Arrow made its eagerly anticipated return last night with Blast Radius, and showed with just one episode that despite whatever flaws it may have had; it still reminds us that this show is still leagues above Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This week however did see Sean Maher, Firefly veteran, feature as the primary antagonist for the episode as Shrapnel, who threatened to burn the city to the ground. Laurel gained an improvement in her character this week as she investigated Sebastian Blood, and Roy Harper began to explore his new powers. The episode was packed as per usual with some plenty of interesting flashback material, as Professor Ivo offered an ultimatum for Sara and Ollie, and whilst Slade may not be have yet turned into a cold blooded villain that we saw at the end of Three Ghosts just yet – you can tell that he’s barely on the verge of snapping.
Let’s start this episode with Sean Maher, the guest star. I enjoyed his role on Firefly as Dr. Simon Tam and it was interesting to see him play a villain in this episode of Arrow, making it a nice change of pace. But the show is suffering from juggling too many cast members at once and not all of them can be fleshed out in great enough detail to make them memorable – Shrapnel seemed like a one-note villain and not really forgettable. In fact, the only real memorable villains on this show so far has been the recurring ones, such as John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn and Deadshot, and even recurring villains haven’t always been pulled off well for example I was let down by the return of both China White & Count Vertigo, both of whom didn’t really start of well anyway. However, with Oliver’s strict no-kill policy, there’s always a chance that we could be looking at Maher returning in future episodes – something that I would love to see as another complaint of mine was that he didn’t get an interaction with Summer Glau, another Firefly star – who plays Isabel Rochev. It was a great opportunity to see the two actors reunite but sadly Summer Glau isn’t even in this episode, and I’m hoping that will change as we haven’t seen much of her character lately and I would love a Glau-centric episode.
There were several strong moments in this week’s episode of Arrow though and it reminds us again why it’s just great to have this show back and for me I’m going to start off with the highlight of the episode – there’s a reference to Gail Simone’s awesome The Movement comics. Sure, it’s only a reference and I don’t expect the team to be showing up on screen in person but it was a great surprise when I heard them mentioned. They’re the sort of team that superpowers aside would fit right at home in the Arrow universe so it was great to see them crop up – and the reference felt a lot more natural than the forced “Bucky Barnes” reference that showed up in Agent’s of SHIELD this week too.
Blast Radius is a big episode for Roy Harper this week, and it’s quite clear that they’re making a path for him that’s quite unpredictable and the jury’s still out on the direction of where he will go in the future. I’m enjoying Colton Haynes’ take on him for now though and it was good to see another character with a power upgrade, so what direction his character goes in the upcoming weeks will certainly be interesting to watch, there’s no doubt about that. On the subject of side characters, Laurel got an improvement in this week’s episode as she started to become more tolerable – I enjoyed her subplot where she began to investigate Sebastian Blood so hopefully it should be pretty awesome to see how things develop from here on in.
However, for every good character moments this week there appears to be bad ones. The falling out between Felicity and Oliver seemed to be very abrupt which was a shame because we’ve seen this sort of thing happen several times before and to be honest, I was slightly annoyed at seeing this subplot when you consider that there are so much more things that Arrow could be exploring given that it’s set in the DC Comics Universe.
This was still a strong episode though despite its flaws. I enjoyed the ending and out of all of the B-List villains that the show keeps giving us, I felt that Sean Maher’s Shrapnel was one of the more interesting ones and his appearance is something I will look forward to see again. The episode itself teased some good things to come in future episodes – with the big talking points being Roy and Brother Blood, but didn’t deliver in all places. It may be one of the weaker Arrow episodes of an otherwise fantastic Season 2 so far – but it’s still very enjoyable to watch and I was certainly entertained regardless.