Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 4 - Crucible

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


When a new crime-boss who calls himself The Mayor starts stealing and reselling military-grade weaponry, Oliver Queen decides to tackle the problem in both his identities.  As The Arrow, he begins hunting The Mayor and his men.  As Oliver Queen, he privately sponsors a gun buy-back program in The Glades, over the objections of business partner Isabel Rochev and councilman Sebastian Blood - the former of whom doesn't want the company resources spent on what she sees as a waste of time and the later because he refuses to believe anything good can come from Oliver Queen's hands.

At the same time, Laurel turns towards the bottle and away from her family and friends as the grief of Tommy Merlyn's death and her guilt over her role in it fully hit her.  And Oliver unmasks the mysterious new black-clad, blonde-haired female vigilante only to realize she's someone from his past.... Sara Lance!

In the flashback, Oliver finds himself tested again on the prison ship Amazo, shot and left for dead as a test of his will to keep living. 


Numerous Green Arrow/Black Canary team-up comics and Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy (the hero unknowingly saves a criminal mastermind, the design of Brother Blood's mask is reminiscent of Scarecrow)


Canary's mask disappears in between when she says Ollie's name and when he pulls away her wig.

In the final fight with The Mayor, Ollie and Sara both drop their weapons of choice - a bow and a bo staff - and switch weapons.  Where does Sara get the arrow she uses to shoot one soldier before she and Ollie trade weapons again?


Caity Lotz justifies her re-casting in the role of Sara Lance throughout the episode.  We don't learn much about her character and what's happened in the past five years through the text but the subtext in Lotz' carriage of herself and her expressions speaks volumes.  As Stephen Amell plays Oliver Queen across multiple levels (The Arrow, the public facade of Oliver Queen, the damaged "real" Ollie and the spoiled rich boy he was in the flashbacks), so too do we get hints of a similar psyche split from Lotz.  Sara Lance seems to be her true self when she confronts Ollie at his club but her walls come down when she hears her father's voice.  Her manner when talking to Sin in private is different than the facade she wears when fighting The Mayor's men.  Even the brief glimpse we see of her in the flashback suggest something else going on.    


The direction in this episode is top-notch.  The action sequences are all incredibly well shot and choreographed, particularly the final fight with Arrow and Canary fighting The Mayor together.


As in the comics, Black Canary wears a long, platnium blonde wig as part of her costume.  Unlike the comics, her natural hair color is not black.  Sara's hair is dark blonde and cut to about shoulder length.

The weapons The Mayor stole were taken from Camp KirbyThis is likely a tribute to legendary comics creator Jack "The King" Kirby.  A prolific artist and writer, Jack Kirby is probably best known for his work at Marvel Comics, where he co-created Captain America and the Fantastic Four.  He is somewhat less well-remembered for the brief period he worked at DC Comics in the late 1950s, where he penciled Green Arrow.  Some comic historians believe Kirby may have had a hand in plotting several of the stories he drew, including the first retelling of Green Arrow's origins which saw Oliver Queen gaining his legendary skill with a bow after being shipwrecked.  Until that point, Oliver Queen has been an archeologist specializing in the study of Native American cultures. 

Sara knew Slade and asks Oliver about what happened to him. 

Sara and Oliver both saw each other die more than once.

Roy Harper having an extensive and varied gun-collection is a call-back to his time in the comics as the hero Arsenal.

Oliver is a good enough shot he can deflect a grenade in-flight.

Ollie is trained in the use of a bo staff.

Sara is a good enough archer to use Ollie's bow.

Sara really does not like the word "bitch".

Sara wears a black baseball cap with a stylized red-outline that resembles a rocket.  This may be a reference to the Star City Rockets - the official baseball team of Green Arrow's hometown in the comics.

The stylized skull mask that Sebastian Blood wears as Brother Blood does resemble the skull helm the character wears in the comics.


The guns being used by The Mayor's men are stolen M4A1 assault rifles. The Colt M4A1 carbine is the primary weapon used by Navy SEAL operators.

Ollie makes use of crossbows hooked to motion detectors to set a trap for The Canary.  The crossbows shoot out cables that wrap around the target, bola style.

Sara's sonic device also functions as a timed explosive.  She is able to escape after the one she tosses to the ground after being bound by Ollie explodes, knocking him off balance.

The tracking system used by The Army to monitor their weapons shipment was designed by Queen Consolidated.  It has a design flaw where if it is deactivate, it can be reactivated remotely by use of a "sub-form wave".

Roy Harper's sells a Colt 1911, a Jennings 32 and  K-Frame revolver at the gun buy-back.

The Mayor's final robbery targets a shipment of SCAR 16s.  Diggle notes these are military-grade assault rifles with grenade launchers.

