Comics Alliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 2.4: ‘Crucible’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.
This week, several characters deal with personal demons, several characters seem to be stereotypes and one major bad guy makes a play.
So hey, do you like cliches? Because if you do, you will love the way this episode opens. Ollie is not in attendance at a party being thrown at Casa Queen because he's "tying up some loose ends." See, Isabel Rochev, who the show forgot existed for like three episodes, thinks Smoak is just making lame excuses, but as it turns out, Arrow is really out tying up gun criminals!
It's a regular comedy of manners up in here.
Arrow takes down the, as he calls them, "gangbangers." There's at least one pretty cool shot of him interrogating one of them about where they got their guns (with no real luck) while the dude hangs upside-down.
The thugs were using military-grade assault rifles, so Arrow checks in with Dig to see if he can offer up any info about where they came from. "We can look into that after your party," Dig says. "What party?" Ollie replies, 'cause he's just one big old scatterbrains.
Ollie shows up at the party--which Rochev helpfully explains is meant to attract investors to pump capital into Queen Consolidated while she stands in the same spot she looked to be standing in like half an hour ago. Ollie and Smoak head out to the party at large while Ollie mentions the bad guys he was fighting had stolen guns. Laurel and Sebastian Blood pop out from behind a plant or something, say, "We heard guns!" and start giving Ollie the third degree about them.
Laurel reveals that everyone (except Ollie) knows a crimelord called The Mayor--not the actual mayor, because that guy's dead and Starling hasn't bothered to write any laws about appointing an interim, I guess--is responsible for the flood of guns into The Glades. Blood adds that The Mayor wants to "rule the Glades at the barrel of a gun."
Cut to: The Mayor (Clé Bennett), mindlessly shooting the tar out of a mannequin. I have a lot of problems with this character, guys.
First, the good, though: I love that he has decorated his old-jazz-club hideout with big, spray-painted signs that say "City Hall." That's this show embracing its propensity for Batman '66-style camp, and I'll take that any day.
Now, the bad: The way The Mayor dresses, acts, speaks and looks, with his groomed afro and goatee, seems wholly designed to make the audience think one thing: the Black Panthers. As it turns out, he isn't really racially motivated at all, but the seeming shorthand of "this guy and his gang are scary because they look like militants from the '70s" is pretty bad, whether it's intentional or not.
Anyway, we get a standard bad-guy introduction for him, where he kills one of his own gang members.
Back at the party, Laurel's gettin' to' up on champagne. Tommy's death and nearly dying at the hands of the Dollmaker are starting to wear on her, she tells Ollie. Just as she's starting to sort of open up, Smoak wanders over and shoos her away so she can tell Ollie a theory: Black Canary wasn't actually following Arrow all this time; she was trailing Laurel.
And whaddaya know, there she is, spying on Laurel through her apartment window. Arrow catches her there and ties her up with some crazy rope arrows. There's some teasing that BC is an important person we've seen before and that knows Ollie is Arrow. Arrow takes off her mask to reveal...no one we've seen before. But she's Sara Lance, now being played by Caity Lotz instead of Jacqueline MacInnes Wood.
Some flashbacks recreate the boat-sinking scene from the pilot with Lotz now in the role. I don't know how anybody wouldn't be able to identify that chin on sight, but, you know, superheroes. I was going to talk about how this reveal was a huge cheat, what with switching actresses, but TV shows have to do this sort of thing sometimes, and it's fine. Plus, the really infuriating stuff comes later.
Right after the act break, in fact!
The next scene in the Arrowcave is full of so many story gymnastics to explain how Sara isn't dead that I assume Andrew Kreisberg and Wendy Mericle pulled a few muscles. So here's the deal: Ollie thought Sara drowned, but a year later, he saw her alive. So he's known she's alive -- or a least she didn't die on the Queen's Gambit -- the whole time. It all ends up with Ollie saying "These were five years where nothing good happened and they were better off not knowing."
First off, sick burn on Shado. It's just like a billionaire playboy to forget about his lake sex with his dead island mentor's daughter. Second, the Lances basically fell apart last season when Mama Lance came back with her suspicions that Sara was alive, which led them nowhere. I'm not sure that's "better off."
Ollie cuts the conversation short by saying he's got to go to the office. Before he goes, though, he asks Dig about The Mayor, and Dig says he's asking around to find out where the "weapondry" is coming from. Dig's so upset he couldn't even do a second take!
But here's the real proof of those pulled muscles: Dig tells Ollie that secrets weigh people down. Ollie answers with, "You see how hard I work out." Hahahahaha what.
Not Flashback Island, but Flashback Ship. S.S. Flashback. The captain comes to Ollie's cell and starts hammering him with questions about his "weapon capabilities," the two crew members he killed and "the graves," like they asked Shado. Ollie tells the captain to go to hell. The captain responds with a quip and a gunshot to Ollie's shoulder.
