Arrow outdid The Flash this week. At least some of that is because of a few returns to the cast. Seeing Roy back, and being brought up to speed on Nyssa and the goings on at the League of Assassins were reminders of stronger episodes, but the real trick to it is that the league and Thea’s condition are being brought back to what’s made this season tick, and that’s Damien Darhk.
Having Damien’s wife oppose Oliver for mayor felt odd, just because to this point, I’ve almost forgotten about the mayoral race subplot completely. Here again, though, Arrow’s writers seem to be tying it all back to Darhk, and that’s something I hit The Flash for hard this week, losing focus on the central (and most interesting) conflict.
Speaking of my gripes about The Flash, I have to be even handed here with Arrow. While they did a much better job of not letting the plot meander, Felicity is continuing to get a disproportionate amount of screen time. We got a double dose of that this week with the development of the latest piece of Palmer tech, then this episode’s villain of the week. I won’t spoil the big connection to Felicity for those who still need to catch up, but I will say I found it groan-worthy.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the flashbacks were another long yawn this week. They’re being used too much to tie some theme, some lesson Ollie needs to learn from his past into the present situation, and that’s just not enough to make it interesting. Areas where they try to make the flashbacks relevant to the current plot have been sloppy at best, and the show is getting so crowded anyway that I’m thinking it’d be best to ditch the flashback formula altogether.
It was another imperfect episode, but I will say I am happy to see some indication of a big showdown in the making, something that will be a satisfying conclusion to the Damien Darhk story, or at least this part of it. That shows that even if the show isn’t taking the scenic route, it at least knows where it’s supposed to end up.
I’m not so sure about Arrow staying on task with their main villain. This is the perfect example of developing villains so you can return to them in the future, and viewers will care about them (that I mentioned in my Flash take). The League of Assassins factors into the Darhk story on a cursory level.
There’s no way the League is the end game this season (that’s Darhk), and they can’t be next season’s big bad (they were the big bad last season), so we’re left with a five to six episode mini arc in the middle of the season, while Darhk is placed on the backburner. Don’t believe me? Arrow did the same thing last year with Brick. He was in a five to six episode mini arc while Ollie was away, and when Ollie returned to Starling City, he defeated Brick in a minute and a half.
Okay. This season might not play out the same way as last season. Last season was last season, but you can’t introduce the League this late, open the huge can of worms that comes with them, and not have the resulting fallout consume half of what remains of this season.
It would help if Thea wasn’t an obvious plot device. In fact, she’s been less character and more plot device all season. I never believed her “blood lust.” She was normal last season, the season she was first resurrected (with a third of the season left). The “blood lust” started this season and she goes from 0 to 300 miles per hour in 0.00002 seconds. I need to kill. Now I can chill for two or three episodes and talk about my “blood lust” but not show any signs of struggling with it until the script tells me that I need to kill. Oh, now Darhk rid me of my “blood lust” and nothing’s wrong for five episodes. Oh, the “Unchained” script says that I’ll capture a villain and faint, even though I’ve shown no signs of physical fatigue up to this point. Really? You can do better than that, Arrow. A simple I don’t feel so good, I need to lie down before this episode would’ve been nice.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked seeing familiar faces. It was nice catching up with Roy and Nyssa. The future Mr. Terrific made an appearance after disappearing for multiple episodes. He’s an okay secondary character but I wasn’t too choked up when he pulled a vanishing act. The problem with Terrific is that he’s linked with Felicity pulling Palmer Tech from the brink of bankruptcy, and that story’s misguided at best just as the one with Ollie running for mayor. And the Calculator, this episode’s villain of the week, was forgettable, except that he has ties with Felicity, so we haven’t seen the last of him. Hopefully, he’s not another villain who will steal focus from Darhk.
“Unchained” was an enjoyable episode, so long as you fast forward past the Felicity parts, but Arrow runs the risk of flying further off the rails than Flash.
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