Arrow: The Man Under the Hood

Quentin: "It's the Arrow that matters. The man under the hood isn't important."

This episode convinced me that the writers are very aware of what they are doing, and for the most part their goals seem to be good ones. So when something doesn't work or feels out of place, it sticks out.

The thing that keeps coming back to me is Roy's capture by Slade and Isabel. I thought the reveal of using Roy as the blood donor was a really good one, but he was found at a soup kitchen? Helpless and pathetic are not the words I would associate with Roy Harper. On one hand that means Roy's mental state is pretty uneven at best, but it does means he is a very good person inside. If he can't even steal, when it would be very easy given his Mirakuru enhanced body, then his moral code should no longer be in question. The other option is they seduced him to the dark side, and then betrayed him to power their new army.

Either way the result is the same: the bad guys have an army of supers, with a revived and even more dangerous Isabel as Slade's new and improved right hand, with twice the mental instability (which I believe is Summer Glau's raison d'ĂȘtre). Which of course brings up a very sticky situation. How do you deal with this kind of enemy? Either you find a way to kill them, or render them powerless. Enter the cure, a sloppy and lazy answer to the moral dilemma facing our heroes.

A cure to the Mirakuru is something that should've been introduced several episodes ago when Slade was revealed to our heroes as the primary villain they were going to be set against. I guess Oliver had his reasons for concealing it, but since Sara already knew, why would he keep it from Felicity and Diggle? Why would he not try to find a way to extract a cure from Roy's blood, when he knew it was possible? These little logical flaws don't generally bug me, but this time they did.

Instead of butting his head against a wall since Slade's arrival, he would've had a leg up on his enemy. Hell, I'm surprised Oliver didn't keep some of that cure from his time on Lian Yu. He admitted that he had it in his hands and didn't use it. I just don't see why he didn't hold onto it, like those herbs he is constantly using from the Island. He would now have a small catalog of useful items, for just in case of emergency. Maybe that's too Batman, whose paranoia is legendary, but it seems like a good thing to be paranoid about. Of course there could be a perfectly legitimate reason for this kind of oversight, but we'll see.

It may seem like I'm ragging on the small stuff, and I am. For the most part this was an excellent episode, and I would probably just glow about all the good things going on. So a few stand out moments; Slade showing up in the Arrow cave and literally kicking everyone's ass, particularly that moment where... okay, pretty much every moment was cool. Then there was Oliver's equally badass showdown with Slade and Isabel. Then there was the smart and proactive attack on the Queen Applied Sciences warehouse. Or when Diggle shot Isabel at just the right moment. Or when Ivo finally died. Or the whole sequence with Laurel. Oh yeah, let me talk about Laurel.

I spent the first half of this episode wondering what she was going to do with her new knowledge. I expected her to be petulant, angry, stubborn, and stupid about the whole thing. Wow, I don't have a good opinion of her anymore. Anyway, how she ended up handling it was really cool. Like her father, she gets it. She finally saw everything Oliver's done for her, and accepted it like a rational person should. In a very real way, she was finally redeemed. Perhaps in time she might be a character I care for again. Although her threat against the D.A. was a bit silly.

I just wish I could say the same for Thea. I totally get her emotional trauma from hearing that Malcolm Merlyn is her biological father, but the way she's handling it is indicative of the character she was in season one. All that growth she's gone through seems to be falling away. I just hope there's a good reason that doesn't involve yet another character going down an emotional downwards spiral. It would feel all too repetitive.

Bits:

The inclusion of Caitlin and Sisko gave us a nice update on Barry's situation, but felt totally out of place with the rest of the episode. Not that I'm opposed to that kind of stuff, but in an episode this packed, it wasn't entirely welcome.

So they did go with the comic books, and Isabel was Robert Queen's lover. I understand she's being combined with another DC character, so more on that when her new alter-ego is introduced.

Okay, who is Arthur Light? From a quick Google search I learned that he is apparently some kind of inept super-villain? I assume there's more to him.

Quotes: (All Felicity)

Felicity: "I'm a bomber. I can't believe I'm a bomber. I wonder if I can list that on my resume under 'special skills'."

Felicity: "For the record, I hated her before we found out she was a super villain."

Felicity: "That's just swell. Barry's in a coma and he's already moved on."

This was a big episode, though I'm not sure if the term 'big' is descriptive anymore. This show keeps growing, both in scale and in stakes like a runaway train headed for some unknown calamity. I'm very curious where the show runners are taking things, but happy to be along for the ride.

3 1/2 out of 4 Crazy Rube Goldberg machines only super villains ever use.
---
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow, The Originals and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.

8 comments:

Patrick said...