Present-day, in the clocktower. Sara tells Sin a bunch of stuff we already know about her past, and seems to have a lot of trouble saying it. She really is her father's daughter. It all ends with Sin revealing that Black Canary saved her from some male attackers, and Sara says, "No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men."
That's a weird phrasing, but hard to disagree with. (Please don't make Black Canary some weird stereotype of a feminist, show, thanks.)
Dig meets up with his old pal Harbinger to find out what he can about The Mayor. She tells him some assault rifles went missing from Camp Kirby (!) a while back, but they can be tracked via GPS. Then they flirt a little.
I'll give Arrow this: The creators know what names to slip in there.
At Queen Consolidated, Ollie meets with Blood and Rochev (who says she's Ollie's "superior" even though she's only there a third of the time) to talk over Ollie's plan to host a cash-for-guns exchange event. Blood says he'll think it over and leaves. Rochev says the company can't sponsor the event because it's not like QC needs good PR after being blamed for a disaster or anything. Ollie says he'll sponsor it himself.
Laurel's burning the midnight oil at the district attorney's office when her boss comes in and invites her to dinner. Very little pushback later, the two of them are sipping wine (or, in Laurel's case, chugging) at a fancypants tablecloth place. The DA makes the hard push at Laurel, and she abruptly announces she needs to leave. On the way home, a cop pulls her over and promptly asks if she's had anything to drink. Wuh-oh!
I can't tell if this is just a badly written scene--the cop really jumps to a conclusion there, considering Laurel's driving looks fine--or we're supposed to believe someone, maybe a jealous DA, tipped the cops off. I doubt it is a question that will be answered.
Arrowcave. Dig has discovered that The Mayor turned off the tracker on his weapons crate, but those trackers are Queen Consolidated tech, and Smoak has found a design flaw that allows for it to be reactivated remotely. Well, that sure is a lucky break. She gets the tracker working--it almost seems like she waited until Ollie was there to do it for dramatic effect or something--and finds The Mayor's hideout.
Meanwhile, the crate inside The Mayor's hideout starts blinking like one of those things that tells you your table is ready at Outback. Should a tracker on a military crate be a little more...discreet? Doesn't matter, though. Arrow apparently teleported to City Hall and is quickly dispatching The Mayor's goons. Arrow gets the weapons but The Mayor gets away.
Back to Laurel's car, where Officer Lance has arrived to hear that his daughter was driving with a 0.14 blood alcohol level. Lance says he doesn't want her to slip into the same pit of alcoholism he did after Sara "died," and Laurel gets defensive. Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne actually both do really nice jobs with this, and I'm glad to see a storyline in this episode that doesn't sink to stereotypes.
Sara comes to Verdant in a stylish v-neck sweater to ask Ollie if he told her family she was alive. She doesn't seem to be doing too much to hide it, going to a popular club in broad daylight in casual clothes. Anybody could be there. Thea, Laurel, whoever. They pop in and out of there all the time!
Sara and Ollie are cryptic to each other for a while about what happened to Slade or how she's not dead. Finally, she reveals she came back to Starling because of the earthquake. Then there's a knock at the door. I think this is the first time anyone has ever knocked here.
It's Officer Lance. "I'm here about my daughter," he says, momentarily possessed by a dramatic irony ghost. "Laurel," he adds. He asks Ollie to talk to her about her hard drinkin'. Lance leaves and Ollie heads back inside to find Sara gone.
S.S. Flashback. Ollie is in some considerable pain after being shot.
He spies some tools in a dish next to his cell and asks the guy in the cell over what those are about. "They make all of us do this," the Russian-accented fellow (rumor is he's KGBeast, attention Chris Sims) says, showing a scar on his stomach. "Living is not for the weak," he intones. Ollie grabs some tongs and starts digging in his abdomen.
In the present, Ollie goes and talks to Laurel without even trying to hide that her dad sent him. Laurel blasts him with some grade-A denial and this remains the best storyline this episode has going. Katie Cassidy is really stepping up.
Flashback again. Ollie is asleep, having successfully fished that bullet out of himself. The pirate captain comes to his cell and asks about "the graves" again, this time adding he wants to know about "the bones." Ollie doesn't answer, but he gives something away with his distant look. The pirate captain barks into the walkie talkie about how they're on the right island. They sure committed a lot to shelling and invading the place if it was wrong, didn't they?
Present again. Roy's turning a bunch of guns in at the cash-for-guns event, which looks kind of a like a health fair. I guess it is, in a way. He and Thea have a moment about how he's not a murdering criminal anymore before Sin shows up and strikes up a conversation. Roy is really oddly standoffish, probably because Sin knows he's working with Arrow and Thea is not into that.
