To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.
- Airdate: 4/2/2014
- Director: Guy Bee (Supernatural, Criminal Minds, recently directed Arrow‘s “Tremors”)
- Writer(s): Marc Guggenheim (Arrow‘s co-creator) & Drew Z. Greenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Warehouse 13, recently wrote Arrow‘s “Tremors”)
Some episodes of TV are stuck with being one of those necessary, but less than thrilling in-between pieces having to move chess pieces or keep the plates spinning to set up cooler stuff later. Yeah, “Deathstroke” wasn’t one of those episodes.
THE RECAP –
Poor, Poor Thea –
Slade gets all wistful upon hearing of Thea’s break-up with Roy (everything reminds him of Shado), but he’s the bad guy. So, of course their limo drive together to her house is actually to some back alley where he conjures his best scary face in loudly demanding she exit the vehicle, only to run straight into the arms of Brother Blood (remember him?).
Oliver doesn’t immediately think anything of Thea going missing (it’s been less than a day) until the next night at Moira’s mayoral debate with Sebastian. Instead of depicting a write-in question for the debate the giant screen behind them plays a quasi-ransom video of Thea pleading for help. This means war! Oliver goes into full-on beast mode, and after temporarily signing away Queen Consolidated to Isabel Rochev to focus on saving his sister he rallies Team Arrow to take down that no good sonofabitch Slade Wilson.
The digital trail which leads them to Slade (thanks to Felicity) is clearly a trap, but they go in, demand to know where Thea is, and Slade spits at them. So, Oliver uses Sara’s League of Assassins-quality tranquilizer arrow to knock him out. What next? There job is clearly done; turn him over to the authorities. Wait, what? Stupid, stupid Oliver. Slade has an airtight alibi, and the cops let him go, though not before Oliver literally begs him and admits defeat if only he’ll reveal Thea’s location.
After Team Arrow rather epically fail to keep track of Slade for longer than a couple of blocks outside of the police precinct, the dissension within the ranks kicks in. Sara, Diggle, and Felicity are ready and waiting for their marching orders, but Roy abruptly quits the team. It’s not the first time he’s done it, but this time he actually made a ton of sense (Oliver’s leadership has been suspect) on the way out.
That’s one down. Sara leaves to see her dad, who gets arrested for again helping the vigilante but refusing to give over his true identity (or genuinely not knowing). So, that’s one team member arrested and another (his daughter) distracted.
Slade confesses to Thea that he only kidnapped her to make a point, and before she leaves unharmed and of her own free will he entices her back with the promise of Oliver’s big, dark secret. Oh, crap. Does he tell her about Oliver’s nighttime activities? Nope. He tells her about Moira’s nighttime (presumably) activities with Malcolm Merlyn, and later rather than direct her anger at her mom Thea takes it all out on Oliver because he knew and lied to her about it. So, that’s a family member sidelined.
Plus, Isabel Rochev has been working with Slade from the very beginning, and after Oliver temporarily appointed her CEO she made it permanent at a board meeting while he wasn’t looking. So, Oliver just lost the family company.
Of Oliver’s support structure, that leaves just Laurel, Diggle, and Felicity. The latter 2, the ever awesome original Team Arrow, adorably converge upon Oliver at the end to figuratively lift his chin up and say, “Suck it up. You got hit. Hard. Now, get back up, and fight back and know that we’re with you.” Laurel? Oh, Slade shows up at her apartment to let her know that Oliver is actually the Arrow, and then he promptly leaves. No biggie.
Meanwhile, Back on the Island… –
Sara realizes the dude they are going to hand over to Slade in exchange for Oliver is definitely going to die. So, she decides to make the best of it, and straps a bomb to his back, hoping it would go off after the prisoner exchange brought Oliver back to her. Unfortunately, Slade literally sniffs it out (something about tnt having a very particular scent), and rather than shoot both Sara and Oliver in the head ghost Shado convinces him to let them die on the island while he escapes via the boat and tortures their families. Oh, I buried the lead: Slade sees Shado now, most likely has for a while now. She functions largely like the First Evil from the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except Shado’s not actually there, just a symptom of Slade’s psychosis.
As of late, my Arrow reviews turned into compliments followed by asterisks, mostly because I still enjoyed what I was seeing but was struggling to ignore the increasingly messy plotting and lazy writing. Oliver was starting to make one colossally stupid decision after another (e.g., agreeing to go to that Lance family dinner with Sara, trying to push Sara away, forcing Roy to push Thea away). Sure, it’s just supposed to be that he’s been so thoroughly unnerved by Slade Wilson, and a flawed character making mistakes is more interesting than a perfect one never taking a bad step. However, it all felt so clunky.
Then halfway through “Deathstroke” Roy said this, “[Diggle’s] special forces, [Sara’s] an international assassin, you’d think between the three of us we could have gotten answers out of Slade ourselves instead of turning him into the police. Here’s what’s really sick: we didn’t even question Oliver because he said it was the right thing to do just like he said that I needed to break up with Thea one week after telling me it wasn’t safe for me to leave her alone.”
Wait, I was just making that argument last week. Now, here’s Roy totally agreeing. Moreover, I’ve been joking for weeks now that clearly Oliver had simply ceased going to his day job as CEO, and Isabel Rochev was quietly running the business by herself. Then here was Felicity saying, “You have to make time, Oliver, for Queen Consolidated, at least 3 hours. The annual board meeting? There’s absolutely zero way that the CEO can avoid being there. I know it’s been a while. So, in case you’ve forgotten, that-CEO-is you. Do you remember where you put your business suit, or do you keep it in a cool glass case, too?”
Both instances could simply be an example of the show lamp-shading its own messy writing, turning lemons into lemonade. Or it could have been their original design – that Oliver would make a series of bad choices as a precursor to having his entire life blow up in his face, and Isabel Rochev would be kept off screen for a while and Oliver’s role as CEO de-emphasized so that we could buy him being voted off the board of directors. Of course, maybe Rochev was only left off screen for so long due to budgetary constraints/Summer Glau’s availability. Regardless of the behind the scenes reality, I found these moments encouraging because it re-characterized elements I had recently viewed as glaring weaknesses into strategic strengths simply awaiting pay-off.
That’s largely because “Deathstroke” was all about the glory of Slade Wilson’s plan starting to come together and agony of Oliver realizing his utter, utter defeat at the hands of his old “brother.” It’s clear that ever since Slade announced himself in the present to Oliver it was leading up to this kidnapping of Thea, a powder keg event he would use to dismantle Team Arrow and distract Oliver to such a degree that he could quietly recruit his own army of ex-prisoners and overtake Queen Consolidated by proxy thanks to Isabel Rochev.
The question is whether or not we completely believe Oliver would have been so stupid and easily manipulated by Slade like that? Actually, yeah, for the most part. Going all the way back to the on-going mystery of Moira from last season (friend or foe?), Oliver consistently has a blind spot when it comes to his family and loved ones. This was highlighted, from the opposite side, last week in “Birds of Prey” when Oliver was suing for calmer minds in combating The Huntress and Sara called him out on his hypocrisy, asking her to live by a standard regarding the protection of her family he himself does not follow when protecting his own family. With the roles revered this week, it was Sara who was hesitant to recommend lethal force in advance of Oliver’s siege of the warehouse he believed Thea to be in. It was actually Felicity who told him to do whatever it takes, a kind of awesome scene in the moment, but whose larger significant I am unsure of.
