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‘Arrow’ Review: “City of Blood”

Arrow City of Blood Review
The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its twenty-first episode of the year with “City of Blood,” as a mournful Oliver finds the strength to confront Slade, while the newly-elected Mayor Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) enacts his plan to lead an army into Starling.

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ installment “Seeing Red” saw Roy losing control of his strength in a mirakuru rage and going on a rampage, for which Oliver and the team were forced to make an impossible choice, and another tragedy struck, so what does the twenty-first episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Is all hope for Oliver lost as we head into the final episodes of the season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2, episode 21, “City of Blood!”

Oliver proves absent at Moira’s funeral, while Sebastian Blood is sworn in as Mayor of Starling City by default. Sebastian attends the reception afterward, as Laurel explains that no one has seen Oliver in days, though Sebastian understands the difficulty of losing a parent. Diggle comforts Felicity about Oliver’s disappearance, before Isabel Rochev makes her survival known, and suggests Oliver might attend their funerals. Upstairs, Thea tells Walter it was Oliver’s secret that killed their mother, as he’d known that a psychopath like Slade had it out for their family.

Back in the past, Oliver, Sara, Anatoli and the others make it to the abandoned Japanese sub, though Anatoli has doubts he’ll be able to fix it after running aground 60 years earlier. In the present, Quentin returns to work and finds no leads in pursuing Slade, before Laurel arrives and soberly insists that she feels Sebastian Blood must somehow be involved in Moira’s death. Meanwhile in Sebastian’s office, Slade calls and urges his protégé to get to work.

With Roy still unconscious, Felicity and Diggle find no leads in getting to Oliver, though Diggle at least reasons that they might find answers from Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S., who are none too pleased to see the pair. Diggle reveals that Slade has an army of Mirakuru soldiers, to which Amanda agrees to aid in the search. Meanwhile, Isabel Rochev shows up at Verdant and serves Thea with a notice to vacate, given that the club remains a property of Queen Consolidated.

Laurel arrives at Mayor Blood’s office in the guise of getting help with a case, though she secretly plants a bug underneath his desk that allows the Starling City PD to tap into his computer. Quentin and Laurel search through the files, finding a press release for Moira’s death dated the night before it happened. Meanwhile, Waller’s team finds that Oliver is holed up in a second lair that Diggle and Felicity had no knowledge of. Back in the past, Anatoli manages to get the submarine operational, though in order to break free of the rocks, one of them would have to manually target a torpedo that would take the pilot’s life.

Felicity and Diggle find Oliver in his emergency lair, as Oliver laments that his mother would have survived if he’d only cured Slade years ago. Having once been told that the essence of heroism is to die for others, Oliver resigns to hand himself over to Slade, in spite of Felicity or Diggle’s pleas. Afterward, Oliver visits Thea at the Queen mansion and decides to support her plan to leave the city, believing her to have the purest heart of the Queen family.

In the past, Amazo crew member Peter offers to steer the fatal torpedo that could set the sub free, given that he’d already been given radiation poisoning from Ivo’s experiments. In the present, Oliver prepares to surrender himself at the pier he first boarded the Queen’s Gambit, though a dart hits him in the neck before he can see who approaches. Shortly thereafter, Oliver awakens in his own lair to see Diggle, Felicity, and Laurel waiting for him.

Laurel explains that Slade had previously revealed the Arrow’s identity, realizing herself that Oliver had attempted to tell her of it before, and that Tommy must have known as well. Laurel insists that regardless of his hood, she knows him better than anyone, and that Oliver always finds a way to push through, regardless of the obstacles, particularly now that she has proof Sebastian Blood is in league with Slade. In the past, Oliver thanks Peter for his sacrifice, believing he’d never have done the same, before ushering Sara out of harm’s way until they can free the sub. Anatoli launches Peter’s torpedo in the tube, as he successfully pilots the explosive into the rock, and frees the submarine.

Sebastian Blood arrives at a public dinner to find Oliver waiting for him, while Diggle corners and incapacitates Blood’s bodyguard. Oliver reveals to Blood that he knows him to be in league with Slade, in turn outing himself as the Arrow, and assuring that Slade won’t allow Blood whatever twisted vision of Starling City he has in mind. Meanwhile, Diggle has Felicity threaten the guard with hacking into and deleting his various bank accounts, before the guard acquiesces to tell them what they want to know.

With Slade’s men angling to take the city that very night, Oliver, Diggle and Felicity resolve to head them off in the sewers, though Oliver denies Laurel the opportunity to tag along, in the interest of keeping her safe. Shortly thereafter, Oliver enters the sewers to find Blood rallying the Deathstroke-masked men, while Felicity and Diggle plot from above to plant explosives that would destroy the sewer. Meanwhile, Thea leaves the Queen mansion behind and goes to board a train, while one of the Starling PD officers brings into the station an apprehended Iron Heights escapee, apparently caught at random.

