Arrow: Slabside Redemption

“Good morning, 4587.”
“A beautiful day.”

The final showdown between Diaz and Oliver. One last contest of wills and opposing philosophies. With just a smidgen of setup for things to come.

We begin our story as Diaz is transferred to Slabside and mere hours before Oliver’s release. The only issue is Oliver’s realization that the weak and meek Stanley manipulated him into wrongfully accusing Ben Turner of Correction Officer Dunbar’s murder. In the little time Oliver has left, he vows to both Stanley and Turner to make it right receiving varying degrees of approval.

Then all hell breaks loose.

By exploiting the greed of his guard and preying on the anger and insecurities of the inmates, Diaz strolls through Slabside at will instead of led in chains. And like any good Master of Ceremonies, he has to set the stage. Killing Oliver is beside the point. The purpose is exacting retribution for Oliver wrecking all of Diaz’s carefully laid plans. Diaz grew up with nothing but his patience and his pride and Oliver destroyed everything created by the former and insulted the latter. Oliver needed to pay.

Diaz had a leg up because he’s always understood Oliver. Whereas the only thing Oliver ever understood about Diaz was the level of threat he posed. Oliver did always expect others to bow to his will. First, because, unlike Diaz, he was a spoiled rich brat, then because he was bigger and stronger than the people he was up against and finally because of his supreme confidence he knows better than everyone else. Demanding that the guards let him out of his cell so he can save them was proof of that. Feeding Oliver’s hubris is one reason Diaz defeated him time and time again.

Somewhere along the line, Diaz forgot that. His vision narrowed from expanding his domination of the Quadrant, an organization that controlled most of the criminal underground in North America, to seeking vengeance against one man. Seems a little short-sighted if you’ll pardon the pun.

For Oliver’s part, I can head cannon my way around him sitting down to talk to Diaz. He probably wanted to find out what Diaz wanted.  But if Oliver did it to buy himself time to think or plan, then he did a piss-poor job of it. Losing his temper and breaking prison property was not the best way to get the corrections officers to take Oliver seriously. And despite Diaz repeatedly telling Oliver he would make him suffer by destroying everything he cared about, Oliver never took him at his word. Diaz already tried to destroy Star City and kill Felicity and William. What’s a guy gotta do to get a little respect?

The smart play would have been to convince Diaz he didn’t care what happened to the guards or the criminals. Everyone knows they were all corrupt at Slabside. Unfortunately, Oliver’s duplicitousness disappeared along with his selfishness and was replaced with a much larger dose of self-righteousness. Oliver’s response was to negotiate. It took Diaz slitting a guard’s throat to bring Ollie to his senses.

With Turner’s assistance, Oliver rescues the remaining guards (and most of the inmates) despite Stanley drugging him and Diaz setting fire to the prison. All that’s left is Oliver and Diaz Mano-a-Mano. For all of Oliver’s talk, he’s never had a problem killing if needed. In the end, that’s what saves him because, with Diaz’s increased strength, Oliver was sorely outmatched. But Diaz’s desire to prolong Oliver’s suffering allowed Oliver to take advantage of Diaz’s momentary distraction.

For me, the highlight of the episode was the return to the themes of individuality and self-worth. One of Diaz’s first digs at Oliver was to remind him that while he’s in prison, he's just a number. It’s also the argument Diaz uses to incite the prisoners to revolt, claiming the guards disrespected them and had them kneeling and cowering. The best arguments always have the ring of truth in them. So it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that it took being rescued from certain death before the guards referred to Oliver and Turner by name.

This episode was not without its weaknesses. Diaz’s concocting such a well-constructed revenge plan that hinged on the avarice of one guard was a little hard to swallow. I’m all for Ben Turner’s redemption story but where did his sudden hatred for Brick and Sampson come from (although I didn’t mind either of them getting their comeuppance). We won’t go into the fact that Oliver’s freedom was contingent on his testimony against Diaz, which he will never give. But none of that compares to the fact Oliver destroyed prison property, attacked his guards and killed Diaz yet they still released him on schedule. Slabside may be corrupt but even with dozens of injured and murdered guards, they’re efficient.

We have one episode and crossover to answer our two remaining questions. The first is who will be our Big Bad for the rest of the season. The obvious choice is Stanley, but I’m not so sure. And the second is who is our mysterious Green Arrow wannabe. Considering next week’s title is "Unmasked," I think we just might find out.

The highs were pretty freaking high, and they certainly sent Diaz out with a bang but they cut a ton of narrative corners to do it.

3 out of 5 soda cans

Parting Thoughts:

I hope that guard Diaz turned got his money in advance.

Any bets on who gave Oliver his little “Get out of Jail Free” kit? Normally I’d call dibs on Felicity but that looked like an A.R.G.U.S. special.

I rarely discuss the fight scenes since they aren’t usually relevant to the plot but as someone who’s studied martial arts for years, I have to tell you 1) how awesome it was Michael Jai White could finally demonstrate what he’s capable of and 2) how much I loved the contrast of his precision and form with Stephen Amell’s straight-up brutality.

I laughed out loud when they used Brick as a counterweight.

Diaz claims Felicity is what Oliver made her. This is the third time someone has mentioned how much Felicity is changed. This is not going away.

I don’t think I commented on the fact that Ollie has been reading The Count of Monte Cristo since the premiere. If you don’t know it’s about a man wrongfully imprisoned, who escapes and exacts vengeance on the people who put him there. Inside literary jokes amuse me but this one has been done to death. I thought it was a nice gesture to leave it for Turner, though. Like a promise of sorts.

I’m not certain but I’m pretty sure this is the first time all the storylines revolved around one character. Having Stephen in almost every scene had to be tough considering they were probably still shooting the "Elseworlds" crossover.

Quotes:

Felton: “As of this afternoon, you will be a pain in someone else’s ass.”

Turner: “I know how much promises are worth to people like you, especially when you make them to people like me.”

Oliver: “I’m gonna make this right.”

Diaz: “They don’t see you as the Green Arrow in here. You’re just a number.”

Stanley: “You’re Shawshanking out of here."

Diaz: “Inmates! Look at yourselves. You’re on your knees. You’re cowering before men who are weak. Men who are beneath you. I been where you are.”

Brick: “You made quite a mess there, Queen. Taking out prison guards doesn’t seem a very Green Arrow thing to do.”

Oliver: “Thanks for your help.”
Turner: “It doesn’t mean I like you.”

Stanley: “I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have a choice. And all those people had it coming!”

Turner: “I know it’s bad for you, but do you really think you’re gonna stop Diaz with a can of soda?”
Oliver: “We’re about to find out.”

Brick: “It nice to know someone else hates Queen as much as I do.”

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

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