With Arrow now back from its mid-season break, hopes are high that the show will continue to maintain the high standards set by the first half of Season 2. As we went into the break, we had the reveal of Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), aka Deathstroke, being the one pulling the strings of Brother Blood (Kevin Alejandro) in Starling City, we saw the execution of Shado (Celina Jade) on the island, we had Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) being brought back from the dead by the Arrow (Stephen Amell), we had Oliver drugged and close to death after his tangle with Cyrus Gold (Graham Shiels), we saw Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) involved in a life-changing accident, and we had established a completely different attitude for our lead character. No longer just a vigilante, the Arrow was now taking steps to become much more: a true hero.
Blast Radius opens with a typical catch-up package, pretty much covering most of the above. After Oliver had spent the last few episodes trying to combat the serum-powered Cyrus Gold, we now found our hooded hero trying to locate the man that was acting as Gold’s puppeteer. As Oliver channels his inner Dark Knight, we see him using some heavy-handed interrogation tactics to try and locate ‘the man in the skull mask.’ In the meantime, the non-hooded Oliver Queen is giving his full-backing to Sebastian Blood’s attempt to get control of the city. Of course, us viewers known that the man in the skull mask and Sebastian Blood are one and the same.
In the midst of the Arrow’s mission to find Brother Blood, the Emerald Archer is given another problem: Shrapnel. DC fans will know the character well, although this version of the explosives enthusiast is a lot different aesthetically to what we’re used to. At the end of the day, though, his M.O. is exactly the same – blow shit up! Targeting Starling City, it’s down to the Arrow, Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to hunt down Shrapnel and put an end to his destructive plan before even more carnage is caused in the city.
Whilst Blast Radius was always going to have a hell of a lot to live up to, I can’t help but feel that this episode is one of the weaker ones of the season so far. I mean, that’s not to say it’s bad – it most definitely isn’t – but the first half of Season 2 was just so, so strong. Even the biggest fans of Season 1 couldn’t have expected Arrow to push on the way it has. With this episode, it feels similar in various ways to last year’s Firefly-focussed episode; it’s almost a ‘freak of the week’ type effort. Whereas Smallville often found itself becoming bland and boring at stages for featuring so many of these ‘freak’ episodes, Arrow gets away with it because these type of episodes of relatively scarce for the show. Even given the throwaway nature of part of the episode’s arc, there’s still a lot more going on behind the scenes.
Away from Shrapnel, there’s the intriguing relationship between Oliver Queen/Arrow and Sebastian Blood/Brother Blood, where it seems like Oliver is literally making a deal with the devil. We’re also given a nice insight into the past of Blood, fleshing out his character a little more and giving some much-needed character development to him. Hell, this part of the episode even makes Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance feel slightly relevant and interesting again.
In terms of further developments, the fate of Barry Allen is acknowledged, and this leads to some brilliant friction in the relationship between Oliver and Felicity. As the tension between the two is palpable throughout the episode, we do get some genuinely heart-warming moments between the pair towards the end of Blast Radius, as we get to see some vulnerability to Oliver Queen. We’re also reminded that Roy Harper has been injected with the mirakuru serum, and it will be interesting to see how that develops over the rest of the season.
Most notable in this mid-season return is the comfort that Stephen Amell has with his character of Oliver Queen/Arrow. The way he moves, his mannerisms, his demeanour – Amell really seems to be at ease in the green hood, and it’s great to see. It may not be loud and obvious for all to see, but it’s just the subtle little things that he does that make you appreciate how much care and attention the actor puts into his role. Bravo, sir!
All in all, Blast Radius falls just short of the impressively high standards set during the first half of Season 2 but it still manages to deliver a good, solid episode, giving us some particularly interesting reveals about Sebastian Blood. Initially, the episode was getting a 6, but the brilliant dynamic between Oliver and Felicity, plus the Blood details, helped sway my mind.
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