This, the penultimate, episode of Arrow showcases what has gone so very well with Arrow in Season 1; at the same time it shows what has gone not so very well with Arrow in Season 1.  Arrow seems to get the overall big picture stories done well:  island flashbacks and build to the Undertaking.  Also, the development of the ‘Hood’ team has been well done.  The romantic relationships, however, muck things up.  I’ll get the bad out of the way and then on to the good.

I’m not a comic book reader; thus any of the ‘canon’ of the show mostly escapes me.  With that in mind, I do appreciate that the creators of the show have a road map of some kind in mind as they craft their storylines.  What I would appreciate more – hey, Arrow gets a second season, so there is plenty of time for these wishes/hopes of mine – is that the writers allow some things to occur more organically.

Case in point:  Laurel and Oliver.  In the comics Laurel and Oliver are an item.  But forcing the progression of a particular storyline, especially when you have time on your side, is never something of which I’m a fan.   Laurel and Oliver has been a slow rebuild; mostly done with success.  Then it is all but undone by having the ‘standard for CW’ shirtless lead (yes, he’s gorgeous!) sexing it up with the girl.  All this after Oliver had an excellent talk with his “best friend” Tommy.  It’s forced.  It’s silly.  It’s all a set up for more angst, because Oliver is going to discover that he cannot hang up the Hood, and thus he’ll be back to pushing Laurel away.  She’ll hate him.  She’ll call him a jerk.  Her father will agree whole-heartedly and scowl and Oliver will heap loathing upon himself.

There’s plenty of loathing for Oliver to heap, and he and Tommy will have plenty of things to be angry about (that is if Tommy survives), and all of this is unnecessary.  I like my drama a bit more cleanly drawn, and this is messy simply for the sake of being messy – at least as it stands now.  I’ll happily retract those words should it be shown to, in fact, be not the case.

While having Oliver look beyond life as the Hood is an interesting dynamic for the character, it came out of nowhere.  But this is the CW, a network not known for delving too deeply into character motivations.  The fact that Arrow even attempts such things is amazing!

Then there is Thea and Roy.  The writers have done a good job of cleaning up much of Thea’s character.  Then, unfortunately, they make a mess of things by having her and Roy being so committed to each other in one moment, and then in the next moment have her break up with Roy because Roy is determined to find the Hood.  It’s over the top drama with little to no foundation.   There’s time to fix all that, remember that whole Season 2 thing.  (Of course Thea too has to survive this season.)

Now that I’ve opened with the bad, it’s past time to move on to the good.  There was a lot!

Anyone who reads my stuff will eventually find out that I’m into the bromance, or any kind of buddy interaction that can occur.  Buddies can be of the guy-guy type (loving Diggle and Oliver, all their ups and downs included!) as well as the – we’ll say – colleague type:  Oliver and Felicity.  (And frankly there are times when the Hood and Lance can fall under that category.)

I also enjoy not having everything told to me beforehand.  I was sucked in when Oliver and Moira were kidnapped.  Didn’t realize it was Diggle until the Hood arrived.  Oliver has reached the point where he’ll do what it takes to get the information from his mother.  The direct approach doesn’t work, so once again he’ll draw upon his experiences on the island for guidance.  Yep, parental love will give up the information.  I suppose Oliver can have some solace in knowing that his mother truly loves him.  Sure, that helps.  Right?  As Oliver limps painfully away we see that doesn’t do much to comfort him.  All this is foreshadowing for Tommy’s upcoming experience as he learns that his father is the Dark Archer and that he’s planning to murder thousands.  Poor Tommy, not only has his best friend lied and then let him down massively, but his father is pure evil.

Arrow is not content to simply show us through flashbacks how some characters came to be who they are (Oliver, Malcolm), but they are letting us experience real time how some characters are changed (Tommy).  I have no idea if Tommy lives and eventually takes up his father’s mantle as the dark archer, as many fans have predicted, but this is not the happy-go-lucky Tommy from the early part of the season.

Whereas Oliver is determined to right his father’s wrongs (yes, through quite illegal and certainly unethical ways); Tommy is perhaps to be painted as the one who will take up where his father left off and continue the legacy.  Don’t know.  Time will tell.

I like that there was no mention this week of Felicity leaving the team.  There is time for that later, but right now Felicity realizes that Oliver and Diggle need her.  They’re stronger together.  There are big things afoot, so she stays and is very involved in all the action this week.

I enjoyed that both actors played up that scene in the elevator shaft to the fullest:  “Felicity, hold on to me tight.”  “You know, I imagined you saying that under different circumstances:  very platonic circumstances.”  Then they looked straight into each other’s eyes.  The chemistry is great.  The writing for Felicity is excellent.  The delivery by Emily Bett Rickards is outstanding!

Felicity, like Bobby on Supernatural and Fusco on Person of Interest, is a character that either was meant to be a one shot or was meant to be a small role, but, because of the skill of the actor, became a character that the fans love and root for.  She never overstays her welcome, in fact, I always find myself hoping she’ll come back sooner rather than later.  The chemistry of Rickards with Amell, Ramsey and Salmon is always spot on.

Then there are the island flashbacks; which, for the record, I love.  I know there are plenty of people who don’t like them.  But these parallel the present time action and inform aspects of the current story.  Arrow has done an excellent job of running, in essence, two stories at the same time.  In a recent interview it was stated that the intent was for each season to be somewhat self-contained, not only for the current storyline but for the island’s as well.  I think Season 1 has been successful on both accounts.

The other slow, and mostly careful, build of Season 1 has been Oliver himself.  We see the transformation of Oliver on the island over the first year as he kills a bird for food, attempts to rescue Yao Fei, holds his own in a fight, and withstands torture to protect Yao Fei, as examples.  We also see Oliver in the present as he moves back and forth from partying bad boy as his cover to club owner and responsible business owner.  We then see Oliver as the Hood move from vigilante focused solely on a list of names to someone who seeks to remove drugs from the streets because his sister has been hurt by them, stop a family of bank robbers because – while they aren’t on the list – they were hurt/damaged by his father and now he’s trying to help Diggle exact revenge for the death of his brother.  Oliver is slowly transforming to hero.

Darkness on the Edge of Town puts the pieces, mostly, in place for the likely conclusion of two stories while at the same time it opens up new directions for Season 2.  Not much else I could ask for as this season draws to a close.

Thanks for reading, Elle2

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