Arrow: Level Two

“You have no idea what’s coming.”

What’s a little torture among friends?

Dr. Jarrett Parker, Chief Psychologist for Level Two, is a mass of contradictions. Calm and rational, he comes off more as the compassionate psychologist he claims to be than a mad scientist. However, his actions belie his demeanor. Withholding food and water in addition to auditory and visual torture is not part of any psychological treatment I’m aware of.

So what does he want? Is he trying to lead the worst of the worst down some redemptive path? Does he want Oliver to acknowledge the choices that led him to Slabside as part of some psychotic version of a Twelve-Step program? Does he need Oliver to renounce his violent ways or is Parker looking for the means to control when and how Oliver exhibits them? It appears Dr. Parker’s goal is to break Oliver down to build him back up. But in what image?

Despite my conviction Dr. Parker is not the compassionate soul he appears to be, he’s not wrong. Robert Queen was a murderer who never should have put the burden of righting his wrongs on his son. We spent all of season five exploring the damage Robert Queen’s and by extension Oliver’s decisions wrought. Does this mean Oliver is caught up in a cycle of violence he is destined to visit upon his wife and son? One could make the argument he already has. Oliver’s choices led to the death of William’s mother just as surely as Felicity’s relationship with the Queen family transformed her from a relatively carefree hacktivist to a woman bent on vengeance and not very particular about how she gets it.

As intelligent as Dr. Parker appears, if Ra’s Al Ghul couldn’t brainwash Oliver, I don’t like the good doctor’s chances. I know Oliver eventually refers to himself as Inmate 4587 instead of his name. But my money is that Oliver concluded playing along was the quickest way to find The Demon. That said, Jarrett’s attempts at rehabilitation seemed to affect Oliver when William was mentioned. I thought Parker might have broken Oliver when he asked if Oliver ever wondered if William will follow his lead. However, Oliver recovered enough to tell Parker where he could go when Parker asked Oliver to let go of the past to spare his family from paying for his sins. The moment seemed oddly specific and I wonder if we will revisit it in the future.

Jarrett isn’t the only one willing to cause some discomfort. The notion that Felicity contemplates torture feels like a realistic, if alarming, progression. She’s always had a pragmatic approach to right and wrong – from her college hacktivisim days to her willingness to help Diggle and Oliver with their vigilante-ing. That desire to do whatever it takes to get the bad guy is turned up to eleven now that she’s lost her husband and stepson. Rene, who intimately understands both sides of the argument having been both torturer and the tortured warns her of the cost of her actions. It’s not about whether or not the information can be obtained, it’s about what’s left of Felicity’s humanity if she goes down this path.

Felicity is all about means and ends. She may have heard the words coming out of Rene’s mouth but all she can think of is that when he was tortured, it worked. Just as she abandoned Diggle in favor of Agent Watson, Felicity decides if Rene won’t help, she’ll go to someone whose morals are a little more fluid – Laurel. So what does it say about Felicity’s state of mind that even Laurel tries to pull her back from something she might regret? Although killing Diaz didn’t quite make the list.

Unlike Felicity’s single-minded pursuit of vengeance, Dinah wants so desperately to do the right thing with no clear means of doing so. Her vigilante days are over. Even if it wasn’t illegal she’s convinced living in the shadows caused all the pain she and Team Arrow suffered. So she tries to be a hero by being a good cop. Unfortunately, Star City’s faith in law enforcement was shattered by Diaz’s well-publicized corruption. Another Green Arrow running around the city doing the SCPD’s job doesn’t help. Dinah risks violating her oath as an officer and her immunity agreement if she doesn’t bring him in even though she knows he’s not guilty of the crimes of which he’s accused. But given her situation, can she afford to turn away his help?

I realize I gave short shrift to both Rene and Diggle but the two of them seem to have made peace with their decisions.  Both will work with whoever can help them get the job done. For Diggle that's supporting his wife and finding Diaz and in Rene's case, that's protecting The Glades.

