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‘Arrow’ Review: “Blast Radius”

Arrow Blast Radius Review Shrapnel
The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its tenth episode of the year with midseason premiere “Blast Radius,” as Oliver’s efforts to track down Brother Blood become sidetracked by the arrival of DC bomber Shrapnel (‘Firefly‘ star Sean Maher), while Roy attempts to conceal his newfound super-strength, and Laurel investigates Sebastian Blood’s past.

Previous ‘Arrow’ episode “Three Ghosts” saw a weakened and hallucinating Oliver forced to confront the super-strong Cyrus Gold once more, as a deeper player in Brother Blood’s plan was revealed, and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) returned to Central City and his date with destiny, so what does the tenth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring?  Will Oliver finally become the hooded hero we know from DC comics, or be blown to bits first?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2′s super-powered midseason premiere “Blast Radius”!

Oliver corners a criminal in an abandoned construction yard, stringing him up to demand information about the man in the skull mask, though the criminal has none to offer. Afterward in the lair, Oliver vents his frustration that Felicity remains in Central City tending to a comatose Barry, while he gets nowhere. Diggle points out how especially hard Oliver has been working, to which Oliver points out the threat multiple Mirakuru-infused criminals would pose.

Back in the past, Slade presides over a funeral for Shado, handing over her green hood to Oliver in the process. Oliver resolves to tell him the truth about his role in Shado’s death, but Sara advises against it, given how the serum tends to affect people’s judgement. Back in the present, Laurel expresses her interest in looking into Sebastian Blood, given his ties to the man that put her father in the hospital, Cyrus Gold. Later that night, Oliver leads a fundraiser for Blood’s mayoral campaign, at which Laurel again expresses her doubts, while elsewhere a mysterious bomber (Maher) detonates an explosive at a financial office.

Having heard the distress calls, Oliver suits up and assists with rescuing survivors in the burning building, though the bomber escapes. Back in the past, Slade aggressively leads the way to his plane in hopes of gearing up to take down Ivo, but Sara and Oliver point out he’d never be able to best all of the scientist’s men. Slade accuses Sara of still working for Ivo, choking Oliver when he intervenes, for which Sara hits him with a log, shaking Slade back to his senses.

Felicity returns to Starling as news of the bomber breaks, while Laurel visits Blood at his office to ask about Cyrus Gold. Blood reveals that Gold used to preach at the orphanage he grew up in, after his drunken deadbeat father was shot by his mother, who since ran away. Laurel apologizes for her mistake, but takes note of medical bills on Blood’s desk for a woman named Maya Resik. Elsewhere, Roy and Thea argue about his changed behavior of late, but when a falling glass deeply cut’s Roy’s arm, he seems mostly unaffected by the pain.

That night, Oliver meets with Officer Lance to share info on the bomber, before another nearby explosion catches their attention. Felicity manages to track the signal to the bomber’s van, for which Oliver gives chase, though he loses the pursuit as Felicity loses track of the signal. Upon returning to the lair, Oliver insults Felicity’s failure as distraction from Barry, leading her to storm off, for which Diggle points out Oliver had no problems with her performance prior to Felicity’s romantic interest in someone else.

Laurel approaches her father about Maya Resik, having been unable to find any information on the woman herself, while elsewhere Oliver and Moira learn that Sebastian Blood plans to hold a public unity rally in defiance of the bomber. Oliver pays him a visit in his Arrow guise, urging Blood to call off the rally, though Blood refuses to back down. Meanwhile, a customer visits the bomber in his souvenir shop, as the man humbly sells her a model train set.

Felicity manages to track the bomber “Shrapnel”’s manifesto back to the man’s store, though when Oliver infiltrates the facility, motion-detected lasers trap Oliver to remain still, lest he activate a bomb. Oliver remains still while tasking Diggle to search the rally plaza, and Felicity talks Oliver through disabling the trap’s power supply with a well-placed arrow. Meanwhile at the rally, Thea, Moira and Roy have arrived.

