Arrow: Darkness on the Edge of Town (S1/E22)

    I’ve waited a long time for this episode. For a show that runs itself almost entirely on dramatic irony, the episode where everyone finds everything out is about as important as an episode can be to a season. In what feels like one fell swoop, pretty much everyone exposes everything to everyone else, non-stop for 45 minutes of television. It’s clunky, it’s ungraceful and at times it’s just bad, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a hell of a ride.

    For the sake of getting it out of the way, this was, without question, the worst scripted episode of any show I’ve ever seen. The dialogue was beyond bad, and I spent a lot of the episode rolling my eyes. But, in typical Arrow fashion, none of that really matters, because from the jump, the viewer is sprinting from important plot point to important plot point, leaving little time for the deep seeded, gaping flaws of the episode to marinate.

    So, to recap quickly, here’s all the things that get revealed to other characters: Merlyn finds out Oliver is The Hood, Oliver finds out what The Undertaking is, Oliver finds out what his father’s role in The Undertaking is, Oliver finds out at least some of Moria’s involvement in The Undertaking is, the police find out that Felicity is somehow involved with hacking into Merlyn’s database, Tommy finds out that Oliver won’t date Laurel, Tommy finds out that Oliver lies, and Tommy finds out that Oliver and Laurel have some fun in the bedroom while he watches longingly from a street corner. And on the island, we find out that their plan is to collapse China’s economy, mostly for shits and giggles.

    So, holy shit. I’m going to take this step by step, because as I said, holy shit.

    First, as far as heroism in this episode goes, this was the most subtle, clever plot they’ve had yet. Both Diggle’s kidnapping of Moira and Oliver and the threesome breaking in to Merlyn were interesting, logical enough and exciting. The former was a truly surprising move that also made a lot of sense, and was one that I was thoroughly pleased with. This show usually tells the viewer everything and just hopes that they’ll take entertainment from knowing something most characters don’t, but letting this one be a surprise was delightful, and led to one of the biggest payoffs this show has had. Once Diggle beats the crap out of Oliver in order to get Moira to tell him what the deal with The Undertaking is, he cuts them both loose, and gives Oliver the opportunity to deal with his mother, just a parent and her child. Moira’s pleas for his understanding and forgiveness fall and deaf ears, and despite the terribly stiff dialogue throughout the scene, Stephen Amell sells it like a champ and takes a dramatic exit, creating one of the more powerful moments the show has achieved. The latter was an exciting, well-paced, if not rather stereotypical break-in-and-steal-the-data-or-hack-or-whatever sequence of events, but the writers layered it with guest appearances from Tommy, Malcolm, Thea and Roy, and the added excitement was beneficial indeed. Implausible, absolutely. But it’s a show about a superhero, so what are you gonna do.

    The Felicity finally leaving a trail that they police find is exciting, if only because it will finally give her character something to do other than type and be awkward. I’ve been endeared to her since her first appearance on the show, but her gimmick is getting a little stale, and it’s time to let the character to a bit of breathing. It appears we’re getting to that point anyway, but if we don’t, I think a lot of fans are going to turn on her. Her misspeaking and being sexually attracted to Oliver can only get her so far.

    Oliver and Laurel hopping into bed together was at once unexpected and entirely predictable, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, honestly. On one hand, Oliver had been a pretty good friend to Tommy since he’d gotten back, and it made it really easy to find Tommy unlikable. But now Oliver has, to be blunt, really dicked him over. I like the move from the writers’ standpoint, as it adds a level of nuance to Oliver that wasn’t there before, and it also opens up the door for more personal conflict between Tommy, Oliver and Laurel. On the other hand, it’s, quite frankly, out of character for this version of Oliver, and that doesn’t play well. It seems lazy. Especially because he hasn’t often seemed interested enough in Laurel to put a nail in his friendship with Tommy.

    Thea and Roy, though, are as problematic as they ever were, and the desperate attempts to get someone, anyone to be The Hood’s kid sidekick are getting tiresome. Eventually, they’ll find out who The Hood is and there will be a predictable hullabaloo over it, and I’d really rather just get in and get out of that story line so all the characters can go on with their damn lives. It feels like it’s being strung out for no particular reason.

    And now, on to the curious case of Moira. She’s, for my mind, the only character that the viewer has no idea what to make of. There’s a hint that she is the one who orchestrated the plan that the people holding Oliver captive on the island are running, but it could also have just been a random rich white lady that we haven’t met yet. Either way, the viewer is led to believe that it’s Moria, which would bring back into question everything about the character that we kinda-sorta thought we knew, but probably didn’t. At first I thought the writers had control over her, but it seems like, recently, they’ve just been throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. I was personally hoping we could get the confrontation between her and Oliver and be done with it, but I can’t always get what I want. Also, Walter divorces Moira, which sucks because we just got Walter back and now he’s gone again, but obviously it makes sense because being related to Moira seems like a literal death wish. He delivers one hell of a monologue in the process, and so maybe that was worth it.  

    But, for the most part, this episode was one of the best as far as plotting goes. Sure, they skipped over all sorts of essential character moments to keep shooting events out of their event cannon, but there was some very tangible progress in this episode as far as the lives of each character go. What this really did was get a bunch of junk out of the way in order to deliver the season finale to end all season finales, and so at least there’s that. This show is messy, but for all its flaws, it’s still gripping television.