Arrow Ep. 2.08 “The Scientist” is a fun, overstuffed episode

The Scientist

Arrow Season 2, Episode 8 “The Scientist”
Written by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg (story); Geoff Johns and Ben Sokolowski (teleplay)
Directed by John Behring
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW

 

As more and more (and MORE) casting announcements for season two of Arrow came out this summer, I began to worry if a show only starting to realize its potential would be able to handle such a flurry of subplots, character introductions, and fight scenes. So far, things have gone well: the writers of Arrow have integrated Canary and Brother Blood into the mix in interesting ways – and have even re-invigorated poor season one characters (like Deadshot and The Count) with some well-written sophomore appearances. However, this episode is not only burdened with introducing another major character in the DC Universe – Barry Allen, aka Flash – but also setting up the rest of the season’s story lines with many of its other characters, a bit of narrative overload “The Scientist” isn’t able to handle.

There’s just a little too much of everything shoved into “The Scientist”: from the lines being drawn between Dr. Ito and Brother Blood, to the many character quirks of Barry Allen introduced in this hour, there’s a noticeable rush on every scene to make its point and move on. A great example of this is Barry’s back story, which kind of appears out of nowhere in the middle of a scene, and Barry gets all emotional talking to Oliver about the strange “blur” (spoiler: Doctor Zoom!) that murdered his mother and framed his father. Yes, it is often personal tragedy that defines American superheroes, but we’ve barely established Allen as a character before we’re getting the big emotional push for his turn to vigilantism – along with an attraction to Felicity, his vigilante fanboy-ism, and his ability to deconstruct a crime scene without pretense of “well, one person just can’t do that, so it’s impossible” (I love Allen’s dismissal of this attitude from Quentin, by the way). It’s a lot for one episode, but goes a long way to explaining why Flash will get a full, standalone pilot next fall – the world of Central City and Allen need their own room to grow, away from the ever-expanding cast of characters on Arrow itself.

When Barry Allen isn’t feeding the audience personal exposition or crime-scene mumbo -jumbo that nobody actually pays attention to, “The Scientist” works quickly to push the season’s bigger narratives into their second act. These all happen rapidly, lots of direct dialogue exchanges of the “blink and you’ll miss the point” variety – but all of them catalyze some kind of intriguing material to explore moving forward. And since most of them are interesting (except Malcolm the Baby Daddy… that one will always be stupid), it’s a bit easier to overlook just how plot-driven some of these moments are. I don’t know if Arrow would really put one through Roy’s leg to “slow him down”, but the sudden fracture of their ‘professional friendship’ will finally give Roy the chance to operate as a character away from Oliver and Thea as he quickly discovers his limits as a solo vigilante.

Of course, the most interesting of all of these is Arrow coming up against the limits of his own strength: whether its the League of Assassins tailing his family and Sara, or Brother Blood’s one-man army of destruction, all of Oliver’s personal and quasi-professional conflicts are starting to become bigger than he can handle. The tension between Moira and Isabel is already bubbling over when they meet (another example of Arrow rushing to get to the juicier parts of a subplot), and both women have adversaries/allies/acquaintances that Oliver isn’t ready to take on alone. He’s definitely overmatched – and that inability to recognize his limits (which have put him in danger before) leave him clinging to life after being beaten by Brother Blood’s masked centrifuge thief (ok, ‘clinging to life’ is a stretch when its the protagonist, but you catch my drift).

Part of me wishes “The Scientist” had been extended to a 60-minute running time to give the combination of Barry’s quirks, Felicity’s fluttering heart, and Moira’s ever-dangerous professional contacts a bit more time to breathe (also see: Thea being cool with Roy doing his night work… didn’t she just dump him a month ago for that?). Regardless, the 42 minutes we do spend in Starling City this week clear the necessary barriers in setting up the rest of season two – and an entirely new show next fall, to boot, no small task for a show just starting to come into its own.

 

Other thoughts/observations:

– isn’t it funny how Laurel doesn’t appear in a SINGLE SCENE in this episode? One of the show’s supposed “important” characters, and I doubt there was a single person who missed her presence throughout “The Scientist”.

– a little DC tidbit I missed from last week: Brother Cyrus (the one man who survives Brother Blood’s experiments) is better known in the comic universe as Solomon Grundy!

– Oliver, you’re surprised nobody came to your mother’s coming home party? So naive, young grasshopper.

– Slade’s “dying of injury” acting was pretty awful throughout – maybe it’s the goofy half-moon makeup, a bit of comic-book style that doesn’t quite translate on-screen.

– Malcolm leaving to become the Dark Archer because he had a love child with Moira is the silliest justification for a character change I’ve ever heard. I really don’t like this subplot one bit.

– so one of Brother Blood’s dudes is able to rob an ARGUS center while barely lifting a finger? Kind of a useless “emergency bunker”.

– after Oliver condemns Barry for lying about his job and goal in Starling City, Felicity asks him “And what do we do everyday?”

– Slade/Shado/Oliver love triangle… yawn. Though Shado’s reaction to Oliver’s love of both Lance sisters is pretty hilarious.

– “Please save my friend.”

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