Going into this week’s episode, “Midnight City,” it's hard not to think of the insanely catchy M83 song with the same name: “Waiting for a roar / Looking at the mutating skyline / The city is my church / The city is my church.” I don’t know if the episode title is a nod to the French electronic band or not (cue Roy sax solo!), but an almost-religious devotion to one’s metropolis certainly drove a lot of the action this week, as it has since the show’s inception — i.e., you’ve failed this city, etc.
And boy, have we’ve got trouble, right here in Starling City. In the Arrow’s absence, Brick and his goons are wreaking havoc, which prompts the mayor to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the city’s plan for taking him down. For some inexplicable reason, she invites city leaders, including Ray Palmer, to this meeting. (Still, you can't expect perfection from a mayor who is replacing the mayor who was murdered, who became mayor only when the other candidate was murdered.) She did not invite Brick, but he shows up anyway, with machine-gun-toting assistants who kidnap three city aldermen and rough up Ray in the process.
Back at Palmer Technology HQ, Felicity is applying some ointment to Ray’s wounds. In Arrow world, applying first aid is basically foreplay, so I wasn't surprised that during this scene, they do the flirty-flirty. I really enjoyed the Ray-and-Felicity moments in this episode because Ray is the only brightness in Felicity’s ever-dimming world right now. Without Felicity’s levity, Arrow risks becoming too dark for viewers to enjoy. With Oliver sidelined, it makes sense to amp up her connection with Ray, even if it means Olicity fans die a little inside with each application of Neosporin.
But what’s a little dying if you’ve got “cold and snow” and “the will to live”? That’s the only explanation we get this episode (courtesy of Tatsu) for how Oliver survived the sword-cliff combo. Plus, some hot penicillin tea action. (I’m surprisingly okay with this vague explanation.) Turns out Tatsu and Maseo in the present day are estranged, and Oliver is clearly pained to see it. Oliver is also concerned that Maseo has put himself in danger by betraying Ra’s Al Ghul. But Maseo shrugs it off: “Your concern should be your home, and what it’s become in your absence.”
Of course, Oliver’s concern is really when he dreams about Felicity. It’s the same good-bye scene from “The Climb” (season three, episode nine), except he decides to stay, which leads to a passionate kiss with Felicity that ends only when blood starts dripping out of his mouth. Golf clap, Arrow writers, for giving and then immediately taking away. I loved it. Plus, it served as a nice callback to Oliver’s comment to Felicity in season two, when a pre-Flash Barry Allen was in a coma and unable to return Felicity’s affection: “Maybe he’s dreaming about you.”
Back in Starling City, Laurel finally tells her dad that Sara is dead. Oh wait, hahaha, just kidding, she doesn’t. In fact, she makes it worse by using a computer trick to emulate Sara’s voice on the phone AND THEN VISITING HER DAD DRESSED AS SARA/CANARY. I’m sorry, but no matter how much black-leather bondage gear she wears, Laurel won’t be a hero in my eyes until she tells Detect— er, Captain Lance the truth. The one bright spot with Laurel this week is her scenes with Roy. It seems that the show is setting up a partnership of sorts. Hmmm, Roy was even applying first aid to Laurel … uh-oh, more flirty-flirty to come!
At first glance Roy and Laurel might seem an odd pairing, as their worlds have never organically collided until this point. Now they’ve both waded into the very grey territory of vigilantism. While Roy was involved incrementally in Oliver’s crusade in season two and has been a full-time hood since the beginning of this season, he’s still the greenest member. Laurel is going to be following the same newbie path as Roy. Though it’s too early to see how this friendship will play out, it makes sense that these two characters would lean on each other at this moment in time. (If Roy had been brave enough to tell Laurel in “Guilty” (season three, episode six) that he thought he had killed Sara, maybe his honesty would inspire her own?) Also, I’m all for anyone bonding with Laurel. Girl must be lonely.
Tatsu is also lonely, as she tells Maseo she loves him. This sweet moment is interrupted by LOA members, who discover Maseo is hiding Tatsu in the cabin. Tatsu gets her Katana action on and helps Maseo take them out, like old times. (This scene draws another a nice parallel, this time with the Hong Kong flashback where Maseo and Tatsu fight together to escape Chien Na Wei’s henchmen.) Maseo insists on returning to the League and even partially slits his throat as a cover story for Oliver’s escape.
