This week’s episode of Arrow, “Crucible,” was written by Andrew Kreisberg and Wendy Mericle and directed by Eagle Egilsson. Once again, the show delivers big action, big stunts, a great fight scene, and an intricately woven plot. I almost wish the show would actually air a bad episode so that I stop sounding like a broken record, but the show does deliver week in and week out! As I’ve said before, I attribute that to their keeping a tight control over every aspect with a small and very talented pool of writers and directors.
The episode begins with Oliver (Stephen Amell) being late to his own party. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) covers for him but Isabel (Summer Glau) is not pleased and schools him on how to create a better business image when he finally arrives. It’s one of only two scenes with Glau this week. She continues to impress, and Glau offers some lovely nuances to how Isabel is sizing up this new partner and trying to put him in his place and dominate him. Oliver had better be careful about under estimating her. I hope we don’t have to wait too long to see this storyline heat up a bit.
There is a nice moment when Felicity pulls Oliver away from a conversation with Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Laurel and Felicity give one another somewhat dirty looks – do I sense a triangle forming? The reason Felicity pulls Oliver away, however, is to suggest that the mysterious masked woman has actually been shadowing Laurel and not Oliver. They set a trap at Laurel’s and are successful in capturing her. It does, indeed, turn out to be Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), and we quickly learn that Oliver had known she didn’t die on the boat. Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity are appalled that he didn’t tell her family she was alive, but he swears he thought she was dead. Oliver explains that he’d gone through five years in which nothing good had happened, and he thought Laurel and Quentin were better off not knowing the details. Diggle, as usual, asks the hard question – do they deserve to know now? I also liked Diggle reminding Oliver that Oliver had said that secrets have weight and make it hard to keep moving, and Oliver responds with, “You’ve seen how much I workout.” We get very little of Diggle this episode, and I hope they find a way to use him even when Oliver is getting other playmates. I did like the promise of the scene with Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) when Diggle goes to his old friend for information on the guns. She’s definitely flirting with him. I liked Anderson in The Unit, so I’d love to see more of her here.
I’m really curious to see how Sara’s history and the relationship with Oliver are going to play out. For one thing, she asks about Slade (Manu Bennett)! When she comes to see him at Verdant, she’s concerned he’s told her family she’s alive. We learn that Oliver saw her die (apparently twice), and she thought he died as well. He also asks how she learned how to fight as she wasn’t much of a fighter when he knew her. In the flashbacks, of course, we see that they were first reunited after the Gambit on the prison ship. The Captain (Jimmy Jean-Louis) who has tortured and interrogated Oliver tells him his “days of screaming are just beginning” right before dropping him at Sara’s feet. My first thought was that they would be fighting against each other or training together, but maybe they were forced to torture each other? And how does Slade figure into all of this? At least this pretty much confirms that he’s still alive in the flashbacks! The Captain also asks if they found the bones and whether the bones were misshapen. This sounds suspiciously like some kind of experiment gone wrong – or a super-power on the loose.
Sara dodges Oliver’s question about where she learned to fight. She tells him she met some rough people. I think it’s fair to assume that from the Dark Archer she killed last week. Oliver wants to know why she came back. She tells him that she’d known a year ago when she heard rumors about a vigilante in a green hood that it was him, but she came back because of the earthquake. Oliver insists that she came back to make sure her family was alright because she obviously cares about them and wonders if she came back not because she was afraid he’d told them about her but because she was hoping he had. When Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) shows up to ask Oliver to speak to Laurel, Lotz has her best scene as we see the pain in her face of hearing her father’s voice and hearing about the pain her death had caused him.
I think that Oliver will live up to his promise to keep Sara’s secret until she’s willing to live again and tell Laurel and Quentin herself. He knows that the consequences to himself will likely be that they will never speak to him again, but I think that the guilt he feels over Sara’s death – possibly for both of them! – will keep him from telling her family. In Sara’s conversation with Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) about her family, it seems that she fears how her family will receive her if she does confess to being alive. She tells Sin she’s not the same person that they remember. Yet, according to Sin and Sara herself, she’s been spending her time saving women from suffering at the hands of men. It seems like the type of crusade that Laurel herself would have engaged in last season at CNRI. However, it seems that Sara is also carrying around a lot of guilt.
