Arrow: Seeing Red

"You're never without me, my beautiful boy."

Did that just happen?

I like Arrow, I find it fun and creative, and I'm continually impressed with how they are pushing boundaries and delivering solid characters and stories. That being said, I never imagined it would cross into the realm of one of my all time favorites, though. A few more episodes like this one, and that might just happen. This episode was simply spectacular.

Much like the Buffy episode of the same name, we got a character swan song that didn't feel like one until the last moment. Moira's exit was more than unexpected -- I was actually shocked by it. Even though the episode was hinting rather heavily that she was about to die, I thought it was going to be several episodes from now in the finale. Every moment felt like a culmination, like this was the emotional finale of the season.

Moira's actions throughout the episode were about sacrifice. Sending away a grandchild because her son wasn't ready to be a father. Attempting to quit the Mayoral race for Thea. Continuing to run for Oliver and the City. Trying to share her last, most dangerous secret with her family (Malcolm being alive). Hell, I'm not entirely sure Oliver's secret would've been kept if that conversation in the limo had finished out. Except none of those things really defined her.

I had a real problem warming up to Moira. I didn't like her throughout most of season one. It wasn't until the finale when she came out to the city about her involvement with Malcolm in an effort to save lives, that I finally got the character. Her duplicitous and ambiguous nature often came across as cold and manipulative. She talked about family and how much she loved them with such a politician's polish that it was hard to know if she was being honest. In the end though, her love for her family really came through.

Standing up to Slade, literally, was such a defining moment. Oliver was injured and reliving one of the worst moments in his life, and couldn't make that choice. I doubt the words would've crossed his lips, even though it really wasn't much of a choice. There was no way Thea would've died there, unless Slade double-crossed Oliver and killed the person he chose to save. I imagined Moira begging Oliver to pick Thea. So having her confront Slade was a really wonderful way to change up the predictable.

The rest of the episode was kind of amazing as well. The Roy plot was probably the least effective element, but that's not a condemnation. To watch him slowly turn into a monster was horrible. It illustrated how much the Mirikuru affects the mind. Roy was very much a good person. He would never have killed a cop, or threatened Thea or Sin with violence. He was the kind of person that goes to a soup kitchen instead of stealing to survive.

Not anymore, though. I'm getting some serious Angelus vibes from Roy, as well as Slade. Even if it is possible to save them, is the damage they have done too much to come back from? Roy has killed now, can he find redemption? Could he live with his actions if his mind cleared up? Slade has gone ten times further than Roy, and now he's killed Oliver's mother. Is the cure anything more than a means to an end? Is it just a tool to help them defeat Slade? Or is it a way to bring him back? It's an interesting moral argument either way.

Lastly, let me throw some acting love towards Manu Bennett, Stephen Amell, and Susanna Thompson. All of them did a marvelous job in portraying complex emotions, from Slade's crazy conflict during that moment at the end, to Oliver's impossible struggle reliving one of the worst moments of his life with an even worse outcome. But it was Moira who gave us the best moment, when she stood up and sacrificed herself.

Bits:

Was it really Sara's inability to change that drove her away? Or was it Oliver suggesting that they move in together?

The producers have all but confirmed that the baby Moira bought off is going to come into play next season. Assuming they don't jump forward in time at all, that means we could have a seven year old character joining the show. In the comics, Green Arrow has a couple of boys. I have no idea what the show runners are going to do with this plot.

Oliver's bad wig came back, although the one on Moira was a bit better. Katie Cassidy looked normal again finally. It was yet another scene showing us how good a couple they were, and how unprepared Oliver was for that kind of relationship.

Nice little moment with the doctor who treated Oliver, showing that Oliver's actions have had some nice repercussions.

Thea cannot fold a napkin.

So the permanent damage to Oliver's knee makes sense. I wonder if his physicality compensates for some of his injuries? Either way, he's still very damaged.

Sara got Roy in the knee, because we need more obvious parallels.

The scene with the car crash was very Alias (i.e. the entire cast in a car when suddenly they are hit from the side).

