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ARROW Review: “Blood Debts” is an Emotional but Balanced Winter Premiere

By on January 21, 2016
Arrow

Pictured: Stephen Amell as The Arrow -- Photo: Katie Yu/ The CW

By Justin Carter

At the end of the winter finale, Arrow revealed that Oliver’s fiancee Felicity Smoak was the one who got shot by Damien Darhk’s men, and her fate was left up in the air. Would she be fine? Would she die?

The answer to that is that she’s fine, of course. While she’s recovering and undergoing surgery, Oliver’s doubling down and going on a manhunt for the HIVE leader. I won’t deny that I was furiously willing him to go to the hospital instead, but it’s understandable that Oliver would choose to run away in some fashion. Delaying his reunion with Felicity may have been the right call, as it made it all the sweeter when it happened.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of Felicity’s paralysis. While it’s not a bad thing in a story sense, it does feel like they’re trying to make Felicity into the tech hero Oracle, the moniker Barbara Gordon used after she was shot and paralyzed by the Joker. She could end up walking again (I have no idea exactly how), but for now this story angle feels like it was given just he right amount of time needed so it could be explored more thoroughly in later episodes.

But of course, that wouldn’t entirely carry an episode, so back comes Lonnie Machin into the spotlight. Machin, the guy who Thea sort of set on fire earlier this season, has now adopted his comic persona and name Anarky. His scars aren’t as bad as they could be (they look like minor burns for someone whose entire body got engulfed in flames), but his relationship with both Thea and Darhk are interesting and complex.

While he and Darhk never interact in this episode, the script does a good job of giving him a good bone to pick with Darhk by going after his family. Some of his moments with Thea are pretty good, being creepy without going too far. Were Anarky given more time to be around her, he’d be a pretty good recurring enemy for Thea to face on her own sometimes. I think the writers have more or less realized that her killing Anarky would’ve been a step backwards, so they appropriately let her spare him, at least for now. Still, before that, the stuff with Laurel informing the police where the team is keeping Anarky just doesn’t work; it feels like it happens because the show needed Oliver and Laurel to argue about something rather than this being a legitimate issue. (Which it sort of is, but it also isn’t like this team doesn’t bend the rules every now and then.)

If nothing else, this episode deserves points for getting the emotional stuff just right. The conversation between Felicity and Oliver is genuinely moving and shows how the two of them bring out the best in each other. Diggle’s arc with trying to reconnect with his brother is pretty solid, and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out further in the season. Maybe they’ll let him out of the cage!

“Blood Debts” gets the job done and is a solid entry into 2016. It’s a transitional episode to be sure, but what works here works pretty well, so I can’t fault it for that. And while it didn’t give us Neal McDonough at full camp, it does provide some fun Anarky stuff and pushes the plot forward gradually. That’s more than fine.

Additional Notes

  • So Felicity can now be removed from the death pool. Given her reaction in the limo and insistence that Oliver had to kill Dahrk, I’m going to bet that it’ll be her mother who bites it. Or, and this is a long shot here, Roy. He is said to be returning in an episode down the line…
  • Darhk lets Team Arrow live for saving his family, at least for a few weeks. What would a maniac with telekinesis and a vampire hand do on vacation?
  • On an unrelated note, it’s nice to know that his wife is just as evil as the man she married. The couple who plots the death of the world together stays together.
  • I have absolutely no clue what’s going on with the flashbacks this season, much less why the show thinks anyone still cares at this point.

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