Diggle continues to search the rally’s sound equipment as Blood begins his speech, though when he and Felicity finally find the bomb, “Shrapnel” confronts them at gunpoint, shooting Diggle in the shoulder as Oliver arrives to intervene. One of Shrapnel’s grenades knocks over a lighting stand that nearly crushes Moira, until Roy uses his super-strength, while Oliver pursues the bomber, and manages to sever his dead man’s switch, ending the threat.

That night, Thea inquires about Roy’s strength, noting the wound on his arm to have completely healed, while Diggle recuperates downstairs in the lair. Oliver sends Diggle home, apologizing to Felicity for his earlier behavior and thanking her for how much he’d come to rely on her, finally assuring she’ll be there when Barry finally wakes up. Back in the past, Oliver and Sara wake up to the sound of Dr. Ivo proposing a trade over the walkie-talkie, their lives in exchange for the Mirakuru. Sara searches for Slade, but finds him to have fled, taking the drug with him

Laurel finally finds Maya Resik in a mental institution with assistance from her father, having been led to believe that Blood has been paying for his aunt’s care. However, the mere mention of Sebastian terrifies the woman, who reveals that she herself is his mother, and watched Sebastian kill his own father years earlier. Meanwhile, Arrow and Sebastian thank one another for their help, shaking hands on their new partnership.

OUR REVIEW:

It’s always of interest to observe premieres and other landmark episodes when events like the TCA press tour make cast and creators so readily available for insight, especially when it comes to making up for past mistakes. For instance, ‘Arrow’ producers have mentioned in multiple interviews that the series would start off 2014 with Oliver actively pursuing his new big bad, as 2013 saw the series returning from a similarly-structured break with Oliver taking little action against the Dark Archer he’d recently encountered.

“Blast Radius” even follows something of a similar pattern, tossing in a one-off DC villain with miniscule resemblance to their comic counterpart, if only for Oliver to combat a new threat with the larger villainy still lurking in the background. And to wit, “Shrapnel” falls into precisely the same pitfall as “Firefly” (don’t think we missed the irony) before him, here presented as an ordinary bomber with a vague grudge against the establishment, otherwise as entirely forgettable and irrelevant to the story as many of ‘Arrow”s other one-off villains.

This time around however, ‘Arrow’ has amassed much more confidence and momentum in its second season than the year before it, that “Blast Radius” has enough going on to coast on the strength of its characters alone. The Oliver and Felicity pairing moves forward ever-so-slightly, as he concedes his minor jealousy of Barry with an earnest and heartfelt admission of need, while Stephen Amell otherwise strongly conveys how the Mirakuru’s looming threat rattles him as much in the present as the past. We understandably needed a lighter touch this week to let things settle before returning to Slade’s present-day villainy, so we’ll forgive the wasted inclusion of an otherwise-interesting comic character.

And true to the strength of its cast, we’re seeing further shades of ‘The Dark Knight’ as Oliver comes to rely on the Harvey Dent-ish Sebastian Blood, unaware of his true identity as the man behind the skull mask, or its larger implications. The second season has repeatedly hammered home the idea of Oliver’s quest becoming a collective enterprise, both in the alleys at night, and in the manner Oliver himself attempts to open up to others around him, lending an ominously tragic note to the friendship between Oliver’s different sides and Sebastian Blood. And to think, even Laurel had something to do beyond popping pills!

Not everything works, mind you, as it didn’t make as much sense in context why Roy worked so hard to keep his newfound abilities from Thea, beyond the nature of the trope itself, while Laurel’s character could still use a bit of work in judgment. Granted, Blood has an inherent shadiness and a past history with Cyrus Gold, should the words of woman cooped up in a mental institution for decades have instantly assured Laurel of her suspicions? And did Shrapnel record a new message with each bombing for the trap in his store.

A somewhat shaky start to the second half of ‘Arrow”s second season, though not one the series lacks the credit to recover from. The character dynamics have become so strong anyway, the series deserves a coaster now and again.

Well, what say you?  Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second year’s midseason premiere? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next week for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 11, “Blind Spot” on The CW!

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