Arrow: Tremors review

Roy Harper begins his superhero training, Bronze Tiger returns, and more on the latest Arrow. Here's our review...

Arrow…please don’t do this to me. You’re regressing. “Tremors” showed some early promise. I fully expected the return of Bronze Tiger and the beginning of Roy’s superhero training would have been enough to make “Tremors” a solid episode. After all, more superheroes and more supervillains do make for a happy Arrow fan. Unfortunately, a rather rambling structure with little sense of urgency, and one impossibly stupid revelation ended up sinking this one. We’d best get into it…and yes, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

So, just to get everyone up to speed, Bronze Tiger is out of prison, Walter Steele is back, Roy is having more anger issues than usual (as he begins his training with Green Arrow), and Laurel has moved on from eating prescription pills like they’re M&Ms to behaving like a cartoon drunk. Now that the formalities are out of the way, I can deal with each of these points.

A fairly gruesome and appropriately comic book-y opening kicked things off nicely. How do you get Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) out of prison? You smuggle in his weapons! And what’s the best way to do that? By sewing them into somebody’s skin. I’m not sure I really buy it, but I sure as hell didn’t see it coming. In this case, surprise is a good thing. But as I found out later on in “Tremors” sometimes surprise isn’t really a good thing at all.

Walter Steele (Colin Salmon) is back after far too long an absence. He really is a welcome presence on Arrow, and I’d like to see more of him this season. Unfortunately, the circumstances that bring him back to Starling City (and that will make him, I imagine, at least a semi-regular character again) are not exactly ideal. I don’t mean for the character, I mean for the viewer. You see, Walter is here to find a “viable candidate” to counter Sebastian Blood in the Starling City mayoral race. And who’s his pick? Moira Queen. I will get back to how heart-stoppingly stupid this is shortly, don’t worry.

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Roy is losing control of his anger, and Green Arrow’s “go slow” and “stay in control” pep talks aren’t what he needs to hear. There are some heavy-handed parallels between Roy’s mental state and Slade’s continued deterioration on the island. We’ve already had plenty of Roy’s “angry young man” schtick, even before he got dosed with superpowers, and now might just be time to move on from it. Luckily, by episode’s end, we may have accomplished just that. Fortunately, circumstances finally dictate that Ollie reveal his identity to Roy, because really, I don’t think I could take many more scenes with Ollie using that irritating voice-disguise tech for extended periods.

And speaking of “schtick Mike has had enough of” there’s Laurel’s ongoing drug and alcohol issues. Now that the pills are no longer a factor in her life, she’s moved on to booze, even hanging around down at Ollie’s club, just in case the audience aren’t clued in to how desperately the writers want us to understand that she’s having a breakdown. Katie Cassidy plays a fun drunk, and for the first time in ages Laurel kinda comes off like someone you might actually want to hang out with…which probably wasn’t the effect that the showrunners were going for. But that’s just indicative of the larger problem with Laurel’s character, who has gone from indignant and self-righteous to utterly insufferable to completely pathetic over the last year. Ms. Cassidy (and Ms. Lance) deserve better.

Oh, wait…there’s supposed to be a superhero plot in here somewhere, right? Well, Bronze Tiger was sprung from prison to steal Malcolm Merlyn’s prototype for the old earthquake machine, which is apparently just casually stored in the basement of the Merlyn estate. It’s not like the authorities should have torn that place apart looking for other shady death-dealing devices after the events of season one, right? We’re all worried about the government reading our text messages, but in the Arrow universe, if you use an earthquake machine that destroys part of a city and causes hundreds of deaths, they just board your house up and move on!

Remember in the first paragraph when I worried that Arrow was regressing? Well, reintroducing watered-down versions of plot devices from season one late in season two isn’t exactly the best sign of progress. Even the action sequences (and there weren’t many) were bland, and both of them ended with Roy beating on a bad guy like Ralphie whupping on Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story…right down to the muttered obscenities. You can maybe get away with that once, but twice? An episode after he did it to the serial killer? Not good.

But really, most of this stuff would just make for a meandering, mediocre episode, but not necessarily a bad one. It’s the idea of Moira Queen running for mayor of Starling City that just utterly sinks it. It’s already been fairly well established that Arrow more or less takes place in “real time.” Meaning, a season and a half into Arrow‘s run, we’re about a year and a half into Ollie’s career as a vigilante. These numbers are, of course, flexible (as fictional time ALWAYS is and must be). Moira Queen stood trial for capital murder in “State v. Queen,” which aired in late November. By the show’s own logic, we can’t be more than three or four months out from the events of what was the most lazily written episode in the history of the series. Yet somehow, otherwise sane, rational characters think that Moira Queen should run for public office, in a city which she, by her own admission, helped destroy. If this were any other show, and were I not the pathetic, hopeless DC Comics fan that I am, this would probably be enough to make me give up.

What’s worse is that, as bad as “State v. Queen” was, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief at the end and say “Well, at least that’s over,” as we put that whole ridiculous murder trial subplot to bed. I was wrong. It has now mutated into something far, far worse. We all know that Sebastian Blood is almost certainly not going to survive this season with his political career intact (if he survives at all), so “Mayor Queen” is as inevitable as…well, something unpleasant and inevitable. Like old age. Or death.

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If anything, “Tremors” is saved from utter failure by the nice big reveal at the end, and what might just be some genuine character growth from Roy. So far, Arrow has seemed to improve as “Team Arrow” continues to grow, and adding Roy to the inner circle of Ollie/Diggle/Felicity should be fun. There were, however, a couple of fun DC Universe easter eggs, so I may as well end this on a high note.

DC Universe Watch

The arms dealer working with Bronze Tiger is Milo Armitage, who often tangled with Connor Hawke, the virtually forgotten post-Zero Hour Green Arrow. The cool thing is…he’s from Markovia, home of Brion Markov aka Geo-Force! Look, it’s not like I’m overly excited about the prospect of Geo-Force appearing on this (or any) show, and they already did away with the show’s version of Brion Markov. I don’t remember if Markovia was ever mentioned, though. Man, I’m really reaching here. But there’s more!

Amanda Waller is back at the end! And, as expected, she’s here to recruit Bronze Tiger for her “unit.” Or, as she puts it, “it’s more of a squad.” Yes, thank you, Arrow showrunners. Comic fans would have gotten it without that added bit of dialogue, which will be utterly meaningless to non-comic fans. A LITTLE subtlety might be nice. Sorry, I’m just still cranky from the “Mayor Moira Queen” nonsense. The prospect of a Suicide Squad appearing on Arrow (or better yet, a Suicide Squad spinoff!) is pretty awesome.

If I missed more DC Universe stuff, let me know! I’ll be busy starting a campaign fund. “Sebastian Blood for Starling City Mayor!” I’ve never wanted a bad guy to win quite as badly as I do right now…

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2 out of 5