Oh, there’s still some laziness on display, though. Oliver may not be thinking straight, but I still struggle to believe his obsession with Slade would lead him to leave Thea completely unprotected last week thus unintentionally aiding and abetting her kidnapping this week. Not after he was helping Sara stalk her own father to ensure his protection earlier in “Birds of Prey.” That’s a pretty big barrier considering how crucial Thea’s kidnapping proved to be in “Deathstroke.” Plus, everything completely hinges upon Slade Wilson as a believable big bad, and I get it – the miracle drug has warped his mind. Even he admits as much in “Deathstroke,” indicating the drug just won’t let him drop Shado. However, as his plans come into focus and war with Oliver ever raising the stakes I still can’t completely forget, “All of this over that girl who was real nice to you that one time?” Now his grief manifests itself through visions of Shado directing his actions, paralleling Oliver who saw Shado in “Three Ghosts” and has had nightmares about her as recently as the past 2 episodes.
THE BOTTOM LINE
My pre-standing reservations about Slade Wilson’s motivation aside, there was nothing to greatly criticize about “Deathstroke,” one of Arrow’s most effective episodes in a good long while. Sure, I’m still not clear exactly how Oliver thought things would play out by having the police arrest Slade Wilson, and some of their “Oliver’s making bad choices right now” moments are still more lazy plotting than anything else. Plus, maybe Isabel Rochev’s turn would have played even better had she been around more this season. However, this was Arrow turned up to 11. Slade’s plan is coming together, and while his quest for an army of super soldiers isn’t exactly intriguing stuff him tearing down Oliver’s world through no show of force but instead the utterance of words (To Thea: Malcom’s your dad; Oliver knew – To Laurel – Oliver’s the Arrow) was crazy effective. When Arrow is this enjoyable who am I to complain?
1. Comic Book 101: Isabel Rochev
- First Appearance: 2010
Like her Arrow counterpart, the comic book version of Rochev also succeeded in taking over Queen Industries (its name in the comics), entering in as the new CEO at a time when Star City (the show changed the name to Starling City) had been devastated and left half in ruin. Rochev strived to return Queen Industries to glory out of her devotion to Robert Queen, whom she loved and saw as a source of inspiration in her life. Oh, yeah, she also constantly tried to kill Oliver because she considered herself the rightful heir to the Queen fortune, thus deeming Oliver unworthy. Plus, she sometimes wore a mask, jewelry originally given by Robert to his wife Moira, and spoke with a Russian accent.
2. You have been kidnapped so many times you’ve lost count, and there have been multiple break-ins to your apartment, often through the front door. So, after watching a newscast about a man wanted for kidnapping someone you know, and then a mysterious knock comes upon your door what do you do? You’d think you’d look through the eye hole, or ask who it is before opening. Not Laurel. She opens that door wide open because, dangit, she wants to believe the best of everyone.
3. I don’t mean this as a knock on Katie Cassidy, but in that final scene when she discovered Oliver’s secret and then started kind of darting her eyes left and right to process this shocking, shocking! news I couldn’t help but think of the Friends scene where Joey teaches an acting class the proper way to look surprised in a soap opera.
4. Can I just say how much I completely adored that last scene between Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle? Those three are the core members of Team Arrow, like Angel, Cordelia, and Wesley were for Team Angel on Angel. So, it seemed right that after taking Slade’s best punch it would be those two rallying around Oliver.
5. How did Slade Wilson know Malcolm was Thea’s real dad?
6. Slade Wilson shows no flash of recognition when Oliver informs him the media has dubbed him Deathstroke, but wasn’t Deathstroke supposed to be the code name for his old partner, Billy Wintergreen?
7. So, if Oliver had just stopped going into work at Queen Consolidated but Felicity was still showing up for work what must her days have been like? Constantly making excuses for the whereabouts of her boss?
8. Moira’s speech about the lies to protect her family was nice enough, but something about the pacing, rate of line delivery, blocking, and orchestral cues gave it a little too much of a “For your consideration” feel to me.
Well, I’ve said enough. What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments section.
All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
- Arrow Review: Deathstroke (screencrush.com)
- Arrow “Deathstroke” Review: Exactly As Planned (tv.com)
- Arrow: “Deathstroke” Grade: A- (avclub.com)
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