Stephen Amell as the Arrow.
Up until now, Oliver’s emergence as the Green Arrow — a vigilante with a “no-kill” credo — has been somewhat of a smooth ride. But after Damien Darhk’s ghosts riddled his fiancée (!) with bullets, Oliver is questioning the wisdom of his vow not to murder. On the bright side, he isn’t questioning his other vows.
“Blood Debts” opens with the Future Grave Scene we saw in the season premiere, except it’s no longer six months in the future. It’s only four. Cut to the present day, where an emotionally distraught Oliver brings Felicity to an emergency room after Darhk’s attack. The hospital scene is spliced with a montage of the Arrow, who viciously attacks ghosts with the hope that one will give up Darhk’s location. It’s a tense, energetic sequence that sets the tone for this well-executed episode. (As much as I look forward to Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards working their angst magic, it’s a smart move to turn away from Oliver and Felicity immediately after the attack. It would have felt too repetitive after Amell’s excellent hospital scenes in last season’s “Nanda Parbat.”)
The Arrow’s interrogation obsession keeps Oliver on the streets and, unfortunately, away from the hospital, where Felicity is getting prepped for surgery to repair nerve damage. Oliver justifies his laserlike hunt for Darhk by noting that it’s what Felicity would want him to do. As much as it stings to see him avoid her, he’s not entirely wrong.
When he hits a wall in his search, Oliver pays Quentin a visit at the police station. Even though it almost certainly means Darkh will come after him, Quentin decides to give Oliver the address for the hideout. After doing so, Quentin can’t resist asking Oliver if he’s “back to dropping bodies.” “Just this one,” Oliver reassures him. Quentin, of course, is no longer in a position to moralize — he’s been complicit in Darhk’s murders for months, in order to protect Laurel.
Oliver gets into Darhk’s lair, but he’ll have to wait a little longer to break his no-murder vow. Darhk is a no-show. Instead, Oliver finds a bunch of dead ghosts, spread across the hive-ish tile like squished bees, with a lone anarchy symbol written in blood: Anarky is back!
Thea is understandably nervous to hear that Anarky, a.k.a. Lonnie Machin, has returned to Star City. During their last confrontation, a blood-lusty Speedy set fire to Anarky’s face. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have to wait long before coming face-to-face — or rather, mask-to-mask — with him again. Team Arrow track Anarky to his former foster home, and discover he’s hiding his burns under a creepy, Michael-Myers-ish mask. Anarky is waiting for Darhk, who ratted him out to Team Arrow last time, but he’s just as happy to kill the vigilante squad too. The house is booby-trapped with motion-sensor automatic rifles, so Team Arrow is forced to duck and cover.
In the midst of gunfire, Speedy follows Anarky to the basement. There, he confesses with psycho-heart eyes, that he would never hurt her. Later, after Team Arrow captures Anarky for questioning, he ups the creep factor by claiming Speedy’s violence freed him from his “weakness.” (I know I’m probably not supposed to, but I’m kind of digging the chemistry between Speedy and Anarky. It’s not a healthy chemistry, to be sure, but there’s definitely a charge between them.) After confronting Anarky about the violence within her, Thea preemptively breaks things off with Alex.
In the middle of the Anarky interrogation, Oliver bolts for the hospital after learning that Felicity’s latest surgery didn’t go well. He meets a broken Mama Smoak, who tells Oliver that Felicity isn’t expected to walk again. When he gently tries to dissuade her of that possibility, Mama Smoak tearfully explains that there’s no hope. Charlotte Ross, who plays Felicity’s mom, is a bright bubble in an otherwise dark universe, but I enjoy her most in these quiet, emotional moments. As she delivers the bad news, Oliver’s attention is drawn to a TV news report — the SCPD has arrested Anarky. He suspects that Laurel tipped off the police, and that does not sit well with him. (Man, I know Felicity would want Oliver to find Darhk, but the way he glosses over her diagnosis feels cold, even if it’s meant to show how he compartmentalizes trauma.) Oliver immediately suits up as the Arrow, then frees Anarky from police custody to let him go after Darhk. “You make sure he’s dead,” Arrow growls.
