakuru is the super soldier serum hidden on the errant Japanese World War II sub somewhere on Lian Yu, which five years ago-Oliver, five years ago-Sara, Shado and dying on his feet-Slade are able to locate. Despite Professor Ivo and his merry band of pirates hot on their heels, our Island heroes have time to play 'catch up on personal relationships' games where Shado learns Oliver slept with Sara, the sister of the girl Oliver says he's in love with and can produce a photo of at the drop of a hat, while Slade confesses his own feelings towards Shado. Our Island heroes find the mirakuru in the sub even faster than they found the sub itself, and despite lacking a necessary sedative and never questioning whether a 70 year old serum would even be potent, the options are watch Slade die a slow death or inject him with mirakuru and watch him die quickly with bloody eyes. Or it could cure him and make him super. It didn't, at least not as far as we saw before Ivo and the pirates burst in pointing guns at everyone.

All of these things Oliver remembers like it was yesterday, or one scene ago, but he kept it all to himself until after a mack truck confrontation with Solomon Grundy (no one calls him that) where the Arrow (who doesn't call himself that yet) got his clock cleaned. Outmatched and finally feeling like sharing with his loyal helpers, Oliver clues Diggle and Felicity in on the events five years ago and why the word 'mirakuru' is suddenly so important and dangerous. "Why couldn't you have been marooned on Aruba?" asks Felicity. I know, right? Or Tahiti. I hear it's a magical place. When Felicity, with a lot of assistance from Barry (who accurately deduced the methodology of the Vigilante - not just why he wears green but how he must have help from someone brilliant in computer science), located the A.R.G.U.S. warehouse where Grundy must have hidden the centrifuge, the Arrow goes in half-cocked and again gets his clock cleaned. Though admittedly, Oliver was doing pretty well for himself in the fight, until Grundy tossed him around like a pile of garbage and Oliver ended up with syringes of mirakuru stuck in his leg. The only person who can save Oliver now is Barry Allen. Rather than ask him, Diggle and Felicity did it the Oliver way: they drugged him with a poisoned dart until he awoke in the Arrow Cave to see the billionaire playboy who didn't like him very much unconscious on a slab wearing the green leather of the Vigilante Barry so admires. It's now up to Barry Allen to save his fellow future Justice Leaguer. And he'd better do it fast.

Oliver was in rare form in this episode, in that he was incompetent and pig-headed in an almost catastrophic level. Beyond his misadventures as the Arrow, Oliver insisted on bringing Moira back to sit in on high level Queen Consolidated board meetings. This didn't sit well with Isabel Rochev, who once more uttered her trademark line, "Mr. Queen, may I have a word with you?" Do Oliver's butt cheeks clench every time Isabel asks to have a word with him? Isabel was right when she pointed out acquitted but still publicly disgraced Moira Queen has no place in Queen Consolidated, but Oliver is such a mama's boy that he wouldn't hear of Starling City not loving his mommy dearest the way he does. Oliver decides the first swanky party of season 2 at Stately Queen Manor is just what Moira needs, only to find hardly anyone showed (not even Walter Steele,) even though Oliver looked very dashing in his tuxedo and Thea looked amazing in her evening clothes. Meanwhile, Oliver felt pangs of jealousy for the first time when another rooster seemed to be strutting around Felicity's hen house;  he instructed Diggle to dig through all of his Who's Who issues to get the lowdown on Barry Allen. His angry confrontation with Barry, calling him a liar liar pants on fire, blew up in his face when Barry emotionally narrated his Tragic Past Which Is Necessary For A Superhero's Origin. Even Felicity was super pissed at him, though Oliver smoothed it over by inviting Barry to be her prom date at Moira's disastrous party.

Oliver's penchant for withholding came from his loving mother, who is back to her old tricks of lying to her children's faces. The resurrected Malcolm Merlyn is now making a habit of climbing through Stately Queen Manor's windows and making threats. He wants his daughter Thea "prepared" for him, whatever that means. But loose lips sink ships and Malcolm is too keen to blab details about why he left Starling City and abandoned young Tommy after his affair with Moira 20 years ago. When Malcolm told her he went to Nanda Parbat, it gave Moira the idea to ask a Mysterious Man to send Ra's Al-Ghul a message. (How does one send Ra's a message? Do the League of Assassins have a Twitter or Tumblr?) It turns out Malcolm is not popular with the League of Assassins, who, despite having the word 'Assassins' right in their company name, have some sort of code of honor that somehow doesn't include murdering 503 people with an earthquake machine. (Though the Ra's Al-Ghul of Batman Begins would have been all for it.) Thanks to Moira, Ra's Al-Ghul now knows Malcolm Merlyn is alive and wants to kill him. Merlyn Daddy-Daughter Day will have to wait for another time.

The girl who is unwittingly Thea Merlyn, meanwhile, gave Roy her approval to resume his crime fighting ways in the Glades. To Roy's chagrin, Thea insists on tagging along and being the Scooby to his Shaggy when the Canary's girl friday Sin contacted him to help her look into a missing friend. Their investigation ends up intersecting with Oliver's investigation into the centrifuge and draws the attention of one of the Starling City cops who is secretly a henchman for Brother Blood. When Roy leaves an arrow out to call on his good friend the Vigilante, Roy and the Arrow get into a bizarre spur of the moment argument that hilariously ended with the Arrow putting an arrow in Roy's leg. You could say that's the end of their bromance, but a bromance tends to be a two way street and Oliver never really liked that kid to begin with. Maybe Roy can ask Laurel to help him sue the Vigilante.

P.S. Loved the joke where Barry asked Oliver if he knows anything about how to break someone's neck. Oh, you Justice Leaguers and your neck snapping...