TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 21: City of Blood (CW)

So what now? How does Arrow come back from it’s darkest point yet? Well, I would think the answer is obvious. It doesn’t. Since hitting the audience in the proverbial […]

So what now? How does Arrow come back from it’s darkest point yet? Well, I would think the answer is obvious. It doesn’t. Since hitting the audience in the proverbial gut, and taking the breath out of the lungs of every fan, Arrow has reached a point where there’s nowhere to go but forward. It’s confident in it’s tur2014-05-07 00.47.57ning point enough to let it be.

 

For now…

That may change in a later episode when they decide to bring Moira back, or reveal that she was never dead to begin with in some way, but until it does it looks like this new development doesn’t seem to have slowed the narrative down in the least.

The start of the episode opts for setting an emotional precedent, showing a simple yet incredibly moving sequence involving both Moira’s funeral, with Blood taking his mayoral oath at the same time. The effect of its tone is heavily influenced by an appropriate soundtrack contribution from the soloist group Indians. It also helps set the stage for a more introspective episode, and just starting off it’s successful in reminding the viewership about the jarring events that closed out the last episode, Seeing Red. Not that the events were forgotten by any means, bu2014-05-07 00.48.03t by organizing a truly somber attention getter right at the very beginning, City of Blood made it much easier to connect with the grief that drives the characters as the story progresses. But the most important aspect of that is that the funereal and grieving tone is maintained by the characters affected by the event, but the world (and Slade’s plan) just keeps going. Despite being such a significant incident, there’s very little time to rest because everyone seems to be beset.

The most notable thing about the beginning is the distinct absence of its titular character. Oliver goes missing for a whopping eighteen minutes of the episode, during which time the main plot is driven by Dig and Felicity (David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards). Though their mission is to find Oliver in the first place, their fun dynamic and natural chemistry saves the side mission from falling in to the fast forward category. As usual, they banter back and forth, make clever anecdotes, and despite their side story involving the ever generic shadow organization A.R.G.U.S. they still manage to play to their character’s strengths and create amusing situations and bits of dialogue that while small in the grand scheme, are still incredibly entertaining to watch. Meanwhile, Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne have a pertinent part to play in the story, and they both really sell it in a way to makes it that much more compelling. Laurel following clues that she uncovers on her own is a great bit for the character, and is even downplayed enough to be almost believable. Laurel has had her ups and downs since the series started, and she hasn’t had a good experience making new fans thanks to her horrible treatment in early and middle episodes of the second season;. Regardless, she carries a side-plot, essentially by herself, quite effectively. Having said that, the scene in the police station betwe2014-05-07 00.56.01en her and Detective Lance served an important function, but seeing Katie Cassidy forcing out mouthfuls of lines in such an unnatural way is only made more inert seeming by the incredibly natural character and method acting from Paul Blackthorne. The scene still works, and luckily it all gets pulled out in the end, but this was just one of two moments in the episode that really pulled me out of the whole thing.

Once Oliver shows up everything goes back to convention. It still makes for a great showing, and even gets back to basics in a satisfying way by bringing the number of Team Arrow members back to the main three. The scene between Dig, Oliver, and Felicity is satisfying, and sort of morose, but incredibly emotional and affecting. This feeling also spills over in to a moving scene between Thea and Oliver thanks to a quiet chemistry between Stephen Amell and Willa Holland that works well thanks to its subtlety rather than an overpowering exhibition of their personalities. Once Laurel brings her new information to the Team, things sort of go downhill though. It’s not that it isn’t emotional, but it’s just too dramatic to feel like anything more than a soap opera. There’re far too many pauses in the dialogue, and a lot of moments of purposeful eye-averting that are just cringe-worthy. The conclusion doesn’t do enoug2014-05-07 00.44.11h to save the scene either. Usually the reactions by Katie Cassidy and Stephen Amell are top notch, but this scene is just awful. I hate to use that word in a review, but it’s so incredibly staged that it seems like it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. It feels more like a joke, instead of a serious character moment. Luckily, the island flashback cuts the disappointment short.

 

This time, the island scenes are compact and efficient. There are only four characters and they are all working toward a singular seeming goal, but with a convincing level of difficulty. The “sacrifice” wasn’t terribly significant; despite how it was presented, it was all a little obvious. But Sean Rogerson does a decent enough job in his exit to be a memorable sort of character later on. In fact, the impact of his sacrifice is referenced enough by Oliver in the modern-day scenes that it seems significant, despite his character not having enough screentime to be very connected to the audience.

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“This started with the three of us. It’s time we got back to that.”

 

The final scenes of the episode are full on Arrow. It’s pretty much everything that you’ve already seen in other episodes. There’s action, adventure, and danger; coming from Seeing Red it even seems like it’s sort of flat as far as an impactful ending is concerned. However, since this episode and Streets of Fire take place in the same night, it’s impossible to really grade the end of this episode as an actual conclusion. There’s a cliff hanger in virtually every part of the Team’s plan that sets up the jumping off point for Streets of Fire. Diggle gets attacked by Isabel Rochev, Ollie and Laurel get buried underground, Felicity gets a call from Cisco, and both Thea and Lance are dealing with the siege first hand. It’s just chaos. As such, I’m purposely leaving this review unfinished. The night hasn’t ended for the Team and the characters directly connected to them. City of Blood works well enough on its own, but it’s all been the setup. Without Streets of Fire, City of Blood needn’t even take place. Luckily for us (maybe not so much for Starling City or her people) there’s even more mayhem to come.

-PS

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

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