TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 22: Streets of Fire (CW)

I try to base my reviews off of a single viewing of an episode. While I’m watching, I make positive and negative notes about the moments in an episode that […]

I try to base my reviews off of a single viewing of an episode. While I’m watching, I make positive and negative notes about the moments in an episode that really grab the audience and pull them in to the world, be it through emotional or physical drama. There’s no fair judgment to be had from simply getting to the ending and wondering how you feel by that point. But also, a different approach is needed considering that this week’s Arrow is Act 2 in a 3 act finale. Streets of Fire is the continuation, both chronologically and literally of the last episode, City of Blood. It’s reminiscent of a similar storyline from the comics “City Walls” albeit far more aggressive in nature. Since most of the drama has already been established in City of Blood, I don’t think backtracking is really necessary. Let’s move on with the review from the beginning of Streets of Fire.

2014-05-11 02.35.08As the episode starts, the characters are dealing with the fallout of the “conclusion” from the last episode (literally, in Oliver and Laurel’s case). Oliver and Laurel’s separation is a bit too convenient to feel completely natural. Luckily, Amell and Cassidy play to the obstacle with genuine sincerity adding a real feeling danger and a proactive tone (Not to mention a very interesting solution). Also…FELICITY HIT ISABEL WITH A VAN! I don’t consider that objective or even relevant in any way, but sometimes a moment is simply cool as hell, and that’s all there is to it (review winning). But the triumph of the episode comes from conveying a real state of emergency as far as the siege is concerned. While all of this is affecting the team directly, the episode also showcases the attacks from the point of view of the other characters in the show. That’s without a doubt the most successful aspect of the episode. Since the attack is so widespread, being able to see how it’s affecting all of the other characters, as well as Oliver, Dig, and Felicity, adds a more rounded perspective and really drives the severity and scale of the attack home.

2014-05-11 02.45.39

“They say Nero sang as he watched Rome burn. Now I understand why.”

Slade continues to exhibit a brilliant (though in this episode, very reserved) malice, thanks to Manu Bennett’s complex portrayal. Summer Glau’s Isabel Rochev finally gets to cut loose both physically and behaviorally. Admittedly, her mask (though clearly a reference to the comic book character Ravager) doesn’t translate as well as Deathstroke’s to the live-action medium. She makes up for this minor oversight with some incredibly animated action scenes as well as a completely amoral attitude that her character had been hinting at from the very first episode, so it feels like a natural progression rather than a copied and pasted bad guy personality. On the flip side, Officer Lance has a powerful moment for his character, and he insights a significant shift in the state of the police of Starling City. The road to coming around to The Arrow’s thinking has been very long, and has had its fair share of bumps, especially for Officer Lance. That also ends up working as a major strength for the progression of this particular theme. The vigilante has been so vehemently resisted by the city and greater police force, specifically by Lieutenant Pike, played by Adrian Holmes. He hasn’t gotten a lot of credit, but he definitely deserves it considering he has maintained that opposition realistically until there was literally no other option. Reaching this point after so long makes i2014-05-11 02.39.16t feel hard fought and even earned, but the payoff is the important part, and Paul Blackthorne’s convincing speech to his fellow officers and superior sells the hell out of the argument. Since the opposition to the vigilante has been a constant theme, to see it come down this hard after such a long fight is not only a sigh of relief, but it’s a change in the show’s dynamic that actually has gravity. It’s felt and showcased appropriately, with no need to be discerned or explained, all punctuated successfully by Lance getting his Detective shield back. It’s a satisfying conclusion for this particular part of the story.

