Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Arrow 'Blood Debts' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

After an exciting and action packed mid-season finale Arrow returns to the screen with an episode that never really rises above being anything more than just average, despite trying it's hardest to feel like it's being something more.

The episode begins with another flash forward to Oliver and Barry (Allen, the Flash) at a grave four months in the future.  With the attack on Oliver and Felicity at the end of the last episode that left Felicity bleeding in Ollie's arms I'm guessing the show wanted to momentarily fool audiences into believing that it could be Felicity in the grave.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be such an obvious red herring that it all but confirmed to me that she would survive her wounds from the mid-season finale.

Unfortunately, if the Arrow show runners wanted people to genuinely feel worried about Felicity they seemed to be completely unable to do so, as we soon saw her in hospital, awake and talking to her friends.  There was none of the usual 'life in danger' type of hospital scenes where doctors fight to keep her alive.  It all felt very anticlimactic and almost a waste of a plot that she would be so quickly be shown to be in a stable condition.

This lack of drama with Felicity was felt elsewhere too, as Oliver's anger felt a little watered down as he went on a rampage, attacking Ghosts to try and find Damian Darhk.  Yes, his fiancee had been hospitalised and he was angry, but I couldn't help but feel that there could have been more emotional impact from his actions if there was still risk that he might lose Felicity completely.  These scenes just never felt like they had that extra punch they could have, it came across as very flat and dull.

Whilst the whole episode could have easily be given over to Ollie and Team Arrow searching for Darhk they instead decided to bring back an old foe to shake things up a little, and the episode definitely benefited from it.  Lonnie Machin, Anarky, who was last seen escaping from police custody in the back of an ambulance after being set on fire by Thea earlier this season.

The reintroduction of Anarky added an extra dimension to the story, as it showed that Team Arrow have to deal with other criminals all the time, not just when there are lulls in the main story.  It makes things feel slightly more organic, that in the middle of a hunt for Darhk, in the middle of the Felicity drama they still have to worry about other costumed villains too.

The Anarky story took an interesting turn too, when instead of wanting revenge on Thea for almost killing him, Lonnie instead developed a rather unhealthy admiration of her, even going so far as thanking her for setting him on fire.  Instead, his revenge was focused purely on Damian Darhk and Hive.

It adds something a little different instead of being the run of the mill 'villain wants revenge on the hero' trope that a lot of shows have, unfortunately so far Anarky has done very little, which is a shame for a character that's very well established in the comics.  The Arrowverse version of Anarky doesn't feel enough like the comic book counterpart, and doesn't even live up to his namesake.  Perhaps this is all part of something bigger, perhaps the show runners are building Anarky up to be an actual threat, or at least someone who causes anarky.  I hope that's the case, because so far I feel that his role in the series could have been played by any villain or random thug/enforcer.

Despite the episode having multiple focuses, Ollie and Felicity, Anarky and Thea, even John beating the crap out of his brother to get info out of him, it had time to squeeze some more Damian Darhk confrontation into the mix, as he and Ollie face off again.  

It's a strange fight that ensues, on the one hand Darhk almost killed Felicity, and Darhk wants to kill Oliver, but then Ollie had just saved Darhks family too.  You can see that both characters want to kill each other, but both of them feel reluctant to do so.  It creates a strange moment as viewers were expecting a big showdown, but the show chose not to deliver.  The people behind Arrow have said that this season they're going to do something big and different with their villain, something shocking, and maybe this is helping to build towards that, but it just felt jarring as the conclusion to this episode.  Maybe Ollie was less reluctant to fight him just after saving his wife and daughter, but after that happened to Felicity I find it strange that he would not try to kill the man responsible. 

Speaking of Damian's wife, it would appear that she's more than just his wife.  Instead of the innocent wife who has no idea her husband is a villain, or the wife who knows her husband breaks the law but believes he's not a bad person she seems to be 100% absolutely aware of everything.  She even appears to be the one getting Darhk to do the things he's doing.  Is this the twist the shows teasing us with?  Is Darhks wife going to turn out to be the big villain of the season instead of him?

The episode ends where it began, four months down the line, at the side of the grave of someone that is clearly massively important to Oliver.  Whilst people have been trying to guess the identity of the graves occupant for months they can now officially scratch Felicity off the list as we see that she is alive and well.  What raises more questions though is the moment she tells Oliver to kill the person responsible for the death of [insert identity here].  Who would have that kind of reaction from both Oliver and Felicity?  Guess we still have to wait to see who's going to be killed off this season.

Despite some strange story choices and an overall lack of tension the episode still manages to pull itself together at the end and adds to the overall season arc, and gives each character a small moment to shine, even Felicity's mother and Quentin Lance get a great little moment when caught by Laurel.  Whilst this episode could have been much bigger and better then it was at least it wasn't a total disappointment.


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