Someone on Arrow is clearly a fan of The Boss. The penultimate episode of season one was titled “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” while its counterpart in season two was named “Streets Of Fire”. Here’s another Bruce Springsteen title pressed into service (“This Is Your Sword” is a track from 2014’s High Hopes album). Maybe Bruce can return the favour and write something readymade for use by the show. “Heir To The Demon”, perhaps? Yeah, I can hear that in a soulful New Jersey accent…
If this annual Springsteen tribute has become some kind of good luck charm then it’s a trinket that clearly works. This is one of the finer episodes of season three, built on genuine stakes and jeopardy, some solid character work, ambitious flashes of small-screen spectacle and at least one genuine laugh-out-loud moment (hello, Felicity).
It’s all about trust issues, of course. Team Arrow continues to just about hold it together in Oliver’s absence – Digg’s anger at his friend’s betrayal is channeled into a genuinely jolting bloodlust – and stony-faced Oliver himself seems to be playing just about everybody at some point in the narrative. Malcolm, meanwhile, flows through the storyline like mercury: tricky, potentially poisonous, definitely to be handled with care. Is his final act betrayal of Oliver to Ra’s a characteristic piece of self-interest? Or yet another twist in the oh so cunning plan?
This is the first time we see Tatsu in costume as Katana. In the DCU she was a founder member of Batman’s Outsiders. Her blade is possessed by the souls of her dead husband and son. Can’t quite see Arrow exploring that supernatural angle but given the show’s universe is getting incrementally weirder let’s not rule it out completely…
Elsewhere there’s a hint of historical drama in the Nanda Parbat scenes, all sumptuous, half-lit sets and Machiavellian intrigue. Katrina Law’s performance as Nyssa is definitely pitched somewhere between The Hollow Crown and Wolf Hall while as Ra’s Matthew Nable relishes the chance to sink his teeth into such winningly purple comic book dialogue as “You will suffer the pain of a thousand deaths!” There are darker hints dropped about the al Ghul dynasty, too – Ra’s informs his daughter that she will bear Oliver’s child, and “will have no more say in it than your mother was given!” Someone get these people to family therapy.
There’s something wonderful about Team Arrow’s assault on the League’s kingdom – it’s a joy to see them being badass en masse like a leatherclad Magnificent Seven. And the scene where the Atom takes on a jet is the show punching above its weight, chasing Iron Man movie spectacle with a TV budget and just about pulling it off.
A humdinger of an episode, complete with solid cliffhanger. So, season finale, consider the bar raised…
Oh, That Makes More Sense
Let us salute the unalloyed comedy gold of Felicity believing she’s taken down one of the League with an expertly hurled laptop, only to discover it was Malcolm’s bowmanship wot dun it. One of the Smoak’s greatest moments.
Did You Spot?
“I had this little idea that I just couldn’t kick…” Yes, yet another microscopically-inclined piece of wordplay from Ray Palmer. Those shrinking powers are surely on their way…
Did You Also Spot?
It’s tempting to read Roy’s adoption of the name Jason as a nod to another of the famous sidekicks of the DCU: Jason Todd, alias the second Robin. Boy Wonders represent!
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD.
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