Arrow: Blast Radius review

Shrapnel comes to Starling City with a political agenda, and it's up to the Arrow gang to stop him.

Well, there was no way “Blast Radius” wasn’t going to be a little bit of a letdown. Arrow season two has been almost unrealistically good (with one exception), and after the fan-fests of “The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts” we were bound to come back down to Earth eventually. That’s alright. “Blast Radius” isn’t bad, but it definitely felt more disposable than some other entries. Anyway, off we go…

Opening with a car/motorcycle chase is always a good thing, and Arrow always does alright when they kick things off with a nice action sequence. Green Arrow (I’m just gonna call him that until the show starts doing it), is looking for “the man in the skull mask” who has been causing all the trouble in Starling City, and he’s squeezing an unfortunate drug dealer for information. Nothing we haven’t seen before, really. Incidentally, the voice disguise device that Oliver has taken to using all the time is starting to grow tiresome. It makes sense when he’s dealing with folks he knows in his civilian identity, but I can’t imagine that a drug dealer (who is hanging upside down no less) is too liable to be like, “you know who that hooded maniac with the bow and arrow sounded like? That douchey rich kid I used to see on TV when he would do something stupid.” Oh well. At least the domino mask looks really, really cool!

Playing off the events at the end of “Three Ghosts,” Felicity is in Central City keeping an eye on Barry Allen, who has been in a coma for the five weeks since the explosion at STAR Labs. The “five weeks” number is significant, because it’s another indicator that Arrow more or less takes place in “real time” which, I’ll confess, is kind of cool. If it seems like I’m spending too much time on the little things here, it’s because “Blast Radius” is kind of an unremarkable episode, so I’ll praise what I can, where I can.

The Felicity/Barry connection is significant, as her absence has made Ollie realize just how important to the team Felicity is, and there’s more than a little resentment in his treatment of her. As I began pre-emptively rolling my eyes (I don’t particularly care for some of the romantic tension that the show has been establishing between them), I gotta say, they did find a way to make this serve the plot admirably, and the final scene between Ollie and Felicity was a nice payoff. Amell and Rickards work even better together than their characters do, and I’m glad that, for the most part, Arrow has resisted taking the obvious route with them.

Ad – content continues below

There’s not a hell of a lot happening on the island here, either. Mostly, the island sequences, with Slade’s recovery from his injuries/reaction to the “miraclo” (I’m calling it miraclo because that’s what it is, damn it!) intended to foreshadow what’s in store for Roy after his own miraclo close encounter in “Three Ghosts.” Here’s a hint: it’s not good. Slade, who was never the nicest guy to begin with, is having some emotional issues…and he’s much stronger than he was. You can see where all this is going. All this while they have to bury Shado and Professor Ivo is threatening to wipe everything out in order to find them and the miraclo. But Slade’s transformation from “kind of a dick” to “tremendous dick with super strength” helps illustrate why Oliver is so creeped out by the prospect of superhumans (like Cyrus Gold) showing up in Starling City, though. Oliver isn’t afraid of the unknown…he knows exactly what it is he’s afraid of.

When the villain of the episode shows up (we find out his nom-du-supervillain, “Shrapnel” is actually a message board handle which is…ummm…not awesome), he introduces himself with an anti-government rant that is so ham-handed that I almost wondered if this was leftover dialogue from one of the Count Vertigo episodes. Shrapnel (Sean Maher) hates the gub’mint, and is prepared to blow up anything/anyone he perceives as a tool of “the man.” Wafer-thin doesn’t even begin to describe this one. Anyway, we all know who the REAL villain of these episodes is: it’s Sebastian Blood, who Laurel has been cozying up to while doing some digging behind his back. And popping pills. Lots of pills. Wherever this is going, it isn’t good. And I don’t mean in a “not good for the character” way. I mean it in a “not good for the viewer” kind of way. 

Speaking of drugs, Roy is starting to show the effects of his miraclo exposure, as well. He’s having some anxiety (or anger?) issues, and he’s a bit more thick-skinned (ahem) than he’s been. I wonder if the failed stockroom sex scene was just intended to be some kind of parody of the show’s CW roots, but perhaps I’m giving them all too much credit. I’m really not sure how I feel about the whole “giving Roy superpowers” thing (we’ve all seen the trailers, we all know it’s coming), so if I seem like I’m being unnecessarily harsh…I probably am.

The friendship between Ollie and Sebastian Blood (and, in theory, Green Arrow and Sebastian Blood) is something I haven’t totally bought into, and Blood’s demagoguery didn’t quite have the same punch that it had when he was introduced. It’s all kinda empty, and the whole “anti-terrorism rally” not only felt too convenient, but was straight out of “supervillain target 101.” Kevin Alejandro is great, but maybe they should turn him loose a little more. It’s all coming, I’m sure. When Laurel tracks down Sebastian’s “aunt” (who is locked away in an institution), what she learns there should be enough to bring out the beast in the alderman soon enough.

I’ll say this, though…as kinda “off” as “Blast Radius” is, we got to see some pretty killer superhero moments out of the title character. No fewer than three cool trick shots helped to play up the master archer angle. Sometimes I feel like the brute force Arrow is so fond of obscures the finesse that the comic book character is famous for. There’s one motorcycle-related stunt during Ollie’s pursuit of Shrapnel that I had to rewatch about three times because that’s how badass it was. You’ll know it when you see it.

So, no…not a great episode. But not a terrible one, either. “Blast Radius” is rather flat compared to recent entries, but the developments surrounding Sebastian Blood are certainly enough to get things moving briskly towards a BIG season finale this spring. It does leave one wondering how they’re going to find room for Malcolm Merlyn, the developments surrounding Thea, the impending arrival of Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, and whatever else they’ve got in store for us. I’ll keep watching, though!

Ad – content continues below

DC Universe Watch

Other than the references to the STAR Labs accident in Central City (and Barry’s name getting dropped), and “The Movement” (which may or may not be an oblique reference to Gail Simone’s anti-authority urban superteam), “Blast Radius” seemed kinda light on the explicit DCU references, didn’t it? Please help me spot ’em, and make your findings known in the comments!

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


2.5 out of 5