Laurel is on a prescription for Benzodiazepine - a drug traditionally used to treat insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks.  They are generally discouraged for long-term use, however, as it can be easy for the user to develop a tolerance and/or dependence on the drug.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Ollie notices Laurel is drinking rather heavily at his party)
Ollie: Hey?
Laurel: Please do not ask me if I am okay because I am sick to death of everyone asking me that!
Ollie: I would never do that!
Laurel: Good!
Ollie: You okay?

Arrow: Why are you following Laurel Lance?
Canary: I could ask the same of you. I guess some things never change.  You and her.  Always and forever.
Arrow: Who are you?
Canary: Once you know, your life will never be the same.
Arrow: I can take it.
Canary:  Not this time ... Ollie.
(Ollie looks at Canary and reaches out, pulling away her wig)
Arrow: Sara?

Sara Lance: No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.

Felicity: (smugly) I believe you ordered the crate of stolen military weapons, Mr Queen?

Russian Prisoner: Living is not for the weak.

Sebastian Blood: Sooner or later we all go through a crucible.  I'm guessing yours was that island?  Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible - the ones who grow stronger from the experience and survive it and the ones who die.  But there's a third type - the ones who learn to love the fire.  Who chose to stay in their crucible because it's easier to embrace the pain when that's all you know anymore.  That's why I'm on the clock to help this city.  Before it becomes used to living like this.
Ollie: Living is not for the weak. (beat) A friend of mine once told me that. 

(Canary has The Mayor in a choke-hold)
Arrow: Let him go!
Canary: You can't save this city with forgiveness!
Arrow: You don't have to forgive him!  But you do have to let him live.
(Canary loosens her hold)
The Mayor: Bitch!  Knew you didn't have it in you.
(Canary knocks him unconscious)
Canary: I really don't like that word.


Felicity is the one who realizes that The Woman In Black is following Laurel, not The Arrow, recalling the incidents where she showed up in 203.  There is a momentary flashback of the Queen's Gambit sinking, as seen in 101, though reshot with Caity Lotz in the Sara Lance role.  Oliver spent his first year on the island thinking Sara was dead, pulled under when the ship sank but he did see her again a year later but "not exactly" on the island.  By episode's end, we discover that Sara was working with the crew of the ship where Ollie was taken captive.  Diggle meets again with Lyla, his contact with ARGUS first seen in 119.  She is single and rather pointedly tells him this fact after he notes that he's single now when she jokes about his girlfriend getting jealous.  Sebastian Blood expresses skepticism about Ollie's willingness to finance a gun buy-back program without getting any credit, referring to Ollie's failure to appear at his own fundraiser in 202. The weapons The Mayor stole were taken from Camp Kirby.  One of Oliver's fellow prisoners is Russian and explains that their captors shoot all the new captives as a test of prochnost (Strength).  They force the captives to remove the bullets and dress their own wounds unaided to see how strong and willing to live they are.  He tells Ollie that living is not for the weak - a line which Ollie quotes later as once having been told to him by a friend.  The captain of The Amazon questions Ollie as to whether or not he found "the graves", "the bones" or "the shipment", noting his crew has been searching for two years.  Despite Ollie not answering his questions, he concludes they have the right island.  The Mayor's real name is Xavier Reed.  Again, the Channel 52  news (with anchor Bethany Snow) mentions the protests of STAR Labs particle accelerator.  Ollie and Blood make their peace, with Blood noting there is more than one way to save a city when Ollie asks him about the graffiti that reads "Blood For Mayor".  Sin recovers from her injuries and seems to befriend Thea.  Sin promises to keep Roy's life as "the vilgilante's errand boy" a secret.  Ollie pays for Sin's medical bills and encourages Sara to tell her family she is still alive.  Laurel only avoids formal DUI charges thanks to Quentin's intervention.  Quentin Lance attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and confesses to his group he is worried about his daughter having the same disease he does.  Laurel is drinking heavily and on prescription Benzodiazepine.  Brother Blood's followers include at least one police officer, who removes The Mayor from the police station in order that he may be recruited.  Brother Blood injects potential recruits with a green formula he terms "a miracle" that causes the injected to bleed from the eyes.

The Fridge Factor

Laurel's sudden turn to wine and pills comes out of left field.  Both Ollie and Quentin take actions to try and "save" her throughout the episode.

The Bottom Line

 Lots of major plot threads get a little bit of development here, to the point where the plot with The Mayor is almost a distraction from the far more interesting revelations regarding Sara Lance and what she's been doing for the past five years.  Still, the action scenes are all very well choreographed and the pace of the episode doesn't let up for a moment.

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