Arrow: “Midnight City”

TV Reviews
Arrow: “Midnight City”

“Midnight City” marks the second Oliver-lite episode in a row. And while the show did a great job of smoothing over his absence in “Left Behind,” the law of diminishing returns dictates that the second time around would make this stunt harder to pull off. While “Midnight City” might not feel as fresh as its previous entry (Brick has been introduced, Laurel has become the Black Canary, etc.) it benefits from diving deeper into the events it set up last week. Also, having largely dealt with the trauma of “losing” Oliver last week, the show feels a bit more open to cut loose and have fun.

To the writers’ credit, Laurel’s abrupt decision to take up the Canary mantle with only a few weeks of training does not come easy. In her initial outing with a knife-wielding mugger, she barely holds her own, and is only saved due to the intervention of Roy. Acting as the mouthpiece of the audience, Roy then proceeds to talk some sense into her, and explain that she’s not physically prepared to take on the kind of assignments that Sara could. Eventually, by episode’s end, Laurel manages to hold her own against Brick. Luckily, given Laurel’s restrictions as a fighter, the creative team constructs this moment as a case of strategy over brawn. Thereby, Laurel gets to have her minor victory while Brick maintains his tough, badass image.

Indeed, for the majority of the episode, both Roy and Laurel find themselves overwhelmed by Brick’s aggressive attacks on the city. The kingpin escalates the situation when he sends his men to kidnap several of the city’s aldermen. Hearing a call to action, both Laurel and Roy join forces to rescue the government officials. With Oliver gone and Felicity having checked out, however, the mission proves to be a bust. In retribution, Brick murders one of the aldermen in cold blood. Even as a longtime viewer of the show, this is a shocking moment. Despite the fact that the program features violence and high-stakes scenarios each week, you tend to take for granted the fact that innocent civilians are rarely killed onscreen (obviously, quite a few died in the Glades earthquake from Season One and the Deathstroke assault in Season Two). This failure adds definite gravity to Laurel and Roy’s wannabe superhero antics as they realize that failure to live up to Oliver’s level can have tragic and deadly consequences.

Brick then orders Starling City’s Mayor to a neutral rendezvous point where he outlines his terms—cede control of the city’s Glades district to him, or watch helplessly as he videotapes the execution of the remaining aldermen. With the Mayor feeling pressure to accept his offer, Quentin all but begs the remaining members of Team Arrow to fix the problem before this decision is made.

What would very well have been a standard Arrow plotline finds its unique edge by employing two heroes who are far from ready for this kind of action. In this way, both Roy and Laurel really get the chance to shine for the first time in quite a while. In all honesty, however, the glue really holding this Arrow-less Starling City together is Vinnie Jones’ Brick. No doubt part of Brick’s inherent menace comes from Jones’ lengthy experience being the toughest guy on both the soccer/football field and on the silver screen. He really just looks as though he’s having the time of his life, and it’s this sense of infectious, malevolent fun that keeps the story intriguing in lieu the void left by the show’s central character.

Meanwhile, back in the snowy mountains, Oliver is still making his recovery. In a somewhat disappointing and simple reveal, Tatsu says his survival was due mostly to the cold and a strict regime of herbs she’s been providing him. Granted, there’s always a chance that there could be some more mystical-oriented stuff at work that she’s just not telling him, but herbs and luck alone are a big stretch, considering that Oliver was dealt two lethal stabbings and fell off a friggin cliff. No matter—Maseo has put himself in a lot of danger by first rescuing Oliver and then killing a group of League soldiers who come to investigate the cabin.

Luckily, given everything that’s happening in the present, the flashbacks are refreshingly downplayed. Most of it amounts to a single scene—Oliver and Maseo visit China White in a nightclub in order to exchange the Alpha serum for Maseo’s family. The serum turns out to be a fake, but the two manage to blast their way out with the hostages in tow. When Oliver confronts Maseo about his dangerous actions later, the man does not mince words. He did not know the serum was fake (he suspects Amanda Waller did not trust him and switched out the vials) and, moreover, he would have gladly risked putting the weapon in enemy hands if it meant his family would survive. This past version of Maseo certainly contrasts with his broken and quasi-suicidal present version. The cabin scenes further reveal a rift that has grown between husband and wife in the intervening years. And while the source of this separation is not explained, the fact that their son is never mentioned is probably a good indication of what might have happened.

There are, of course, other subplots floating around, including the usual charming banter between Felicity and Ray Palmer. This time around, after rejoining Team Arrow and helping Laurel and Roy to rescue the aldermen, Felicity reverses her stance and decides to perfect Ray’s ATOM technology. This dynamic also leads to the funniest scene of the night wherein Felicity asks Ray for the keys to his helicopter as part of their daring rescue, only for Ray to clarify that helicopters have no keys. There’s also the unfortunate ongoing saga of Laurel hiding Sara’s death from her father. Of course, since the Canary has returned, Quentin naturally assumes that his daughter is back in town. Laurel’s desperation to keep her father in the dark eventually leads her to call him and use a voice algorithm designed by Felicity to make her sound like Sara. In a show that’s normally quick with its plot developments, this one is really just starting to get a bit silly and dragged out in my opinion.

Yes, the lack of Oliver as an anchoring figure does make the episode feel occasionally strained and awkward here and there. That being said, by taking the time to dig into the show’s more problematic and underdeveloped characters, the creative team have employed a really nice way of holding us over until his return (which looks to be next week).

Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin