Arrow: 221 “City of Blood” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
So with the death of Moira Queen last week, Oliver’s world is officially falling apart, and Slade is dominating him in their current conflict. It’s a tried-and-tested rule of long-form TV drama that everything has to get worse in the last few episodes before the big resolution in the finale, but at the moment it’s looking unlikely that things will ever go back to the good times seen at the beginning of season two, regardless of how hard Oliver and his friends fight against Slade.
The Queen family are not alone in grieving over the loss of Moira: the whole city is in mourning after their soon-to-be mayor, but Oliver is nowhere to be seen at the funeral. Elsewhere, Sebastian Blood is sworn in as mayor (seemingly at the exact same time as Moira’s funeral, which seems to be in somewhat bad taste), and then comes to the wake and makes nice with the present Queen family and Laurel, giving some spiel about how the loss of a parent is the hardest thing in the world to come to terms with.
During the wake Walter and Thea have a heart-to-heart wherein Thea basically swears off her brother: she cites Slade’s involvement in their lives as something she is unable to forgive him for, as there was a ‘psychopath’ present and he never warned them. Soon after Thea gets more bad news when Isabel rocks up at Verdant and tells her she has to vacate, due to the club being an asset of Queen Consolidated which she now runs: all this and more contributes to Thea’s decision to leave Starling City for good and try to stay safe.
What’s more disturbing than all of this is that Felicity and Diggle don’t even know where Oliver is during this difficult time, so much so that they are forced to go to Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. for help tracking him down, even though Diggle is no longer in favour over there. She guides them to a secondary Arrowcave on the other side of town, where Oliver went on the way to the funeral and never left, claiming that Slade is not just winning, but has already won: referencing Slade’s cryptic message that ‘one more person has to die’, he assumes that role and decides to surrender to Slade. He states that someone (a fellow escapee from the cells of the Amazo, as it transpires) once told him that ‘the essence of heroism is to die so that others can live’, and goes on his miserable way to give himself up to Slade. However, when he gets to the arranged meeting place, Diggle hits him with a sedative dart and drags his ass back to the Arrowcave to continue fighting the good fight.
Meanwhile, Laurel has actually become vaguely useful since discovering that Oliver is the Arrow, and does some digging on Blood: she finds out, with a little help from her dad and the generic techie guy at the SCPD that Blood had (somewhat carelessly, for a minion in an evil organisation) written his statement of regret for Moira’s death a full day before it had happened, and she brings this information to Team Arrow in the Arrowcave, simultaneously revealing to Oliver that she knows his secret. Fortunately, in doing so she convinces Oliver to keep fighting and refuse to give up in his fight against Slade.
So Oliver pays a visit to Sebastian in a swanky sushi restaurant and receives a vaguely threatening speech in return, stating that Slade promised that he would become Mayor and it paid off, and asking whether Oliver thinks he’ll make good on the promise he made to him as well. Meanwhile, Diggle and Felicity kidnap his Chief of Security and Felicity interrogates him, forcing answers out of him by revealing all the information she can find about him, and transferring large amounts of his personal fortune to various charities across the world. It’s a reasonably light-hearted scene in what is otherwise quite a heavy episode, and shows how much of an asset Felicity is in the brawn-heavy tough-guy world of the Bonkers Superhero Hour: it doesn’t hurt that Emily Bett Rickards is consistently knocking it out of the park this season, and I don’t give her nearly enough credit for her performance.
Finally the team decides to take the fight to Slade as his men intend to take control of the city: Oliver and Laurel head into the sewers to try and take out Slade’s army in one fell swoop, while Diggle lays explosives around the surface in an effort to bury Blood and his super-soldier army. However, the plan obviously goes awry as the soldiers spot Oliver and Laurel, forcing them to flee back into the sewers and a dead end; simultaneously, one of the mirakuru-enhanced criminals starts to run riot in the train station, where Thea also happens to be, and another in the police station; and finally a sword-wielding, Deathstroke mask-wearing Isabel attacks Diggle before he can blow the charges. Basically, the final battle has begun and Starling City, along with Team Arrow, is in real trouble.
Lastly, on the island the ragtag team manages to make it onto the submarine and Anatoli manages to get it up and running: however there is a big old rock in the way and the torpedoes will only fire straight meaning they can’t effectively blow it up. So one of the nameless escapees, who is dying from radiation poisoning as a result of one of Ivo’s experiments, sacrifices himself to steer the torpedo manually into the rock, which as deaths go is a pretty badass, if slightly bonkers exit. Anyway, he saves them and Oliver sends Sara back to the mainland, but as he tries to contact her all he can hear is her yelling his name as she is (presumably) captured by Slade.
Even though the episode serves largely to set up the blockbuster-scale climax to season two, it still manages to be packed with revelations and raw emotion as Slade’s plans move towards their destructive conclusion.