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'Arrow' Review: 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town'

Christopher Monigle Christopher Monigle
May 9th, 2013 10:03am EDT

Oliver and Felicity

The writers shot Yow Fei in the bleeping head. I'm devastated. I imagined Yow Fei as an influential mentor to Oliver throughout Oliver's five year development into the most badass person on the planet. I felt rage over Yow Fei's untimely demise, over Fyres blatant lies, and the unsettling fact that Yow Fei will take the fall for the horrible terrorist attacks to come. I felt for Shado as she realized what just happened in front of her very own eyes. I wished Oliver was as badass five years ago as he is now so that he could escape without effort and then take out Fyres entire crew in less than 20 seconds--the way he took out the men protecting what's-his-face last week. I'm super invested in the flashback story.

I'm less invested in The Undertaking aspect of the present. Malcolm's not a compelling villain. Yes, he's evil, calculated, and should be taken down with many punches to the face. He orchestrated the sinking of the Queen's Gambit, murdered over a dozen people as The Dark Arrow, kidnapped Walter, and used Moira's family's well-being to get her to commit awful acts for them. He's a horrible father, and he possesses a horrible god complex. I want Malcolm Merlin taken down. Perhaps the rote-ness of The Undertaking blame leaves me lukewarm. Villains in superhero stories have big, bold plans for destruction. They never think of switching out mustard with mayonnaise. No, indeed, the villain's plan always involves the destruction of a city. Of course, Malcolm intends to destroy one part of a city. Regardless, it's the same.

I'm invested in the present, though, with the exception of the love triangle, and the Roy/Thea story. I felt nervous during the break-in scene. I even tensed up, hoping Felicity wouldn't be taken hostage. I fell for the easy devices such Malcolm intercepting Oliver, thus preventing him from intervening on Felicity's behalf when unwelcomed company's heading her way. I fell for it again when Thea showed up; however, momentary excitement took hold when I thought Oliver would tell his younger sister what his hobby is (the key word is momentary). Felicity escapes danger with the help of Diggle, who intervenes as an undercover security guard. I felt relief then. Oliver's creation of a Hood interrogation to find out answers from his mother was terrific as it revealed Moira's motivations. She's basically a woman doing what she needs to do to protect herself and her family. The consequences of her commitment to the protection of her family alienates each member of the family. Oliver leaves her quickly after the staged kidnapping, Walter files for divorce, and Thea's probably going to lash out in the finale. 

"Darkness on the Edge of Town" is a typical penultimate episode. Andrew Kreisberg said the episode was as exciting as a season finale. I disagree with Mr. Kreisburg, but there are maybe three cool/shocking moments that'd fit in with a season finale. Yow Fei's death is among the four, along with Fyre's plan and the tease that his employer is a woman, and the final shot of the episode, which is Malcolm looking down on Oliver, beaten and exposed as The Hood. The present day story, and the flashback story, significantly progress. Oliver, Diggle and Felicity track down the location of The Undertaking weapon, but find the box after Malcolm's moved the weapon to a safe location. Oliver learns the truth from his mother, learns about Thea's after-school activity with her boyfriend, Roy. Indeed, Roy wants to learn how to be the arrow because he's lost someone in his life. Roy's motivations are relatable, but he's still a drab character. By episode's end, Malcolm is in control of the fate of the hero and The Glades, which is how to do it in the penultimate episode. Villains never win the Big One.

The island flashback story seemed separate from the action in Starling City for much of the season. Oliver's development in The Hood connected to Starling City. Otherwise, though, the flashback seemed more about Oliver's development and his friendship with trusted Slade Wilson, who, of course, will become someone quite unfriendly to Oliver. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" gives the audience a glimpse of Fyre's employer. Yow Fei's forced to claim responsibility for the attacks and then is shot in the head. Yow Fei's the only character Fyre wants alive yet he lets Slade, Oliver, and Shado live (just an observation; I know it's TV and that Oliver won't die in a flashback). I suspect the stories are connected.

Oliver was way more reflective than he's been in past episodes, particularly in regards to The Hood. What Oliver learns forces him to reevaluate and rethink what he thinks he knows with what he knows. Oliver didn't know what his father meant about his sins. Robert didn't bother mentioning the undertaking plan. Instead, Oliver did things his father wouldn't have liked. I compared aspects of the father-son relationship to Hamlet's scene with the ghost of his father. The Ghost is more specific about what he wants done than Robert. Hamlet's hesitation leads to his ruination ("Words, words, words"). Oliver's the opposite: he's active and committed, but he's gotten nowhere. The weapon's gone, and he's captured. Oliver sleeps with Laurel hours after telling Tommy he's got the go ahead. Who actually cares about the love triangle, though? Shado's his one and only; I'm sure of it.

Anyway, "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is a well-done penultimate episode. I'm invested in past and present. I care about the characters and what happens to them. I'm stoked for next week's finale.

Other Thoughts:

-Malcolm and Oliver fight in the final scene. My lone gripe is about the length, for it was too short.

-Det. Lance gives the oddest approval of Oliver in the world. Laurel recounts everything Oliver did to their family. Det. Lance sort of grins and says, "Well, he IS different now."

-Tell-tale sign of Tommy's transformation from babyface to hell is his facial hair.

-Diggle's back in the gang without missing a beat. Diggle leaves Oliver with some bruises during their staged kidnapping. Payback for the Deadshot business. I think Diggle will have awhile more to wait in getting revenge against Deadshot.

-Drew Z. Greenberg & Wendy Mericle are the credited writers. John Behring directed it.

Photo Credits: The CW