Quotes:

Felicity: "Ah. Tibetan pit viper venom. A constant dose of that can't be good for you, right?"
Diggle: "It'll keep him sedated like it did Slade."
Felicity: "Until when? What happens when we run out? It's not like we can buy this stuff over the counter. Unless you're in Tibet. Then… maybe?"

Sin: "Roy's a friend. He needs help, not a beat down."

Felicity: "Does the fact that him lying there freaks me out a little make me a bad person?"
Diggle: "Felicity, I don't think there's a force on Earth that could make you a bad person."

Laurel: "You're really cute when you're mopey."
Oliver: "I'm not mopey."
Laurel: "Mopey's your default, Ollie. It's part of your smoldering charm."
Oliver: "I do have smoldering charm."

Oliver: "Make one mistake and it feels like my entire life is over."
The frame of this flashback scene was interesting: he was sitting in front of a giant model of the Queen's Gambit.

Felicity: "Can you even get into those leather pants with that knee?"

Another really awesome episode, that changed the game yet again. Slade is turning into one of the best TV villains of all time.

4 out of 4 Defining character moments

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.

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I absolutely didn't see it coming. For me, it told us that Moira never lied about putting her children first, even when she wasn't making the best of decisions. She even took Oliver's choice on herself, so that Oliver wouldn't have to actually choose -- protecting him right until the end. It's interesting how her final act was the one that made me truly like her.

Terrific review, J.D.

Patrick said...

This episode was fantastic, and heartbreaking. I'm going to miss Moira Queen. The reveal that she's known about Oliver's secret identity since the night of The Undertaking was awesome, and I was looking forward to them finally being able to speak openly with each other. Not to mention addressing the fact that she SHOT him in her office that one time. :) Plus from the way that conversation in the limo was going, it sounded like Oliver might have ended up coming clean with Thea about his secret too. Heck, he still might after everything that happened in this episode. But I'm also going to miss Susanna Thompson, I've been a fan of the actress since well before this show.

The brutality of her death scene was so powerful. Not the physical brutality, but the emotional brutality for both Oliver & Thea. Especially poor Thea, who had no idea what was going on. I can't wait to see the scenes between Oliver & Thea in the next episode. How much will Oliver be able to keep from her after this?

What I am NOT looking forward to is the whole "Oliver has a secret love-child" plot they're setting up, and clearly planning to pay off sometime next season. It would be one thing if Oliver was older and his long-lost son was of an age where he could actually take part in the main storylines, but I'm assuming he'll be 7-10 years old, and at that age he'll just be a distraction.

I was sad to see Sara leave, that seemed a little sudden and contrived. Especially considering that I assume she'll be back for Moira's funeral. It would be really out of character for her to skip out on that. She's been such a great addition to the show, I hope they aren't planning for her to leave when this season is over. I mean, I suppose if the ultimate plan is for Laurel to become Black Canary like in the comics, having Sara die in the finale could be used to spur Laurel to take up that mantle, but c'mon... How many times are they gonna kill that girl?

sunbunny said...

I feel like a sociopath because I am so unaffected by Moira's death. I mean I was "aw" for a second, but if the show had to lose a character, she would've been my choice. I was really angry at her for what she did to Oliver re: baby mama drama. She probably thought of it as helping him, but she took away all his choice in the matter and as a result he has a child he knows nothing about. That was not a good thing from my perspective.

And the car accident was SO Alias. Wow.

Matthew said...

I'm willing to give the secret child thing a pass simply because I'm like 99% sure that the kid will be Connor Hawke (and that the mother was Sandra) - basically I'm glad that it is an established comic book story, rather than a CW mandated bit of soap operatics.

That final scene was brutal in every which way. As harrowing as the scene at the end of The Dark Knight with Harvey Dent and Gordon's family. The acting from all involved was superb, raw, and heartbreaking. It absolutely took my expectations for what this show is capable of to a whole other level.