Background from a former comic nerd:
Arthur Light aka Dr. Light was a villain who went against the Justice League & Teen Titans. The key event for him was the mini-series "Identity Crisis" in 2004 which retconned history to reveal that at some point in the past he had raped Sue Dibny, wife of Elongated Man, after which the JLA at the time had Zatanna(remember her from Smallville?) mind-wipe him and alter his personality. This eventually started a chain of events that led to several major incidents in the "Identity Crisis" series and on into "Infinite Crisis".

percysowner said...

Sara knew Ivo said there was a cure. She knew they went to get it and cure Slade. What we don't know is if she saw knows if the cure was found and was proven to work. We also don't know if she knows Oliver decided to not use it on Slade and kill him instead. Sara and Oliver were separated for a while and right now, we don't know when much of this happened.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Patrick, Thanks for the info, and to set the record straight I was eagerly anticipating Zatanna's appearance on Smallville. I remember her from the comics and from the DC animated universe, she's actually one of my favorites. I have trouble with keeping all the Crisis' straight. Even looking at long detailed descriptions they are confusing at best. I imagine you would have to read them all to absorb everything that went down during those comic arcs. Suffice it to say, Dr. Light has a long and convoluted history. Sounds about on par.

Percysowner, perhaps you're totally right and Sara doesn't know the full story. Maybe Oliver's choice is one he regrets so much that he's kept it from everyone. It's still no excuse to keep something as valuable as a cure from the group when their lives have been in danger for days (or weeks, it's hard to gauge time on this show).

I'm curious about how they are going to deal with Sara and Slade next season. If they kill off Sara and Slade, and their characters get shoved off the Island at the same time, that'll effectively write them out of the series. That would be sad, but at least in Slade's case it might necessary. I hope we don't lose Sara though.

Also, I wonder what'll happen if Slade is cured? Will he suddenly revert to the man he once was? Will he finally process his actions, and let Shado go? Will he forgive Oliver? That could be interesting, to have him be a continuing character. Perhaps even an ally going forward. Is that wishful thinking?

No matter what is ahead, I'm very curious and excited for the next four episodes. I'm hoping this season finale is stronger than last year's.

ChrisB said...

Although the whole thing around the cure seemed a bit odd to me as well, I simply loved this episode. From the best cold open yet, through the reveal of Roy, this one kept me guessing.

My favorite parts are the character interactions. I love watching them relate to one another, even Thea. I kind of get where her head is right now. When she told Ollie that both her parents were mass murderers, my heart broke for her. That would be a tough thing to get past, and she is still relatively young.

Nox said...

As far as the cure vs. killing Slade and company, I don't know if the cure is so much a deus ex machina as it is a necessary step to defeating them. I don't think Sara, Diggle, or Oliver were holding back in their fight with Slade. Diggle emptied a fully clip into Slade's chest with the clear intention of killing him. Unfortunately, Slade is so unbelievably strong with his training plus the Mirakuru he defeated all three of them in less than two minutes (let's take a moment to acknowledge how bad ass it was when Sara launched herself at him and he caught her by the throat mid-leap then threw her across the room).

All of which to say, this enemy is so powerful now, I don't see how the gang can hope to defeat Slade plus the now super-powered Isabel (who's also been trained by Slade) and a group of 20 convicts when all three of them couldn't defeat Slade by himself. (Particularly since killing Cyrus was nearly impossible and almost got Oliver killed the first time). The cure seems a necessary step to try and even the playing field. Even without the Mirakuru, Slade's still a formidable opponent who stands a good chance of beating Oliver in hand-to-hand.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Nox, you have a bunch of very valid points, and I totally agree with you on all of them. They absolutely need a cure to even the playing field. I just think it's a bit lazy for the writers to establish this cure so late in the game. It really is a nitpick though, and doesn't diminish the episode for me really. I did give it a nearly perfect rating. I just wish they had come up with a solution that didn't involve a last minute cure combined with a mild retcon.

Freeman said...

Late to the party, but great episode. Though I'm with you that the section with The Flash characters felt like a completely different show for a minute. Though I guess that's rather fitting. I wonder if those two will keep a strain of the Mirakuru and use it on themselves, causing them to get their respective powers.

It was cool to see Ollie actually get the drop on Slade a few times in this episode. Especially since Slade's been giving out beatings like candy on Halloween.

Laurel was not terrible for once. She was understanding and sympathetic. Though I guess we have Quentin getting hospitalized to thank for that.

mazephoenix said...

So Isabel is going to be a certain other DC person..hmm..intriguing.
Thea had a thing for her half-brother so I don't blame her for being a bit messed up. Holy incest Batman.
Slade plus empowered, crazy Isabel means trouble. What will the League and Nyssa do? And Merlyn?
Exciting episode as always. Didn't even mind Laurel.