Arrow "Darkness at the Edge of Town" Review: Hitting All the Important Targets

By Noel Kirkpatrick

May 09, 2013

Arrow S01E22: "Darkness on the Edge of Town"

Here we are at the penultimate episode of the season, and I think it's the first episode in a while that I've very much enjoyed. I mean, sure, there was the romantic triangle, and I'll talk about it, but that's an element of the show that's been a weak spot for a while now, so I've learned to expect that and generally compartmentalize it. It affects the show narratively (oooh boy, did it this week), but it's having less and less of an influence on my enjoyment of any given episode. You know, so long as the episode is good.

Which was the case here. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" did benefit from a lot of things, not the least of which was that we're at the end of the season and the big story regarding the Undertaking was at the forefront. It wasn't a Moira B-plot and it wasn't tangentially related to the case of the week somehow: It was the A-plot and it was the case of the week. That made the episode exciting and gave it the momentum that Arrow has been trying to build, admittedly in fits and starts.

One reason "Darkness on the Edge of Town" just worked was that all of Team Arrow was on the field for the episode's big centerpiece, as they infiltrated Merlyn Global to gain access to their mainframe. Felicity was back in the game, this time as a Big Belly delivery girl; Diggle was posing as a security guard to monitor the situation; and Oliver was there as Oliver to run interference. It was something that I think many of us had been waiting for, and to finally have it felt really good. There was an ease to their teamwork that allowed the hour to move along at a brisk and enjoyable pace, with a bit of a heist feel to it.

Was it too easy and too smooth? Sure. This was only Felicity's second time in the field, and she was pretty much a natural ("One of Merlyn Junior's bimbos." "But I love him! He's my man!"), beyond the elevator shaft grappling and swinging ("I should mention I'm afraid of heights. Which I just found out."). Any lingering resentments Diggle may or may not hold because of Oliver not supporting him in his vendetta against Deadshot went unmentioned and unacknowledged. I just didn't care, though. It was fun, it popped, and it was entertaining in a way Arrow just hasn't been for me for a number of episodes, and I was able to not get caught up on character inconsistencies because of that. 

Even Oliver's showdown with Malcolm at the end of the episode tickled my fancy. It was sort of comic book-y—Malcolm's bit about discovering the virus in his mainframe—but, again, I sort of relished that it hit a comic-book tone instead of a contrived one. Malcolm felt super villain-y here, and I was really delighted by that. There was the brutality of the fight that I found really exciting, and then to have it upended by the very genuine "Oh no." he muttered hit a note that I honestly wasn't expecting. Malcolm's been very serious in how he deals with people so far that I fully suspect that, had Walter not looked into things, he wouldn't have been abducted, and him finding out that Oliver is the Hood put him into a position that I don't think he really wants to be in.

The interrogation of Moira was also a nice sequence. There was the bait-and-switch in the abduction that was fun, but I liked the emotional impact and symmetry it had as well. Oliver had his mother kidnapped and questioned in the same way that Moira intended for Oliver to be in the pilot, and so to have that vibe come back at the tail end of the season was pretty great. It was Oliver's disappointment in her, and her breakdown as she confessed everything, that helped to give the episode some emotional heft outside of the romantic element. I've said time and again that Susanna Thompson is great on this show, and this episode was an example of it.

Even Walter serving her with divorce papers hit harder than I was expecting, and I chalk a lot of that up to Thompson and Colin Salmon being able to do a lot with only a little time. They both expressed their respective characters' heartbreak and disappointment in ways that just tugged at me: Moira's pleading tone and wide eyes, Walter's barely restrained calm ("Considering the circumstances, I find it somewhat reserved."), with only the licking of lips to betray his real emotions. Between the two of them, Thompson and Salmon managed to sell the complete breaking of a loving marriage in the course of three minutes.

This, sadly, leads me to the less compelling romantic entanglements. I didn't care that Roy and Thea broke up since I didn't care about them being together; if anything, it was probably the single worst thing about the episode. Their relationship, the lack of time spent developing it, and its dissolution demonstrated just how fully Arrow contorted itself to introduce Roy Harper into the series, and to put him on this track to find the Hood. The show would've been better off saving this arc for Season 2 and giving it more time to grow.

Then there's the whole Oliver-Laurel-Tommy thing. I try to meet shows on the level where they want to tell a story and then work through my responses to that story (this is why I very rarely ever dismiss things completely out of hand, which I'm sure has infuriated many of you), and so when Arrow wants me to believe there's been a "dance" between Oliver and Laurel, I want to see if I can buy into it. Regular readers know that I don't, and I didn't here. With the exception of the past few episodes, there's been no real dance, no real tension.

