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I’ve been pretty hard on Arrow this season, but it’s only because I know how great the show can be the writers get out of their own way and just let their great cast of characters do smart things. And, when that happens, you get great episodes like “Blood Debts.”
The reason “Blood Debts” works as well as it does is that everyone was responding the the events of the episode in character. Oliver predictably started to fall off the deep end (which was fitting for his character), Thea continued to struggle with her inner demons (something I’m thrilled the writers have continued to follow through on), Diggle remained calm but deadly in the face of Felicity’s injuries, Laurel kept the most level head of all and pulled Oliver back from the brink (it is always a treat when the writers remember that Laurel is smart and competent), and Felicity managed to keep her amazing sense of humor despite her paraplegia diagnosis (although, I have to assume her cheery front will falter in the coming weeks). Every action made sense, and even when a character wasn’t doing the right thing (or the smartest thing), it was very clear what his or her motivation was. This is how Arrow should be week in and week out.
In addition to eliminating the schizophrenia of the various Arrow characters, we were given a pretty interesting return engagement from Anarky. Now, Villains of the Week have never been Arrow‘s strong suit, but Anarky offered just enough off-kilter crazy and determined follow through to make him a fitting antagonist. It also helped that his presence gave Thea her strongest episode arc of the season. I absolutely expected her to put an arrow between his eyes at the end of the episode, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her exhibit serious restraint. While I’m glad her blood lust is still a storyline, I’m just as happy that the writers have opted to show her taking small steps to controlling it rather than simply having her continually fall off the murder wagon. I was also excited that Anarky has escaped to fight another day- although with Damien Darhk on his tail, I’m not sure how long that will be true.
Speaking of Darhk, while there are still too many unanswered questions surrounding him (mainly the source and breadth of his power), “Blood Debts” went a long way to turning him into a multi-layered character (something that has taken far too long to happen). Yes, there is still a long way to go before he can really be declared a complex character, but injecting some humanity into his rather emotionless facade is a step in the right direction. We already knew from “Dark Waters” that Darhk had a wife and daughter, but we didn’t know that Mrs. Darhk is just as devious as her husband (a lovely little twist that I didn’t see coming). I’m glad she took him to task for letting Oliver walk away only slightly maimed. Sure, I can understand Darhk’s reason for giving the Green Arrow a short reprieve, but at least someone acknowledged that his moment of kindness could come back to bite him in the end.
My only issue with the episode (aside from the continuing use of the stupid flashbacks that I pretty much ignore at this point- and will continue doing, until the show explains how they factor into the present day story) was the flash forward. Yes, we now know that Felicity makes it out alive (or, at least makes it four months into the future alive). But, I’m getting tired of the repeated teases. We are aware that this is coming, and wasting time in episodes continuing to tease this death is just silly. The only new thing we learned from the scene at the episode’s close was that whoever died meant something to Felicity. I know, that’s not exactly narrowing things down. I guess she wouldn’t be crying over the death of Malcolm Merlyn, but then again this is Felicity, so I can see that happening as well. Whoever it may be, it is pretty clear that, despite hinting to the contrary in various interviews at the start of the season, we won’t be getting confirmation as to the identity of the deceased until the latter part of the year (we also still have four more months to slog through before Oliver decides to get serious in his fight against Darhk). My only worry is whether or not Arrow has enough narrative juice to survive the months it will take to get us to the big finale arc of May.
— Another thing I liked in the episode? Lance and Donna together. I loved seeing the fun banter between Laurel and Lance when she found out.
— Speaking of Donna Smoak, isn’t it amazing how good Charlotte Ross is when she’s given some meaty things to play? Arrow has been wasting her with the ditzy side of Donna. This episode showed why she was so good on NYPD Blue for all those years.
— There have been rumblings that Felicity’s paralysis means she will be stepping into the Oracle mantle. Now, I would argue that she has pretty much been the Team Arrow Oracle for awhile now, but once she’s calling the shots from a wheelchair in the Arrow lair I think the transformation will be complete.
— And speaking of Felicity, did anyone else notice what was missing from her hand in the flash forward? Looks like “Olicity” might not be long for this world.