 

2014-05-11 03.04.03The island flashbacks are small in scale once again, so it’s all very personal. But the real highlight comes from the camaraderie between Anatoly and Oliver finally getting some actual development, rather than just being implied. The allusions to the future of Oliver and Anatoly’s friendship are a fun bit of levity in the tense atmosphere of the flashback scenes. They are also surprisingly sweet, and convincing thanks to a real charm from David Nykl, and a downplayed appreciation for that charm, despite current issues, played with subtlety by Stephen Amell. It’s also interesting to see Oliver who only became capable quite recently, yet he still makes brave strides forward with intense determination that has been developed quite carefully due to having a sufficient amount of time to build up this part of his character. As per usual, the island flashback scenes tie in to the main story succinctly, as well as give plenty of insight in to both Oliver and Slade’s mindset.

You honor the dead by fighting. And you are not done fighting!”

It’s the inclusion of this history that makes their present so easy to swallow. It also reveals the fundamental difference between them in that Oliver is willing to allow people to help him and Slade isn’t. It’s a difference that’s emphasized rather successfully thanks to an emotional scene in the clock tower between Oliver and Felicity. In a word, it’s amazing. Emily Rickard’s gives her strongest performance as Felicity yet. That’s an understatement. Using Felicity’s emotional reaction to appeal to a hopeless Oliver creates a powerful impact. She abandons her sarcasm and meta-humor temporarily to sell an emotional push that’s only magnified by the contrast with her usual calm and quiet nature. I dare you not to tear up at her speech. This is a high point of the episode, and though it doesn’t necessarily go downhill from here, but it definitely slows down. Blood sitting in the middle of the his collapsing house of cards is just as satisfying as it was always supposed to be, but his explanation of his actions was flimsy (with the exception of an excellent origin story for the skull mask), and his exit from the series lacked drama and wasn’t a fit enough for the departure of such an important character. There’s also an unrealistic plot device in the form of a block when considering the identity of the other body that Slade is planning to drop.

2014-05-11 02.39.45Oliver believes it’s supposed to be him, and everyone going along with it is just frustrating. (I’m making a call right now that it’s going to be Sara, and if I’m right and no one on the show reaches this conclusion, I’m going to be absolutely livid). I’m not saying that this is absolutely the truth, but if it is it’s a little too obvious how much they’re not focusing on it. Plus like every other epidemic or panic inducing event in any fictional city, you get the arbitrary military cleansing team to prevent the *insert bad thing here* from getting out and affecting other areas.  It’s cliche, but it works.  It does have one thing going for it with Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) actually being portrayed as a “tough as nails do anything to get the job done even if she doesn’t agree with it” character, instead of just an immoral government stooge with implied potential for complexity without any substantial follow through. In other words, she gives us the impression that she doesn’t actually WANT to blow up the city, but gives a compelling enough argument to be in favor of it.

2014-05-11 03.23.48Where does all of that leave us? Well, Streets of Fire is a great episode. There’s a lot happening involving pretty much all of the characters. Thea and Merlyn get the short end of the stick on runtime. But on the flip side, Officer Lance gets a whole lot more to do and say that Paul Blackthorne uses to elevate the character to a whole different level. Sara is back and has some compelling moments with Laurel to create a interesting dynamic made more dramatic by Laurel knowing her identity, and Emily Rickards shakes things up for her character with phenomenally positive results. Oliver and his team seem to be really gearing up to start fighting back, and considering the level of the menace in the opposition and lack of resources for our heroes, it conveys real drama as they face odds that seem even by the audience’s standards to be suicidal. Blood’s death lacked real dramatis, which was a disappointing end for his character. Also, the final moments of the episode are a little too abrupt, just like City of Blood.  I’m not going to count that as a fault though, seeing as how it’s leading directly in to the season finale, making this a three part arc. So, this was one big plotline separated in to three acts (or in this case, episodes). It’s not a bad move, and functionally it works. It gives the writers a lot more time to tie up any loose ends that might have been left hanging over the course of the show. So, just like last time, this review is going to remain unfinished until the season finale. In the meantime, the storyline itself has yet to conclude, so stay tuned to The CW as Season 2 of Arrow wraps up next week. I guarantee you that you aren’t going to want to miss the epic season finale.

-PS

Arrow airs Wednesday nights 8 PM/7 PM C only on the CW©

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http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow

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