Instead, this triangle has served to drive Tommy to the dark side, and I'm okay with that, even if it all happened a touch too quickly. Tommy is now without anyone he can trust. The two anchors in his life drifted away from him and toward each other, and that left only Malcolm to fill the void. ("What exactly do you do here?" "I work closely with my father.") I do think that the rift between Tommy and Laurel was mostly of Tommy's doing as a result of his insecurities, but it's pretty hard to see the forest for the trees when the very guy who explained that to you went and slept with your ex-girlfriend hours later.

On Lian Yu, the plot unfurled for us at long last: Fyers' job was to blow up passenger planes coming into China so as to destabilize the country's economy, and Ferris Airlines Flight 637 was up first. There wasn't much in terms of craziness here. Yao Fei was shot by Fyers following the former recording one of those "I take credit for this violent act" videos, the beaten-up guy in the cave with Oliver waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the season was indeed a member of Team Fyers, and we found out that Fyers' employer was a pair of female legs. Maybe they have a body attached to them, but I'm betting we'll have to wait until Season 2 to find that out.

In any case, I'm very excited for the finale next week, probably more than I was even last week, and certainly more than I was two weeks ago. See you all then!


– I feel like Arrow has named-dropped Ferris before, but in case it haven't, or you've forgotten, Ferris Aircraft is from the Green Lantern comics, and its CEO is typically Carol Ferris, the love interest of Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern.

– "I got to play doctor with you."

– "I thought you were going to pull your punches." "I did." Okay, so, maybe a little bit of acknowledgement of Diggle's frustrations with Oliver?

– "I imagined you saying that under other circumstances. Very platonic circumstances."

– Tommy's starting to grow out the Beard of Evil, so that path's been pretty much decided upon.

– Another nice bit of symmetry exists in the word choices of Oliver and Malcolm in terms of cleaning up the city: disease, symptoms, etc. Two sides, same coin.

– Look, Arrow, I'm fine with product placement. I get that it's a handy way to supplement your budget, but C'MON. Roy had a Surface tablet. Roy. Did he illegally borrow that, too? Did Thea give it to him? I'm willing to look past a lot of inconsistencies, but that was just too much. Anyone else on the show having one I can accept. But him Noooooooooooooooooooope.

– Speaking of Microsoft Surface, the producers got into the act this week, telling us how much the tablets help them balance their work lives and their personal lives. Factor that into your next tablet purchase. At least it led to Marc Guggenheim saying this nugget: "I think everyone would like to invite Stephen Amell into their homes."

What'd you think of "Darkness on the Edge of Town"?

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  • ChanX95 May 15, 2013

    So Roy has gone from being pointless and annoying to me screaming at the screen "GO AWAY NOW YOU WEIRD LITTLE SCULPTED BOY!" Also my love Felicity only grows with every episode

  • Acrobit May 15, 2013

    I wonder if it's Laurel's mom ordering Fyers around? Unless it's the sister (...nah), it'd have to be someone we've never seen. Little point, unless they introduce her this coming episode...but how obvious would *that* be?

    (Don't say 'CW obvious,' don't say 'CW obvious'...)

  • asmakm3 May 15, 2013

    I think it's someone we haven't seen yet... although if it's someone we know (like Laurel's mum) they might do the slow camera panning up to reveal her face in the last shot of the season - or is that TOO CW obvious?!

    Sorry, I couldn't resist ;)

  • Acrobit May 16, 2013

    Hey, neither could I.

  • e313 May 15, 2013

    Oliver and Laurel just. don't. make. sense. *headdesk* none. zero. it's like there are these characters and this storyline and athen the Oliver and Laurel show is, i don't know, another show with different characters? completely irrelevant? i'm trying and suspending disbelief and everything but i just can't see it! i can see Oliver-Felicity, i can see a real connection there, Moira had very little screen time with either of her husbands but i buy the deep love there, hell, i can even see Thea-Roy damit, just not the Oliver-Laurel thing :(

  • asmakm3 May 14, 2013

    I wonder if the writers/producers etc are aware of how many of us feel about Laurel as a character & her non-existent chemistry with Ollie..? And if they are will they do anything about it? I can't decide if it's the character itself that isn't working or if they've got the actress wrong or if it's a mixture of both. There's just nothing there and god knows I've tried my best to find it troughout the series. It feels wrong to be saying it but even putting his awesome vibes with Felicity aside, I feel he has more on-screen chemistry with Thea than with Laurel - there's that little between them in my opinion. Again I just wonder if they got the casting totally wrong.. or maybe it's just me,

    PS: Loved the review, enjoyed the episode a lot, it was very entertaining minus the Laurel issues.

