Arrow season 2 episode 21 review: City Of Blood

Review Caroline Preece 2 May 2014 - 11:46

The effects of last week's events are still taking their toll, but everything's about to kick off again in Arrow...

This review contains spoilers.

2.21 City Of Blood

Traditionally in shows like Arrow, the penultimate episode of the season is a contemplative hour designed to set the emotional scene before the epic, action-packed showdown of the final episode. City of Blood fills that purpose but, excitingly, it’s not doing the groundwork for just one episode, but two. We’re still a fortnight away from the end of Arrow’s second season and, if this episode is anything to go by, things are going to get pretty tough for Oliver and the rest of Team Arrow before we wrap up for the summer.

City of Blood is basically about recounting the effects of Moira’s murder, with no Slade and an entire chunk of the hour also without our hero. Oliver has a history of hiding himself away when things get tough, doing the same thing as recently as the beginning of the season following Tommy’s death, so the sight of his empty chair at his mother’s funeral wasn’t a particularly surprising one. The lack of Oliver and Sara here actually gave us much more time than normally available to spend with supporting characters like Diggle, Felicity and Thea, and that’s probably going to pay off when the action kicks off next week.

Because the episode didn’t just leave us with one enticing cliffhanger, but about half a dozen of them. Slade might have been absent, but his Mirakuru minions are a suitably threatening substitute for Oliver to deal with for the time being and, without Roy or Sara to back him up in the superhero department, the chances of survival against an army of Slade’s super-charged lackeys is even slimmer than usual. He’s dead set on handing himself over at one point in this episode, saying goodbye to friends and family and convincing himself that Slade will stop once he’s dead, and that’s pretty much the lowest point a hero like him can get to.

The ease in which Laurel convinced him to fight back really signals to the audience that he never really believed that his death would end the tirade at all – he just couldn’t see another way out. Stoic, solitary Oliver might not be the best company, but this version of the character pushed to his limits and on the verge of giving up is used sparingly enough on the show to still be effective. When it happens, the time Arrow has spent developing its supporting cast means that there’s always some plausible way for one of them to snap him out of his funk, and this week it was Laurel’s turn.

Really, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Oliver and Laurel to get on the same page, secret-wise, but now they both know that the other one knows they know (or something) and we might finally have started on the Laurel-becomes-Black-Canary story that was teased way back in the pilot. That Sara has made for a far more convincing, likeable and compelling Black Canary is pretty much the consensus at this point, but the mistakes made with Laurel’s character this season feel as if they’re being slowly rectified and, watching City of Blood, it no longer feels so implausible that she may one day don her sister’s mask.

Just not yet. Like with Thea, Laurel’s journey to becoming someone able to fight alongside The Arrow isn’t quite there yet, despite some good work on both this season, and the second run of the show had to introduce figures from the island like Slade and Sara to be believable equals for Oliver on both sides. Next year, if rumours about John Barrowman (back next week) being the main villain are true, Thea should finally get something more substantial to do. We can also assume that the Roy issue will mend itself in the final two episodes, giving Oliver one kid sidekick with room for another.

Next week – mayhem and chaos in Starling as Slade’s soldiers tear through the city, threatening the life of every series regular in the process. See you there!

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, Seeing Red, here.

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