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Arrow, Ep. 2.12 “Tremors” continues the show’s rapid expansion

Arrow, Ep. 2.12 “Tremors” continues the show’s rapid expansion

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Arrow Season 2, Episode 12 “Tremors”
Written by Marc Guggenheim & Drew Z. Greenberg
Directed by Guy Bee
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW


Arrow‘s second season was already an ambitious one before “Tremors”: although it’s stuttered on a few subplots, the show’s ability to integrate Sarah Lance, a cameo by Barry Allen, Moira’s trial, Mirakuru, Roy/Slade getting injected with it, and a dozen other arcs (Brother Blood! League of Assassins! Solomon Grundy!) has been impressive, to say the least. “Tremors” is another entertaining hour that continues on the same path, especially in the second half of the episode, where the twists, turns, and new directions are flying all over the place – but by the time the roller coaster ended with the re-emergence of Sarah in Starling City, I couldn’t help but wonder if the show’s building a little too much.

Let’s just look at the stories not explicitly addressed in this episode: Brother Blood nor Deathstroke make an appearance in Starling City, the League of Assassins chasing Sarah, the professional beef/sexual tension between Oliver and Isabel, H.I.V.E. contacting Diggle through Deadshot (remember that?), Oliver and the whole Russian mob thing… I could probably think of a few more if given some time, but you get the point. And “Tremors” doesn’t resolve a single one of these, adding entire new elements into the mix: Roy Harper becoming a major character, Sarah returning home to put everyone in danger, Amanda Waller forming the Suicide Squad, Moira running for mayor (and trying to assassinate Malcolm Merlyn), and so on and so forth.

What’s impressive is how well the show’s been able to balance all these plot lines and still find intriguing character material underneath it: in “Tremors”, all of Oliver’s decisions in the past and present are juxtaposed with each other, which makes for a fascinating exploration of a man simply trying to keep control of something he doesn’t understand. It’s a testament to the most important weapon a hero has (their brain) that Oliver’s short-sightedness causes him more problems than solutions: his aside to Roy that too many people know his identity as Arrow is not just some throwaway joke. Oliver’s been in the habit of revealing himself on a whim to people (mostly in sexy moments… I can only imagine the weird Royliver fan fics going up tonight), and just like his (needlessly stupid) decision to bring Roy along before he was “ready”, there are often dire consequences to someone not considering the long-term effects of their decisions.

There’s no better way “Tremors” shows this to the audience than with the flashback to the island material: although Oliver’s speech to Slade about honoring Shado stops Slade from blowing up the freighter, it’s not an end-all, be-all that fixes what’s gone wrong with Slade. Island Oliver is way, way too naive to recognize this, however – and though we haven’t seen what actually brings Oliver to put an arrow through his eye yet, the allusion of their impending bro break-up in Oliver’s approach to Roy is more than enough to ratchet up the tension on this season. Describing the angry, pupil-dilated Roy as a “loose cannon” is not an overstatement: if Oliver doesn’t think a little bit before he acts, a pissed-off prettyboy who refuses to hide his identity behind his hair (seriously: him wearing his hairdo outside the hoodie was the funniest thing I’ve seen all season) is going to turn into a murderous version of The Hulk, with better cheekbones.

“Tremors” has a lot of these little bits of allusion or micro-character arcs stuffed in itself: some of them work (Roy), some of them don’t (Laurel) – and some of them are just so out of left fucking field they pulled me right out of the episode (Moira running for mayor… she was in federal prison on mass murderer charges a month ago!). But there’s no resolution to any of them, a bit of a worrying sign as the season rounds the halfway point: as the narratives stack up, folding into larger, more elaborate and diabolical stories, there’s bound to be characters and motivations who get twisted and lost in the mix.

In reality, they’re already starting to show up: some of “Tremors” story-servicing decisions are eyebrow-raising, to say the least. Most of them are acceptable in that comic-book, “well, it sounds like it’ll lead to something awesome” kind of logic, like Oliver’s initial decision to bring Roy with him (“extra power” is not a good enough reason, given the case Arrow’s already made against him) or Moira’s genius idea to try and assassinate Malcolm Merlyn so she can win a mayoral election. Sure, these things could be interesting eventually, but right now, they’re just the promise of something shiny and cool, the television equivalent to the Consumer Electronics Show floor.

That sounds like an insult, but it’s not: so far, Arrow‘s done a pretty damn good job of narrative juggling, without turning into Exposition City or sacrificing any of the personality it’s flaunted during this terrific, re-conceived second season. The return of Bronze Tiger is pretty damn satisfying, and watching Roy and Oliver struggle to find a way to connect with each other brings another fun bit of spunk to the dialogue (something never in shortage this season) – and beyond another case of Way Too Much Screen Time For Laurel-itis, doesn’t take a moment off to bore the audience or let them breathe. But sometime soon, Arrow must recognize its reaching maximum narrative capacity: if it doesn’t, it could be a messy, convoluted slide downhill to the finale.


Other thoughts/observations:

– Laurel’s the Worst: refuses to recognize her pill addiction as serious, berates her dad for not wanting to get food, gets drunk and bitchy in the Queen’s club after she finds out she was disbarred.

– at least Quentin points out to her that she’s not the only person in the world – someone had to mention it to her eventually.

– damn, that guy pulled knuckle blades out of his body!

– Felicity: “Is that judgment I’m hearing?” Oliver: “Pride.”

– Bronze Tiger questions the weirdly-suicidal international arms dealer: “don’t you know that could kill hundreds of people?” This question, coming from a man who cuts people’s throats with his bladed brass knuckles.

– Felicity: “I’m not Monday morning quarterbacking or anything here… it’s Wednesday…”