Sin may become a significant factor in Thea and Roy’s relationship. In a number of ways, Sin and Roy have more in common than he and Thea. Roy and Sin are both from the wrong side of the tracks and had a hard childhood, and more significantly, they are both sidekicks in training, so Roy wouldn’t have to hide that from Sin. The fact that Roy saved Sin may work in Thea’s favor in a couple of ways. Sin is obviously grateful to Roy for him saving her, so it may keep her from breaking the two up. In addition, it’s the Queens who pay her hospital bill. Sin does keep Roy’s secret even before getting shot, however. It does seem as if Thea and Sin could be friends too – Sin says she likes Thea too. I wonder if the three of them will end up becoming a unit and Thea really will end up becoming Speedy? Sara checks in on Sin in the hospital, and once again, Lotz has a nice moment as her emotions show clearly on her face – is she losing the only family/companion that she has? Will this make her more likely to reunite with her biological family? I suspect that it will be Laurel’s crisis that forces her had, however. I have to admit that while Lotz’s fighting skills are unbelievably great and her non-verbal scenes are also outstanding, I’m not finding all of her scenes completely satisfying.
One thing the show hasn’t handled really well for me is Laurel’s sudden descent into addiction. I do like that they link it to Quentin’s own alcoholism as the disease does often run in families, but the jump to Laurel abusing prescription drugs AND alcohol at the end seemed extreme. I would have liked to see them tease this storyline out a little bit more slowly – by possibly showing Laurel drinking alone at home last week. I have to say that I bought her having made a mistake by going out and having one too many glasses of wine – though denial is one of the first symptoms you have a problem. Laurel totally crosses a line when she demeans Quentin for his “drinking problem.” She asks him to cut her some slack. I think Blackthorne once again turns in a brilliant performance as he tells her he wishes people hadn’t given him any and in the last scene which sees him going to an AA meeting for support. I’m still not convinced that this is consistent with Laurel’s character, however. Laurel is equally nasty to Oliver when he tries to help her and says it’s ironic that the former party-boy and recovering alcoholic and staging her intervention.
Family and a support system are definitely one of the themes in this episode. Felicity and Diggle continue to round out Oliver’s, but his support system is expanding in another direction. We get to see Oliver fighting as a team in this episode, and I’m looking forward to the introduction of other heroes to fight by his side. The fight scene between Black Canary, Arrow, and the Mayor’s (Cle Bennett) thugs is one of the best to date. One of the best moments for me was when Arrow and Black Canary switch weapons half way through and are each just as adept as with their own weapons. Oliver has to insist that Sara not kill their prisoners, but after the Mayor calls her bitch, it looks like she can’t resist snapping his neck. Once again, given their fighting styles, I have to wonder at how their training may have intersected.
The other relationship that really progresses in the episode is between Blood (Kevin Alejandro) and Oliver. They seem to be bonding over their shared cause of helping the Glades. Oliver is winning Blood over with his sincerity. Blood, of course, has the best speech in the episode and it’s one that resonates through the entire episode and each storyline: 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 – they choose to stay in their crucible because it’s easier to embrace the pain when it’s all you know anymore. Blood maintains that he’s trying to save the Glades from learning to like the pain, before people become used to living in crime and pain. This metaphor is easily extended to Sara and Laurel who both fall into the third category right now. Sin and Roy are both really in their crucible. I think both Oliver and Quentin have come out of theirs as survivors as has Diggle. Moira, who wasn’t in the episode is still going through her own crucible.
When Oliver saves Blood from being shot, Blood compliments him on being strong and this comes back chillingly in the last scene in which we are introduced to Brother Blood who is assembling an army of the strong. Oliver quotes one of the inmates of the prison he was in as saying “living is not for the weak,” and Blood immediately sees the wisdom in it. We see that somehow the Mayor didn’t die, and Blood is asking if he is ready to serve. He tells him that the city is in chains and he’s going to free it. This certainly doesn’t sound like the earnest do-gooder he comes across as to Oliver. He injects the Mayor with what looked like Vertigo to me which leads to the Mayor finally dying.
Once again, this episode managed to weave the themes of the crucible and family throughout multiple storylines while still providing lots of great action. My favorite line? When Blood overhears Oliver and Felicity talking about guns and Oliver states “I never touch guns”! What did you think of the episode? Should Sara reveal herself to her family? Is Laurel’s descent believable? Do you think Sin spells trouble for Roy and Thea? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!