  • Acrobit May 15, 2013

    Yeah, at the very least, it's bad writing. If they ever do something interesting with Laurel's character (y'know, aside from seeing how much milquetoast can drip), we'll get to see if it's the actress, too. A lot of them end up surprising me when they get the chance.

  • asmakm3 May 15, 2013

    True enough, if she had something meaningful to do it'd give us a chance to see what she's capable of. Storywise I think if they'd built more on their friendship/relationship throughout the season before suddenly throwing 'em in bed together it would've helped a little. Wouldn't have taken much, just a handful of scenes here and there, a few looks, anything to make it a little more believable that these two have been fighting their feelings for a while. As it was it ended up feeling like nothing more than a plot device to push Tommy further towards the dark side.

    Still I'm glad it happened already 'cos that (hopefully) means we'll have minimal Oliver/Laurel in the finale & more focus on the action ;)

  • Acrobit May 16, 2013

    Sounds like good mottoes for CW:

    - "Wouldn't have taken much"
    - "Hopefully *that's* out of the way now so we can focus on the action"

  • bleumystique May 12, 2013

    I always love reading these! :)

    -Wait Roy and Thea broke up? I think I missed that! Maybe I was too busy waiting for someone more interesting to appear onscreen. I agree with all said. I don't understand the purpose of intruding Roy, of drumming up the appearance of Colton Hayes, of anything that has had to do with him and this storyline, if there wasn't going to be much of a storyline. I haven't seen anything that has gave me reason to believe that it was of imminent necessity that he be prevalent in season one. They didn't have the opportunity to flesh any of it all. All of his stuff with Thea served as filler to break away from the more important things going on with the more important characters...while the set changes.
    -I also agree with the love triangle. That and the Roy and Thea stuff were the weakest bits of an otherwise solid episode. I just don't care. I can't even bring myself to try to care. I'm not interested. Ollie on his own, or with other characters, doing things that aren't remotely close to being romantic? Love it. I'll take it. I believe it. Even Tommy has sort of grown on me since being utterly useless in the beginning. But I can't with Laurel. I just can't. I can't believe that she and Ollie have this chemistry. I don't see it. I don't feel it. Oliver has more sexual tension with his bow and arrow (insert soooo many phallic jokes). They can't make me care about them as a couple or Laurel as a character no matter how hard they try. And they try hard. Too hard. It's absurd how hard they try. There was a moment where I rolled my eyes so hard at Tommy seeing Oliver and Laurel through the window (Word to the wise NEVER bang anyone up against the window. Just don't. Don't encourage the sick voyeurs, there is nothing sexy about it... uncomfortable...just never.), anyhoo I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they would get stuck and I could hear my mom's voice in the back of my head scolding me. But if it serves to drive Tommy over to the dark side, than whatever. So be it.
    -Ohhh that Moira and Walter stuff was tough. The divorce papers. I cringed. I didn't expect to be affected by that either, but I was. Moira is the dark horse of the series. Before I realized it, she sort of appeared out of nowhere being all interesting and stuff. Well played, Moira. Well played.
    -I will never get enough of Felicity Smoak being awesome. I just won't. Last week her nervous, rambling, and freudian slips were so cute. This week, they still had me in stitches. I love Oliver's response to them too. He's all stoic and mildly annoyed that she isn't focused. Love.Her. She was awesome going undercover. I didn't care that she got so good at it so fast, because she still does her Felicity thing where she's wonderfully, awesomely awkward. She, Oliver, and Diggle undercover together is pretty much everything I could ask for in this show. Those three. All the time. Oh the look on Merlyn's face when he revealed that Arrow was Oliver. I'm eager for the finale.

  • Acrobit May 12, 2013

    Yeah, Felicity doesn't disappoint, does she? (I mean, aside from Bing, Windows 8, and the rookie hacker mistakes that would make any hacker smash a keyboard over their own heads...I'd assume.)

    Those slips are consistent, but Felicity sells them really well. They just keep on coming, but they're pretty good. I really think a lot of these shows would be better if their Felicities were the leading ladies and their Laurels went...home, or something and left everyone else alone.

  • bleumystique May 13, 2013

    LOL. I'm not what you'd consider tech savvy, but I know a few things, and more importantly, I know a few people. *cough* So I am aware about her credibility issues in a hacker friendly community of viewers.

