UK TV recap: Arrow Season 4, Episode 21
Great fight sequences9
Stakes considerably raised9
Matthew Turner | On 21, May 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
After successfully moving all the relevant pieces into place last week, Arrow shifts gears and kicks things up a notch for the latest episode, raising the stakes in considerable fashion and delivering some solidly entertaining fight sequences. At the same time, the show gets back to what it does best, ditching some of its played-out angst angles and finding a new avenue of compelling family drama to explore, just as things heat up in the central plot department.
That family drama comes in the shape of Felicity’s dad, Noah Cutler, aka The Calculator (played by Tom Amandes), as Felicity decides she needs his help to combat HIVE’s hi-jacking of ARGUS’ nuclear codes (two super-hackers are better than one, after all). Cue a Smoak family reunion, as Donna shows up and is less than pleased to see Noah worming his way back into his daughter’s life, even if they are saving the world.
Noah’s presence also directly facilitates the episode’s key action sequences, as Damien Darhk realises the threat Noah poses and sends supervillain henchmen Murmur (the one with his mouth sewn up) and Brick (yes, it’s the welcome return of Vinnie Jones) to kill him. At the same time, Felicity figures out that in order to perform the necessary nuke-hack, they will have to steal an experimental super-computer from PalmerTech, something that quickly gets more complicated (or, at least, less legal), when she’s suddenly fired by the board and locked out of the building.
The resulting heist sequence is a lot of fun, allowing for comedy moments (Felicity reacting to the fact that her key codes have already been changed, even though she’s only been fired for 45 minutes), tension and father-daughter bonding, often simultaneously, with added suspense deriving from the fact that neither we nor Felicity entirely trust her father, given his past behaviour. That said, the PalmerTech heist sequence does raise one rather nagging question: where the hell is Curtis? Couldn’t they just have asked him to come in and get the super-computer for them? Also, given the episode’s dire need of the world’s greatest hackers, Curtis is conspicuous by his absence.
Less successful in the family drama department is the bit of business that unfolds between Donna and Quentin (over the course of two whole scenes), where Quentin tells Donna he’s considering lying about knowing Laurel was the Black Canary in order to get his job back. Donna is dead against this idea and insists he tells the truth, even though Donna has never really seemed the morally unimpeachable type up to this point, or even the relationship-meddling type, come to that. She does make an interesting point about exactly why Quentin felt he had to protect Laurel, given that she was a superhero, but in general, this whole angle feels forced and doesn’t really ring true. Still, at least it’s over quickly, with Quentin choosing Donna and the truth over keeping his job.
As for Oliver and Diggle, they have their hands full this week, supplying satisfying smackdowns to the likes of Murmur and Brick. In fact, the pair see so much action this week that there’s hardly any time for their usual bouts of angsty hand-wringing, which comes as a welcome relief. It helps that the fight sequences are a cut above even the show’s already high standards, thanks to top-quality direction from Kevin Tancharoen of Mortal Kombat: Legacy fame. One particularly nice touch is that several of the fights take place in broad daylight this week, as opposed to the show’s usual shadowy locations of dark alleys and gloomy warehouses.
Meanwhile, Thea continues her adventures in the Theadome. As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, dealing with her father (who has kidnapped her and is holding her prisoner in the Theadome for her own protection – although, given what Damien Darhk is up to above ground, he has a point), things get even trickier for Thea, when Lonnie Machin, aka. Anarky, shows up, intent on burning the Theadome to the ground, just to mess up Darhk’s master-plan.
All of this is pretty much gold, from Thea’s exasperated conversations with Malcolm (they’ve reached a point of mutual acceptance when it comes to each other’s implacability) to creepy Lonnie calling Thea “Mommy” (because he feels she created him when she set his face on fire) to a superb fight sequence, when Thea takes on Lonnie in the front garden of one of the Theadome houses. Unfortunately, poor old brainwashed political operative Alex (Thea’s erstwhile boyfriend) gets killed in the process, which elicits almost zero reaction from the audience, since we’ve never actually spent that much time with him and he doesn’t even get a hero’s sacrifice moment, just a blast to the chest from Lonnie’s electro-staff thingy. At least Thea has the decency to shed a single tear.
Another fun thing from the Theadome scenes this week: Malcolm realising that Damien Darhk’s master-plan is really just a global scale version of his Earthquake Machine plan for the Glades back in Season 1, which is a nice moment of self-awareness on the show’s behalf. However, there is one glaring element of this episode that is essentially the elephant in the room at this point: the fact that Felicity basically nukes an entire town, killing tens of thousands of people. Well, okay, what actually happens is that Felicity manages to stop all of Darhk’s launched nuclear missiles except one and, instead of letting it land on Monument Point (the show’s title), where it would kill millions, she diverts it so that it lands on a much smaller town and only kills tens of thousands, but still, the bottom line is: Felicity nuked a town.
Generally speaking, it is a bad idea, both in life and in TV shows to nuke towns (just ask 24), as it’s too big of an event for things to carry on as normal afterwards. That’s more or less what happens here, give or take a sad face from Felicity and Lyla’s assurance that she did everything she could and that she’s actually saved millions. Part of the problem is that the show moves everything along so quickly (there’s no time for discussion, so no explanation of why she couldn’t divert the nuke to a body of water, for example), both in the execution and the aftermath, so it looks like Oliver and Diggle are completely un-bothered by the whole thing. Even in her teary-eyed reaction, Felicity still looks like she’s realising that she will totally win any and all future Team Arrow angst competitions from now on. (“Oh, you killed your brother? You were brainwashed into killing Sara? Well, boo hoo, I nuked a town and killed tens of thousands of people – how do you think I feel?”) Hopefully, the show will find a way to bring home the impact of Felicity’s actions in a way that doesn’t just leave it as something for her to beat herself up about for the next few seasons. (I’m not optimistic.)
Of course, the nuke serves another purpose, because, as Oliver handily points out, Damien’s magic is “powered by death”, so the episode’s cliff-hanger has Oliver and Diggle finally tracking Darhk down, only for them to catch him in the middle of receiving a death-of-tens-of-thousands-strong power-up from his idol thingy. This leads to perhaps the show’s best closing line to date: “Hello, Oliver – I think you’re going to need much bigger arrows…”
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, we get a bit more of Taiana getting glowing yellow eyes as she experiences the power of the idol first-hand. This had better have some implication for the final two episodes, because otherwise this season’s flashback sequences have been a massive waste of time.
All in all, give or take the whole nuking a town thing, this is an exciting, action-packed episode that promises big things for the final two episodes. Bring it on, Arrow.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.