[This is a review of Arrow season 2, episode 21. There will be SPOILERS.]
Sometimes, in order to convey the magnitude of a situation, a character’s reaction to a great loss can be handled in a more indirect manner than usual. As Arrow demonstrates in the opening minutes of ‘City of Blood,’ the lack of Oliver Queen at Moira’s funeral, and the search to find him afterward creates a certain tension that may not have been as well served by focusing directly on his grief. The show turns primarily on the choices Oliver makes, so by having him opt out of his mother’s memorial service – at great risk to his already damaged relationship with Thea – it immediately informs the audience that there’s something building underneath his decision to do so. It also pushes both the character and the narrative out of the somewhat passive nature of depicting sorrow, affording Oliver the opportunity, when he finally does make an appearance, to drop the bombshell of his plan to give up and allow Slade to take his life.
While the arc of a superhero facing tragedy with a misplaced sense of martyrdom is fairly common, and the episode here doesn’t necessarily offer much in the way of compelling new insight or action into the trope, Oliver’s choice to give in has the inadvertent effect of refocusing Team Arrow, while also finally welcoming Laurel into the fold. The inclusion of Laurel definitely feels like it was a long time coming, as the character had always been an outlier of sorts, caught between a vacillating desire to apprehend and support the Arrow. In that sense, the depiction of Laurel is a lot like that of Det. Lance: both were initially set up as minor foils for Arrow and major complications with regard to Oliver’s secret identity.
But as Det. Lance softened to the notion of a vigilante dolling out justice in Starling City – after the Arrow stopped leaving bodies everywhere – his character began to feel more like an integrated part of the overall narrative. Meanwhile, with Sara running around in and out of costume with Oliver, Laurel’s marginalization seemed to have reached the point of no return. Her bout with alcohol abuse, and subsequent dismissal/reinstatement in the district attorney’s office kept the character in the loop, but did little to pull her into the actual storyline. Now, with Sara temporarily absent, Laurel winds up playing a decisive role in turning Oliver’s mind away from suicide, and back toward the idea of stopping Deathstroke and Mayor Blood’s army of mirakuru-enhanced soldiers. This winds up being a terrific turning point, as it shows at least one aspect of Slade Wilson’s campaign against Oliver turns out to have ostensibly backfired, revealing a demonstrable chink in his otherwise impenetrable armor.
And, even more so than when Oliver finally shows his face, ‘City of Blood’ turns and dramatically improves following Laurel’s pep talk. This carries through to the episode’s liveliest point, which comes during the restaurant scene between Oliver and the newly inaugurated Mayor Blood, where everything is laid out on the table, so to speak. The interplay makes good use of Kevin Alejandro for the first time in several weeks, while also setting up the action that winds up leaving the episode on a cliffhanger.
The episode adequately establishes the ramifications of Moira’s death on the immediate Queen family, but more importantly, it refocuses that energy onto Oliver, who is now ready to step out from under the shadow of grief and use the memory of his mother to get back to the business of saving his city.
Arrow continues next week with ‘Streets of Fire’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: