Apologies for not reviewing 2.21 “City of Blood” last week. I was on vacation and underestimated my free time, whoops! So just for a quick recap to set the scene for this episode: last week had Thea trying to leave Starling, Laurel unofficially joining Team Arrow, a Mirakuvasion, and Diggle coming face-to-face with a Mirakuru-ed Isabel Rochev (which is why you should always take the head shot, kids, now go to bed). This episode, titled “Streets of Fire,” takes all of the intensity of The Undertaking and cranks it up to about a billion.
**This post contains spoilers for episode 2.22 of Arrow, “Streets of Fire.”**
There were four major storylines happening in this episode: Team Arrow trying to procure the Miracure, Team Slade trying to ravage the city, Thea coming face to face with a zombie, and Laurel and Sara setting up the big Black Canary switcheroo. (Okay, that last one is just a theory of mine.) Since the episode was jam-packed with so much action (how does this show do it on a CW budget?!) and covered a lot of ground, it’s easiest for me to cover the storylines separately.
After Oliver successfully instructs Laurel on shooting her way out of her concrete trap (I’m not glossing over that scene, I’m going to talk about it when I cover Laurel’s storyline) they meet up with Diggle and Felicity, the latter of whom just ran over Isabel Rochev with a van. Only seconds earlier, Isabel had been snarling to Digg about how badly she’s wanted to shoot Felicity in the face, which I think is worth exploring from a character point of view. When Felicity tells Oliver that a courier had been on his way into the city with the Miracure, Laurel insists he go with his team, that she will make her way downtown, walking fast to her father’s precinct on her own. Oliver’s reluctant to let her go, but it’s a big moment for Laurel (which, again, I will cover later).
Unfortunately, the courier is in an overturned car, and both of his legs are broken. Team Arrow scrambles to get to him, but they’re cut off by some Mirakusoldiers, and Diggle ends up overturning their van. The shot from inside the van is nothing short of spectacular; it reminds me a lot of the in-cab shot from The Avengers, as it’s flipped over during the Chautari invasion, except this is Arrow on the CW, so that’s an insane comparison! In the shot, we see all three characters get jerked around as the van flips, and then we see Felicity go flying from the passengers seat to the driver’s side.
After a stressful commercial break, Felicity is unconscious on Diggle’s shoulder. Oliver anxiously asks if she’s breathing (affirmative) then entreats Diggle to get her out of the van. After Diggle kicks out the windshield and drags Felicity out of the van like an action hero, Oliver uses an explosive arrow to stave off the soldiers before scooping up Felicity and walking away from the wreck. Diggle carries his bow. Why Diggle couldn’t carry Felicity, the world will never know.
She’s able to walk by the time they get to the bridge, but the Miracure is stolen by two Mirakusoldiers, which sends Team Arrow to the Canary’s roost at the top of the clock tower. They’re at a dead end — there’s no way out of it. They’d need a Miracle to get out of this one. Diggle goes to the Foundry, which has been compromised, to rescue Roy and bring his unconscious form back to the clock tower (Colton Haynes had a cush shooting schedule for a couple of weeks, didn’t he?) and that’s when Felicity starts crying.
Oliver keeps his back to her — you get the feeling that he doesn’t actually hear her crying, but he can sense her pain — and starts his confession.
Oliver: “I didn’t know, Felicity. Five years ago, I was a completely different person, and I had no idea that something like this was even possible. I couldn’t have imagined. When you and Diggle brought me back to Starling City, I made a vow that I would never let anything like the Undertaking happen again.”
Felicity, in a tear-choked voice: “What’s happening now is not your fault.”
Oliver: “Yes it is. I have failed this city. Yao Fei. Shado. Tommy. My father. My mother. All that I have ever wanted to do is honor those people.”
Felicity: “You honor the dead by fighting. And you are not done fighting! Malcolm Merlyn? The Count? The Clock King? The Triad? Everyone who has tried to hurt this city, you’ve stopped them! And you will stop Slade.”
Oliver: “I don’t know how.”
Felicity: “Neither do I, but I do know two things: You are not alone, and I believe in you.”
She hugs him, and he takes a moment to hug her back. Someone on Tumblr pointed out that the shot of his hand wrapping around her back is filled with light from a nearby helicopter, perhaps some symbolism for the light that Sara wanted someone to harness in Oliver.
But this scene means a lot for the narrative of the show itself. This season has gone to some dark places, and in this moment, Oliver’s outlook is bleak. At best, he will survive this invasion an escape with his life, and hopefully the lives of as many of his loved ones as possible. At worst, he dies alongside everyone else in the city that he loves so much. The cure is gone and he doesn’t have any other arrows in his metaphorical quiver. This is his lowest moment, as Rome burns around him and Slade plays the fiddle up in the QC tower.
But instead of resorting to anger and rash actions, he turns to his trusted advisor, the voice in his head, the one person who keeps this team on some semblance of a moral compass. He confesses to her in the eleventh hour, as if he’s heading into death, but Felicity responds with the anger that he doesn’t feel. She stands up to him, she believes in him, and for once, Oliver just stands there and looks at her. The intimacy of the scene is palpable, they’re both raw and scared, but they’re meeting in the middle. And Felicity hugs him and transfers some of that unique strength she possesses, and Oliver allows it. He hugs her back as the light shines in, because when he’s at his lowest moment, all he needs to know is that his team believes in him.
After Diggle returns with Roy, Oliver gets the Miracle phone call that he needs: Sebastian Blood has stolen the Miracure from Slade and wants to arrange a meeting to give it to Oliver. They leave Felicity with Roy, but not before Oliver admits that they might be heading into a trap. Sebastian monologues about his childhood and his nightmare mask (seriously, the guy is nuttier than a Snickers bar) before he hands over the Miracure. They do have this illuminating exchange:
Oliver: “I won’t be so easy to kill once we level the playing field.”
Sebastian: “He’s not interested in killing you. Not until he’s taken away everything and everyone you love.”
Oliver: “After he murdered my mother, he said one more person had to die.”
Sebastian: “Whoever you love the most.”
Sebastian is under the delusion that he will continue being Mayor after Oliver saves the city, and even goes as far as threatening to reveal the Arrow’s identity if Oliver reveals his. Oliver’s basically like “You do you, bro” which really overlooks the nuance of the scene: The only reason Sebastian is mayor is because Slade killed Moira. Oliver would never be able to get past that.
They get back to the clock tower and prepare to inject Roy with the terrifying neon blue serum (Felicity: “Whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned clear?”) to see if it works, but that’s when Felicity, Moral Compass, stops to question whether they’re doing the right thing. “What if it doesn’t work? What if it kills him? What if he wakes up and kills us?” Oliver’s made this mistake before: So desperate to save his dying friend, he injected the Mirakuru into Slade and created his own biggest demon. He knows the stakes, but he also knows that it’s impractical to start shooting the jackbooted thugs willy-nilly with the cure without knowing the consequences. It’s not a question of quality of life for Roy, either; how is it better to keep him sedated (with venom) for days on end?
When it comes time for injection, Oliver can’t do it. It’s not until he’s had a conversation with Amanda Waller, who is invading the city with A.R.G.U.S. forces, that he’s compelled to inject Roy and wait for the consequences. The episode ends with the needle going in.
Team Slade, meanwhile, is coming to the conclusion that they don’t actually know their boss very well. Slade smirks and whisper-talks about how he understands why Nero sang as Rome burned (he was emperor, though… the metaphor would only apply if Sebastian was singing as Starling burned) then adds, “If only Shado were here to witness this.” Isabel glances at Slade askance and asks, “Who’s Shado?” Oh, honey.
[It does make me wonder what will happen if/when Slade is injected with the cure. He’s been living with these hallucinations of a vengeful Shado for five years, will those just go away, or will he still be strong in his convictions? The soft side of me wants to see a final scene between Oliver and Slade where they’re hermanos once more as Slade dies, but psychologically, I’m just not sure that’s possible. We’ll see how Roy recovers from his relatively short stint as a Mirakuru Man, and whether some of his anger toward his hallucinated version of Thea still remains.]
Sebastian comes stomping in, upset that literally everyone in his office was just killed by Slade’s army (including D.A. Spencer, who didn’t even get to prove herself competent before her neck was snapped) and that’s when Slade lays it out for them. Yes, he IS an insane person, and yes, he IS wiping out an entire city just to get back at Oliver Queen. Sebastian can’t believe his boss, who has always acted so sanely in the past (not) has turned out to be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!
When Slade’s not looking, Sebastian sneaks off with the Miracure and makes it all the way to his office, through a monologue and an exchange with Oliver, and is pouring himself four fingers of scotch before Isabel finally shows up. Slade only confirms that the Miracure is gone before Isabel runs Sebastian through with her swords. He insists with his dying breath that he loves this city, and his mask falls to the ground. Bye, Blood! We hardly knew ye. Well, no. We knew you pretty well. I’m sad you died, but I wasn’t too eager to see your idea of restitution, either. It probably won’t take long for Slade to figure out where Oliver’s hiding out with the Miracure next week.
Thea, arguably, has the least to do in this episode, but her scenes packed the biggest emotional punches. She’s at the train station when the riots start, and she’s cornered by a masked man and is about to meet her maker when she’s saved by a familiar figure: a black cloaked man in a mask. DAD?!
*sings* Zombies, zombies, zombiiiies….
She goes running and hides from Malcolm, who still has the crazy eyes and talks about wanting to protect her. Thea’s like a caged animal, distrusting and wild, and she goes absolutely feral when he calls her his daughter: “I am not your daughter! You’re nothing to me, and I want nothing from you!” He pleads for her to go with him and holds out his hand, but Thea’s not buying it. He takes out another masked man, which only frightens Thea more, so she grabs a discarded handgun and points it at him. He helpfully tells her to click off the safety if she’s going to use that (who was running around in this mess with their safety on?!) and she does, never wavering.
Malcolm: “I can see it in your eyes. My eyes. They’re just like mine. Both of them filled with pain and anger, because those we loved were ripped from us. I lost my name, my wife… Tommy.”
Thea: “Shut up!”
Malcolm: “You’re all I have left in this world, and you’ve lost everything, too, Thea. But you still have a father. You still have –”
That’s when Thea shoots three times, and the episode ends on that shot. We hear a body fall and we see Thea’s horrified face. There’s a chance she shot a man who was coming up behind Malcolm, or maybe she shot him in the chest, where he was wearing protection, or perhaps he has regenerative abilities, but either way — the innocence that Moira, Robert, and Oliver tried so hard to protect in Thea is now gone. She’s been forced to take a life, and if she really did shoot her father, then she’s spilled her own blood. That’s huge, and it will change her forever.
As for the Lance sisters’ storyline, I’m pretty convinced that Sara won’t last the finale. The episode starts out with an iconic moment for Oliver and Laurel: he instructs her on how to shoot his bow, and she succeeds. It’s not so much that it was hard to do — Oliver even tells her that the bow practically shoots itself — but it means something that Laurel’s taken up that mantle and proven herself capable. Her voluntary split-off from Team Arrow also symbolizes the sacrifice she’s willing to make for the city, it’s the most unselfish thing she’s done in a while. (Remember when her selflessness was a cornerstone of her characterization? I miss those days! That’s why this scene was so nice.)
Sara returns unexpectedly, saving Laurel from a masked man, but Laurel’s over masks and secret identities and says Sara’s name as she hugs her. Historically, on this show, when people find out secret identities, they either join forces or they die. (See: Tommy, temporarily Malcolm, Moira, Sebastian.) It’s no wonder Detective Lance works so hard to lie to himself about it. But I think Laurel learning Sara’s identity is not a death knell for Laurel, but it is for Sara. Comic book fans have been screaming for Laurel to become the Black Canary, and while this show takes liberties with the comics, things tend to eventually circle back to canon. Dinah Lance is the Black Canary in the comics, and the only way she can take over for Sara is if Sara dies.
Sara’s still going through her existential crisis about whether or not she’s irredeemable, and Laurel insists that Sara is a hero. Sara doesn’t believe her, because Laurel simply doesn’t know about the terrible things Sara has done for the League of Assassins. After Sara rescues a child from a burning building, the street buzzes with the heroism of the blonde masked woman, and Laurel whispers, “That’s the Canary” with a proud smile. The role looks uncomfortable for Sara, who will probably always believe she is irredeemable, but it’s a good step for her.
Unfortunately, I also think this redemption is more foreshadowing. Sara’s story has come full-circle, she has no place in Oliver’s life or in Starling, and she’s starting to be seen as a hero. If she dies, Laurel will be compelled to don the leather suit, mask, and wig in Sara’s honor and keep up the persona of the Canary as a hero. It’s rather beautiful in theory, even if I’m still dubious about Katie Cassidy living up to Caity Lotz’s action chops.
There is also Slade’s promise to kill one more person before this is over: the person Oliver loves most. Oliver might love other people more, but Slade will always believe Oliver loves Sara the most, because Sara is the person he chose over Shado. It will be symmetry for him, a sense of poetic justice, to take Sara’s life for Shado’s. Even if there are fake outs of Slade holding Laurel, Diggle, or Felicity at gunpoint, I still believe the season will ultimately end with Sara’s death.
The final nail in the coffin is the island flashbacks, because I think the finale is where Oliver will believe Sara to be dead. If she’s “dead” in the flashbacks, it makes sense to have her “dead” in the present, too. I really, truly hope I am wrong about this. I love Sara as the Canary, and I also love her as Sara Lance, but I don’t see how this group dynamic can continue.
The other, minor storyline involved Beat Cop Lance encouraging his superior to side with The Arrow and against the municipality. Lance also gets his detective shield back (so I can no longer call him Beat Cop Lance, sigh!) and in the wake of the chief’s death and Amanda Waller’s A.R.G.U.S. invasion, I’m hoping next season is more of a political thriller, with Oliver positioning himself against an all-too-powerful intelligence community. But we’ll see. We have a heart-stopping finale to get through, first.
Next week: the season finale! It looks like some League of Assassins members are joining the fight (I won’t spoil you on which ones) and I spotted an unmistakable red hoodie during that marching shot in the promo, too! Who will live? Who will die? Will Felicity hit Isabel with a car again? Tune in next week to find out!