Wednesday, January 20, 2016

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Seeks Vengeance Against Damien Darhk Over What Happened to Felicity in 'Blood Debts'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 4.10 "Blood Debts"

Oliver must deal with the devastating consequences of Damien Darhk's last attack. Seeking revenge, Oliver goes on a brutal manhunt looking for Darhk.

For the past month, there has been such high speculation on whether or not Felicity would be the person in the grave that was teased at the end of the season premiere. When that glimpse into the future was seen, there wasn't a timeframe attached to it. That big death could have happened at any point in time this season. So when Felicity was hit by gun fire at the end of the previous episode, it did seem likely that she could be the one in the grave. It certainly would explain why both Oliver and Barry are there and how Oliver is angry enough to kill again. And yet, it also seemed unlikely to be the case as well considering the season had set up a few narrative threads with Felicity that would have been pointless if she had died - largely Oliver keeping the existence of his son from her. So, it seemed that Felicity was going to survive this ordeal. This episode gives a definite answer early in the hour - by once again teasing of what's to come in the future.

The graveside flash-forward is seen again at the top of the hour. It's the exact same scene shown in the exact same way as before. Parts of it have been cut out because the audience really doesn't need to see it in its entirety again. But the most meaningful detail is a text that reads "Four Months from Now." That means this scene and loss is still a ways away. It won't be vital to the narrative until the end of the season. More importantly, the episode ends with another tease of the future. In this one, Oliver returns to his limo - with Felicity inside. She is not the body in the ground. However, she feels the exact same way as Oliver. She wants the person responsible for this death - notice how they both say he and not Damien Darhk - dead. This hour proves how strong and smart she is but this death forces her to cross over to the darkness as well. So, it must be huge. That means the speculation will only continue to grow for the next few months.

In the present day though, Oliver is actively battling the ghosts in order to gain any intel on where Damien Darhk may be hiding. He is furious over what has happened to Felicity. She has survived but requires several surgeries in order to fix all of her problems. Oliver misses being by her side for a lot of the episode because he is so focused on making Darhk pay for the damage he has done. He returns to his former mentality a little bit. He is the man in charge who will do whatever it takes to fulfill his own agenda. He is still the figure of good compared to Darhk. But that dynamic is much more complex throughout this episode as Oliver risks losing his entire family because of the actions of this bad guy. He wants revenge. It is personal no matter what he is willing to say to the rest of the team. He will do anything in order to find Darhk.

That search is complicated by the return of Anarky. He wasn't a completely memorable villain of the week during his first appearance this season. He was an important character largely for showing just how much control Thea has lost due to being brought back to life by the Lazarus Pit. She set him on fire. She did it to stop him from wreaking havoc on the city but she also enjoyed it way more than she should have. That was a turning point for her this season. But it was largely a moment about her and not the man she just disfigured. Now, he has returned with the same kind of vengeance against Darhk as Oliver. He is a complicated addition to the puzzle in this episode. At first, Oliver wants to capture Anarky to figure out where Darhk is. The rest of the team is more interested in getting a dangerous criminal of the streets and into custody where he belongs. Oliver breaking Anarky free shows just how far he is willing to go to fulfill his mission - to the detriment of rest of the team.

In fact, by setting Anarky free, Oliver is forced to do something he never thought he would do: actually save Darhk's family. The reveal that Darhk had a family was an interesting little wrinkle for the character. At the moment, it was unclear how aware of his plan they were. But it's no surprise that they are completely aware and complicit is his quest to end the world and build a new and better one. His wife may actually be more ruthless than him too. Oliver saves Darhk's wife and child from Anarky. They are alive and free because of Team Green Arrow. Darhk shows his gratitude by allowing Oliver a few weeks to rest and relax before the next stage of their battle. It's a perfunctory beat because it will largely explain how the threat from Darhk will be able to go away for the next few episodes. But it also showcases that Darhk does have some kind of honor code. His wife does not. She thought Darhk should have killed the Green Arrow when he had the opportunity.

But in the end, Oliver is where he should be. He's by Felicity's bedside in a time when she needs him the most. The doctors have delivered the tragic news that she is paralyzed from the waist down. That will completely change her world. She is such a crucial member of the team. All of them struggle in her absence this week as they try to use her technology but no one can do it as well as her. Felicity even gives Oliver an out. He didn't sign up for the problems she will now face. But it also shows just how much Oliver cares for her. He is still committed to their relationship. This has brought them even closer together. All of his actions show just how much he cares about her. He almost crossed over into the darkness because of his love. He didn't and Darhk is still out there. But Oliver is still as committed as he has ever been to Felicity and her well-being. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Blood Debts" was written by Oscar Balderrama & Sarah Tarkoff and directed by Jesse Warn.
  • Anarky is actually very grateful for what Thea did to him. Setting him on fire allowed him to be reborn and fully embrace the villain he always wanted to be. However, Thea trying to control her bloodlust here felt like a very circular plot. It wasn't that engaging. But it is meaningful that Anarky is still out there and may cause trouble again in the future.
  • Does anyone really care about Thea and Alex? They get back together at the end of this episode. Alex even has a great speech where he tells Thea just how strong she is. He doesn't even know the half of it. But are things going too well for these two? It seems like a plot that is getting ready for a major role reversal and twist soon.
  • Laurel learns that her father is dating Felicity's mother. It's rather awkward too because she runs into them together at the hospital which forces the truth out. But she's completely fine with it. And really, why shouldn't she be?
  • However, Captain Lance basically blows his cover when Oliver demands to know where Darhk's meeting place is. But that could mean more Lance in the Team Green Arrow headquarters in the future.
  • Diggle finally starts to make some progress with Andy. Beating him didn't get any of the information on Darhk out. But appealing to their brotherly connection did. They even end the hour playing cards once more.
  • Who all noticed that in the flash-forward, Felicity is not wearing her engagement ring? I didn't notice it until some other Internet commentators pointed it out. That could signal some difficult times for the two of them in the future as well.
  • The island flashbacks continue to hit their plot points and nothing more. Oliver is exposed as the traitor that he is. But Baron saves his life when he notices the symbols on his abs that John Constantine gave him. No explanation is given. But now, Oliver and his new lady friend are trapped in a cell together.