Episode 22: Darkness on the Edge of Town
By: Carlos Uribe
Arrow is a show about the Green Arrow, a vigilante who seeks justice. It is based on the DC comic superhero Green Arrow.
I brought up in the review for the previous episode that it didn't make much sense for Oliver's father to not tell him about the undertaking. His dad simply gave him a journal and pleaded with him to right his wrongs. The more I think about it, the less I think that Oliver's dad was a smart character. The first mistake he made was giving Oliver a notebook filled with invisible ink and not telling him that. It was only by accident that Oliver managed to discover that the notebook contained lists of names and that was only after he had used some of the pages to feed a fireplace. It's a good thing that Oliver found that second notebook so that he could add names to the list that he had accidentally burned. The second mistake was not being more clear about how to “right his wrongs”. Oliver had assumed that it was to go after the people on the list to get them to do the right thing or kill them. It's a logical move because he didn't have anything else to go on. Only now he finds out that there's an undertaking that his dad was a part of with Malcolm Merlyn. He goes from thinking that his mission is to go after the people on the list to stopping the undertaking. Once he has accomplished this, he can be free from his life as the vigilante. He'll be able to stop because his father's sins would have been corrected. What's frustrating is that there is no real way to know if Oliver is right or not. His dad was so vague that he could be right on the money or completely missing the mark. His dad might have meant for him to do both. It's difficult to ascertain because his dad didn't even mention the undertaking. How is Oliver supposed to do anything when he doesn't tell his son about the top-secret plan that only a few people know about? I can understand the dad underestimating Malcolm's determination to see the undertaking through. It's what killed him but it's getting clearer that Oliver's dad was not a bright man. He left his son with a mission but without any parameters or variables while trying to redeem himself for accidentally killing a politician that was trying to solicit a bribe from him. In other words, Oliver's dad is possibly the most incompetent character on this show. Why bring this up again?
The show changes gears with Oliver. He goes from not knowing when he's going to finish his mission as he has a whole notebook full of names. He might have made some progress but there must still be a lot of names left in the notebook. His vigilante life seemed like it had no end in sight. This was fine since it basically allows the writers to give Oliver a weekly objective which means the show keeps going. It's what primarily fuels the procedural aspect of Arrow. This life keeps him away from the people he cares about. He refuses to date Laurel because he knows that he can't be with her as long as he's avenging his dad. It's too big of a secret and too big of a liability. This changes when Oliver decides that his father really meant for him to stop the undertaking. He goes from not knowing when he's going to hang up the hood to having one last mission. It liberates him to start having a personal life. He sleeps with Laurel after admitting he still has feelings for her. It's interesting how having him think that his life as a vigilante is about to end changes his perspective on his personal life. It's a great place for the character that feels organic to who he is. He's been pushing Laurel away primarily because of his secret life so it makes sense that when it's coming to a close that he would allow himself to be with her. The issue is that in making this character move the show accidentally exposed how his dad really did everything in his power to make sure his son didn't know anything while at the same time telling him to fix everything. It's a flaw that might highlight that while the writers might have now an idea of where their going, that they need to work on ensuring that the pieces fit together more cleanly for the next season.
Oliver might be thinking about giving up his vigilante life once he's stopped the undertaking but the action doesn't let up. There's a tight sequence where Diggle “kidnaps” Oliver and Moira so that she could be properly questioned. She admits to her role in the undertaking while basically telling us what we already know. She does clarify that the undertaking involves using a device to cause a fake earthquake. We knew that it was an artificial natural disaster but not what kind. It's good to know it's an earthquake. I believe that's new information which certainly helps give context to the threat. The interrogation ends once they have their answers but the protagonists have to figure out a way to stop the device. Oliver insists they have to find it because there's two people who could potentially set it off: Malcolm and the Dark Archer. The audience knows these two are the same person but Oliver doesn't figure this out until the end of the episode. In order to find the device, the three heroes have to find a way into the Merlyn mainframe. This is more difficult than it sounds because it has some really good security. They have to basically access it manually which involves having to run a complicated but fun infiltration scheme. Once they have the info, Diggle and Felicity go after the device while Oliver confronts Malcolm. Only the device isn't there and Malcolm reveals that he can easily beat Oliver in a fight. The episode ends with Malcolm figuring out that Oliver is the guy in the hood. A cliff-hanger with many layers: Malcolm knows the truth, he has Oliver captive, the device is somewhere in the city, and did I mention the police figured out Felicity tried to hack into the Merlyn mainframe? A lot of dangling plot threads.
Of course, there's more than just that. Oliver's friendship with Tommy is pretty much dead due to Oliver's vigilantism. A hostile attitude I don't completely get since Tommy basically depended on Oliver to defend Laurel from a hitman. There's one thing to consider Oliver dangerous and another to think he's a serial killer with no morals. Really, Tommy? Next time how about you go to some other person when you need protection. Anyways, their friendship is not going to go to a happy place when he sees Oliver having sex with Laurel. I'm also sure he's not going to be happy if he figures out that Oliver is now trying to kill his dad. There's a lot of clues that Tommy is heading towards villainy. At the same time, Oliver's relationship with Laurel is now in question now that they have had sex. Are they going to be together? Will something drive them apart? It's not just Oliver's personal life that is in danger. Roy's obsession with finding the Hood drives him apart from Thea while Walter decides to divorce Moira for her role in his kidnapping. I've got to be completely on his side on this. Sorry, Moira, but just because you did it for his protection doesn't completely excuse what you did. Let's hope Walter stays out of the glades. With the police having a reason to investigate Felicity, they might get closer to finding out the identity of the Hood. Basically this all amounts to every recurring plot thread building up to what's sure to be an epic climax.
Darkness on the Edge of the Town is a pretty good penultimate episode that builds up to the season finale. I'm excited to see what's going to happen and there's a lot of plot threads I want to see resolved. This episode accomplished it's job of getting me excited for the finale. At the same time, I have to take some points off because in building up the undertaking it highlighted the lack of planning the writers had at the beginning of the season. It's my opinion that every showrunner should already have a map of where they want the first season to go but here's hoping the writers learn for the second season to give us a much tighter narrative.