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Arrow 1x22: Darkness on the Edge of Town

In my occasional comments on the tiles, this deserves a mention. Because it doesn’t make a lot of sense and yet I like it and I remember it. But then I have a bit of a soft spot for more poetic sounding titles; probably comes from Babylon 5 where “Meditations on the Abyss” sounds like a perfectly reasonable episode title.

Lian Yu
We’re back to the normal flashbacks, but since we’re in the endgame of this plot there’s no more lollygagging. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any lollygagging, the whole point of the flashbacks is for character development so having time for it is fine, but the time to put the gas on was really a few episodes back if plots didn’t have to rise and fall according to season length.

Part of me wants to say they didn’t need the flashback to the guy Oliver left to die, but even with the flashback I barely recognized him, I just recognized the scene and what it meant. I definitely needed it; smarter people probably don’t.

So seeing as Waller is using Fyers and crew as scapegoats, and Fyers is using Yao Fei as a scapegoat, what’s the likelihood he would have met the same end as Yao Fei? Though first time around I sort of assumed legs were Moira, partly because it seemed like we were supposed to know this person already (which...kind of silly assumption since they made sure to *not* show us who it was) and Moira’s more or less our only corporate woman at this point, and partly I mistook the set QC (on closer look it might be a redress, but it isn’t the same).

I remember the first time around that Yao Fei’s death surprised me in the moment, but I don’t think it was a lingering surprise. Yao Fei was always a character doomed to die, it was just a question of sooner or later and pretty clearly was going to be sooner. And, for I guess the last time, why was his speech given in English if the supposed target of his anger was China?

I wish Walter’s departure was given more room to play, because it definitely works, but it still could have done more. I’m not sure exactly what it might have been (besides have it better set up last episode), but I sort of feel that the emotion I do get from is coasting on how much I personally care about Walter and him being part of this family. The fact that he doesn’t ever get a real goodbye scene with Thea bothers me, because what they do get says a lot but it could have been more.

Malcolm showing up to essentially goad Walter is kind of weird; Walter almost certainly assumes from it that Malcolm and Moira were having an affair while he was gone, and from that it’s not exactly a big step to concluding Malcolm is part of whatever Moira’s involved in, which backsteps into Malcolm was involved in his abduction in the first place. Maybe all that is what I think deserved to be explored, to what extent does Walter put the pieces together before effectively departing the show.

I don’t quite know what to make of Roy in this episode, or this point in his arc in general. It’s not bad, I’m just not sure it all makes sense, but then I’m not sure it’s supposed to make sense. It’s an obsession driving him, and that’s inherently illogical. He’s decided the Hood is what he needs to make his life better, he doesn’t know what he thinks would happen if this ever worked, he just has convinced himself that it will be better.

It is the beginnings of Junior Team Arrow, which I guess makes Thea the Diggle, the one who suggests thinking of the problem in other ways but can’t stop the obsession driving Roy in this case. Roy also talks about having lost someone, that to the best of my recollection we don’t really get an explanation for, which is also kind of an Oliver thing.

Then you have the actual meeting between Oliver and Roy. Thea is no better at lying than Oliver, but she’s only worse in that she can’t manage to just not answer questions the way he does. And then Oliver’s protective big brother routine that’s about half powered Arrow-voice is just a really good scene.

Understanding the Undertaking
This plotline contains some of my favorite pieces of the season. The bit of playacting at the beginning and basically all of the info-heist. Though before we discuss those, Malcolm evidently has a Dark Archer Mobile (though I might prefer the Merlyn-mobile) for his late night murder needs and that he drives while in costume when Oliver has never had an Arrow-mobile except the bike.

The interrogation scene does confirm that QC were the ones who bought out Unidac, I had thought briefly in all this that maybe Merlyn ended up being the buyer. That would have raised some issues with why he had worked so hard to keep Moira on-side during all this, but on the other hand as is he’s done more to push her off-sides than he probably should have if her role was important. And going back to the Unidac episode...I might have been wrong about Malcolm having engineered the assassinations plot, but if he wasn’t behind it, why wasn’t he doing more to stop it? Like I said at the time, this gets more confusing the more I think about it.

That scene is well done and acted, and smartly playing to character, but it all does sort of get overshadowed by the heist, because that part is great. It does have come questions, like how did Diggle suddenly get hired on for this and not spend days being shown the ropes of his new job; then how there not a record that he worked there for a day or less that might raise some suspicions? Granted it won’t be much issue for long since the company is going to basically implode in a day or two, and the team are well aware that if they don’t move fast such concerns will be small potatoes, and maybe Felicity hacked him a fake identity to explain his presence, but it bugs me a bit.

