Arrow: Midnight City review

It's still all about Arsenal and Black Canary in another action packed edition of Arrow. Here's Mike's review...

This Arrow review contains spoilers.

Okay, “Midnight City” was a pretty damn good episode of Arrow. But I’d better get this out of the way right up top, because otherwise, I’m going to feel the need to address it every week for at least the rest of the season, and you are all going to get tired of that really fast. Since Laurel really is the story this week, well, we’d better do the whole “airing of the grievances” now and get it out of the way.

Laurel is Black Canary now. We have to deal with it. We have no choice. This is the life that has been chosen for us. I’m just going to have to pretend that there were longer time gaps than we got in order to accept things like Laurel being able to deflect bullets with that staff, despite the fact that, well, you know…over the last year she hasn’t been terribly competent at much of anything.

That’s all over, now. She’s a superhero. Make your peace with it, and make whatever continuity excuses you deem necessary. I have to, lest it make me judge future episodes more harshly than is strictly necessary. I’m sure Diggle’s “Laurel, what the hell?” was meant to echo many of our concerns, too.

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Also, don’t lie, I know some of you quietly cheered when she said “I’m not going to be putting on that mask again,” even though you knew we wouldn’t be that lucky.

That’s an awful lot of preamble, though, considering that “Midnight City” really was solid. I know that they’re pushing this three episode block as its own trilogy, so this is either the second act of that, or the third act of a four act arc if you want to go back and count the midseason finale. Any way you look at it, though, it’s rare that Arrow ever delivers sustained bursts of truly great episodes. It usually stumbles ever third or fourth one, as long season shows tend to do. But they’re on a roll right now, and I hope it continues, especially considering the awkward start this season had.

Have I mentioned yet that I liked “Midnight City?” I should probably start with the actual review. Last night on The Flash, Barry was kept in the background and it showed how well his supporting cast works together. I liked that, too. But now this is two weeks with very little Oliver, and y’know what? I didn’t miss him all that much.

Roy has come into his own. He has a more normal haircut now, so he looks a little less like an underwear model, and the Arsenal costume kinda rules. Arsenal and Black Canary make for a great visual team, and I enjoyed all of their action sequences. But especially the big one towards the end. That was some PHD-level superheroing, right down to Laurel’s dive out the window onto a ladder dangling from a helicopter, with a bad guy ineffectually firing a sidearm like he’s waving goodbye.

Ray Palmer is still inching towards his ATOM destiny (sorry), and I think Brandon Routh got, not only the best lines of the episode, but his very best moments on the show so far. “They aren’t lasers, that would be ridiculous,” and his little smartass grin when he confronts Brick with, “I dunno. I’ve got a lot of money,” were great. He can’t fight worth a damn, though, can he? He’ll fit right in when he guest stars on The Flash later this season.

But moving Ray’s story along actually means moving Felicity’s story along. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, she is now the real driving force on this show. Shit gets done because Felicity is the one getting it done. Even though she walks around in kind of a shellshocked, deadpan, grief-stricken haze this week, she’s still the voice of reason, and whenever she steps up, things go better for the heroes. And the helicopter conversation was good fun.

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Also, “with my help, you might not end up dead.” That’s right. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again. You all work for Felicity Smoak now, boys.

I know I said I wouldn’t complain about Laurel, but I have to complain a little about Laurel. It’s not about her superheroing. It’s about her being such a bad liar. And I mean that more in the way that being a liar is bad, because she’s actually a very good liar. Too good of a liar. For Grodd’s sake, tell your Dad the truth already, damn it! This is really becoming a sore spot with me, and I’m going to have to spend time in Arkham if Quentin Lance’s final exit from this show ends up being, “My daughter is dead? My…my heart…my heart can’t take it. (croak)”

But back to better/more interesting Laurel things. Her little abuses of power need to be addressed soon. We’ve seen her torture. And now we see her quite willing to send a guy to die in a painful way in prison for a crime he didn’t even commit. You want to beat up guys on the street, that’s cool. It’s more honest than pulling this shady CIA crap. I suppose this mirror’s Oliver’s early days as a more bloodthirsty vigilante than he eventually became, but at some point, someone is going to have to set her straight.

Unless, of course, watching a hostage get murdered before her eyes, because of a massive misjudgment on the part of her and Roy is what starts to plant the seed down the road. That’s one of those “teachable moments” that I’d like to see embraced, rather than have to wait to see her screw up again and again. They’ve accelerated the Black Canary timeline so far, so I think they can get away with it here. That was a great battle, by the way, with some terrific and tense music.

Thea had limited screentime this week, but I’m digging where things are going with her and Malcolm. I’m still a little confused, though. She’s awfully sure of herself to want to stand her ground in Starling against a guy that her father is terrified of. I still have to wonder if there’s some kind of hypnosis or something else at work.

And speaking of Thea, unfortunately, DJ Poochie or whatever his name is, returned this week, for three interminable minutes of screen time. At this point, my notes just become a stream of profanities, which is probably the moment when this “disc jockey” talks about needing to collect his music files and his harddrive for “another gig.” The good news is that he’s working for Ra’s, so we’ll probably get to see him have his ass mightily kicked soon enough.

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I guess the episode’s biggest failing, like last week’s, remains Brick. For a villain that ties things up for three episodes, he’s utterly forgettable. Brick and his guys are basically an excuse to keep Team Arrow running around the city, boasting enough in the numbers game to make sure that we see how overmatched they are. Maybe Brick being so forgettable is deliberate. With Oliver, the team took out Slade Wilson and a freakin’ army of mirakuru zombies. Without Oliver, well, they can’t even get one over on this clown.

As for Oliver, the show sure made up for lost time with the Shirtless Stephen scenes this week. I don’t buy his Lazarus Pit-less resurrection, but whatever. I can deal with it. Oliver’s invitation for Maseo to come back to Starling City with him raised my eyebrows, though. He’d be an incredibly badass addition to the team, but we all know that isn’t happening. But perhaps his wife in season four?

Meanwhile…On an Island…

You know what struck me the most about this week’s flashback sequences? The confrontation in the club was nicely photographed, and very “comic book” without going over the top. The colors helped. But it was also little things like the framing of the shot when Maseo presents the vial of Omega.

That was also the sleeper action sequence of the last few weeks. Maseo with the drink tray got a whoop out of me. Really fun. The most fun we’ve had in Hong Kong all season, to tell you the truth. Plus, it felt like a few things got resolved. We now understand why Tatsu doesn’t hate Oliver anymore, for example. There’s hope for this stuff yet!

DC Universe Watchtower

– Thea was reading a Brad Meltzer novel. Mr. Meltzer wrote Identity Crisis, a Justice League story that helped put Green Arrow a little closer to DC’s a-list again, and also heavily featured Ray Palmer. I find it a little over-serious, myself, but you can see how that set the tone for things like this show. He also wrote a longer run on Justice League that put Roy Harper in the spotlight. The dude knows his DC lore.

– That Julius Caesar “Act 5, Scene 2” thing was a 52 reference that was roughly as subtle as a heart attack. Honestly, that play is so full of macho posturing that they could have pulled dialogue from virtually any act/scene to put in Brick’s mouth. It just happened to be appropriate here, but they could have written around that regardless of what was contained within those magic numbers.

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3.5 out of 5