Arrow returned from the holiday break with devilishly handsome Sean Maher in a devilish role. Joss Whedon expressed shock about Maher’s role as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing being Maher’s first villain role of his career. Joss thought him too handsome to play only good characters. Perhaps Maher’s role as Don John helped him land the role of ‘Shrapnel,’ an anti-government, bomb-building villain who strikes fear into the hearts and minds of Starling City. Maher’s villainous character is a device to unite two future opponents: Oliver and Sebastien. “Blast Radius” is heavy on drawing parallels between mayoral candidate and man man Sebastian Blood and the vigilante Oliver Queen.
Maher’s character, Shrapnel, brings each character to a shared moment of crisis; however, that shared moment of crisis is layered with what we know about Sebastian and what Oliver doesn’t know. Sebastian wants to save the city in his demented way. In a spirited effort to not back down to the terrorist, he organizes a gathering in the city to show union and strength of community. Oliver, dressed as the hood, warns Sebastian against bringing the town together in public. Doing so makes an easy target for the terrorist, but Sebastian refuses to succumb to a terrorist. Oliver prepares to stop Shrapnel the more difficult way. Sebastian’s insane, remember, so his brave stand against terrorism could be interpreted as possibly insane, possibly mad, intentionally so. Sebastian’s hand on his gun under his desk is representative of his character. The gun’s not the only thing he conceals from people.
Laurel’s the one who draws comparisons between Oliver and Sebastian most overtly. She remarks about sensing ‘something off’ about Sebastian in a way she can’t pin down, which is how she feels about Oliver. Oliver returns from trying to change Sebastian’s mind frustrated by Sebastian’s stubbornness, but he’s aware of his own stubbornness and acknowledges a connection with Sebastian. Laurel investigates Sebastian’s personal life, combing through his story about the orphanage and finding her way into a mental hospital where his supposed aunt lives. Meanwhile, Oliver thinks he’s found a partner with the same goal to save Starling City. Oliver Queen, his public persona, publicly endorses Blood for mayor of the city. Thea and Oliver throw a party for him. After Oliver stops Shrapnel from destroying significant parts of the city, he goes to Sebastian’s office where they shake hands on a partnership to help each other save the city.
Eventually Oliver will learn when not to trust people like Sebastian Blood. The mirakuri weighs on his mind throughout the episode, and Sebastian’s pushing the serum through the city. “Blast Radius” flashbacks to the island where Slade deals with the onset of the serum in his blood. His mind is frayed, his strength extraordinary, but he loses his temper easily and lacks the control he had before the injection. Roy, also, in present-day Starling City feels the effects of the serum injected in hi. Roy heals quickly and displays extraordinary strength, but he also lashes out at Thea and looks bothered throughout the episode, much like Slade in the flashbacks. Slade’s moment of ‘what have I become?” happens when he almost strangles Oliver. Slade’s behavior is really only enhanced by his grief over Shado. He’s in a perfect situation for comic book villainy origin story. Anyway, Oliver wants to find the skull mask man and doesn’t know he’s hosting the man and shaking his hand.
Oliver’s relationship with Felicity deepens during the search for Shrapnel. Conflict briefly divides the two, but a mutual something draws them back together in an intimate reconciliation in the last act—whether that something is friendly, partnership, or romantic is for another episode. Of course their interactions seem on the precipice of romance. Oliver feels jealous about her devotion to Barry and snaps at her for losing Shrapnel, blaming her for her ‘distractions.’ Diggle points out he hasn’t been mad at her until Barry came into her life. Their last scene together puts them close together. Oliver seems close to kissing her, but he doesn’t. The CW likes to have characters fans want to see together so bad that fan videos get made. Shado’s death doesn’t linger for Oliver, to continue with the romance in “Blast Radius.” Conversation about Shado regards Slade. Oliver expresses dread over Slade learning the truth about what happened—that Oliver chose to save Sarah—since he is becoming unhinged.
Sean Maher is underutilized as Shrapnel. I would’ve liked for Maher’s character to matter a bit more than a plot device, but that’s all Shrapnel is. Sean Maher is a very talented actor who can play many sides of a character. His best scene is in the souvenir shop when he gives the woman that smile after she asks him, ‘will you be at the event?’
“Blast Radius” is a strong episode to begin 2014, and the second act of the season. There are more outrageous twists that Arrow delights in. I bet Greg Berlanti pitched the idea about Sebastian killing his father and committing his mother (or it came from the comics; I don’t know the comics well). The episode defined the arcs for hero and villain well. Laurel was her most interesting since last season. There were clever meta quips about the world of Arrow. Yeah, it’s good to have Arrow back.
-I forget which character made the remark (maybe Thea) about the amount of criminals getting caught and the need for bigger prisons. Det. Lance wondered why he had to meet Oliver on a roof top all the time.
-Willa Holland rocked another dress tonight. Thea’s a budding businesswoman at age 18 or 19. I still think the writers feel clueless about how to write her, what to do with her, etc.
-Jake Coburn & Keto Shimizu wrote the episode. Rob Hardy directed it.