Lots of character growth and important team building in this episode. It is clear Oliver is changing, albeit slowly, but it's very cool to see.
For me the first clue that things were changing for Oliver was when he asked for validation of their mission from Felicity. It's as though she has become his moral compass. When the mission failed and she said that she had no one to talk to, couldn't imagine pulling someone into this life, Oliver didn't immediately know what to do. He gave her a platitude about how a part of what they do comes with loss. However, it was telling that Oliver came around, and offered to be someone she could confide in by the end of the hour.
That one step in the evolution of his character was even more evident in his mini-arc for the episode. Oliver started out almost zen-like about relationships because of how things ended with McKenna. He had, at least on the surface, accepted that being Arrow meant a life of sacrifice and solitude, but he realized that that wasn't what he wanted so he finally opened up a door for Laurel, which she reluctantly walked through. I think that these changes are indicative of a frequent theme on the show. The writers keep bringing characters that mimic Oliver's earlier actions, which force him to see those actions as a mirror of himself. It's gradually making him rethink his methods, turning him into a true hero through experiences instead of being some vague ideological paragon of virtue (sorry, Clark) from the get go.
The Savior, aka Joseph Falk, was a good example of this. He was a smart man turned insane by tragedy, and was believable as a broken monster. The distance between Oliver and Joseph was clear in the moment when he asked Arrow, "How are we any different?". If the same question was asked at the beginning of the season, I don't think he would've been able to say there was one. I love that the show isn't shying away from that morally gray start to his heroic career. Oliver's ambiguous methods are constantly being judged by his allies, just like we the viewers have from episode one. What really makes me happy is the writers aren't backpedaling, either. They are dealing with what he's done head on.
Oliver's parkour scene over rooftops and cars was fascinating. It showed the team in action, and was very intense. Our Arrow gang is starting to coalesce, and Felicity is getting to see firsthand what it means to be a part of that. The fact that they failed was even better, because even with Oliver literally kicking in doors, they weren't fast enough. That was a good growth moment for the team, and stated clearly that they don't always win. For a superhero show, that's pretty bold. The good guys are ambiguous, and the bad guys don't always fail.
On another front, the look and tone of the episode was very dark, almost as if Chris Nolan had his hand in its direction, with Savior's Joker-esqe shaky cam interrogations being the most disturbing. I also really liked the idea that The Savior was hiding on a subway, that was a clever plot device to keep the characters guessing. It does raise an interesting question, though. Does Starling City no longer have a functional subway system? Why do I think that's going to be plot point that'll be important later on?
The Island stuff was once again relegated to supporting plot, with the continuation of the negotiation of the Rocket Launcher circuit board on the Island. It was a nice way to bring in Shado. I'm looking forward to seeing Slade, Oliver, and Shado interact. Maybe she's the reason Oliver and Slade fall out, assuming they do at some point down the line. Her introduction was a bit unexpected; I didn't think it would happen this soon. Unfortunately, they lost the circuit board, but at least Shado says she knows Fyre's plans. Also her hostage plot served as a nice parallel to Roy's situation. It went against type too, because I expected Roy to go all hardcore on his kidnapper, but instead they had Shado do that.
I found Roy and Thea kissing to be marginally cringe worthy, not because I dislike them as a couple, but I had the impression the writers were going to build them up a bit more slowly. She was smart enough to walk out on him, though, when he admitted he was going to rob a local liquor store. The scene where he showed her he wouldn't hurt anyone by getting rid of the bullets was a good set up, too. Although as soon as he pulled out the gun, I knew he was going to be kidnapped. It was kind of brutal too, Savior knocked Thea down pretty hard, it was believable. Still, why didn't he go all kick ass on him?
The Glades is coming into focus finally, which made me realize how well set up this show is. First they introduced the players, slowly, both villains and allies. Those relationships were established with small encounters that built on each other. They have also been setting up the Glades little by little so that we have a firm grasp on the situation there, and a bit about the people that live there. It's like this is an elaborate game of chess, this entire season has been setting up the board. Very good world building. Plus now the Arrow gang knows the List has to do with the Glades.
The Laurel subplot seemed almost like an add on at first, but the emotional component to it was unexpected. Dinah and Quentin working together to find the girl in the picture with the hat, who turned out to not be Sarah, seemed like a massive time sink and not really important -- except it turned out to be character building for Laurel. If I remember correctly, she wasn't even on speaking terms with her mother at the beginning of the season. It was Dinah's breakdown that got to her. The admission of guilt, and her entirely irrational reasoning about why she left, and the blame she placed on herself for letting Sarah go with Oliver, was classic survivor's guilt.
Gold acting stars to Alex Kingston. Unfortunately, her subplot is over. I'm sad to see her go without her character really doing anything, but she can come back thankfully. Again, set up for the future, I think. The ripples she made in Laurel's life might have a more immediate consequence, because Laurel finally let Oliver in a little by agreeing to see him socially.
Felicity is clearly smitten with Oliver, but is being discreet about it, this week it was her staring at Oliver working out.
Did they already establish that Slade was ex-military?
Moira's in trouble, she literally has blood on her hands now by sacrificing her friend Frank to save herself and her family. She even apparently convinced the Dark Archer not to kill Frank's daughter. Bet she dies, anyway. Malcolm isn't the forgiving type.
Roy serves three purposes, as a new ally for Oliver eventually, a face for the Glades, and a romantic interest for Thea. Roy getting rescued was a good set up for him maybe heading down the path of a hero. Hero emulation, plus having people care about him.
Along with Frank the accountant from the Dark Knight, there were three distinct references to that movie. The district attorney being captured and killed on camera by Savior was a nod to Harvey Dent, and the camera work itself was like the Joker's video interrogation of one of the fake Batman's.
The symbol on the little book with the List always had to be something specific. The fact that it's the map for the Glades is kind of perfect.
Dig: "You've been spending a lot of time under that hood the last couple of weeks."
Oliver: "Keeps my ears warm."
Felicity: "Oliver, no offense, but do I tell you how to sharpen your arrows?"
Oliver: "Where's Diggle?"
Felicity: "I asked him to leave me alone, in my loud voice."
Oliver: "This is the thing with what we do. Sometimes we lose."
Oliver: "I don't want to be on an island anymore."
Very layered and well thought out episode. I think it's the best one they've done so far.
4 out of 4 Doors left unhinged.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.