Also I might as well say that this is the episode I can mostly credit with my first real step towards shipping Oliver/Felicity. I basically finally consciously realized there was something there (in the Beauty and the Beast sense), which made me reflect on the last few episodes and realize that; yeah, there’s something brewing there. I wasn’t shipping them yet, but after this I was a lot more prepared to ship it.

I also want to know how the police tech guy knew it was Felicity. Does he know her hacking signatures? She wasn’t working on the hack from QC, so what process did he go through to track her down. I know it’s important for the finale, but it almost could have used a little more technobabble (even if it’s not very good technobabble) to explain this.

This is it, the apocalypse
And we have to talk about the love triangle. I don’t really like any of their scenes for various reasons we’ll get to in a moment, but the most annoying part is probably Quentin. For one it shows that Oliver’s whole cover identity as a spoiled playboy has basically no effect if Quentin Lance decides suddenly ‘maybe I don’t hate him so much anymore.’ It’s so plainly the writers trying to brush aside the very valid list of reasons Laurel just gave for why they shouldn’t be together.

Which is what they’re doing all episode. In the opening Oliver/Laurel scene they talk about how she might still have feelings for him but it doesn’t work for me. Yeah there’s a lot unresolved, and maybe she should keep a step away from things with Tommy while she sorts out what she really wants; but if that is Oliver it comes with all that baggage. Which to be fair I’m not sure they’re completely brushing aside in that scene, but the Lance scene makes such a show of doing so that it doesn’t help that awkward scene.

Oliver and Tommy’s scene is...interesting. If it wasn’t part of the heist someone (like Tommy) should question why they’re having this conversation at the office and not Oliver approaching him on more friendly terms. Thing is, Oliver says most of the right things about Laurel not being a prize they’re competing over but doesn’t – and at the moment can’t – really say anything to Tommy feeling like she only chose him because Oliver wasn’t trying. I can’t decide if it’s Tommy or the writers who aren’t expressing Tommy’s view very well, because the pieces are there; feeling (rightly or wrongly) like the default second choice, not that she doesn’t get to make a choice, but that she hasn’t actually done so at this point because Oliver wasn’t giving her another choice, and that she would choose Oliver if said choice was on the table with or without the knowledge that Oliver a serial killer. I could definitely buy a fanwank that Tommy doesn’t really have a good way to express what he’s dealing with, never having been in a real relationship or even a particularly emotional person until recently, but I can’t quite let that fly and let the writers off the hook.

Back when this first happened I didn’t really understand Oliver’s sudden decision that stopping the Undertaking meant he would be done playing vigilante. Partly because it was show about him being the vigilante so that clearly wasn’t going to happen, but also because it’s really only in later seasons that I understand why he started this and where his head was in the first place. At the time I was more like Digg and Felicity, confused because isn’t the mission about protecting and saving people, more than just the names on the list? But it makes a hell of a lot more sense to me now, that he hadn’t really thought about the mission in larger terms, he just kind of did it when it was convenient; and the idea of laying down the bow and burdens he’s been carrying for six years, I can see why he’s tempted; why at this point (and not for the last time) he tells himself there’s a way for it to be over.

I sort of think going to Laurel before the job is finished wasn’t a great move though. Even ignoring the fact that just that afternoon he told Tommy to make it right with her and is now doing exactly what Tommy assumed would happen, he has to run out on Laurel in the middle of the night to go and deal the mission that isn’t over (and from a certain point of view, he does it because he got a call from another woman).

But I titled this section after the song choice for a reason, because it’s quite a song choice. I won’t say I remember what my thoughts were at the time, but I suspect if I gave it thought then it was that Tommy was about to snap and become a new supervillain (in one night Oliver and Laurel hook up and then Oliver goes to kill Malcolm without first telling Tommy that Malcolm is a bad guy); it would have worked for both the apocalyptic tone and the “welcome to the new age” element. But since that doesn’t happen, my focus moves back to what it says about Oliver and Laurel in that moment, and the music is telling us that this isn’t a good thing.. They’re toxic, radioactive, apocalyptic; they’re “new age” isn’t one anyone wants to live in.

Also there’s a somewhat meta humor to it that Oliver and Laurel are about the only couple on show who so consistently get the pop-song soundtrack treatment so common on the CW.

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