‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 10: ‘Blood Debts’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week’s episode, “Blood Debts,” finds Team Arrow, particularly Ollie, seeking righteous revenge on Damien Darhk, who has all but disappeared after an attack that left a major character fighting for her life. Of course, they get a little sidetracked, because there’s still like 13 more episodes this season. Jesse Warn directed the episode from a script by Oscar Balderrama and Sarah Tarkoff.
Matt: Chris, let’s just dive right into this. Felicity is Oracle now. They made her Green Arrow’s Oracle.
Chris: Haha, I think I saw a tweet from someone involved with the show saying they definitely aren’t making her Oracle, but yeah, the pieces are certainly in place. Though, I have to say, I can’t help but roll my eyes when this show wants to make something like “spinal damage” seem deathly serious when every other week they’re bringing someone back from the dead in the magic hot tub or travelling through time or making exo-suits that shrink to the size of an action figure. I know they want us to be all upset over this, but you can’t have it both ways. I can’t swallow the Lazarus Pit and be expected to be all teary-eyed over “back injury.”
Matt: That said, I feel like a back injury is something that could stick in a way that full-on death wouldn’t. I mean, Felicity pretty much sits in front of a computer all the time anyway. This just seems like a way to make that irreparably permanent.
Chris: I don’t think it’ll last. That’s my prediction. I think when we last left the Arrow-verse though, I was actively celebrating her apparent demise, so maybe I’m warming up to her. (I’m not.)
Matt: Felicity’s predicament leads to some Classic Arrow™ hospital scenes throughout, but it also leads to some additional common tropes from this show: Ollie being too focused on superheroing and not on the people around him, and going to some intense lengths to get revenge.
The opening sequence here is Ollie interrogating Darhk’s Ghosts and often knocking them into electrical equipment. He’s doing this despite having two sources of direct information about Darhk at his disposal --- Andy Diggle and Captain Lance --- but he doesn’t realize that he can talk to them until much later.
Chris: I believe this is the Classic Arrow™ Trope: Kill some screen time.
Matt: Did you catch the line where Ollie said the ghosts preferred to kill themselves than give up Darhk? Dude, you definitely threw a guy into a fuse box and there was a shower of sparks. You’re not entirely without culpability here.
Chris: Haha, in Ollie’s defense, that is not at all how fuse boxes work, so I’m sure he was just as surprised as that Ghost was. Someone at OSHA did not do their job right on that rooftop.
Matt: Call 20/20! But yeah, I sort of got the sense that this episode was about 20 minutes of plot stretched out to 40. I looked up at the clock about 20 minutes in and was amazed that it had only been on that long. It felt like it should be ending.
Chris: I was worried when I saw you tweeting about how long this episode felt, but I’ve got to say, it didn’t think it dragged too badly. I mean, I was ready for this week to be even worse than normal because I’m getting to watch Agent Carter (which is great and fun) on Tuesdays now instead of Agents of SHIELD (which is ok at best). I was really prepping myself for this to be awful, but it wasn’t that bad. Maybe that’s just the time away from it talking though, and by next week I’ll be back to normal.
Matt: I think what got me was the feeling that they were going back to the well so much. All the hospital scenes. The interrogation stuff. Dig interrogating Andy again. Anarky coming back, which led to more of the same wheel-spinning with Thea’s Lazarus Pit bloodlust. More searching for Darhk in hiding. It just felt like things we’ve seen plenty of already, and all in service of two reveals: Felicity’s alive (but injured) so someone else is in that grave four months in the future, and Darhk having a family, which we already saw.
Chris: Yeah, I didn’t even think about it in those terms, but you’re absolutely right. Also, it probably doesn’t help your viewing experience that you have so much more experience with these tropes and retreads on this show than I do. I do not envy your time spent in the previous seasons of Arrow trenches.
Matt: Oh, don’t even get me started on Ollie being on the island and getting saved by some weird serendipity (some glowing tattoos along his side in this case), only to be thrown in a jail cell to cool out for a few more weeks.
Chris: How many times has he been saved on that island by an actual copy of the DVD of the movie Serendipity?
Matt: Man, if John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale showed up to save him I’d be 1000 percent on board with it.
Chris: Call us, CW!
Matt: What did you think of Anarky v. 2, since I brought him up a second ago?
Chris: I mean, what is there to think? He was certainly in the episode. Kind of a poor man’s Joker. A homeless man’s Joker? I honestly didn’t think much of him good or bad other than to think it was silly to think he would spend all that time in Darhk’s house painting anarchy “A”s all over the place. I don’t think the show knew what they wanted to do with him, but that’s how I feel about a lot of things on this show. He didn’t actively bother me or anything, so that’s positive, right? What’d you think?
Matt: I think you’re right about the not knowing what to do with him thing. The plastic mask is actually a neat visual and puts him at least somewhat in line with the comics version, but then he’s constantly taking it off to reveal his (honestly, pretty tame) burn scars. And yeah, there’s all the stuff with the anarchy symbols.
And like, he wants immediate revenge on Darhk for selling him out, right? (Remember how Darhk was all anti-kidnapping for a week?) But he goes and kills his foster parents first, just to give Team Arrow a trail to pick up on. His actions seem completely driven by plot. Again, a tune we’ve heard.
