Arrow: “The Crucible” (Episode 2.04)

TV Reviews
Arrow: “The Crucible” (Episode 2.04)

“I guess like we say in our meetings, more will be revealed,” Quentin Lance says at the tail end of “The Crucible.” An A.A. meeting provides the context for that quote, but the Arrow writers rather cheekily employ it as a meta-commentary for the episode itself. Indeed, “The Crucible” is an hour of TV defined by its twists, turns and teases. It certainly stands up with “City of Hope” as one of the best Arrow entries this season, as well as one of the best in the series’ brief history.

Things get off to a rip-roaring start with what might be my favorite first act/pre-credits segment of the show thus far. First off, we find Felicity attempting to explain Oliver’s absence from a fancy dinner party. The images of ritzy one-percenters mingling about to classical music are sharply contrasted with Oliver-as-Arrow engaging in battle with assault rifle-toting gang members. When Arrow first premiered, I was afraid the show would lean too heavily on the somber tone that defined Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. While the moments are still there (see last week’s “Broken Dolls”), it’s nice to know the writers feel comfortable cutting loose for humorous visual gags like this one.

Then, just before the Arrow logo flashes across the screen, we are treated to the first of the episode’s big reveals: the “Black Canary” figure that has been roaming around Starling City is none other than Sara Lance, Laurel’s wayward sister who supposedly perished when the Queen’s ship sank and Oliver became trapped on the island. There’s a saying in television that a character is never dead until you see a body. That being said, this revelation still triggered a jaw-drop from my end. Moreover, Oliver then admits to Diggle and Felicity that he’d actually seen Sara alive a year after the shipwreck.

What followed was a long and complex internal debate on my part. After racking my brain, I was unable to recall any flashbacks where such an interaction was shown or even implied. At first, I somewhat resented the fact that the writers were just now informing us of this monumental bit of information. Then, I grew confused. If anything, the Arrow writers tend to overshare, and they wouldn’t be lazy enough to let such a plot turn be omitted. Something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

Then, it all became clear in the episode’s final flashback scene. Dragged from his cage on the ship and transported to a different area—presumably to be tortured—Oliver discovers that his torturer is, in fact, Sara. Such a twist casts a huge shadow over the rest of the episode and demands that you re-watch their present day interactions and revaluate their verbal exchanges.

Of course, I talk about these gaggles of twists and haven’t even gotten to the meat of the story, which involves Oliver taking on a powerful ganglord named The Mayor, who has created an underground empire powered by distributing illegal firearms. Given the amount of plot machinations at work in this one installment, it’d be all too easy for this week’s villain to fade into the background, but actor Clé Bennett endows his performance with enough gusto and manic intensity to make him one of the show’s more memorable antagonists. If I had only one ding against the episode, it’s that Oliver seems perfectly okay tackling this adversary after receiving the life-shattering news that Sara is alive and well. Certainly, seeing Stephen Amell going from confused and rage-filled (that scene in particular should definitely go in Amell’s acting reel) to his calm, business-as-usual self is enough to cause a bit of whiplash. Then again, such is the nature of network television—characters have no time to mope around.

Sadly, judging from the episode’s final scene, this will be the last we’ll be seeing of The Mayor. Which brings us to yet another twist. That aforementioned scene features The Mayor being strapped in a chair and interrogated by a masked man who I at first assumed to be the Scarecrow. Certainly, the mask seemed to heavily reference Cillian Murphy’s version of villain in Batman Begins. Instead, the man removes his mask to reveal none other than Sebastian Blood, Starling City’s supposed golden boy and, quite likely, a new candidate for mayor. (Remember, the city’s mayor was assassinated in the season premiere.) Blood injects The Mayor with a serum, and he begins to convulse. He ultimately appears to die from the effects of the serum, and Blood coldly orders his followers to get him someone else. To anyone with a passing familiarity in comics, the reveal of Blood’s villainy is no surprise, as Sebastian’s namesake in DC Comics is that of Brother Blood, a manipulative member of a fanatical and deadly religious group. (Also, come on, his name is Blood, how can that not be a supervillain name?)

With Brother Blood now out in the open, this season’s arc has now become infinitely clearer. Whether Blood’s supposed mission to take over the city relates in any way to Ra’s al Ghul remains to be seen, but it’s a plot point I’m willing to put money on at this point. It’s a narrative trajectory that appeases both my comic book nerdom as well as my craving for binge-worthy, serialized TV. Here’s hoping the “more will be revealed” part comes sooner rather than later.

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