After a rush on multiple levels, Arrow takes a step back and slows down this week in “Blast Radius”. Well, as much as a mad bomber plot will allow you to slow down. What would have felt like a large scale episode last season, fells decidedly small potatoes. The parallels between this shows interpretation of FireFly Garfield Lynns and villain of the week Shrapnel, also give “Blast Radius” an overall feel of sameness but still of the expected quality of Arrow (overall).
Oliver is a lonely man, an island if you will. Even with Diggle and Felicity as his partners, the division of labor is still 80-20 90% of the time. Last nights episode being one of the rare occurrences were everyone is in the field. Having Oliver realize how much he has come to depend on his team is a good emotional beat to structure and episode of Arrow around. An episode that also has Oliver admit just how frightened he is of the man in the skull mask and the possibility of more Cyrus Golds. This seems like two thirds of a good chord about to be played here. The third part of the chord is just a little bit sharp.
After being duped by Shrapnel, Ollie digs into Felicity pretty hard. Having this flair be sub textually a love triangle spat comes off as petty and sophomoric, even without Barry Allen (who’s in a coma) there to complete the triangle. Felicity’s remarks when Oliver needs her help, the latter stuck with a few dozen motion sensors ready to trigger a bomb, weren’t snarky or funny they just continued to be petty. Thankfully this rift isn’t a major centerpiece of the episode and doesn’t tank “Blast Radius” too much.
The drama in these moments was poorly calibrated, making Arrow look like a “CW Show” in a truer sense than surface level complaints about pretty people. It looked like a poorly written soap opera in those moments. No compare those moments to actually well executed moments of melodrama like the one involving Laurel Lance at St. Walker mental institution. Home to Sebastian Blood’s tongues speaking mother, who suddenly spits out that her son is the Devil (well with a name like Blood how could you not be). Katie Cassidy might nto be the best but she has a solid reaction face for the camera, making the insane and cliché moment of realization much better and straddling the line between camp quality and straight. Laurel investigating Blood will hopefully begin to reestablish the character to her semi-independents she had last season. Besides not being largely involved in the main plot up until now, Laurels character has been defined by her relationship to the men around her and only that. Investigating Blood ties her to the main plot now and shows she can be something other than a hanger on.
Shrapnel is a fairly obscure DC villain, and is used here more for the cool name than interesting reinterpretation. Episode writers Jake Coburn & Keto Shimizu take someone in the comics is made out of shrapnel and morph him into an anarchist bombe. This passes the smell test. The plot though of bombing Starling City is a bit too similar to Garfield Lynns in “Burned”. His anarchist views could of played against Bloods Mayoral campaign and been an exploration of the shows politics but is never given the chance. Shrapnel is underwritten and used, a bummer for fans of Fire Fly and Sean Maher. Shrapnel isn’t a physical villain in Arrow so we do get a rather nice chase sequence as Oliver dodges grenades from the Shrapnel’s van.
Post Mirakuru injection Roy is getting a decent enough plot for himself and Thea, a possibility that would’ve made me groan last season. Last season the pair wee the weak but canonically important duo and this season they’ve been shored up into an overall better piece of the puzzle. It’s almost crazy how terrible their meet cute was: Roy stealing Thea’s purse. Brining Thea into the loop soon is also a good move, it’ll mostly save her from becoming the dramatically ironic nagging partner archetype. Laurel is the only one who can’t know things in Arrow anyway. Roy claims that Thea is the only thing anchoring him to sanity which gives us a nice counterpoint to see how Slade Wilson deals with the Mirakuru on the island with no Shado to pine for. Slade is adrift in his own sea of rage.
“Blast Radius” isn’t of the same quality of Justified season 5 episode 2 “The Kids Aren’t All Right” from this week. But my adoration for both comes from the same appreciation of consistent quality each show has. Even the not quiet filler but not quiet super necessary episodes are just good enough to make them worth watching, which is what a Network show really needs to survive.