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Arrow 1.22 "Darkness on the Edge of Town" Review: The End is Near

    This week’s episode of Arrow, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” is the second last episode of the season and was written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Wendy Mericle and directed by John Behring. It had everything we’ve come to expect of an episode: humor, drama, romance, and action – all tightly woven together. I want to make a quick mention of the lighting which contributes so much to the atmosphere on the show. Scenes on the Island are always starkly lit while interiors in Starling City are rich and soft. Oliver’s lair has a distinctly green tint to the lighting – each carefully chosen to reflect the action. This second last episode ratchets up the tension going into the season finale. A lot of balls have been thrown up in the air, and I can’t wait to see how many of them the archer pins to the wall, and how many are left up in the air.
    The episode opens with the return of the Dark Archer (John Barrowman) massacring the employees at Unidac. In an ironic twist on the Hood’s admonishment to criminals that they “have failed this city,” the Dark Archer thanks Dr Markoff (Eric Floyd) for his service before killing him. Merlyn not only creates a diversion for the Undertaking but also covers his tracks.
    Oliver (Stephen Amell), meanwhile, is still angsting over Moira’s (Susanna Thompson) involvement. He tries to have a conversation with her, but she blows him off, so he devises a plan to get her to talk. The flashbacks this week take us back to the Island. Fyers (Sebastian Dunn) uses Shado (Celina Jade), Slade (Manu Bennett), and Oliver to force Yao Fei (Byron Mann) to take credit for shooting down a commercial airplane. Ultimately, the plan is to de-stabilize China’s economy. I thought it was curious that Fyers shot Slade and Shado but only punched Oliver. Why not shoot Oliver? It seems clear, however, that Oliver draws on this experience to try to force Moira to talk. Diggle (David Ramsey), dressed as the Hood, beats Oliver until Moira tells them what she knows. Thompson delivers her best performance to date as she begs for her son’s life. She tells them about the device that will level the Glades and that she was only drawn into the plan after her husband died. She tells them that Robert got involved without her knowledge and that he was only trying to do some good. I thought her confession seemed sincere, but Oliver remains unconvinced. We also see later in the episode that Fyers is reporting to a woman – though we only see her legs – could that be Moira? Oliver also sees the guy he found beaten up in Yao’s cave, working the radio for Fyers, so we learn that that had been a trap.   
     The biggest gasp of this episode for me was when Fyers kills Yao Fei. I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed because I really wanted to see Oliver learning more from him. It’s always possible that he’s not dead, given the genre, but it seems unlikely that he could have survived.
    There was quite a bit of movement in the Laurel/Oliver/Tommy triangle in this episode. I found myself thinking that it felt like enough time had passed for Laurel (Katie Cassidy) to have healed, and I’m impressed by the show’s patience in teasing this storyline out. However, the execution still felt a bit forced. Last week, Oliver gave Laurel hope, only to pull back at the beginning of the episode. I did like the exchange between them, however. Laurel asks him why he gave her hope, and he said he didn’t have an agenda. It felt like a very honest comment. The Oliver before the Island would have had an agenda and he would have lied about it. This is a different Oliver. I did like Laurel’s confession to Quentin (Paul Blackthorne), and Quentin admitting that Oliver was different since he’d gotten back. The exchange with Tommy (Colin Donnell) also rang true. Tommy’s not wanting to be the consolation prize is understandable, but Oliver was also right to point out that Laurel did choose Tommy, and it was Tommy’s choice to walk away. I was even ok with Oliver deciding that his true mission is just to stop the Undertaking – although we know, he’s going to realize he can’t hang up the hood. But it didn’t ring true for him to go to Laurel so soon after telling Tommy to go back to her or before he had completed his mission. I cringed when Tommy saw them making love through the window. Donnell’s face was terrifically intense, and I fear that he is going to be the Merlyn to go really dark.
    Thea (Willa Holland) helps Roy (Colton Haynes) in his quest for the Hood. She even goes undercover for him in the police station to get information for him. It’s a great comic sequence when Oliver is trying to rescue Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and he gets sidetracked by Malcolm and then by Thea and Roy as they stake out Merlyn Industries. I’ve felt like Holland, in particular, has been underused this season, and I have high hopes for next season for her storyline with Roy. Although by the end of this episode, it seems like she is going to chose Oliver over Roy and heed Oliver’s warning that the Hood is a psychopath, is dangerous, and everyone who gets near him ends up dead. I laughed when Roy scoffed that Oliver was a wimp after he’d obviously crushed Roy’s hand when he shook it! I also laughed when Thea told Roy he wasn’t going to meet the Hood any time soon... Even though Thea gives Roy the ultimatum to give up searching for the Hood or lose her, I get the feeling that he’s not going to give up and they still won’t be apart for long.
    Walter (Colin Salmon) and Moira, however, seem to have come to the end of the road. He is clearly distant and bitter on returning home from the hospital. I was surprised when he served Moira with divorce papers, however much she deserved it. I was also a bit surprised that she didn’t fight him harder on it. I will miss Salmon if he won’t be back next year.
    It was great to see that Felicity is still as focused on helping Oliver as she was before Walter disappeared. Part of me was worried that she might want to go back to the comfort of her old job and leave the crime fighting to others, so I was particularly pleased that there was never even any discussion of that.  Naturally, as Emily Bett Rickards is a regular next season, it was pretty unlikely. Now that CSU Tech Kelton (Lee Vincent) has detected that Felicity also tried to hack into Merlyn Industries, it’s possible that Felicity may have to go underground to avoid prosecution. Although it should also be easy for Walter or even Oliver to step in and protect her by saying that Queen Industries was trying to hack the competition – after all, what’s a little cyber-crime between competitors? It’s not the sort of thread that the show will leave dangling.
    As always, Felicity got the best line when in her concern for Oliver going to talk to Moira she points out that last time he got shot, and she “got to play doctor with” him. I also love that they play with the chemistry between the two of them and Felicity’s obvious crush/attraction. Another great line is when Oliver is about to swing them over the elevator shaft, he tells Felicity to hold on tight, and she responds: “I imagined you saying that under different circumstances. Very platonic circumstances.” Rickards is a delight to watch. I have to admit that I wouldn’t be upset if at some point in the future, Oliver also realizes just how endearing she is...
    Oliver acts in this episode without knowing the complete story. He’s convinced himself that he has been “treating the symptoms while the disease festers” by going after the names in the book instead of the Undertaking itself. Diggle is concerned that Oliver is going to hang up the hood after stopping the Undertaking because Diggle sees there is still a bigger problem, as he has before when he’s asked Oliver to look outside the list.
This was yet another gasp-worthy moment in the episode.
    Diggle and Oliver split up. Diggle goes to find the device, and Oliver goes to exact revenge on the man who had his father killed, and neither realize that Malcolm is also the Dark Archer. Once again, Oliver loses a fight against the Dark Archer. In this instance, Oliver might be excused for being caught off guard by Malcolm’s fighting abilities. Once again a shout out to the wonderful stunt team lead by James Bamford. The episode ends with Malcolm peeling back the hood to discover Oliver. Barrowman has been outstanding as Malcolm, and his shocked “Oh no” at the end of this episode just added another layer to the character.
    I can’t wait for the season finale next week! I’m already anticipating that it is going to be a long summer waiting for season two. What did you think of the episode? Are you happy to see Laurel and Oliver together? Is Roy in over his head? Is Tommy going dark? Will Oliver be able to escape? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to tune in next week for the season finale!

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