Arrow returns with more short story arcs

Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode 10 of Arrow ’s second season.

Arrow returned from its winter hiatus on Wednesday with “Blast Radius,” the 10th episode of the second season on The CW. In the episode, protagonist Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) pursues the man in the skull mask until he gets distracted by the arrival of Shrapnel (Firefly’s Sean Maher), a bomber who has a bone to pick with the government of Starling City.

In the first half of the second season, Arrow seemed to be moving away from its trite villain-of-the-week story arcs toward story lines featuring more long-term antagonists. While these recurring villains can be corny — as can only be expected in a television adaptation of a comic book — they tend to be more well-rounded and intriguing than their perfunctory counterparts. Short-term foes tend to be boring and rather forgettable, and Shrapnel unfortunately falls into this same trap. He spouts anti-government vitriol, blows up buildings, and then gets taken down by Oliver with ease.

Another major pitfall of the episode was the forced tension between Oliver and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) regarding her visit to the comatose Barry Allen — The Flash — in Central City. Oliver snapping at Felicity over her visit to a sick friend, no matter their potential romantic involvement, seemed out of character and childish.

Arrow needs to continue to develop Felicity as a character, not as a potential romantic partner for Oliver. She’s fantastic and funny, and she never fails to liven up the scenes she’s in, but the possibility of a romantic relationship between her and Oliver feels too forced for the narrative of the show’s second season. Felicity is a brilliant woman, and more in touch with reality than either Oliver’s bodyguard Diggle or Oliver himself. Through her, the show’s executive producer Andrew Kreisberg has the ability to explore the incongruity and insanity of Oliver’s vigilante quest more deeply. Instead, Felicity seems more of a romantic back-up plan.

Sebastian Blood, the morally-questionable potential mayor of Starling City, was one of the best parts of “Blast Radius.” On the one hand, the character comes across as an earnest civil servant who wants the best for Starling City, but it has already been revealed that he is the man in the skull mask that Oliver is pursuing. This week’s episode also revealed that Blood’s mother is in a mental institution because he put her there after he killed his abusive father. Blood has the potential to be a truly juicy villain, complete with a desire to protect Starling City and a loose grasp on moral compunctions. Hopefully, Kreisberg will continue to pour energy into fleshing out Blood’s storyline and his relationship with both his family and Oliver’s old friend Slade Wilson, who was revealed to be a major part of Blood’s storyline in the ninth episode of the second season.

All in all, “Blast Radius” didn’t knock anybody’s socks off this week, but it was a solid episode and a good set-up for the rest of the season.