One of the men finds and attacks Oliver, who just barely holds his own and survives long enough for Laurel to appear and attack the man with a pipe, allowing Oliver to get the final blow. Oliver attempts to lead her out, while upstairs, Diggle finds himself confronted by a costumed Isabel Rochev intent on stopping him. The clock strikes 9:00, as a man at Thea’s train station dons his mask and attacks the local police, just as the apprehended felon at the station breaks free of his chains and attacks Quentin and the other officers. Felicity gets a call from S.T.A.R. labs while Oliver attempts to lead Laurel to safety, and is forced to bring down a ceiling to take out the pursuing men.

In the past, Oliver desperately attempts to steer the submarine, though Sara sounds to be in distress over the radio. In the present, Slade’s men exit the sewers and take to the highway toward the city.

OUR REVIEW:

Coming down from an episode like last week’s “Seeing Red,” there was no way “City of Blood” wouldn’t take at least a bit of a breather, or wind up positioning pieces for the final two installments moreso than hold its own weight as an episode. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, as tonight’s hour still got in some strong moments of Oliver’s grief, without necessarily skimping on action and plot momentum, and even a few surprises along the way. We’re hard-pressed to remember exactly what position ‘Arrow’ found itself in by the 21st episode of the previous season, but we’re still leagues ahead in terms of effective storytelling.

Given the somewhat awkward position of Moira’s death within the season, “City of Blood” actually suffered a bit by glossing over the impact that losing said character would have, fast forwarding through the funeral in montage, while leaving some of the short, but heavier scenes to Oliver, Thea and the returning Walter. To their credit, Stephen Amell does an incredible amount with the relatively limited confines of the scenework, not even appearing for the first act. We know Amell got occasional flack in the first season for coming across as wooden (the stiff-armed Oliver persona of the first season will never not be funny in retrospect), though it’s exceptionally impressive to see how far he’s come, and just how much devastation the performance packs into Oliver’s guilt over past sins coming back to haunt them. It’s a card played somewhat less effectively with Thea, whose grief ends up fueling more distrust with Oliver, though it was nice at least of Colin Salmon to return as Walter to lend some gravity to the proceedings.

If anything, “City of Blood” accomplishes a layout of most of the season’s major cards, as Laurel reveals to Oliver that she’d been brought in on his secret, while Oliver and Sebastian Blood similarly trade revelations in an exceptionally menacing dinner conversation. We’d almost forgotten that neither two men knew the other’s identity, and had in fact proven decent friends, but the stronger relationship of the hour owes to Oliver and Laurel, for a change. Katie Cassidy has only been able to bring so much to Laurel given the various stock plots season 2 has forced upon the character, so it was nice to see Laurel asserting her own unique value to Team Arrow, reminding Oliver that she knows the man underneath the mask better than anyone else, and pushing him not to give in. It’s undoubtedly the most effective position we’ve seen the character yet, and it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes with it in the next two episodes, let alone next season.

As tends to be the case with episodes so focused on the present, some of the flashback material wears a little thin, as one of the relatively nameless Amazo crew steps up to sacrifice himself in a manner that would later inspire Oliver, though it doesn’t quite resonate much beyond advancing the plot with the submarine, and apparently placing Sara in some minor peril. Lest we forget, Sara still has to “die” in the island flashbacks, so we have to at least wonder how season 2 wraps up the year’s island plot, presumably incorporating the League of Assassins in a manner that potentially ties into season 3.

At least in the present, “City of Blood” gave us a strong running start to the final two episodes of the season, with a nice blend of ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy pastiches to boot, between Oliver and Thea apparently having lost everything, Oliver’s willingness to sacrifice himself to a bunch of Bane-looking thugs, and the city takeover. What we’ve seen of the final two installments looks absolutely riveting, and as such we won’t begrudge “City of Blood” with needing to pivot a few plot elements toward the endgame.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Fairly thankless appearance from Colton Haynes’ Roy tonight, though we imagine that S.T.A.R. Labs phone call will get him up and running soon enough.
  • Great Felicity moments tonight, between her admiration of Amanda’s operation and the hints of backstory in her plea to Oliver, not to mention the “Bitch with WiFi” line that has inspired a thousand Tumblr posts, no doubt.
  • If you’re going to plant a computer bug you don’t want found, maybe skip the ones with flashing red lights?
  • So, had Slade intended to kill Moira from the start to install Sebastian as Mayor, making last week’s sacrifice somewhat moot?
  • However quickly it went by, Oliver’s weak apology at not being able to tell Laurel Tommy’s final words was absolutely devastating.
  • Oliver was okay with killing Slade’s army because “they’re not men,” but should S.T.A.R. Labs come through with a cure, then they’d be men, we guess?

Well, what say you?  Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its latest installment? Are you primed for the final two episodes of the season? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next Wednesday for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 22, “Streets of Fire” on The CW!

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