    Obviously I agree with all of this, my friend. Obviously. Felicity is leading lady material. No other broad on this show even matters. I feel like Felicities are real. They are the most relatable. Laurels are...well, I could type a dissertation on the portrayal of women in the media. So I'll leave it at, I concur.

  • Aesandil May 11, 2013

    I enjoyed this episode. Even more so than the previous one. So far Arrow is heading for a promising end of the season.

    My favorite island sequence was not playing around this time. Yao Fei being shot in cold blood by Fyers was nothing short of a shock (so much for him mentoring Oliver further). And Fyers himself showed a truly cold, calculating side of his persona, by taking a gun to our trio just to get what he wanted.
    It was nice to get a confirmation on the "lost student" being nothing more than a bait, as some of us had predicted.

    Was good to have Walter back. Alas, not for long it would seem. Moira really bit off more than she could chew.
    Speaking of Moira, I'll admit that they had me there for a while, thinking at first that it was the Dark Archer who assaulted Oliver and her mother (and getting angry at Oliver that he would not get alarmed by the power outage). All in all, a good move. Diggle is getting experienced at playing The Hood.

    The whole scene at Merlyn Global was well done. Felicity sharing more funny moments (and chemistry) with Oliver, Diggle coming to the rescue, Oliver being caught up with all the real life stuff while trying to get to help Fel... a nice teamwork feel to it.
    While I appreciated the fight between Oliver and Malcolm, I was a little miffed that Oliver lost rather quickly, and got knocked out to boot. Will have to see where it goes, I guess.

    As usual, the weakest parts of the episode had to do with Roy & Thea (certainly shouldn't have introduced the guy this season), and everything including Laurel's heart woes.
    The scene in her bedroom topped it all - in a bad way. Of course the window had to face the street and be super transparent from the ground level, of course the curtains would not be drawn because why not have every bystander admire what was happening, and of course Tommy would just show up there right at that exact moment. Eh. Truly worthy of the worst "romantic" Hollywod movies. Shame on you, Arrow, shame on you.

  • Shawn May 11, 2013

    Most of the episode was good besides the Roy & Little Sis. deal; I have to agree with the reviewer here that I don't care about them and the breakup meant nothing to me. The only other problem I had with this episode was the contrived scene where just so happen Oliver & Laurel go at it in front of an open window just to have Tommy be able to look up and see it....too contrived for me and something that has about much chance of playing out the way it did as someone winning the lottery!

  • Zelli42 May 11, 2013

    Great episode!
    I am wondering, I always get repelled by Felicity using windows 8. Is that ok for beeing a hacker? Because it feels to me utterly ridiculous. Not that I know anything about hacking

  • Milanowicz May 11, 2013

    I really enjoy the show. It's not the best show on tv, but it is highly entertaining if you get past the whole bows are more effective than guns thing...

    Product placement really should become a bit less annoying and obvious. Felicity only using a tablet to do her thing is getting ridiculous. Scanning terraflops of data with a tablet??? Trying to hack a computernetwork with military grade security with a tablet??? Breaking into evil corporation HQ and downloading terraflops of data on a tablet (are there any tablets with more than 1tb of storage)??

  • Acrobit May 11, 2013

    Much better. Good? In parts. There was still a decent amount of WGAS, but anything involving Barrowman and punches gets more than a few points from me. Of course, if they were saving would be the time, wouldn't it?

    The best singular moment for me was Merlyn snapping Oliver's invincible bow with his hand. Over the episodes, I was genuinely wondering what it would take for that to happen. Ah, good fight. Takes me back to the pilot, when I got suckered in to this show.

    Despite all the lies, self-lies, and hypocrisy, we knew Oliver and Laurel were gonna happen, but only because it had to happen in a show like this. Little reason beyond that. There was hardly any actual progression toward it; it was more like a romance party popper that someone saved from New Years and just shot off in May for no reason (...other than getting his party license renewed?). Kinda like Dumbledore being gay (which I like in a way), but unlike that, Oliver and Laurel shouldn't have virtually come out of nowhere, and really shouldn't have happened in a way that makes them both look like lying, deluded, hypocritical asses. I can't speak for everyone, but I really don't think they're that popular, especially together.

    I like Walter more and more as he ekes out his tiny (finished?) role. This show often has a problem with using WPC's (Worst Possible Choices, patent pending) to chug along with maximum (but cheap) shock value, but Walter saw the writing on the wall, and he actually took it to heart. Moira isn't good, so he made the harder choice for him and left. Sure, I don't like that it's another minority walking off who likely isn't coming back (unless to die), but this is one that I could see happening with any character with self-respect. Sooooo...fine.

