The CW’s Arrow is back! Just … without the Arrow. If you missed the Emerald Archer’s final moments of the mid-season finale then
why are you reading this you’re unaware of just how precarious Oliver Queen’s position is at the moment. While he sorts himself out, it’s up the rest of Team Arrow to keep Starling City from falling to pieces. Complicating matters is the arrival of a cunning and invulnerable new crime boss who seeks to pick up where Slade and the Dark Archer left off. And without Arrow there to stop him, this time the bad guys might actually win out.
Hit the jump for my Arrow recap.
Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong:
While Arrow may not be showing up any time soon, Oliver Queen does still get some screen time in the Hong Kong flashbacks. Waller is revealing more info to Oliver and Maseo about China White’s potential bioweapon: the terrorist has the Omega portion, and if she gets her hand on the Alpha segment, then all hell may break loose. Maseo is more interested in finding his missing wife, but Waller has her sights set on bigger problems.
Maseo and Oliver attempt to break into the secure facility housing the Alpha weapon via a rooftop grappling line, but Ollie’s literally left hanging when the thick security glass won’t break. He gets to do a bit of a high-wire act before finally breaking in. He and the team manage to secure the Alpha, but China White’s Triad goons shoot the place up with them inside it. Maseo covers Oliver’s exit, and Ollie hesitates to kill a Triad member who nearly gets the drop on him.
Oliver gets the bioweapon back to Waller, but she’s upset with him for failing to kill the henchman. Maseo knows the truth, that Oliver chose not to kill the man. Oliver then reveals that he placed a GPS tracker into the criminal’s pocket, who will now lead them directly to Tatsu, something Waller never would have allowed them to do. Maseo pledges his life to Oliver in repayment. Remember this bit because it’s a moment of importance.
Back in Starling City:
True to Arrow form, the mid-season premiere opens up with an action-packed chase sequence between the Starling City PD and some trigger-happy criminals. Arsenal runs them down on his motorcycle while Diggle dons the green hood to keep up appearances. The duo easily take down the common criminals, with Felicity’s help back at HQ.
It’s been three days since Oliver disappeared, but the team is not freaking out just yet. While Arrow is AWOL, Ray Palmer is upping his research on his A.T.O.M. suit, also with Felicity’s help. She repeatedly warns him of the perilous nature of crime-fighting, but her advice falls on deaf ears. When it comes to hearing the possible truth about Oliver’s death from Diggle, she proves just as stubborn.
Meanwhile, the Lance family are in court to (legally) take down a cop-killer, Jermaine Fisher. The defense attorney is trying to play the vigilante card in order to grant his client a dismissal, but the evidence is on Laurel’s side. Felicity is tracking down the other criminal who got away, hoping they’ll lead them to their boss, Danny Brickwell, aka Brick (Vinnie Jones).
Brick shows up to presumably save his henchman from getting beaten to death, but in actually the mob boss is pretty pissed that his subordinate went against his orders and killed a cop. It’s a pretty sad-looking first fight from Jones, who’s starting to look his age (not that I’d tell him that to his face). The only interesting part of his appearance is that he’s apparently bulletproof, though even this superpower was downplayed.
At the courthouse, Laurel overhears the cop-killer’s lawyer place a call to Brick, intel which she shares with Team Arrow. They’re too late, finding only bits and pieces of charred blueprints as evidence.
Somewhere in a fancy apartment (perhaps Thea’s?), Malcolm and Thea are having a pretty epic sword duel again. Though Malcolm knows exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, he offers to look into Oliver’s disappearance since it has Thea worried. The team returns back to HQ after coming up empty at Brick’s hideout to find that Malcolm Merlyn is waiting for them. (I feel like the security team that’s responsible for locking down Arrow’s HQ is the same revolving-door system in place over at S.T.A.R. Labs.) He’s not convinced by Felicity’s assurances that Oliver is still alive. Malcolm peaces out during a commercial break, but Laurel shows up instead along with some info on the cop-killers. The team breaks the bad news about Oliver to her, but she’s on Felicity’s side.
Merlyn shows up again … seemingly like ten minutes later … having returned from the far flung site of Oliver’s ill-fated battle. He reports that Oliver is lying dead at the bottom of a ravine, and presents them with a blood-covered sword as evidence. A DNA test by Felicity confirms that the blood is indeed Oliver’s. (The editing in this hour is subpar, and the expository dialogue to catch viewers up is almost as bad.) Though Felicity chastises the Dark Archer for using Oliver for his own ends, Malcolm tries to explain to them that Oliver’s failure also seals Merlyn’s own fate as his own debt is not yet paid. Tiny violins play for Merlyn.