Not surprisingly, Laurel and Oliver butt heads over Anarky’s release. When she questions how Oliver could release a psychotic murderer, he shuts her down with one very-satisfying mention of Sara. (Confession: I pumped my fist when I heard that line.) Thankfully, the Laurel-Oliver debate is pushed aside when Diggle enters the lair. Unlike Laurel, Diggle always knows how to reach Oliver — he can talk him off a ledge, or step onto the ledge alongside him. Diggle understands Oliver’s quest for revenge, but warns him not “to lose what made [Felicity] fall in love with you in the first place.” Still, Oliver’s confidence wavers after he learns that the tracking device he placed on Anarky has been deactivated. Cut off from another chance to find Darhk, he starts to panic. Thea assures Oliver that Darhk can wait. It’s time for him to visit Felicity.
Felicity only appears in this episode in little blips. Even in those brief moments, Rickards lights up the screen, despite the fact that she’s confined to a hospital bed. Felicity, who sets aside her looming diagnosis, is selflessly concerned about Oliver’s well-being. “Tell me you haven’t gone off the rails,” she says when he finally visits. Amell’s understated response — a hesitant shrug — perfectly encapsulates his natural, no-words-needed chemistry with Rickards. In a vulnerable moment, Felicity tries to let Oliver off the hook for their marriage, since they hadn’t gotten to those “for better or for worse” vows yet. (She worries that her diagnosis is why he hasn’t visited.) To reassure her, Oliver takes her engagement ring, which a nurse had removed in the emergency room, and places it back on her finger. He’s in for the long haul.
Then, Oliver is called away from the hospital with another Darhk tip, courtesy of Andy Diggle. The tip leads Team Arrow to Darhk’s residence in Stonehaven. Unfortunately, Anarky got there first; he’s holding Darhk’s wife and daughter hostage. Black Canary and Dig save the hostages, while Speedy and Arrow fight off Anarky. Anarky makes a run for it, but he doesn’t get too far before Thea captures him. Although she has a chance to kill him, she abstains. An annoyed Anarky escapes, but I suspect we’ll see him again soon enough.
Meanwhile, Darhk has arrived home and confronts the Arrow. He’s stunned to learn that his nemesis saved his family. To show his gratitude, he tells the Arrow he can have a few weeks to spend with his family before Darhk kills him. You know who’s not thankful for the Arrow’s help, though? Lady MacDarhk. Later, she chastises her husband for letting the Arrow walk, especially because they’re so close to making the mysterious “Genesis” a reality. Darhk promises her that he’ll follow through with his plans to bring this world “to its end.”
The episode concludes with Future Grave Scene, which finally involves some story advancement. Oliver leaves the grave and gets into a limousine, where a very-alive Felicity is waiting for him. Unfortunately, she’s not wearing her engagement ring. There’s a tense distance between them. “You know what you have to do, right?” Felicity asks, either unable or unwilling to look at Oliver. “You have to kill the son-of-a-bitch.”
Well, if it’s Felicity asking, he’ll do it.
The energy picks up on Lian Yu, as Conklin turns in Oliver and Taiana to Reiter. For punishment, Reiter allows Conklin to whip a shirtless Oliver. Mid-whip, Oliver’s magic tattoo from Constantine glows, piquing Reiter’s interest and giving Oliver new leverage. Reiter puts Oliver and Taiana in a pre-A.R.G.U.S Lian Yu prison.
- WHERE’S THE RING WHERE’S THE RING WHERE’S THE RING
- Kudos to the post-production team: The pacing in “Blood Debts” is great. It has momentum and energy without story confusion. Also, the score felt noticeably more foreboding and dark. It added a fun, suspenseful element to the episode.
- Does Darhk know that the Green Arrow is Oliver? He gets awfully close to him in the light. Also, judging by the way Darhk holds his daughter, I bet she’s the reason for his and Lady MacDarhk’s crusade.
- Felicity, on surgery: “I have never been more ready to have a bunch of guys poking around inside me.”
- Mama Smoak, speaking for everyone, to Oliver: “Where have you been?”
- I’m loving Lyla’s haircut.
- Oliver, about the nurse who removed Felicity’s ring: “How dare she … ” Oliver, making a joke while being adorably sweet … how dare he.
- Oliver’s face, when his little sis totally interrupts his Anarky interrogation.
- Laurel, after Oliver says that Felicity is stronger than all of them: “You won’t hear any argument from me.” I love you, Arrow writers. All of the 100 emojis for you!
MISSING THE MARK
- The card scene was sweet, but I’m ready for Andy to be out of the cage.
- Does Anarky actually understand the definition of anarchy?
- I’m not buying how Anarky could so easily beat Speedy and Green Arrow in a basic hand-to-hand combat — especially without some trick play.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 4 (#blessed)
It’s gotta be Quentin in there, right? Find me on Twitter and place your bets.