Saturday, 21 May 2016

Arrow 'Monument Point' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

After a shaky start to the season Arrow is continuing to keep a decent pace and tone as it heads into its final episodes and the big clash against Damian Darhk and the forces of HIVE.

'Monument Point' plays out as something of a greatest hits episode of the last two seasons, with the episode featuring appearances from villains such as The Calculator, Murmur, Brick, Anarky, Malcolm Merlyn and Damian Darhk, along with a larger inclusion of Lyla and ARGUS.  It's a lot of characters to juggle, along with the whole of Team Arrow, but the episode manages to do it in an incredibly natural and well thought out way.

With Darhk having engineered the massive prison break a few episodes ago he's got a lot of the shows former villains owing him a favour, and doesn't appear to be afraid to call those favours in as he sends Murmur and Vinnie Jones' Brick after Felicity's father in an attempt to kill him.  He may be a little over the top but it was definitely fun to see Jones back as the minor villain reluctantly agrees to act as a henchman instead of the leader for once.

Bringing the Calculator back into the story as both a target for Darhk and a potential ally for Felicity and the team was a good way of further exploring the relationship between the father and daughter that we only got to see briefly in his previous appearance, as well as giving Felicity a little character development on a more personal level rather than a romantic one for once.  

I've not been a fan of the Olicity relationship, but have appreciated it when it's been handled well, but I've always found that Felicity is a better character when her growth is coming from something unrelated to her relationship with Oliver, and this episode gives us more of that as she begins to gain a greater understanding of her parents past.

Really, this is Felicity's episode to shine.  She has some of the best moments, some of the best character development and even goes on to save the world, though at a terrible price.  With a nuclear missile heading straight for Star City, poised to kill millions, Felicity is forced to alter its targeting systems and directs the missile to detonate at Ravenrock instead, though still killing tens of thousands of people.

It's one of the show's darker moments as they take one of the lightest characters and make her, in a way, responsible for killing thousands of innocent people.  Okay, so it's not really her fault, and she is saving countless millions more whilst also saving the whole planet, but we all know that this is something that is going to haunt the character for a long time to come.

It's been a long while since Arrow has been able to play with such moral ambiguity as the recent seasons have made a very clear distinction between the heroes and their adversaries, but the show began with Oliver as a killer who readily took the lives of thugs and criminals.  For one of the first times since the end of the first season one of our heroes has had to twist their own moral compass in order to save the day.  Something that connects with Diggle killing his own brother the episode before and Oliver's vow to kill Darhk for the murder of Laurel.

At this point it seems like season 4 is trying to put all of our heroes into positions where they question the nature of what they are doing, to make them face the reality that despite noble intentions they are surrounded with so much darkness that they cannot always keep the blood off of their hands.  It will certainly be interesting to see how the events of this season and the lives our heroes have taken will play out going forward, whether it will motivate our heroes to embrace the light even more, or push them down a much darker road.

Outside of the drama of Felicity and her father working together to stop an all-out nuclear apocalypse (seriously, why aren't the military all over this by now?) there's plenty of action sequences to keep the pace going as Ollie, Diggle and the ARGUS forces repeatedly clash against Darhk's men.  As cool as it is to see Team Arrow running around the streets of Star City watching them team up with ARGUS is always enjoyable, especially when Lyla is the one giving orders in the middle of battle instead of Amanda Waller.

Hopefully the show will realise that with Lyla in charge of ARGUS the team now have a much bigger pool of resources to call upon and will do so every now and then.  I don't want to see a full blown merger of Team Arrow and ARGUS, that'd be too much like Supergirl working with the DEO on 'Supergirl', but utilising the extra manpower in situations like this makes a lot of sense and should not be something the show just forgets about in the future.

Sadly the episode does have some weak points, this time being the Thea storyline.  Thea isn't a bad character, but it would seem as we head into the finale the writers aren't exactly sure what they want to do with her.  She's a captive of the villains, but not a prisoner because of Merlyn, she's in a relationship but it's so underdeveloped that I can't find myself giving a shit when he gets killed (seriously, I don't even remember the character's name) and they've given her this very weird relationship with Anarky.  

Her story here feels like it was included simply because the writers had to include the character.  It all seems to have been created as a way of at some point getting Ollie into HIVE's secret underground village and they thought Thea would be the best way of doing that.  

I think a lot of the problems with some of the writing around Thea is her relationship with Malcolm Merlyn, and this is readily apparent here as she's only a captive because of his quest to protect her.  I think that Merlyn has been too overused by this point for him to still be interesting anymore, and everything he does regarding Thea is just dull and stupid.  I know that the showrunners want to keep John Barrowman around as much as they can, but they need to seriously think about exactly what they should be doing with the character, because it's having a knock on effect.

'Monument Point' is the episode with the biggest stakes the series has ever given us as the team fight not just to save Star City but the entire planet.  They manage to bring back and juggle so many characters without it feeling overcrowded and bogged down.  Yes, there are some issues that stop it being perfect, but on a whole it's adding the the overall improvement in quality the show has been delivering the last handful of episodes.


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