Oh, Arrow, you sure know how to make things seem bleak. Is it just me, or is Starling City even more unwelcoming than it was before? Jeez, Oliver Queen’s missing-presumed-dead for a few days and everything goes to hell, hand basket not included. While he’s off gallivanting around in Asia, being brought back to life after being mortally wounded through stabbing and falling off a cliff (big baby), the City is under siege by Danny Brickwell’s criminal organization. Without the Arrow, how can anyone stop it? Well, like any good hero story, it takes adversity to see what people are really made of, and it’s about time the Arrow’s sidekicks stepped it up for good. In “Midnight City,” our supporting cast gets to test their mettle.
This episode has a lot of moving pieces, more than my usual page of notes could hold even, and that’s because each of the show’s cast members got to be included in the plot, or one of the plots, and for the first time in many weeks, Arrow felt like an ensemble show. It almost did last week, but here it really showed. This episode predominately featured Laurel trying her best to be her sister, but learning she doesn’t need to be, or can’t more accurately. As much as she tries, she can’t just put on the leather jacket, black mask, and blonder-than-she-already-is wig, get a little bit of boxing training from Ted Grant, and expect to be as formidable as Sara, who had years of hardship and League of Assassins training behind her badassery.
We see her fall down and not swing the metal staff with nearly the same gusto as the Canary of old, and Brick’s gang who are trying to take over The Glades can see this. If not for Arsenal showing up, she probably would have gotten killed. Both Roy and Diggle think she’s making a mistake trying to assume the mantle, but she has to try. She has to be the symbol that scares criminals. And when her inability to stop Brick leads to the death of a city Alderman, she loses faith in herself, but it takes Felicity (who I’ll talk about in a moment) to teach her that it isn’t about honoring the people who have died, or possibly died, but about saving the people who are still around. She ends up saving the two remaining Aldermen and escaping Brick, but the damage was done; the mayor pulls all police out of the Glades and Brick has effectively taken it over in one swift movement.
Our pal Felicity Smoak is having some issues herself, what with her new boss/boyfriend still pretty dead-set on being a crime fighter. Ray Palmer is a good guy, but at the moment it sort of seems like he’s trying to do everything at once, being both rich and charitable as well as wanting to personally take on criminals. He’s sort of like Jon Favreau on Friends, and yes I’m just as mad as you for me making that reference. While at a meeting with the mayor, Captain Lance, and all the Aldermen, Brick breaks in and attempts to kidnap the political folks, having the rest killed. This is an opportunity for both Lance (poor Lance) and Laurel to kick butt, but also Ray, who springs into action and nearly gets himself cut up in the process. But he saves Felicity, which is sweet. Ultimately, he tells Felicity that he’s not trying to avenge his fiance’s death, though that’s how it started; now he just wants to save the people he cares about…who are named Felicity. Man, she and superheroes, I tell ya. This leads her to have a change of heart and to help him out with the chip he needed built.
You know who else is in this episode? Thea! Remember Thea? Despite her father’s warning to hightail it out of Starling, lest they get murdered, she’s not planning on going anywhere. Even with the Glades now under attack, she’s like “Nah, I’mma go run my club.” Roy sees this conversation and is concerned. Oh, and that jag-hole Chase, the almost creepily flirty DJ from that one club night, returns and continues to be creepy. There’s a reason for that later. Roy goes and talks to Merlyn and tells him he needs to leave Thea alone, because she’s going to learn the truth eventually. Merlyn is zero percent scared of him, but he does go talk to Thea and tells her about Ra’s al Ghul, but leaves out all the stuff about him drugging her and making her murder Sara. She says she doesn’t want to leave; she wants to stay and fight. So they will. That’ll work out well, I’m sure.
If there’s one character I continue to be sad for, it’s Captain Quentin Lance. That dude is so in the dark, it’s not even funny anymore. He’s hardly in episodes anymore, and I guess when you have 65 regular cast members, it’s hard to showcase everybody, but when he is, he’s just a victim of lies. With Laurel out being Canary, Lance, pretty rightfully, thinks that means Sara’s back in town. But she isn’t. Or, I guess she IS in town, but she’s not gone anywhere in months. Dead. You get it. Laurel has to lie again in order to spare his feelings, then later when they need some information on where Brick might be holding the Aldermen, Felicity rigs up a vocal thing to make Laurel sound like Sara, which is creepy as shit. At the end of the episode, Laurel dressed as Canary stands on a fire escape and talks to her father but obviously can’t get too close. He says he doesn’t know what he’d do if anything happened to her. Aww, you poor dumb idiot. I choose to believe he secretly knows what’s happening but is in denial. Otherwise, boy he’s thick and far too trusting.
Which I suppose brings us to Oliver. You know, the lead of the show. He’s been brought back to life by Tatsu and he asks her about her relationship to Maseo now that he’s all League-ified. They don’t have one, really, and despite her claims that she still loves him, he refuses to come back to her. In the flashbacks, we see that Maseo and Oliver went to a club in Hong Kong to try to get the kidnapped Tatsu back from China White. Maseo offers her the Alpha elixir that Amanda Waller had them steal, which is what she wanted to begin with. She tests it to make sure it’s real, but it isn’t, leading Maseo and Oliver to have to fight their way out, with Tatsu. Oliver tells his friend he should have been in on the bluff, but Maseo says he wasn’t bluffing. Waller must have switched out the formulas, knowing he’d trade anything for his wife. In the present, some members of the League find the house in which Oliver’s been kept and though he tries to make them leave without looking, the Assassins find Tatsu and she and Maseo have to kill them all. He cuts his own neck to make it seem as though Oliver did it and heads back to the League…
where he gets a phone call from Creepy-Guy Chase that Thea has decided not to leave Starling City… so they know?!?! And thank God the creeper is in the League and not going to be a permanent love interest. What a tool.
“Midnight City” really did feel like a different show than in previous weeks, and that’s a very good thing. The writers of Arrow are including all these deep characters and it’s about time they all got to do something in the same episode. Don’t make it like Game of Thrones where there’s too many storylines, but the more everybody interacts, the more it feels like a real ensemble and not a series of unconnected plots. We had a scene between Laurel and Felicity in this episode, for the love of Pete! When’s the last time that happened and there wasn’t some Oliver love triangle beef going on? Now, if we could just cool it with the flashbacks, everything will be a-okay.
Next week, Oliver makes his triumphant return to Starling City just in the nick of time, because the Glades are once again riotous. The fittingly titled “Uprising” is next week.