In this season’s Hong Kong flashbacks, I’ve grown quite attached to Karl Yune’s Maseo, so I am psyched to see him continue to play an important role in the present day. Maseo and Oliver both share a quiet intensity, and Maseo’s influence in Ollie’s journey to becoming the Arrow/Oliver is evident. I was never a huge fan of Flashback Ollie in the first two seasons, and I’m not sure I was supposed to be. Those flashbacks — with naïve, selfish Ollie at the beginning of his purgatory — stood in stark contrast with the mature, empathetic Oliver I was getting to know and love in Starling City.
In moving Flashback Ollie from the island of Lian Yu to Hong Kong, Stephen Amell has dialed Ollie back ever so slightly to demonstrate a shift in his character’s trajectory: He’s inching his way toward becoming Oliver. (Though sometimes I wish Ollie would inch his way to a barbershop. Do they not have those in Hong Kong? Make it happen, Amanda Waller.) Amell is a master of subtlety, as is Yune, which makes watching their scenes together such a pleasure. And, yes, acting abilities aside, I’ll admit that these happen to be two extremely good-looking men, but that’s just icing on the cake. A cake that you can’t take your eyes off of because it’s just so handsome, and, all of sudden it’s three hours later and you have several open tabs of YouTube clips of the cake (the same iced-cake clips you watched in GIF form earlier), and your husband wants to know when you’re coming to bed, and you’re like, "BUT THE CAKE!” Seriously, though, they’re good actors.
I wish Oliver would heed Maseo’s advice and hurry back to Starling City: Brick wants the Glades, and to get it, he’s going to hold the aldermen as ransom, which I think is supposed to feel high-stakes, but given what else goes on this town, seems a little ho-hum to me. Team Arrow-less manages to rescue the aldermen by tracking a pacemaker, but Brick just ups his game and threatens all the civil servants. The mayor folds her cards; she’s going to give up the Glades to Brick. Luckily, Felicity and company don’t give up so easily: Even in Oliver’s absence, they’re going to keep fighting for their city, and those they love in it.
Finally, that cocky DJ reappears in this episode, and when he comes onscreen, I can’t even remember what his character’s name is. My reaction to his scenes in four parts:
1. [Seeing DJ-who-can’t-keep-his-tongue-to-himself is back] Uggghhhhhhhhhh!
2. [Learning that he’s actually working with the League of Assassins] Whaaaaaaaaaa?
3. [Understanding his character might actually have a point] Yayyyyyyyyyyyyy!
4. [Realizing, sadly, that yet another person is betraying Thea]: Nooooooooooooo!
HONG KONG FLASHBACK: Oliver, looking like Sawyer from Lost, slides down the top of a bar while shooting a gun, ’80s-action-movie-style. Also: Amanda Waller is onto Maseo, who attempted to trade government chemical weapon Alpha for Tatsu.
- Finally, someone gets cell-phone footage of a vigilante.
- I haven’t given much love to the action sequences yet, but they are always so impressive. My favorite this week was the claustrophobic basement fight scene.
- That defiant shot of Thea and Malcolm on the balcony gave me chills; also fitting that she’s reading a book called Book of Lies.
- Tatsu’s present-day haircut — adorable! Also, in the wake of Oliver’s death, it appears Felicity has lost the will to wear ponytails.
- Hee, hee — helicopter keys!
- It seems likely that Tatsu and Maseo are estranged over the death of their son, with her reference to grief.
MISSING THE MARK:
- See above re: Hong Kong ba- slide scene.
- Why is Ray Palmer attending hostage negotiations with the mayor? And what was up with that Rodney King reference from Brick? Oof.
- I’m really bummed that Felicity would be complicit in deceiving Lance about Sara’s death.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 1 (Show me those sexy sutures!)
NUMBER OF EPISODES LAUREL HAS GONE WITHOUT TELLING HER DAD HIS OTHER DAUGHTER DIED: Ten. Ten.