Thea is apparently astute enough to recognize Roy as the Red Hood who runs around with Arrow, but can’t piece together the fact that her brother is obviously the head archer. Or perhaps she’s just playing dumb for some reason? While Roy talks to Diggle about Thea’s revelation, Diggle gets his own spark of recognition when he realizes that the scraps of paper with numbers are actually case file IDs for street-level enforcers awaiting trial.
Felicity’s just starting to react to the dawning truth that Oliver is not coming back, but she goes a bit far in telling Palmer what his dead fiance would have wanted from him. (That was a pretty awkward moment for a pretty awkward couple.) Luckily she’s distracted by a call from Roy and Diggle. Turns out that Brick and his gang are attempting to undo all of Oliver & Co.’s hard work by stealing all the evidence against the criminals the do-gooders have locked up since Slade’s defeat. (It’s a nice touch since Brick’s story arc in the comics has him rising to the level of underworld boss after a power vacuum in Star City, though that was after a demonic force killed a fair number of citizens…)
While the show’s just not the same without Stephen Amell growling through his Parkour scenes, Roy and Diggle get in on a healthy dose of action. Roy gets a cool tunnel-running sequence while Diggle gets to go up against Brick himself. Thanks to his metahuman abilities, Brick’s impenetrable skin shrugs off bullets like nobody’s business, but apparently Roy’s arrows do slightly better. The team would have had Brick (or so they think) if Felicity hadn’t remotely cut them off from their pursuit. Roy and Diggle try to persuade her that they can carry on Oliver’s mission even without him, but Felicity throws in the towel. She also refuses to help Palmer in his crime-fighting mission.
Without the evidence, Laurel was unable to get the judge to put the criminals away for good. The team is in disarray: Oliver is dead(ish), Felicity is gone, Diggle is broken up over his inability to protect his client, and Roy is … well, still a bit moody. There’s a spark, however, as Laurel eyes the gadgets and getup of her sister, Canary. Will we see her don the leathers and mask soon? (Yep, as it turns out. And for anyone doubting Katie Cassidy’s action abilities, be sure to check out her turn in Supernatural.)
Thea arrives home and almost kills her father, who has a habit of creeping around in the shadows. Malcolm tells her they are in danger and have to flee Starling City to never return. Seems abrupt, no?
Brick talks to his gathered enforcers, now part of his crew. He shows them a bit of his brainpower by holding back the evidence he stole that could put any one of them back behind bars. While two of the cronies talk about their potential future under Brick’s leadership, a sonic grenade gets their attention; Laurel aka Black Canary drops a one-liner on them before knocking them cold.
Meanwhile, at a snowy cliffside villa:
As a camera dives down over the edge of a cliff to the still-unconscious (if not outright dead) body of Oliver Queen, a hooded figure approaches him… That mysterious figure out in the cold on a snowy cliffside? Yeah, it was Malcolm Merlyn. Another hooded figure, who we are perhaps meant to believe is also Merlyn, is then seen dragging Oliver’s body through the snow on a sledge. Turns out that it’s actually Maseo who is dragging Oliver along in search of help. Finally, the flashbacks are connected!
And just as it’s looking as if Starling City is going to be in real trouble without Arrow, the camera cuts to Oliver Queen looking healthy, wealthy, and wise again. Well, none of the above really, but at least he’s alive, a turn that happened much, much more quickly than I expected. He wakes up to find Tatsu tending to him with Maseo watching over him.
It wasn’t much of a shocking final scene since The CW would be hard pressed to run a show titled Arrow without its lead character. Even though we knew he would be returning somehow, some way, I expected a bigger reveal than this. Here’s hoping that some of the DC mythology bleeds its way into next week’s episode by way of explanation, because for a mid-season premiere, this episode was only so-so.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Diggle (in his Arrow voice): “This suit is too tight.”
Malcolm: “I wouldn’t recommend texting during a real fight.” Sage advice, kids!
Roy: “You sure ditching the Arrow suit was a good idea?” Diggle: “Only if I need to move or shoot something.”
Malcolm: “The Demon’s Head does not take prisoners.”
Palmer: “You make it seem like using an advanced exosuit to fight crime and save the city is a loony-toon idea.”
Roy: “I guess arrows work a little better on this guy than bullets.”
Diggle: “Eight months to put ’em away, eight minutes to set all of ’em loose.”
Brick: “Together we are going to make history. Together, we are going to take over the Glades.”
Fisher: “Who the hell are you?” Black Canary: “I’m the justice you can’t run from.”