This episode, "The Darkness on the Edge of Town," is jam-packed full of plot, and most of that plot is heavy stuff. Fortunately, to lighten the load, there are some moments of pure physical comedy in there, and they see us through.
We start the episode with a massacre of scientists at Unidac, the company that was making the mystery device for Malcolm Merlyn. That, I stress, is not funny, but it provides help to our our first comedy duo, Thea and Roy. Roy's obsession with finding the vigilante includes both stealing a car and getting Thea to use her law firm to request records in an — as far as I can tell — trumped up lawsuit against the cops of the city so she can hang around the police station and spy on Quentin Lance. She learns that the scientists made some calls to Merlyn Industries; there, they run into Ollie, who we will get to later. Thea spills the beans on their little mission to Ollie, and Ollie greets Roy with a stern warning about leaving the vigilante alone. He does this via angry whispering and, hilariously, a Stupid Man's Handshake. This handshake, where two guys go stone-faced as their hands try to crush and subsequently digest each other, is one of the primary reasons we need to fight the patriarchy. Honestly, guys. You run the world for thousands of years and you can't do better than grip strength as dominance? Whenever I see this sort of nonsense, I refer people to the NSFW teachings of Eddie Izzard.
Thea, who has let her boyfriend talk her into stalking the cops in a stolen car, and getting spurious warrants (from Judge Grell — I see what you did there, DC), both while she's on probation, decides that her brother's disapproval is too much. Roy, still smarting from being the hand-rat to Ollie's hand-anaconda, calls Ollie a wimp and breaks up with Thea.
A disconsolate Thea heads home and has her bad day compounded by Moira's bad day. Moira and Walter are having problems with him not being an idiot. He linked the fact that he was poking into a giant conspiracy that Moira was involved with to the fact that he got kidnapped. I was hoping that he'd spin that English accent into being Arrow's James Bond, seducing evil ladies for justice and the crown; sadly, he simply files for divorce. Thea arrives just as he's walking out the door. Since he's too much of a gentleman to knock her out of the way and run, he breaks into the next priceless piece of physical comedy. He wordlessly pulls her into a hug so awkward that I swear they didn't tell the actress — Willa Holland — what was happening, or even that they were filming. You can see her thinking, "Oh god. Stephen Amell died and they're re-casting the Ollie part with Ashton Kutcher."
Moira Queen spent the entire episode wading through crap waist-deep, which is a shame because at several points she wears wonderful outfits. (Not everyone can pull off wearing scarlet — just ask comics Roy.) She not only has to deal with the desertion of her husband, but also of her son. Ollie, not wanting to come down with another case of "shot through the shoulder by his amazing badass of a mother," staged his and Moira's kidnapping. Dig played the part of Green Arrow, and beat up Ollie to get Moira to talk. Moira confesses that she was forced into a plan to help Barrowmerlyn destroy the Glades with an earthquake. But that's not the comedy — the comedy is the fake kidnapping. Ollie comes in to Moira's room, all soft eyes and questioning looks. The scene builds intensity as he questions her and she frantically denies everything. Just as it reaches a crescendo, the lights go out, they both pause and look confused and then — FWIP! — dart in the neck for them both. They topple over like ancient redwoods.
With the new information about Barrowmerlyn's earthquake device, Team Ollie have to pull an Ocean's 11 style caper to get into Merlyn Global's computer system and hack it to find the device's location. This includes Dig playing a security guard, Felicity playing the world's best-tipped delivery person, and Ollie playing the guy who didn't plan the scheme well enough. In trying to get Felicity up to and down off the upper floor of a busy office building, Ollie never seems to count on anyone else wanting to take the elevator. On the trip up he has to smack some files out of a guy's hand to get him to step off the elevator to retrieve them. It's funny, but mean. As soon as he tries to escort Felicity back down, he's delayed first by Barrowmerlyn and then by Thea, while his eyes grow ever more wild. It's marvelous to see. It starts out with mild annoyance and worry and escalates until it looks like his head is filled with angry bees. When Felicity gets caught, Dig passes her off as Tommy's clingy ex, and escorts her out while she wails, "But I love him! He's my man!"
Tommy's available to be someone's man. During Ollie's meeting with Tommy at Merlyn Global — as a pretext to help Felicity get in — Ollie seemed to push him to get back with Laurel. When Ollie discovers Barrowmerlyn's plan, he thinks he may be able to stop being the Green Arrow when he thwarts it, and goes to proposition Laurel himself. She accepts, and they hook up... right in front of the window that Tommy is looking in on his way to get back together with Laurel. I would make a joke, but Tommy's poor sad face does me in. It's like he's thinking, "For crying out loud. Arrow has three female topless scenes per season, and they give them all to Amell." (There. It looks like I had a joke in me after all.)
With the hacked information, Ollie hunts down Barrowmerlyn while Dig goes to find the earthquake device. Ollie confronts Barrowmerlyn in his office. Again, a scene builds tension and builds tension. And when Ollie releases the arrow — bam. Barrowmerlyn catches it. And also he moved the device. And? He mops the floor with Ollie. Hell, he washes the windows, dusts the knick-knacks, and straightens out the linen closet with Ollie. This is a beating that's so monumental that it could be framed and passed down through multiple generations as an heirloom. At last, when Ollie is lying unconscious at his feet, Barrowmerlyn whips back Ollie's hood and says, "Oh no." Oh no, what? You, dear reader, can choose what comes next, but I like to think it was, "Oh no, I thought they put a stunt guy in the suit for the fight scenes. Well, we'll have to tell Willa she's getting a new co-star."
Or it could be a reference to this episode's flashback, where Ollie gets punched so hard you can actually see his eyes tracking little cartoon birds dancing around his head, but the funny moment is punctured when Fyers kills Yao Fei, and prepares to shoot down an airliner.
What will happen on the finale? Who will get the chop? I'm still betting that Barrowmerlyn will end up being the one pining for the fjords, but what are your guesses?