“Streets of Fire” is the kind of breathless climax that TV is uniquely capable of. It’s nearly forty-five minutes of pure, unbridled forward momentum. Recklessly charging forward while paying off nearly an entire season’s worth of plot and character development in rapid fire. With all the backstory and build out of the way the entire creative team behind Arrow gets to cut loose, indulging in multiple action sequences, climactic twists, and city destroying stakes all while retaining the emotional punch of the series as a whole. The rest of the season did the hard work of laying out who these characters are and why this fight matters, allowing for this week’s installment to use shorthand to hit the character beats and utilize as much of the episode as possible for humongous, action heavy set pieces.
Unsurprisingly those action sequences are more than up to the task. In fact, just about every major set piece here is among the finest seen on TV this year, and there’s more than a few. One of the earliest features one of Deathstroke’s goons tearing up the police precinct as Quentin Lance desperately tries to stop him. It’s a brilliant showcase for just why the super powered mirakuru storyline has been so much fun as the villain effortlessly whips police officers around the station in truly brutal fashion. The cops pinball around the space in flowing, beautiful shots that drive home just how powerless they are in comparison to this mountain of a man, until Lance finally stops the rampage thanks to multiple grenades. It’s ridiculously over the top, and that’s exactly why it works so well. Arrow knows exactly how and when to tip into the land of the absurd and comic booky, and “Streets of Fire” goes all in when it comes to playing in that ridiculous, over the top arena thanks to the oversized enemies that are the mirakuru infused armies at Deathstroke’s command.
That kind of big, go for broke attitude is what makes this episode so very good, as it seems like the viewer is never more than just a minute or two away from some new, gigantic reveal. In the first act alone we get to see Laurel utilize one of Ollie’s exploding arrows, Diggle fighting Isabel in her new Ravager outfit, Felicity rolling over Isabel in a van, the return of Malcolm Merlyn as he saves Thea’s life, and the aforementioned police station brawl. It’s almost all huge stuff with just about no time to catch one’s breath and it’s able to be deployed so rapidly because it’s all based on developments that have been built and foreshadowed throughout both this season and last.
And yet, even as the episode hurtles forward, it’s smart enough to take just enough time to hit important character and emotional beats to keep things feeling vital and full rather than simply being an hour of empty action. Sebastian Blood gets to have a crisis of faith once he realizes just how thoroughly he’s been duped by Wilson, Ollie gets a rather nice pep talk from Felicity that puts him back on track, and Sara has a heart to heart with Laurel about why Sara just can’t seem to leave Starling. That final plot doesn’t quite stick the landing, a too obvious bit of dialogue from a police officer declaring the Canary to be a hero restates the lesson Sara already seems to have learned way too overtly, but all of those plots help highlight that Arrow’s still aware of its characters and their emotional development even amidst the chaos of Wilson’s final attack on Starling City.
That’s why this episode flows so nicely. It’s not entirely perfect, the flashbacks are satisfying but slow things down just a bit too much when interspersed with the rest of the more aggressively paced episode, and yet it’s still one of the most enjoyable hours of television the series has ever produced; seemingly effortlessly playing at a huge level while retaining just enough of a focus on the characters swept up in the events to ground the obscenely ambitious scope of the episode. And this is an episode that’s gigantic in scope, even before the closing moments that reveal Amanda Waller’s A.R.G.U.S. has an incoming payload that will level the entirety of Starling City if Oliver can’t take care of Slade and his army by dawn.
The stakes just keep getting higher and higher, the threat of total annihilation rearing its head at the precise moment where it finally seems like Team Arrow has gotten things in hand. It’s a perfect example of what “Streets of Fire” does so well, continually escalating conflicts and keeping the heroes off guard even as they finally manage to take charge in their fight against Slade Wilson. Arrow’s managed the build toward this moment nearly perfectly over the course of this season, and now that the payoff has finally arrived it’s been every bit as exciting as promised. We’ll see just how much more the creative team can throw at Oliver and company next week, based on this week we may be seeing the entirety of Earth or the known universe in peril before too long.