And who could be buying up The Glades? Diaz is the obvious choice although it is not clear why he would want to. Is this the first step towards William’s dystopian future?

Speaking of William’s future, this week’s flash forward was littered with questions and quite stingy on clues. When we saw Felicity give William the Hozen, she couldn’t have programmed the location of her currently non-existent tech company and had no reason to program Lian Yu into it. So Oliver and Felicity abandon William again at some later point when Felicity is the female Steve Jobs at which point she gives him the Hozen a second time? Or is something else is afoot? And why wouldn’t William know Star City is now a wasteland while The Glades is the ultimate in gated communities? Or that someone as famous as Felicity had died? Roy may have been living under a rock on Lian Yu but William wasn’t. I must admit Felicity’s death didn’t surprise me since I can’t really imagine another scenario where she or Oliver would “abandon” William.

Regardless, the SCPD are now hired guns to ensure no one gets into The Glades. Whatever present day Dinah’s views on vigilantism may be, at some point her efforts to redeem the SCPD fail and she reverts to her roots, apparently taking Zoe along for the ride. And what’s the deal with Zoe’s comment about Rene not being caught dead in Star City? I can understand him wanting to protect The Glades but I don’t see that happening at the expense of the rest of Star City.

The narrative discrepancies between the once and future Star City are climbing but The Powers That Be seem to be on a definitive course. I’ll reserve judgment – for now.  Besides, I love Arrow best when its morality has a darker hue.

4 out of 5 cubes within cubes

Parting Thoughts:

Oliver has no idea how many people he has hurt and killed? On one hand, I find that surprising since Oliver loves to wallow in guilt. On the other, the idea he doesn’t know seems far more realistic. Especially since he didn’t always wallow.

I know nothing about bomb-making or arson, but wouldn’t you want to make your incendiary devices before you get to the site?

Councilwoman Pollard is the mayor? I always knew she was ambitious but why oh why would she want that job?

Beebo has finally made his appearance on Arrow. Can Supergirl and Black Lightning be far behind? Or is Beebo only popular on Earth-1?



Whoever this new Green Arrow is, his acrobatic abilities surpass Oliver’s which is why I keep thinking it’s Roy. That and this Green Arrow seems to be the same height as Rene. But Roy is still hunting Lazarus Pits with Thea, right?

It is telling that when forced to relive his life-raft ordeal with William, Oliver also sacrifices himself. But unlike his dad, Oliver’s only request of his son is to ask William to forget about Oliver and live.

Quotes: 

Parker: “I believe everyone here has a chance at redemption. Even people like you.”

Curtis: “Do not hate on Beebo.” (Yeah. What he said.)

Rene: “I wanted her to be able to walk the streets and not get attacked, not have her purse stolen, and not be offered drugs.”

Parker: “You don’t have to fight anymore.”

Parker: “A father passes on more than just his name to his children.”

Parker: “People without the last name Queen are human beings too.”

Felicity: “Wow. So, you’re actually practicing law.”
Laurel: “Why does everybody find that so hard to believe?”
Felicity: “Probably because you’re not the real Laurel. Or a real lawyer.”

William: “I’m sorry about this, guys. I was supposed to meet an investor and obviously, I got the wrong address.”
Roy: “You’re such a bad liar. Shut up.”

Diggle: “Sometimes I wonder if there’s any form of justice that’s 100% on the level.”

Rene: “I knew Dig was the right choice for that phone call. That and Felicity didn’t answer.”

Laurel: “The Darkness, it swallows you the more you feed it.”

Parker: “Your will is one of the strongest I’ve encountered. But even mountains fall over time.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice review.

Thankfully, Beebo is popular on multiple Earths; it appeared on this week's Supergirl, as well as Arrow.

Shari Houtman said...

Thanks.

And Yay! Something to look forward to. I'm about a week behind in all the other Berlanti-verse shows.