Arrow 1.22 "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" REVIEW

TV REVIEW: The eve of destruction

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Episode 1.22
Writers: Drew Z Greenberg & Wendy Mericle
Director: John Behring

THE ONE WHERE: With Starling City under seismological threat, Felicity must infiltrate Malcolm Merlyn’s headquarters on a mission to hack its mainframe. Oliver, meanwhile, confronts a surprisingly powerful opponent…

THE VERDICT: Just when Arrow appeared to be on the perfect trajectory for a compelling season finale, along comes a penultimate episode that allows all that hard-won tension and anticipation to dissipate. It’s not a bad episode per se: just one that feels like a placeholder, biding time. The huge, game-changing threat to Starling City – so wonderfully ominous at the end of last week’s episode as it rumbled on a truck towards the Glades – now feels perfunctory and nebulous, stashed in a warehouse, allowed to take second place to Oliver doing the wild thing with Lauren. Come on, man! Don’t waste time in the sack! You have a city to save! Sure, it's meant to be a crucial character beat, but it feels misplaced - and Tommy witnessing it from the street has the unmistakable taint of bad soap opera.

Structurally, there are other problems. It’s an episode that would benefit from a greater sense of a remorselessly ticking clock, a much tighter focus on the time factor. And while there’s some great drama on the island as Fyers threatens the trio and his machinations unfold on a more global scale than we ever suspected, as we enter the second half of the episode we’re made to wait just a little too long for the final flashback. Again, crucial tension is allowed to escape - how much sharper and more effective the cross-cutting could have been between the escalating threats in the two time periods.

Still, there’s decent stuff here. Oliver and Dig’s fake-out of Moira is well-executed – and Dig has that gravelly, crim-menacing voice down pat – while Oliver and Felicity’s incursion into the vertiginous heart of Merlyn HQ is nicely done. Felicity may sometimes seem a collection of geeky comedy tics but here her vulnerability feels real and serves the drama.

Malcolm's unmasking of Oliver is an intriguing final punch. Let's hope that the next episode regains the momentum that this one let slide.

SECRET ORIGINS: Roy Harper hints at a loss in his past - someone he's out to avenge?

TRIVIA: This episode’s title references Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 album of the same name. You were expecting “The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle”?

DID YOU SPOT?: The commercial airliner targeted by Fyers is a Ferris Air flight. In the DC Universe this company belongs to Carol Ferris, romantic interest of Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern.

DID YOU SPOT? 2: Judge Grell is a tip of the quiver to comic book artist Mike Grell, the man responsible for the classic Longbow Hunters saga. He also drew the police artist’s impression of the Hood seen in this episode.

DID YOU SPOT? 3: “Why so serious?” asks Tommy. Now surely that’s a nod to the poster campaign for The Dark Knight ? It wouldn’t be too surprising, given how much Arrow borrows from the Nolan school of screen superheroics.

Lance: “Arrows are black, not green. Psychopaths are colour coding themselves now. That’s helpful.”

Read all our Arrow reviews.

Arrow airs in the UK on Sky1

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Nick Setchfield
Editor-at-Large, SFX Magazine

Nick Setchfield is the Editor-at-Large for SFX Magazine, writing features, reviews, interviews, and more for the monthly issues. However, he is also a freelance journalist and author with Titan Books. His original novels are called The War in the Dark, and The Spider Dance. He's also written a book on James Bond called Mission Statements.