One of the difficulties of watching Arrow is keeping up with the stuffed-to-the-gills episodes. This episode taught me that the best way to keep abreast is to accept the different storylines as totally different types of story. Each group of characters has their own genre.
Fifties Adventure: "We're trapped on this island with a mad man! A mad man!"
The island crew is still reeling from Shado's death, and still hiding from Ivo. The episode starts with the three at Shado's grave, as Slade gives Shado's hoodie to Ollie. Ollie tries to demur, but Slade grits out, "You're the one she cared for." At this point, I expect Ollie's guilt to take on tangible form and kill him like the smoke monster in Lost. Ollie wants to tell Slade the truth about Shado's death, but Sarah, having spent the last year having sense knocked into her by mercenaries, talks him out of it. I think she's right. It's true, in the context of the story, it's Chekov's gun and it's going to go off sometime, but in the real world there would be no point in upsetting anyone. Especially when Slade, rolling his eyes like a spooked horse, starts feeling the effects of the Mirakuru. At one point it takes therapy-by-tree-branch-to-the-head to get him to stop choking Ollie, and he ends up running off into the night with the drugs while Ivo threatens them by radio - saying he'll experiment on them unless they hand over the drugs.
This isn't a superhero show. This is some Island of Doctor Moreau shit going on here. They are literally two young lovers who took a boat trip and got stranded on an island with a mad scientist and his tormented creation. It's so pulpy that I'm counting down the episodes until someone wrassles a snake. I hope it's Slade.
Romantic Mystery Series: "I can't reveal my love! She loves another!"
This could be Moonlighting or The X-Files or any other series that throws hot leads together to solve crimes. The point is, every week we see the heroes deal with an urgent problem, and every week we kind of want the leads to mash their lips together already. This week, the Arrow Team is fighting a mad bomber, who is ably played by Simon from Firefly. He triggers the bombs through the cell phone networks, and manipulates those networks into throwing Felicity off his digital track when she's guiding Ollie during a chase. Ollie storms back to the Arrow Cave and rips Felicity a new one. She returns the favor. Dig, who has the patience of a goddamn saint all through this episode, guides both fighters back to their corners and quietly tells Ollie that he never criticized Felicity until Barry came along. (Barry, by the way, is in a coma back in Central City.)
Simon works in a sort of nostalgic tchotchke store. That is revealed in a scene so weird, so off-kilter, and so creepily lit, that I almost associated this whole plot line with David Lynch, but we're back to the X-Files soon enough. Alderman Blood announces that the town won't be intimidated by a mad bomber, and organizes a "Unity Rally." (The scene of the rally is so sparsely populated that I think even the extras were scared off.) Simon sets up bombs in the speakers, of course. When Dig and Felicity try to cut the connection between the bombs and the triggering network, Simon shows up and shoots Dig. Ollie chases Simon to an empty spot, where Simon taunts him, showing him a trigger wired to a device for broadcasting the signal to the bombs. Ollie, deadpan and not at all alarmed, shoots the wire in half. Oh, that was perfect. Not only was it a clever way to disarm the bombs (made funnier by Simon's lost look when he realizes what happened) but it's one of the few times when an arrow is actually the perfect weapon. Go ahead and drop the mic, Ollie. You earned it.
Sadly, Ollie kind of screws up his exit from the episode. Dig walks off the bullet like it's a bee sting. This is good, because Ollie solicitously says that Dig should "Go home and get some rest," so Ollie can talk to Felicity. Saint Dig of the Glades obligingly marches his own shot ass home, and Felicity and Ollie get close, and look into each other's eyes, and talk about how much they appreciate and care for each other . . . and don't kiss. Because neither thinks the other one likes them. Oh boo, Arrow! Boo! From now on I'm making popcorn so I can throw it at the screen at times like this. You can string it out with Felicity, or you can string it out with Laurel. Not both!
Tortured Teenage Romance: "Why won't he share his terrible secret?"
Roy has been affected by the Mirakuru drug he was injected with. He does much better with it than Slade did, which is why this plotline evokes romance comics, not Hulk comics. The most noticeable effects include him turning huge, soulful eyes on Thea and saying "You're the only thing that's keeping me together," and then fleeing from her, with a tortured look, when she realizes he's healing fast and super strong. She realizes this because at two different points during this episode alone, he has to shelter Queen women beneath his manly frame when heavy things are about to fall on them. That also makes me think of old romance comics. They're oodles of fun to page through, but, god love them, they are one-trick ponies. The "evil other woman" that the heroine sees on the date with the other guy is always his sister. The charming man in the plaid suit she initially rejects the hero for is always an evil masher. And when Her Man has superpowers, something heavy is always gonna fall on someone near him so he can swoop in and display them.
Film Noir: "Forget it Laurel. It's Chinatown."
And last, and very much best, we have the Lance family. Who would have thought that Laurel could come so far in just one episode? It helps that this episode has her bantering with her dad, and them teaming up to investigate her boyfriend. More importantly, she acquires a piece of information that the rest of the characters on the show don't have. So many past episodes left Laurel as the only character who didn't have a clue as to what anyone else was really doing. In a sea of plot lines, she was stranded. Now, finally, she's ahead of the game.
Plus, both Quentin and Laurel are hip deep in film noir. Quentin is the cop who, if he didn't have bad luck, wouldn't have any luck at all. He's busted down from detective to beat cop, his partner's been killed, and his boss is gunning for him - possibly literally. He smells a rat in the department, and he uses his connections on the street there to get the phone records for the force. What'll he find? And what will they do when he gets to them?
Laurel's his daughter, a good lawyer but maybe not so good a dame. She's snatched her father's pain killers, and is popping them like candy. Meanwhile, she smells a rat in that new mayoral candidate that everyone else is wild about. She cozies up to him to see what she can find. Turns out he's a tortured soul. Saw his own mother shoot his father before she disappeared off into the night. And then one of the preachers at the home he stayed in as a kid went and became the notorious criminal Cyrus Gold. But golly, if he didn't make good. He even pays the bills for his poor, crazy aunt to stay in a nice facility.
Except maybe Laurel finds out that the facility isn't so nice. And maybe his mother isn't the one who shot his father. And maybe, just maybe, that lady in the padded cell isn't his aunt. She's his mother.
DUN DUN DUN!