Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arrow "Midnight City" Review

Spoiler warning for Arrow through this episode

If I could compare the CW's Arrow to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy...well, I probably wouldn't under normal circumstances.

But this is a show where people can be frozen for four days and magically come back to life, so, I'm gonna.

Since the producers have mentioned previously that this little Brick-story is something of a trilogy, I got to thinking about how similar it feels to LOTR. Last week, we had "Left Behind," a more emotional episode that didn't require much action, and it put the characters in place for them to carry out their mission throughout the trilogy, much like The Fellowship of the Ring. This week, we had a more action-oriented episode that had some political schemes as well as a dude being miraculously healed after falling off a cliff. Seriously, it's like the same thing (only Brego is replaced by Maseo). And next week, though I obviously haven't seen it, seems to have a "giant mega super awesome final oh my gosh battle" type feel to it, as well the fact that Oliver is probably going to be coming back to the city much like how Aragorn returned to Gondor.

Hopefully...Oliver brings an army of ghosts with him.

Let's focus on the now, though. This week was yet another great episode of Arrow--as if I should expect any less at this point--that plays, yet again, on the strengths of our heroes without Oliver there to guide them. It's a great episode because it really makes them rally around each other to remember why they put on the masks and borrow helicopters (yeah that happens) in the first place. It's not because Oliver asked them to. Heck, most of these people imposed it on him!

No, it was about being a hero. It was about standing up for justice and defending the people the heroes care about, as well as defending the environment around them. It isn't about vengeance or just doing what their leader tells them. Though Team Arrow has been a pretty united front, it is obvious that Oliver was the leader and that his rule was final. It's fair enough, as he has a lot of the experience dealing in the underground world, but it doesn't help much for a team.

This episode focuses on that aspect of it, forcing our members (except Diggle, because he's too cool for this stuff) to realize their strengths and weaknesses. Roy is now a strong fighter and has an unbreakable will. Laurel is the exact opposite. Felicity has a strong heart and a strong resolve but is sometimes unsure of her feelings and force her to doubt the people around her. And Ray Palmer just has way too much money.

I especially like the dynamic of Roy and Laurel this week, both Colten Haynes and Katie Cassidy playing their characters marvelously. It'd be easy for Laurel to just assume the role of Black Canary and be done with it, but there were many things that I didn't think about that crept up.

I mean, yeah, it's obvious Laurel is doing this to avenge Sara and keep the name of the Canary going, but I didn't realize she was trying to sort of gain power through Sara, as if to channel her essence or something. Not only that, but I didn't at all realize what Lance was going to think when he saw the Canary running around again. I completely forgot that he doesn't know Sara's dead, so, seeing her means that Sara's back and...

Man, it is going to suck to have to break the news to him. Not looking forward to that at all. I'll have the tissues ready, for sure.

Unlike most of Laurel's material, I really did like what was brought to the table. As everyone was expecting, her climb to vigilantism is going to be a slow one. She has a lawyer degree, a self-defense class, and a couple of sparring matches against Wildcat under belt. Boys like Diggle and Roy have years of experience toughing it out and being forced to fight for themselves. So, I liked how Laurel lost most of her fights, even against petty criminals that someone such as Roy or Oliver could deal with easily. That isn't to say Laurel isn't a bad hero, in fact, she's quite the noble one.

She does have a moment where she breaks but she doesn't wallow in self-pity after losing a mission. Yes, she does suffer traumatically but honestly, that stuff still haunts main members of Team Arrow who dealt with that nightly. What matters is that she picks herself back up and goes back into the field even stronger than when she left it alongside Roy, even going so far as to take on Brick. Of course she loses but it wouldn't have been justifiable for her to really win that fight. It's obvious they're leaving Brick for either Roy or Oliver to deal with, and I suspect the latter, given how big a name this villain has. Though, I do hope Roy is able to take him on. It'd be nice for him to challenge a big name villain and win, putting him a peg up on the super-hero ladder.

