We’re down to the wire now as Arrow’s insane second season draws to a close, in a penultimate episode that feels more like the first half of a summer blockbuster than an hour of television. What impresses me most about this show is its ability to constantly up the ante week after week, always moving the plots and characters forward without the need for “filler” episodes. Looking back on the season, I’m surprised by exactly how much has happened and how far each and every one of these characters has come.
Last week was very much part one of a three-part finale, which has all been leading up to an epic showdown between Oliver and Slade Wilson with the entire city of Starling in the balance. Last year things felt big during The Undertaking, but man have things gotten bleak this year. Slade’s unleashed an army of Mirakuru-injected criminals, who are laying waste to everything they come in contact with. This episode is called “Streets of Fire” for a reason, and I give a huge round of applause to the set and production designers for really making it feel like we’ve been dropped into the middle of a war zone.
The fact that Slade’s army consists of virtually unstoppable killing machines is bad news for our heroes. At least The Undertaking involved only one man and a few earthquake machines.
This week’s episode picks up right where things left off, with all of our heroes in mortal peril. Oliver and Laurel are trapped under some rubble from an explosion, Diggle is fighting with Isabel Roschev (who’s been given a dose of Mirakuru herself and a terrible looking Deathstroke mask), Roy is still in his snake venom-induced coma, Lance is fighting Mirakuru soldiers at the precinct, and Thea is caught in the middle of an attack at the train station. Phew!
Let’s start with Laurel and Oliver. I haven’t been shy about my distaste of Laurel this season, and have found her storylines increasingly insufferable. Thankfully, her character’s been given a bit of a kick in the ass now that she knows Oliver’s secret, and the writers have found something for her to do other than complain and spiral into misconceived alcohol and drug addictions.
While Oliver dragging her around the city got a bit tiresome, she was given little tasks that kept her busy and gave her a reason for being there. In the beginning it’s her who blasts the rubble away with one of Oliver’s explosive arrows, and later she gives Sara a pep talk just in time for the Canary to save a little girl from a burning building. I forgot that she also knows Sara’s secret, and found the way it was handled to be touching and effectively emotional. The sisters have been through a lot, and while Laurel may not know the extent of what Sara has been through, I really liked Sara’s speech about being “irredeemable.”
The whole saving a child from a burning building and then being called a hero thing that followed was a bit ham-fisted, but in an otherwise well-balanced episode, I found it forgivable.