Midseason finale “The Climb” flung down a serious gauntlet. Its weapons grade cliffhanger saw a freshly shish kebabed Oliver Queen tumbling over the edge of a snowy ravine, blood flooding from his mouth and his social calendar seemingly cancelled until further notice. He’d made the mistake of going up against Ra’s al Ghul, a move that resonated with the inescabable folly of messing with a top tier Batman villain.
It was such a gut-punch of an ending that “Left Behind” can be forgiven for not entirely squaring up to its promise. Fan theories confidently assumed the immortality-bestowing Lazarus Pit of Nanda Parbat would play a part in Oliver’s survival – a piece of speculation shot down by Stephen Amell himself – but “Left Behind”, as its title tells us, is more concerned with the void created by our hero’s absence than the miraculous smoke and mirrors of his resurrection. It keeps Oliver in the limbo land of Hong Kong flashbacks while foregrounding Starling City and the characters who have to deal with his loss.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” says Ray Palmer. “Start small.” Cute choice of words from the man destined for a miniaturised crimefighting career as the Atom. Maybe next week he’ll tell us he needs to see a shrink…
And Team Arrow appears to be coping surprisingly well as the episode begins. We find them in situ, embroiled in one of the show’s characteristically muscular action sequences, a freeway chase punctuated with fireballs and truck-stunting. The tone is lighter than you might expect – Roy’s enjoying riding a “sick” bike while Digg gets to be the Arrow, togged up like the world’s most reluctant cosplayer.
As the episode unfolds we see the cracks and faultlines begin to splinter. Felicity clings to her faith in Oliver, reeling off a litany of the threats he’s faced down. Diggle’s more pragmatic, telling her they need to confront the possibility that Oliver’s not coming back. Oliver’s absence soon becomes a flaming crucible for all the show’s characters, from Malcolm to Thea, Ray Palmer to Laurel, and it’s notable how quickly the team crumbles without his leadership. “Left Behind” may move Oliver to the margins but it’s an episode that restates just how crucial he is to the series, and that’s a welcome touch in a show that’s begun to field one of the most crowded ensemble casts in television.
And then there’s Vinnie Jones, so close to uttering the deathless words “I’m Brick, bitch!” He brings an unlikely touch of geezerish menace to Starling City – let’s face it, a bulletproof Vinnie Jones is the very last man whose pint you’d want to spill in a Watford boozer – but he acquits himself as a formidably physical antagonist, not quite the searing criminal mastermind of the comics but more than tasty when it counts, slapping an underling with fists like butcher’s slabs in one of Arrow’s more startlingly violent moments.
The name Judge Pittson is a sly shout-out to Todd Pittson, Arrow’s production manager since 2012.
Danny “Brick” Brickwell – Shithouse to his friends, presumably – first appeared in Green Arrow 40 in 2004. Created by Judd Winick and Phil Hester, this metahuman crimelord was a member of the Secret Society of Supervillains. There was a passing reference to him in the first season of Arrow, continuity fiends.
Back In Black
So Laurel assumes the mantle of Black Canary, as we always suspected she would. In DC Comics canon the character experienced a generational handover rather than a sisterly one, from Dinah Drake to her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance.
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD on Thursday nights, and in the US on The CW on Wednesday nights.
|Writers||Marc Guggenheim & Erik Oleson|
|The one where||Its three days since Oliver disappeared and Team Arrow must face the threat of a deadly new underworld figure without their leader|