I was half expecting his confrontation with Malcolm Merlyn to turn into a fight. It would have been one-sided, sure, but it also would have been a good moment to sort of gauge where Roy's abilities are at this point in his fighting career. Clearly he's a great fighter, able to take down all of his opponents with various techniques and weapons. He's Roy freaking Harper, what do you expect out of him?

The only weaker parts of the episode were the material with Merlyn and Thea. It's clear that it's building up to something, but as for what it is I'm not quite sure. Also: apparently blonde surfer dude works for the League of Assassins, who knew?

But what's Arrow without Oliver? Well it has a rather pointless title, I'd say.

Oliver was featured a lot more in this episode than I expected, which is a good thing given the company he's in. We learn just a tiny bit more of what may have happened in the flashbacks (notice a certain son missing in the company of Tatsu and Maseo?) but besides that, the character all work well together and interact just fine. Maseo positions himself as an interesting character given what we learn about how he is both loyal to Oliver, since he kind of helped save his life, as well as to Ra's al Ghul. It makes you wonder if those three men who attacked his house were sort of sent there as a means to an end, to get Maseo out of the house and return to Nandu Parbat. And with that in mind, it makes you wonder if Ra's ever meant for Oliver to die. He could easily have told Maseo after the duel to retrieve the body, bring him to a healer, and bring him back to life since Ra's is more thank likely aware of the fact that Oliver was only covering for Malcolm, and through him, Thea.

Ra's isn't an idiot, he has things planned out. The duel may have just been a way of seeing if Oliver would even pose a threat to him. I'd say that the threat is there, but Oliver hasn't realized his potential yet. Perhaps some training alongside Tatsu (aka Katana, ya know) could aid in his swordsmanship? I'm not sure.

I am a little mad that they keep avoiding how he died. I mean, who lives after taking that big a fall after being stabbed right through the lung and being frozen for four days? I know it's a super hero show and I'm supposed to have suspension of disbelief (it's what allows me to believe that there is even an ancient league of killers that no government has tried to shut down in the last few centuries), but, come on. Just give me an explanation. So far the only medicine we've seen Oliver get is penicillin. Is that the cure for freaking death on this show? If so, there are quite a few people that could have used it along the way!

Oh, and there are also some flashbacks, but not quite that many. Basically, Maseo and Oliver track down Tatsu using the GPS and manage to rescue her after tricking China White, escaping and then going back home where Tatsu is more welcoming to Oliver for saving her life. Well...yeah. Thanks are indeed in order.

Oh, and, yeah Felicity decides to join the team after realizing it isn't about what Oliver wants but to be a better person. It was obvious she was going to come back, and I'm glad that they didn't wait it out any longer. She also decides to help Ray build the A.T.O.M. after various displays of heroism on his and Laurel's part throughout the episode. Ray's kinda growing on me, since he took down a thug as well as stood up to Brick pretty well this episode. I'm looking forward to seeing him as the Atom, but I don't expect us to see him as the Atom here, probably over on Tuesday nights where it's a little more plausible and there's another super-hero with an acronym.

Like I said earlier, this was a great episode of Arrow. It played on the strengths and weaknesses we've needed to see from these characters in order to make them both believable as well as flourish as a team. Watching Roy teaching Laurel, with the age gap assuredly pretty decent, maybe seven or eight years or so, is a fun dynamic and is one I hope we continue to see. Our heroes seem to be folding into their true identities now (I mean, how did you not catch that little "Red Arrow" name drop for Roy?) and it seems that the only left is for Oliver to be like, "I died as the Arrow, now I'm back as the Green Arrow" and then he shoots a punching glove arrow at someone while opening a flower shop.

That'll be the day.

If you wanna stay up to date on when I post, be sure to follow me on Twitter @seanovan13 and on Instagram @seanovan10. Thanks for reading!

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