THE ONE WHERE: Oliver’s loyalties are tested when he’s forced to choose between two threats: the return of Deadshot and the deadly new menace of Mr Blank.
THE VERDICT: A strong episode, enhanced by a genuinely memorable villain. Angel’s J August Richards plays hitman Mr Blank with a chillingly bland, buttoned-down efficiency. It’s a plus that he’s allowed to be legitimately nasty – he’s at his coldest in the moment he uses a hapless delivery guy as a shield and a subterfuge, blasting a gun straight through the poor sap: a twisted, callous touch that’s so much more effective than the overcooked theatrics of the Count. And Blank’s “home invasion” schtick injects some authentic menace and tension. He guns down the Moores in cold blood and you need no convincing that he’ll kill their child (and little Taylor witnessing the death of his parents feels like a riff on a thousand comic book origin tales, not least Batman’s – watch for his return in Arrow season 15, bringing masked justice to the underworld…). So why kill Mr Blank? A daft move to lose such a promising new antagonist after only one appearance.
Elsewhere, director Kenneth Fink brings energy and style to the episode. He’s good at the muscular run ‘n’ gun stuff (Diggle’s takedown of Deadshot in particular – and the assassin’s declaration “I’d be pulling these triggers right now, ‘cept nobody’s paying me” is a splendidly dark capper to that scene, reducing his slaying of Dig’s brother to so much business). Fink also allows room for some wonderful show-off flourishes: the fast-cut tracking of the bullet’s trajectory in the opening scene, Mr Blank’s sudden illumination by lightning. This week’s resurrection of the Oliver/Lauren/Tommy love triangle feels a touch mechanical but Roy’s confession to Thea that his destiny is connected to Oliver feels quietly mythic to any longtime comic book fan.
TRIVIA: Mr Blank was purpose-built for this episode. The showmakers originally wanted to adapt comic book villain Onomatopeia, an enigmatic assassin created by Kevin Smith for his 2002 storyline “The Sound Of Violence”. Smith felt his creation would never translate beyond the comic page – ultimately Arrow’s makers agreed.
DID YOU SPOT?: Mr Blank passes himself off as a policeman named Kesel, a nod to DC artist Karl Kesel, co-creator of the modern age Superboy. The Moore family may – may – be a reference to the mighty Alan Moore, who wrote the Green Arrow story “Night Olympics” in 1985.
DID YOU SPOT? 2: Lyla’s codename is Harbinger, a call-out to her comic book counterpart.
DID YOU SPOT? 3: Catch the reference to the Wonder Twins? These shapeshifting heroes were created for ‘70s Saturday morning toon The All-New Super Friends Hour and were later subsumed into the comic book universe. They made the leap to live action in season nine of Smallville.
Lance: “Death by poker. That’s a new one.”