“Arrow” returned from its holiday break with its first new episode in weeks, and if you’ll forgive a horrendous pun, it tried to come back with a bang. That was due to a bad guy who liked blowing stuff up. The inevitable face-off was one of the least suspenseful scraps Oliver has been in since donning the hood, and we had to sit through what seems like the millionth instance of Arrow acting like a jerk to one of his teammates before apologizing. Credit one big reveal and some deft handling of multiple subplots for keeping this episode from feeling like filler.
Quick summary: Shrapnel is a dude who excels at making things go “Boom!” Since he can’t literally explode like he does in the comics, he’s been reimagined here as a guy who’s just really deft with explosives. Not the most interesting villain we’ve seen, but hey.
Ollie’s efforts to interrogate Starling City’s lowlifes about the man in the skull mask aren’t getting him anywhere. It doesn’t help that Felicity is still in Central City watching over Barry Allen, who still hasn’t emerged from his coma.
Sebastian Blood gives a speech at Verdant, and he and Ollie appear to be pretty chummy. Not as chummy as Blood is getting with Laurel, mind you. Ollie asks Thea about Roy, and Mom drops by to tell her daughter how proud she is that her girl has taken Ollie’s “hobby” and turned it into a respectable business.
After reciting a passage from the “generic terrorist’s playbook,” something about liberty and justice, Shrapnel blows up part of a building. Ollie arrives in his Arrow gear, but there’s a limited amount of good he can do after the fact.
Diggle sets to work tracing the bomb, and Felicity returns. Meanwhile, Laurel gets Blood to open up about his past, and he tells a story about an abusive dad and a mom who shot him in self-defense before vanishing. Ever the non-trusting type, Laurel sneaks a peek at the bills on Blood’s desk and comes up with a name: Maya Rosik.
In the back room at Verdant, Roy tries his best to reassure Thea that he’s okay. They try for a hot workplace hook-up which is rudely interrupted when a box of glasses falls and leaves Roy with a big chunk of glass in his forearm. See what happens when you fool around at work, kids?
Officer Lance and Ollie meet for a rooftop rendezvous (and Lance chides Ollie about his new mask), where the former trades forensic information for the latter’s help in rooting out the mole he thinks is in his own precinct. Naturally, another building explodes. Felicity is able to track Shrapnel to a Suspicious Van (patent pending), and Ollie uses some nifty motorcycle-riding tricks to give chase. He loses him thanks to a smoke grenade, and Felicity ends up losing him as well, almost leading Arrow into a collision with a bus. That leads to an argument back at base where Ollie accuses Felicity of not having her “head in the game,” and she justifiably storms out.
Laurel asks her dad for help in tracking down Maya Rosik, who we learn is Blood’s crazy aunt. Everyone else is getting ready for Blood’s big rally, which he says is going on despite the recent attacks in full “can’t let the terrorist win” mode. As only this show can do, everyone ends up at the rally, including Laurel, Diggle, Mom, Thea and Roy. Felicity gets a juicy lead on Shrapnel’s hideout, but all that does is lead Ollie into a trap—the place is rigged to blow thanks to multiple scary-looking lasers.
A Deus Ex Wiring allows Ollie to use Felicity’s suggestion to shoot out the fuse box (70s homes, don’t you know), and he heads for the rally. Just in time, too, to shoot a grenade in mid-air. That explosion almost knocks a heavy metal object over on Mom, which Roy saves her from in a cool yet worrisome display of superhuman strength.
Though Shrapnel shoots Diggle in the shoulder, Ollie is able to stop him from detonating bombs all around the rally with a single arrow that severs the cord to his detonator. Some villain you turned out to be!
Back at the Arrow lair, Ollie apologizes to Felicity (again!), reassuring her that Barry will eventually wake up. Something tells me he’s right. Virtual hugs all around.
And we’ve still got time for the Big Reveal. Laurel visits Maya in the mental facility and gets a double whammy of stunners: Maya is Sebastian’s mom, not his aunt, and she watched him kill his own father. Sebastian Blood is the devil (her words, not mine)! Maya tells Laurel that Sebastian is not to be trusted just as Arrow shakes hands with Blood to seemingly cement their partnership. Cue ominous music… now!
Meanwhile, on the island: Ollie and Slade mourn the death of Shado, who meant a great deal to both of them. Afterward, Ollie wants to tell Slade the truth about Shado’s death but is topped by Sara.
Later, the two men have a physical confrontation that ends with Slade lifting Ollie off the ground with one arm and choking him. Sara intervenes, and Ollie announces that the Mirakuru serum is messing with Slade’s head. You think?
The final segment sees Ivo taunting the group by radio, telling them that they have 10 days to hand over the serum in exchange for safe passage to Shanghai. If they refuse, he’ll have his men catch and torture them. But the decision may be made for them, as Sara discovers Slade is gone, and he’s taken the serum with him.
All told, this wasn’t the greatest episode by any means, and it could have used a more formidable bad guy. But the writers do get kudos for weaving the Blood/Felicity/Roy subplots together, and the reveal is leading us down a path most viewers with a knowledge of DC lore figured we were on all along. This was a building episode that promises some big pay-offs over the next few weeks, and certainly by the end of the season.