After the shocking events of Arrow’s mid-season finale, Ollie and the gang get back to business as usual in the show’s first episode of 2014. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the Arrow cast and crew have managed to work out a formula that advances the plot on every level each week, while also satisfying viewers’ needs for comic book action and soap opera romance. The show is damn good, but this particular episode might just be a victim of the series’ success. Hit the jump for my recap and to see who gets caught inside the “Blast Radius”.
Let’s start off on the island, shall we? As you may remember, when last we left the island dwellers, Slade had been rescued from certain death by the Mirakuru serum, which also left him rage-crazed and super-strong. In this state, he managed to save Oliver and Sara from Dr. Ivo, but didn’t arrive in time to prevent Shado from being brutally murdered. The love triangle among Oliver, Slade and Shado (with Sara acting as a tangent), will likely be a theme the writers keep dipping into this season; we already see it put to use early in this episode as the trio lays Shado to rest. Slade opts to hunt down Ivo and tear him to pieces, nearly killing Oliver in his rage before Sara intervenes. It’s not long before Slade disappears with the Mirakuru, just as Ivo contacts Ollie and Sara threatening to turn them into test subjects if they don’t bring him the serum. What a crazy vacation, am I right?
Speaking of time off, the contemporary plot doesn’t pick up right where we left off at the mid-season break, but rather five weeks later. Arrow has been interrogating small-time crooks as to the identity of the Skull Mask (ie Brother Blood, aka Sebastian Blood) and Felicity has been spending time in Central City caring for a coma-stricken Barry Allen. (This is Soap Opera Cliche #1). A casualty of Arrow’s last run-in with Blood came in the form of Roy getting a dose of the Mirakuru, which plays into this week’s events. All caught up? Great!
Tonight’s episodic villain featured both a character from deep in the DC lexicon and a fan-favorite actor to play him. Rogue hobbyist and anti-politician arsonist Mark Scheffer, aka Shrapnel, (played by Firefly’s Sean Maher) was the explosive thorn in Arrow’s side this week, as he not only blew up buildings in Starling City, but planned to detonate bombs ringing a pep rally for Sebastian Blood. (Shrapnel in the DC comics was once human but is now composed of organometallic cells than can be projected in explosive bursts … so, this was certainly a deep cut to reference. Kudos!)
Troubles continue in the young love subplot between Thea and Roy, mostly because Roy has the brain-crazies (or, alternately, the bone-crazies) thanks to the Mirakuru injection. His superstrength, resilience and healing factor don’t go unnoticed however, which is sure to complicate things further down the road, not just between Roy and Thea but with Oliver as well.
In an equally interesting side plot, Laurel trusts her instincts and starts to dig into Blood’s background. Though she’s still popping those pills, Laurel appears to be the only one who thinks Blood is a bit too perfect, even as her own father commends him and Arrow enters into a city-saving partnership with him at episode’s end. While the audience knows that Blood is this season’s big bad, Laurel starts to piece that fact together when visiting Blood’s aunt in a mental institution … who actually turns out to be his mother (Soap Opera Cliche #2), put there by Blood after he murdered his own father. It’s all a bit over-dramatic but whatever, it’s fun.
“Blast Radius” comes to a close at Blood’s rally, uniting Arrow, Felicity and Diggle in an attempt to prevent Shrapnel’s bombing plan from, quite literally, going off. Though Arrow nearly blows himself up thanks to Shrapnel’s laser trap (Comic Book Cliche #1), the good guys win out and toss another minor baddie in jail.
This season is certainly building to a face-off between Arrow and Blood (as well as Oliver and Slade), but the Villains of the Week stand a good chance of getting lost in the shuffle. Count Vertigo and Cyrus Gold, aka the Acolyte, aka Solomon Grundy, were both instrumental to Blood’s plans; Shrapnel was just a goofy nutjob who liked to blow stuff up. We’ve got quite a few episodes left until we get to the season two finale, so expect at least a couple of nods to some of the more obscure comic characters in the meantime.
Arrow is great in action sequences and fight scenes, like say shooting grenades out of mid-air, but rescuing people is not really his strong suit since he just kind of stood around looking dramatic or shouted at survivors of an explosion, telling them to get to safety.
I’m glad Laurel is relevant again. Her arc also gives some added dimension to Blood’s character as a liar, manipulator and sociopath.
Thea and Roy sexy time! Interrupted by that giant glass shard in your arm that you should probably get checked out.
Officer Lance: “Most cops meet their informants in the backseat of a cruiser or a coffee shop … What’s with the mask?” Arrow: “A friend gave it to me.” Lance: “You have friends?”
Oliver: “People are dying, so I would like you to pull your head out of Central City and get back in the game.” Felicity: “Sure, right after you get yours out of your ass.”
Oliver on Blood: “He’s committing suicide and he just invited the entire city to join him.”
Diggle: “Felicity, be careful. He probably put in a safeguard. Tamper with it and you set off a dead man’s switch.” Felicity: “That’s a thoroughly depressing term.”
Diggle got shot! Oh, through-and-through so no big deal. See you back in action next week, Diggs!
Oliver: “I’m sorry.” Felicity: “Are you apologizing to me, or are you talking to your quiver?”
Oliver to Felicity: “You’re not my employee, you’re my partner.”
Maya: “You can’t trust Sebastian.”