Honesty is the Best Policy. Not When You're a Superhero
Arrow, “Tremors” has a lot going for it. The return of Ben Turner aka The Bronze Tiger, with much better fight scenes this time. Ollie finally opens up about the island a bit and welcoming Roy into Team Arrow. Moira may throw herself into a political campaign, in a keep busy move that I almost buy. If anything it will give the show an outlet for its more socially mined messages. Amanda Waller makes an appearance talking about a squad she’s putting together (more likely it’s be called a Task Force). But most importantly, “Tremors” featured the return of Team Arrows most important member: the Salmon Ladder and the requisite workout scenes.
Forcing Oliver to reveal his true self is a staple of superhero storytelling, the moral quandary of personal safety vs. the innocent masses. By the end, Oliver half jokingly says too many people know his secrete, and he doesn’t know the half of it. Taking off the mask was a moment of emotional honesty between Oliver and Roy. As the Arrow, Oliver couldn’t get Roy to listen and do what is necessary, punch through random container with proto-earthquake machine. As Oliver Queen, brother to Thea, suddenly Roy has that moment of focus. With his hero unmasked Roy is finally able to listen to his new master and thank him for saving his life a year ago. The moment of emotional honesty and intimacy forms the canonical bond between Roy and Oliver. One the show can slowly begin to break as they give Roy a drug addiction, child out of wedlock, and of course, cut off his arm.
The late game ticking time bomb plot was a solid dramatic foundation of angst as Oliver deals with being a teacher. His batting record might be .500 at best. Rightly or wrongly he blames himself for failing Slade and putting an arrow through his eye, Amells delivery of that line is excellent by the way. He did manage to save Diggle from his anger towards Deadshot. Roy isn’t like either of the man who would be Deathstroke or Mr. Diggle. He hasn’t lost someone who means a lot to him. Instead, he’s just angry. The thought of Thea is the only thing that is keeping him resembling sanity. Not that sanity helps him focus, beating up the driver and Bronze Tiger in lieu of stopping the situation. Now with his idol revealed, Roy has another anchor to sanity and control.
With Arrow being in its second season, they have plenty of B-roll of what I believe is Seattle (or Toronto since that city looks like every city in America). As such it gives the show an economy of movement in terms of set design and editing transitions (note that the Island is mostly cut to and away from via wipes while the present is just jump cuts). “Tremors” makes a lot out of a couple of sets, the rooftop meeting between Tiger and his higher, the docks, and Merlyn Mansion. The first two places are just about the same place, but with some green screens, and transitions they become believable places, that we have also seen other parts of. Arrow is allowed to reuse and explore it’s singular location bit by bit where something like Agents of SHIELD due to its globetrotting mandate has to create worlds on a weekly basis. Making it unsurprising, that their best looking episodes are all in doors and have limited need for expensive faux location shooting.
Speaking of economic storytelling, The Bronze Tiger played by Michael Jai White is excellent. Talked about just enough by those around him but for the most part it is all on Jai Whites acting. White chews the right amount of scenery as the B-move villainous merc with Wolverine Claws. “Tremors” also finally uses Jai White for what he is best at, physicality. His first appearance in “Identity” had some clearly subpar by Arrow standards action directing, with “Tremors” we finally get to see some fists of fury. White is the right kind of actor who understands what he is in and plays that to a T. The scene between himself and Waller is played so on the nose with obvious hint and importance that if you didn’t know what the Suicide Squad was, you’d think it was one of the dumbest things ever. On the page it is all patently dumb but in execution there is a glee to how carefully the word “squad” is framed and uttered that It becomes a huge fanboy moment.
It’s that kind of knowing wink that allows moments like Sara talking about Love is the most powerful emotional bond in obvious grand thematic statements, to mostly work. In the moment it was a bit cringe worthy, in general Caity Lotz work on the island hasn’t been the best. She’s constantly forced to be the pouty melodramatic one which contrasts with her present day state. But without that big dumb grand thematic statement we wouldn’t have Ollie talking Slade off the missle platform, the two making a bond that isn’t as strong as Olliver would like in the end. The Newsroom is a show that loves it’s big dumb cheesy moments but that show lacks the courage of its convictions to go a step further, Arrow more often than not takes the dumb cheese and refines it into something better later on.
In other really dumb on paper but executed in a way that get you to say “go on”. Moira is running for Mayor of Starling City, because there’s no one with her connections and noteriaty… . It is a patently absurd move to give Moira something to do now that she’s out prison, and further the Blood storyline. Episode scribes Marc Guggenheim & Drew Z. Greenberg hang this absurdity on the relationship between Moira and Thea. With the daughter reminding her mother that she is still worthy of forgiveness, it’s the right kind of emotional gobbledygook needed to propel a former member of an Undertaking that killed 503 people and nearly leveled the city to try and now run it.
The Bits At The End
- Moira running for Mayor has already brought out the ruthless side of her again. Already talking about just offing potential problems because political campaigns are worse than business. Also this could and should be all aprt of Slade’s revenge scheme.
- Sara Lance returns as what will likely be thought of as vision by Laurel when she wakes up in the morning.
- The Spartacus fan in me really wants Slade to have a nice conversation with Amanda Waller.