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Arrow Ep. 2.04 “Crucible” gives some much-needed texture to the Lance family

Arrow S02E04 promo pic 1

Arrow Season 2, Episode 4 “Crucible”
Written by Andrew Kreisberg & Wendy Mericle
Directed by Eagle Egilsson
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW

 

In season one, the Lance family was a drag. Laurel and Quentin fighting all the time, Quentin drinking and lamenting his broken life, Laurel crying a lot over it while she ran back and forth between Ollie and Tommy… it really was just a mess, although the show quickly found a way to make Quentin useful as a semi-antagonist to the Hood. “Crucible” does a lot to help change these circumstances, making most of the Lance family a lot more interesting than they once were – except for Laurel of course, who continues to suffer from being the most frustrating character in the Arrow world.

There are certain pieces of Laurel’s path from working ADA to sloppy drunk that I enjoy – the parallel between her and her father’s quick-growing addictions, for example – but as a whole, it really just gives the audience more ammunition to hate Laurel with. “Broken Dolls” ended with Laurel crying, blaming Tommy’s death on herself (because why not be selfish and make it about yourself, right?) – and “Crucible” shows the aftereffects, as she suddenly starts pounding wine and champagne around every turn (oh, and unidentifiable pills… gasp!), nearly getting a DWI after walking out of a too-flirty dinner with her boss (called it: who wants to bet they’ll be dating soon?). Laurel just can’t deal with Tommy’s death and what she perceives to be her responsibility in it – so while other characters are running around, fighting for what they believe in, Laurel instead sits back and sends out a passive “cry for help”, the camera hanging on every sip of a drink she takes to point out that Something Is Wrong With Laurel.

In another episode full of exciting scenes and comic-book worthy shocking moments, Laurel continues to be the sore on Arrow‘s lip. Her behavior in “Crucible” puts into perspective just how shoddily her character is written: what does she believe in besides boys? Her attempts to take on Arrow lasted a whole two episodes this season, and the only other things she’s been involved in are social gatherings, where the DA makes googly-eyes at her, and Alderman Blood expresses his equal dislike of her failing DA office and Oliver. But everyone’s worried about Laurel – and unfortunately, it makes much of the time we spend with her in “Crucible” a predictable drag, as everyone gets stressed while Laurel pops the meds and pounds the wine (especially when combined with Katie Cassidy’s often on-the-nose performance). In an episode where all characters are shown as growing stronger and tougher through adversity, Laurel’s “cries” for help sell her character short, just another petty bit of drama that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the show.

But when Eagle Egilsson’s camera isn’t directly focused on Laurel, it continues the fascinating bits of world expansion we’ve seen in the last few episodes, bringing the island and Starling City worlds closer together through the re-introduction of Sarah Lance, who was assumed dead after falling out of the King’s Gambit in the pilot’s first flashback. Is this a clever, kind of manipulative bit of retconning? Again, as this show recreates itself in the image of comic books, the appearance of supposed dead characters is going to happen – and in this case, it not only acts as a “Gotcha!” moment, but as a vehicle to make the Lance family a WHOLE lot more interesting. Season one featured a lot of people being said about Sarah being dead, and watching the unbalanced core of Lance family handle the news of her conspicuous return is bound to be interesting, even if it may be a few shades to similar to Oliver’s return.

The rest of “Crucible” is equally concerned with many tidbits introduced in season one: from the return of Diggle’s FBI crush (“I check the single box now, too” she tells him awkwardly) to the references to Oliver’s handy old Russian connections from early episodes, “Crucible” uses its time wisely to connect a number of narrative dots between the two seasons. The island material draws a straight line through Oliver’s Russian gang connection, Sarah’s disappearance and sudden reappearance as a trained assassin (or torturer, in terms of the flashback) – finally giving us a reason to pay attention to the island flashbacks, a glimmer of something more than love triangles and explosions. Oliver watched this woman die twice, was submitted to torture, and probably did some heinous shit getting out of that prison: this could be Arrow finally digging into the psyche of Oliver Queen, giving some complexity to some of his darker, more violent tendencies (tendencies he’s actively trying to resist in this new season, as he looks for a “new way”).

And of course, there’s the closing scene, which reveals Alderman Blood in his true form: the evil Brother Blood (whose mask is a bit too similar to Scarecrow at first glance), a man trying to “change” the Glades by leading it into biological evolution. Watching him dispose of the violent, short-lived (and slightly racist) The Mayor in such a dismissive fashion was a perfect introduction to one of season two’s Big Bads: it gives him a level of creepiness even Malcolm Merlyn can’t touch, a man hell bent on creating a genetic army to take over the city he’s trying to run (he flippantly laughs off Oliver’s suggestion for him to run for mayor) from the inside, using tragedy for personal gain. He’s the politician and the criminal, a man trying to create a loud political movement to distract Starling City from the biologically-enhanced revolution of chaos he’s building in the crater of The Glades.

All these story lines coaleasce under the episode’s title, a reference to a conversation Blood and Oliver share about the things that change us. Everyone on Arrow has gone through their own “island”, be it Quentin and his alcoholic post-Sarah phase, Sarah with whatever happened to her post-crash (dedicated episode from Sarah’s POV post-Gambit crash, anyone?), Blood with the Glades explosion, and Diggle with his experiences in Iraq (and love, of course). Somewhere along the line, all of these character’s journeys dramatically changed, thanks to a traumatic event that fundamentally changed their view of themselves in the world. Sure, this is a something that could be said in all walks of life, but Arrow is doing a great job capturing it for this specific set of individuals (except Laurel, whose just gotten more weepy and emotionally-reliant over the years) – and with the stories of League of Assassins, Flash, Oliver’s Russian gang connection, and Sarah’s history on deck for the rest of the season, there’s going to be plenty of fascinating transformations to explore moving forward.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– fantastic opening scene: “Where is Oliver?” “Um…” -cuts to Arrow fighting dudes with assault rifles –

– wait… the real mayor is dead and nobody cares? Little odd this isn’t something more people are concerned with.

– Roy, Thea, and Sin have a number of great scenes in this episode – hoping to see more of this little tandem in the future, when the dialogue doesn’t have to be so blunt and forced (“ME LIKE HER”, Sin basically exclaims at one point).

– why was The Mayor happily shooting a white girl mannequin?

– awesome fight scene where Canary and Arrow switch weapons for a minute – want to bet they had similar training?

– how do you capture a bird? As Arrow shows, with a trap (and some fancy motion sensors).

– tensions continue to grow between Oliver and Diggle – expect a falling out between them in the near future. Something’s bubbling under the surface of Diggle (and it’s not just Deadshot)… what it is, isn’t very clear just yet. “Secrets have weight” Diggle tells Oliver. His response: “You see how hard I work out.”

– “Living is not for the weak.”

– who holds a gun-collecting rally without some kind of security to protect the huge collection of weapons?

– one complaint about Sarah: Caity Lotz is emoting too much with her mouth. It’s a little distracting.

– Blood (I’m paraphrasing, of course): “You can either grow stronger, die… or embrace the fire.”

– graves with misshapen bones? What does this man think this little scared white boy had to do with that?

 


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