The other thing I liked was that they didn't betray Moira's character just to give her a neat, tidy, happy ending - she was still a pragmatic, ruthless, yet caring mother. It could have been so easy for them to have made her suddenly incredibly sympathetic in the flashbacks, but they didn't. They showed both that she was intensely devoted to her family, but that she could still be pragmatically cold-blooded in order to protect them. Brilliant.

Sara's storyline in this episode seemed to be designed to properly mirror Oliver's from pretty much a season ago. In fact, I believe the last line she says to him before leaving is exactly what he said to Laurel last year when he broke that off. Oliver had to have Tommy's death in order for him to move from being a killer to a hero, I wonder if Sara will get the chance to move in the same direction, or if we're being setup to expect that and have it subverted. *sigh* I really don't want Laurel to be on this show anymore.

Freeman said...

I felt that son. This episode made my jaw drop at least twice. From learning they were doing the secret love child thing to Moira's biting it, this episode was firing on all cylinders man. Thea did come off bit too hostile but I still can't completely blame her behavior. But man, Ollie's got the thick skin thing going on, but Moira dying is gonna send her over the edge, especially since they basically ended on bad terms. I guess Moira is Thea's Tommy.

I don't know what they're going to do with the kid next season though. I'm with Patrick in that, little kids around the logical age he would be are usually just annoying window dressing on action shows. Which is a pity because I would've been excited to see a sorta Robin dynamic going on between (presumably) Connor and Ollie. Though judging by how the mother looks, it doesn't seem like they're going with Connor.

It does seem more like Sara was getting cold feet more than not agreeing with Ollie's ideals. Could be a bit of both though, I guess.

J.D. Balthazar said...

I should probably clarify that I don't think Moira buying off the mother of Oliver's unborn child was necessarily a good thing. It might have been the right thing given how flaky and unfocused Oliver was then, but he should have had a choice.

Patrick, I really hope they aren't going to kill of Sara for Laurel to transition into the Canary. That would be sad, well done, but sad. Also a bit predictable.

I'm also unsure about the baby/child plot. It feels a little shoehorned in. It might work if they get the right child actor and go with a Damian Wayne like plot. Of course everyone hated him too, so maybe not.

Sunbunny, you are not a bad person because you didn't feel anything for Moira. I actually feel a bit ambivalent to her death. I'm much more upset by how Oliver and Thea are going to handle it. That's why it was affecting for me.

Matthew, great point about not making Moira sympathetic in the flashbacks. They left her as she was, flaws in all, and that's why her death was so meaningful. It wasn't false, and capped her arc perfectly.

Freeman, interesting idea that Moira will be Thea's Tommy. I wonder where she'll go now. There so many directions to take her, I'd like for it to be more of a hero's path. But I could totally see her following in her father's footsteps and end up going against her brother someday.

sunbunny said...

I had a comment about Oliver's kid probably being sent away for his/her own safety, but my dog apparently didn't think it was good enough for our standards here at Doux Reviews and so deleted it with the clever use of his chin. He added "\\" which I find a brilliant interpretation of the episode.

ChrisB said...

For a show I watched, but only paid half my attention to during its entire first season, I can't believe how invested in it I have become. This episode wrecked me.

I did not see Moria's death coming in any way. In fact, I was excited to learn that she knew about Oliver and was looking forward to seeing her cover for him again. That final scene was so moving and so intense. I just kept gasping through it.

What a situation leading up to the season finale. Oliver has lost his girlfriend and his mother in the space of hours. Roy has gone off the rails. Slade is not finished. Wow. Just, wow.

Fantastic review, J.D.

JimGfromWI said...

I'm a little behind on this show - just watched this one last night, and while unfortunately I knew a little of what was coming (I knew Moira died) I didn't know the details, so it was still pretty shocking. My wife didn't know about it at all, so it was also kinda fun seeing her reaction. This is one of our favorite shows on TV right now - so I know, I shouldn't be so far behind - but I already can't wait for next season. I don't know as much about the DC universe as I do Marvel, so I might miss some of the Easter eggs, but wow - what a great show. I wish the people who do this show and the upcoming Flash spinoff could somehow get more involved in the movie line! And they MUST get Stephen in the Justice League movie!