Arrow: 204 “Crucible” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
If there’s one thing we learned from this week’s instalment of The Bonkers Superhero Hour (as I’m tempted to start referring to the show) it’s that the writers really don’t want to lose our attention. Already, just four episodes into the season, they have introduced so many different elements to the show: new allies, new situations and an absolute ton of new enemies. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it certainly keeps things moving along, but it can get a tad overwhelming at times.
The main plot of this episode concerns ‘The Mayor’, an insane gunrunning villain straight out of a Blaxploitation movie with a lair directly out of a Joel Schumacher Batman movie who has taken over the Glades since the earthquake and is now flooding it with military-grade weaponry. Naturally, Alderman Blood isn’t too happy, and he ends up organising a ‘Cash for Guns’ scheme with the help of some of Oliver’s money.
Even more naturally, the Mayor crashes the benefit and shoots a bunch of dudes, during which Oliver saves Blood and gains his grudging respect, and Oliver enlists the help of a certain female vigilante to help.
The lady-vigilante forms the episode’s main subplot, as Felicity realises that, based on her past behaviour, she may well be following Laurel instead of Oliver. So Oliver turns up outside Laurel’s apartment and finds the lady-vigilante, who turns out to be none other than Sara Lance, sister of Laurel and occasional elicit Oliver Queen sex-haver, who didn’t end up dying on the Queen’s Gambit all those years ago. A few emotional confrontations occur throughout the episode, as Sara hides her return from her family, and a particularly heart-wrenching scene occurs as Quentin talks to Oliver about Laurel as Sara listens in and is unable to go to her father to comfort him.
The reason Quentin comes to talk to Oliver is that Laurel has randomly developed a drinking problem between last episode and this one, like the utterly useless specimen she is. On which note, I should say that I’ve realised why I don’t like Laurel: she is established as a strong, career-minded woman, and yet she is entirely defined by the men in her life and spends the vast majority of her screen-time reacting to men, or talking about men, or generally just having man-problems: whether that man is former-boyfriend-turned-friend Oliver Queen, dead former-boyfriend Tommy or overprotective father Quentin, everything she does relates to men, and she seemingly has no agency beyond them.
Sorry to get all ‘film student’ on you guys, but it just occurred to me and I thought I should explain why there’s so much Laurel-bashing in my reviews!
Anyway, Quentin and Oliver both talk to Laurel about her problems after she almost receives a DUI, but she brushes them both off and her drinking problem looks set to become yet another ongoing chapter in the tedious life story of Laurel Lance.
Elsewhere Sara and Oliver team up to take down the Mayor, and after a rather nifty moment in which the two of them inadvertently switch weapons and turn out to be rather deft with each other’s tools (not an innuendo, although it very well could be), Oliver begins to teach Sara that killing isn’t the best way to solve problems, and they hand the Mayor over to the police. At least, that’s what they think they do, but in reality they turn him over to a corrupt cop who ties the Mayor to a chair in a dingy warehouse somewhere, and a strange man in a creepy Halloween mask comes in and orders his men to inject the Mayor with a weird green substance which causes him to go into spasm and subsequently die for some reason (again, we have someone else killing the villain so Oliver doesn’t have to, and another annoying trend begins to form).
And, to almost no-one’s surprise, the weirdo in the mask is revealed to be none other than Blood, referred to in this instance as ‘Brother Blood’, like the comic book villain I referred to a couple of weeks ago. However, in this instance he doesn’t seem to be a demon-worshipping nutjob cult leader, but a nutjob gang leader who wants (and this is a big assumption on my part, but I’d put money on the outcome considering the Flash is on his way in a couple of weeks) to give people superpowers with his green gunk injections. So we welcome to the fold another villain to go along with the potential future appearance of Ra’s al Ghul, and this show just became a little bit more bonkers.
Finally, just off the island Oliver is being held captive by the pirates on the cargo ship (yes, now there are pirates – this is a thing that happened in this show), and they devise a rather nasty method of testing the strength of their captives: they shoot Oliver in the gut, then give him the medical instruments to remove the bullet himself. Naturally, he does this, and then is taken to an interrogation, and finds none other than Sara Lance staring daggers at him.
This brings me on to a rather daft point, but considering the nature of this show I have no qualms about bringing it up: it is established in this episode that Oliver has been on the island for roughly a year at this point, as he told Felicity and Diggle that he saw Sara again a year after she supposedly died on the Queen’s Gambit. So here’s my question: shouldn’t Oliver’s beard have grown considerably in the meantime? I could understand his designer stubble if we’d had a scene in which Slade showed him how to shave with a jagged piece of flint, but right now his lack of a full-on Gandalf beard is just preposterous. Get your act together, Arrow costume designers…
There was a lot going on in this episode, and none of it particularly grabbed my attention: unlike last week’s episode, the main villain was entirely two-dimensional and completely uninteresting, and the numerous revelations that occurred throughout felt a little flat to me. Still, I’m enjoying how unashamedly pants-on-head insane this show is becoming, and I look forward to it getting increasingly more comic book-y over the coming weeks!