Arrow: 210 “Blast Radius” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After what seems like an age, Arrow is finally back on UK screens with a slightly underwhelming episode, although this feeling could just be down to the high quality of the last few instalments before the break and the midseason premiere paling in comparison to those stories that had come before.
Anyway, we rejoin Oliver as he continues his hunt for the man in the skull mask, and not having much luck: according to Diggle, he’s been running himself hard for several weeks since his encounter with Cyrus Gold in an attempt to recover and presumably destroy the mirakuru serum, but the ‘lowlifes’ he’s been questioning haven’t provided him with much information. Fortunately, though, he is offered a distraction in the shape of Mark Scheffer, also known as ‘Shrapnel’, a bonkers self-aggrandising serial bomber played by Sean Maher (best known as Simon Tam from Firefly) who is apparently waging war on corrupt politicians, but starts by blowing up a large, nearly-empty building.
Unfortunately, Oliver and Diggle have to try and track him down without Felicity’s help, as she is in Central City spending time with Barry Allen, who is in a coma after his superpower-inducing accident, and Diggle is no computer whiz. They decide they can find him by tracing the ‘signature’ of his bombs, and after Felicity unexpectedly returns Team Arrow enlists the help of Quentin Lance to track Shrapnel down.
Quentin naturally provides them with some evidence, which proves that Shrapnel is no amateur bomb-maker, but he asks for information about his colleagues in the police force, believing that one of them tipped Cyrus Gold off and caused the attack which killed his men. Oliver agrees to help him, but they are interrupted by another bomb going off: fortunately, with Felicity back they are able to trace the signal and Oliver has to chase down a mad bomber who has an apparently unlimited supply of grenades in his van. He loses Shrapnel thanks to a minor tracking snafu, but after Sebastian Blood announces a Unity Rally they are provided with a solid target and prepare to take Shrapnel down.
They manage to track him down to a model shop, but when Oliver pays him a visit he is confronted with a considerable amount of explosive material and a bunch of laser tripwires which he will set off if he moves at all. Thankfully Felicity informs him that the wiring in the building is defective and will shut down if he cuts even one wire, so he fires an arrow at the fusebox and saves himself in record-quick time. Team Arrow then heads down to the rally, and works out that the explosives are hidden in the PA speakers. Shrapnel confronts them and threatens them with the trigger, but Oliver cuts the wire and takes Shrapnel out.
As I said at the beginning of the review, it’s a fairly underwhelming A-plot, as though the showrunners wanted to ease us back into the world of the Bonkers Superhero Hour after all the arc-heaviness of the previous few episodes, but it won’t blow any minds.
Unfortunately, the subplots aren’t much better: firstly, Roy is struggling with the effects of being injected with the mirakuru, and to hide his condition from Thea. He saves her from a falling box of glasses and gets a big shard of glass in the arm in return, but the wound heals quickly, something which doesn’t escape Thea’s notice. The other thing which could never escape her notice is that Roy stops a massive pylon from falling on Moira at the Unity Rally. When she confronts him with this evidence, however, he mumbles something about being tired and runs away: while none of this is bad, per se, it just feels like filler in the larger story of Roy’s journey this season, so it’s worth waiting and seeing where they go with this plot.
Elsewhere, Laurel is still suspicious of Blood, and does some investigating of her own. Well, I say that, but she really just gets daddy to do the lion’s share of the hard work: she talks to Blood about his family, and he tells her some lies about his parents, and then Quentin gives her some information about an aunt locked up in an asylum, and she goes to visit said aunt. However, the aunt turns out not to be an aunt, but in fact Blood’s mother, whom he locked up to cover up the fact that he was the one who killed his father. It all seems a bit trivial considering how long we as the audience have known that Blood is a wrong’un, but it gives Laurel a brief reprieve from her random substance abuse problem which only seems to be a thing when the writers need it to be.
Finally, on the island Slade is experiencing the side effects of the mirakuru, and is generally pretty angry at Ivo, Sara, Oliver and the world in general after Shado’s death in the previous episode. He informs Oliver of his plan to tool up and go after Ivo, but Oliver convinces him not to go: however, late in the night Slade slips off and takes the entire box of mirakuru with him, to do unexplained but probably very angry things with. Again, considering the amount of excursions we have to the island this week, it’s a rather flimsy subplot in which nothing much happens, but as with the other subplots of “Blast Radius”, it seems like we’re being eased back into things before we get crazy again in the next few weeks.
A somewhat lacklustre return for Arrow, with an episode seemingly dedicated to establishing things which will be picked up on in later episodes. While this is fine, and entirely understandable for a long-form TV drama such as this one, the episode does not stand out well on its own, not least due to the forgettable A-plot.