    I've never cared about Thea and Roy (or Thea and anyone), but Roy immediately shrugging off her reasonable ultimatum was the greatest thing he's done. Still don't care about him, but if he has to be around, I'd rather not be annoyed with him every single episode. Obviously, they didn't bring Thea's only friend around to have her lose him completely, so they'll have to get back together if only to give Thea her shred of relevance back, but I can enjoy things by the episode.

    It took me a while to catch back up to this episode since it took so long to watch last week's, but I'm glad they randomly erased Diggle's Marsha-Marsha-Marsha issues for this episode. It's a predictably great thing to see Team Hood in action instead of being background voices from the Batcave. That was just fun watching them actually deal with other people together. Of course, I have to laugh when Felicity is good enough to hack into an evil billionaire mastermind's computer mainframe...but uses Bing and leaves traces that a cop (a CW cop) can find, buuuut...fine.

    Kind of a waste of Yao Fei, and it's always a silly waste of time when someone says they won't do what a bad guy says...when he's got their kid at gunpoint five feet in front of them, but it's fine. Slade and Shado can fight once those pesky gunshots that Oliver missed out on heal up. It does appear that Shado isn't a bad guy like I thought, though. The main person who would feel the betrayal just got shot in head.

  • USMCSniper13 May 15, 2013

    Their relationship had to happen because its present in the comics. Laurel is the black canary. (Dinah Laurel Lance)

  • Acrobit May 15, 2013

    Ahh, that's why. Must be why Fyers shot Yao Fei in the head before his epic shouting fight against Vertigo. All in the comics.

    Odd are, they'd make Laurel's sister Black Canary before her. I can't imagine Laurel sellng a solid punch, let alone becoming one of the baddest fighters on the planet.

  • bleumystique May 12, 2013

    I remain in Oliver and Laurel denial. As far as I'm concerned their sexytimes never happened. What was that? Ugh. I don't know why they're trying to force a chemistry between those two that just isn't there. Newsflash, no one really cares. I have yet to figure out why shows feel compelled to insert a useless love triangle whether or fits or not. Who do they think they're appeasing? I think it's okay for you to speak for everyone on that one.

    I loved Walter. He did milk that role for all it was worth. I loved how he just threw his hands up in the air at the end and was all " I wash my hands of this weirdness!" Good for you, Walter. Run. Run as fast as you can.

  • Acrobit May 12, 2013

    They think most women won't watch any show like this without the shoved-in romance (insert pun, amirite?). Sadly, I think they're right overall. Y'all don't watch, show don't happen. It's even integrated in shows like Sons of Anarchy. I wish more women would just say "Y'know what? Let's don't with this. Less kissing, more punching. It's 'guy stuff' no more!" Buut, what're we gonna do?

    In other news, we'll see if Walter can manage to not stumble in front of Moira while an arrow's flying towards her next week. I give it...60%?

  • bleumystique May 13, 2013

    Ugh, it's such bull. We don't need the freaking romance when we have two hot shirtless dudes kicking each other's ass during training. I mean, just seeing Stephen Amell's abs is enough for us. I think I can speak for all straight women on this one. Plus, I'll take the oh so lovable Felicity Smoak, who wins over guys and girls alike, awkwardly making sexual innuendos over Tommy and Oliver playing tug-of-war with Laurel. That's just enough sexiness. Women DO say that, and for sexist reasons set in motion since the beginning of time, they still think this shizz is what we want to see. It isn't. Case in point, women watch Person Of Interest for all the busting dudes in knee caps, action, a sentient machine, a charming nerdy dude, and badass chicks holding their own against the males. Oh yeah, and the adorable dog. We don't need pointless romantic entanglements. Jim Caviezel whispering snarkies and launching grenades is enough.

    Yeahhhh, $20 says your Minority Vanishing Trick (patent still pending, yes?) will apply to old Walter....again.

  • Acrobit May 15, 2013

    Yeah, that gridlock in Washington. Seems like anything Obama and I (I call him 'Barry') do, the haters have to hold us back. But once I get that patent in, it's gravy. MVT's fall like rain *sincere nod*

    One day, they're gonna start a show like this with a Felicity lead, who might not know everything, but at least she'll be awesome in her own way...and it will change the game.

    Viewers: "What? How does she know how to do things? It's only the first episode and she's only 24 years old!"

    My mind's just waiting to explode.

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