Ollie snags a look at the goings on and Blood comes by to tell him they've collected 200 guns in three hours. "Try not to look so happy about it," Blood says. Why wouldn't he look happy? Whether the Queens get the credit or not, that's a lot less guns on the street. Wouldn't any non-criminal be pleased about that?
Ollie opens up to Blood about these two sisters he knows making it hard for him to help them. Instead of assuming that Ollie is talking about two girls he's banging on the side, which I'd think would be the first assumption when a playboy just starts talking about some women he won't name, Blood launches into something about how everyone goes through a crucible that either changes them or makes them "love the fire." He doesn't want Starling to start loving the fire. It's way more reasonable than that crucifixion speech from a couple weeks ago. Maybe Blood just has a thing for words that start with "cru."
Speaking of fire, The Mayor shows up in a monster truck and starts raining some on the people at the event (after making a speech in a sort of preacher cadence). Blood almost gets shot, but Ollie saves him. A few members of the Starling City public just run out into gunfire and get shot. They're not the brightest bunch. Sin take a bullet in the gut, near where Past-Ollie got shot earlier. It's her crucible!
Arrowcave. Ollie, Smoak and Dig are watching The Only Newschannel, and the news director must have been out that day, because they are just plain showing The Mayor murdering people on TV. I'd like to know who got this shot, by the way. It looks like they were standing right behind the truck.
That is one brave cameraperson.
Now that Team Arrow has seen The Mayor's face, Smoak can run him through an FBI database and discover he's Xavier Reed, a veteran who served three tours in Iraq and still has a foster brother in service at Camp Kirby. They set up a plan to intercept the next weapon convoy.
Hospital scene! Hospital scene! Get out your Arrow bingo cards, everyone. Roy and Thea watch over Sin for a while and kinda bond about it.
Black Canary's watching through the window, as she does. She slides down a zipline to meet Arrow on a rooftop. They're gonna have an old-fashioned team-up against The Mayor.
Speaking of The Mayor, he's meeting up with his foster brother (a white guy, I should note, possibly to defuse the Black Panther thing, or maybe to prove The Mayor is a fraud? It's hard to suss out what the intentions are). The foster brother reveals he killed a fellow soldier on the way, which isn't something you can just do. Soldier Bro gives The Mayor a grenade launcher and he's about to test it when Black Canary and Arrow show up and start pummeling guys.
The mayor shoots a grenade at Arrow, and he hits it mid-air with a shot. It's the best thing in the episode. Maybe the series.
I love it when Arrow is the right kind of dumb.
After some more fighting, Black Canary subdues The Mayor. She and Arrow have an on-the-spot debate about whether to kill him, and BC decides not to, but she does get pretty mad when The Mayor calls her a bitch.
At Queen Consolidated, Ollie's watching the news. There's a brief mention of a "Star Labs particle accelerator," which means we'll get The Flash soon enough. Blood comes in and thanks Ollie for saving his life. Ollie wonders if Blood's going to run for the real office of mayor. Blood kind of waves it off, saying there are other ways to save the city.
Hospital. Hey, Doc says Sin's gonna be OK!
Once again, Sara is walking around in a building full of people in no disguise. How has anyone not seen her alive up to now? She and Ollie piano-music talk for a while about whether they're ghosts and whether she should go back to her family. It is left unresolved.
Officer Lance is at an AA meeting while Laurel is mixing pills with wine. That is maybe a step too far.
S.S. Flashback. A couple of thugs drag Ollie into a room. Sara comes in and says hi.
Back to the present. The Mayor wakes up in a dark room somewhere, which he observes is not the police station. Out walks Blood, in a very close approximation to the Scarecrow's mask from Batman Begins, asking if The Mayor is "ready to serve." His fake-cop henchman injects The Mayor with some green stuff, which may or may not be Venom.
The Mayor convulses for a while before going limp and bleeding out of his eye. "Bring me another," Blood says while he takes off his mask. "Yes, Brother Blood," the fake cop says.
OK, so he's not really Brother Blood in any recognizable way from the comics, but I'm willing to accept Cultist Alderman Scarecrow. It's sort of the direction I was hoping they'd take the character. I'm pretty psyched for this show maybe having a for-real supervillain, y'all.
This episode had some of the highest highs of the series so far--the arrow to the grenade, "City Hall," what they're setting up with Brother Blood, Laurel actually having an interesting arc. But some of the lowest lows are in here, too. What in the world was that "You see how hard I work out" line about? How convoluted was the explanation of Sara not being dead? Why did The Mayor have to be like that?
This is like a show fighting itself. But at least it's interesting. I'll give it that.