Chris: One of this show’s favorite tunes. Was that who’s house that was with the hidden machine gun panel?
Matt: I think Anarky set that up, but yeah.
Chris: Man, I’ve watched enough home renovation shows on Netflix to call complete BS on him having time to set that up. You can’t even get the permits for something like that in less than a week.
Matt: Are there a lot of home renovation shows about setting up gun traps?
Chris: You’d be surprised how often the Property Brothers are trying to set up this open concept kitchen and a dude come in talking about, “Can we add like a drop down machine gun here? I know I forgot to mention it, but that’s really one of my must haves.” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?! You know Drew don’t have time for this! You know he’s already three weeks into a five week schedule and your budget is already spread razor thin!” How are they gonna do Drew that way, Matt? Drew worked so hard on that design and they wanna just throw something complicated in there like that at the last minute?! Drew gonna make it work, but man, you stressin’ my boy out.
Matt: I had no idea.
But, since I feel like I’ve gone really negative on this one, I will point out two positives. One: The stuff about Ollie not being there for his fiancee’s big surgeries and recovery from a life-altering injury actually turned into something and led to Ollie promising to change (though he probably won’t).
Two: I’m kind of intrigued by the deal with Darhk’s family. I mean, logistically, it probably shouldn’t really work --- who officially owns that house? --- but at least it’s something different, and I like that his wife seems to be materially involved in the destroy-the-earth-as-we-know-it plot everyone in HIVE has only discussed cryptically. So it’s not all bad.
Chris: Man, yeah, on that first one, I gotta give it up for Felicity not being crazy upset that Ollie wasn’t around for all that. I don’t know. I feel like even though she knows what he’s out doing, if that was me, I’d still want my partner around when I wake up.
Speaking of upset, can we jump ahead to the ending for a second when they were both in the back of that car at the cemetery looking so upset?
Matt: They’re mega upset.
Chris: Did you notice Felicity wasn’t wearing that engagement ring?
Matt: I did not notice that! I’ll give the show this: I was actually guessing who could be in the grave at that moment. My deep, deep worry is that it’s Dig. As much as I rag on this show, I genuinely enjoy a few actors and characters, and he’s up there for me.
Chris: I think the fact that Dig is one of the few characters you like on this show suggests that he’s probably the odds on favorite. He’s got a wife and kid, and people like him, so it’d take someone like that dying to really have everyone so torn up. I mean, who else could it be? Thea? Laurel? Laurel’s Dad? Felicity’s mom? That campaign guy? Are there any other characters?
Matt: I know they’re bringing Roy Harper back, so maybe him? I’m actually wondering if this won’t be a double fake-out where the “him” that Felicity says Ollie has to kill turns out to not be Darhk at all, but someone else. Maybe Andy. So in spite of all this buildup around the grave being a little... cliche, let’s say, it does have me guessing.
Chris: Fair enough. Barry showing up means it almost certainly has to be someone he’s got a connection to, and Dig’s even going to be showing up on an episode of The Flash. Has Barry had any interaction with Roy?
Matt: In last year’s crossover, I think, but Dig seems like the obvious candidate.
Chris: Honestly, that ring thing had me more intrigued than the grave did though.
Matt: It’s probably not just an oversight, since they’ve made such an effort to get it into every shot she’s in during the “present day” parts. (I think it’s weird how that’s structured. Shouldn’t the “present day” stuff be “four months ago”? But whatever.) Even in the hospital bed she has it. It’s also worth noting that she looks pretty well recovered in the car, and there seems to be a conscious effort to show her legs, which look like they may have miraculously started working again. There’s no sign of a wheelchair, but it could be in the trunk or whatever.
Chris: Yeah, it’s hard to show that someone needs a wheelchair while they’re seated. I have no doubt that the fact she wasn’t wearing it was on purpose. Also, the way that shot was composed with them being as far apart as possible and not even looking at each other was definitely purposeful. Things have clearly completely fallen apart four months from now.
Matt: So, look at that. Despite not being a huge fan of this episode (I wasn’t, anyway), the metaplot managed to pull us in. Go figure.
Chris: I think that’s more us grasping for something to care about. Our brains are furiously clutching for some kind of grip in the darkness to hold onto. Some random piece of plot driftwood to keep us afloat in this ocean of water-treading. Speaking of pointless time-fillers, I had zero patience for the Thea/Campaign Guy romance subplot.
Matt: Even the writers couldn’t muster much love for that one. “We’re off! I’m too stressed! Wait, never mind! Imagine this never happened!”
Chris: Just utterly pointless. Also, going back a little bit to what you brought up about Darhk’s family, they’ve really gone far beyond the point of any credulity with Darhk saying to his wife that it would have been poor form to kill Team Arrow then. Dude’s trying to blow up the world and sending drones to shoot at children that are volunteering to clean up a bay, but they want us to buy he’s worried about poor form? He tried to murder Ollie’s friends in a Nazi gas chamber right in front of him, but sure, okay, poor form is a big concern.
Matt: As we’ve seen, he’s got some kind of moral code, but that code seems to be absolutely bonkers and 100 percent contradictory. So it goes.
And that’s it for this week! Come back next week when Dig’s family gets kidnapped again.