Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Deathstroke” (S2/EP18) – I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Deathstroke

  •  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.

Deathstroke
Oliver: “I don’t understand why Felicity and my mom keep warning me not to trust you, Isabel.  You’re a gosh darn delight.”

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.

Deathstroke
Quentin: I swear I have no idea who the Arrow is [cracks a smile] I’m sorry. I couldn’t keep a straight a face through that. Of course I know who he is. How could I not?
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.

THE REVIEW

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?”

Deathstroke
Has her hair always looked quite this big?

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.

Oliver seriously did not think this through.
Oliver seriously did not think this through.

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?

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Isabel Rochev

Isabel_Rochev-2

 

  •  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.

NEXT TIME ON ARROW 

9 comments

  1. Great episode! And that final scene? So intense. I have to ask you, in your opinion what will be implication of Laurel’s discovery? Imo, if she is going to be just ok with it, then Slade basically did Oliver a favor so it is highly unlikely. I think she is going to realize that Sara is fighting with him and maybe that will motivate her in some way in joining the team. Or maybe she will flip out, the way they like to ruin her character leaves all possibilities open…

    1. Logic would dictate Laurel should now be able to pretty easily figure out that the Arrow’s new girl in the tight black costume she met in the courthouse in “Birds of Prey” was clearly Sara. Then again, Quentin Lance probably should have put it together upon learning that Sara was the Canary and working with Arrow that clearly Arrow was Oliver, Sara’s new boyfriend. Of course, Lance may already know that but chooses to ignore it, but if so they’re not tipping their hand.

      You are right, though – if Laurel is ultimately going to be okay with Oliver’s secret then not only will Slade have done him a favor while also failing in his effort to create a distraction. That doesn’t seem likely. Thinking long term, this opens Laurel up to her eventual place alongside Oliver as Black Canary, assuming they still plan on doing that with her even though they’re already doing it right now with Sara. However, in the short term –

      Laurel would better understand, now, why the Arrow was so attached to her, and why Oliver kept pushing her away for reasons he never could properly explain. However, Oliver is also the guy who cheated on her with her kid sister, meaning trust between those two will always be an issue. Now, she finds out he’s been lying to her for the past 2 years? That he was the one she saw failing to save Tommy? That he held her hand at Tommy’s grave while she railed against the Arrow, yet he said nothing? And he was responsible for countless instances of her life being placed in danger!

      This could send her back to the bottle, or back to her “Take down the Arrow!” crusade from earlier in the season. She is back in the DA’s office now. The most interesting direction might be the most unexpected – what if Laurel is angry but ultimately okay with it considering the general peace she had made with Arrow earlier this season? What if this actually turns her into an ally in the DA’s office, united against Slade?

      I haven’t really given you a straight answer, though. So, here’s my best guess:

      We know from the trailer that next episode features Deathstroke delivering a surprise attack on Team Arrow in the Arrow cave, and from the looks of it Sara ends up on the hospital. I think Laurel will not buy whatever lame excuse her sister gives for her injuries, and figure out that she is Canary. This will remind her too much of Tommy’s death (or maybe even how Oliver’s last girlfriend, the cop, got shot last season), and she will take the “no one is safe around you; how dare you endanger my sister’s life” position with Oliver. Plus, there’s the whole element where Laurel’s dad is in prison right now for refusing to divulge the identity of the Arrow. Then it will turn into a game of whether or not Laurel will turn Oliver in to free her dad as well as proactively protect her sister (as far as she concerned).

      When Diggle found out about Oliver, he was horrified since Oliver was indeed a straight up murderer (of bad guys) at that point. He took an entire episode to be won over.

      When Felicity found out, she did your standard “so many things about you make so much more sense now” bit, but similarly objected on moral grounds to his homicidal tendencies. She only stayed for the express purpose of rescuing Walter.

      When Huntress found out, she rewarded Oliver with sex. No wonder he likes her (I know, I know – I’m greatly simplifying).

      When Tommy found out, he was mortified at having been lied to, but also had Oliver being a murderer (a common theme among those found out last season). This set-up a Peter Parker-Harry Osborn dynamic where Tommy was transitioning into becoming a villain before they surprised us and made him the hero.

      When Roy found out, he was pretty much cool with it, and ready to kick butt, though he had idolized the Arrow to that point.

      Sara already knew. So, no surprise there.

      When Laurel found out, she….we’ll just have to wait to see.

  2. What a terrific episode. When it’s so much fun it’s easier to overlook the parts that feel clunky. I agree that they turned the lack of Oliver as CEO into setting up an important turning point in the story. What do you make of Isabel’s line “sins of the father, sins of the son’? Is this just a dig at the former father and son CEO’s of Queen Consolidated or hinting at some mysterious familial connections? Okay, so we know now how Celina Jade can be a regular on the show despite being dead for a while and not just in dreams. Not sure about Ghost Jade (again), but it help us to understand why Slade is so obsessed and haunted by her.

    “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” – I had to laugh, it’s silly how she didn’t look through the peep hole, plus it’s like a running gag how many times she gets “uninvited guests” at her apartment.

    1. “When it’s so much fun it’s easier to overlook the parts that feel clunky.”

      That pretty much perfectly sums it up.

      Oliver As CEO –

      Even this was a tad clunky because in truth it’s not so much that they sidelined the CEO story to set-up an unexpected hostile takeover from Isabel but instead 100% dropped this storyline altogether and just picked it back up again this week. I argued in my review that perhaps it was all a creative decision or at least compromise dictated by Summer Glau’s availability, but it does seem a tad sudden that Felicity is reminding Oliver about his job this week when pretty much no one has mentioned it at all since Slade came back. A better plotted show would have done the legwork to establish that part of Oliver’s distraction over Slade is that he has chosen to abandon his job altogether, but then…the events of this episode wouldn’t have been so surprising! And probably not nearly as much fun. So, screw it, I’m cool with it.

      Isabel’s “sins of the father…” –

      If you don’t know the comics, Isabel’s declaration about Oliver’s father comes out of nowhere. However, if you do know the comics it’s still a surprising line. The producers like to use our comic book knowledge against us (e.g., Sara as Black Canary), and anyone can take a minute to go to Wikipedia or a DC Wikia and read all about Isabel Rochev being a woman infatuated with Oliver’s father and dedicating her life to restoring the Queen company to glory in tribute to Robert Queen but at the expense of Oliver, whom she despises. So, we’d expect her to reference Oliver’s dad on Arrow, but not in such a hostile, negative context. My assumption is that she was one of Robert’s mistresses, making her a woman scorned, or that Robert’s action as CEO of Queen Consolidated had some significant impact on her tough childhood. Considering she had that quickie with Oliver, if it was a familial connection she’s referencing let’s hope this doesn’t get too incest-y. Bates Motel has that particular market cornered.

      Ghost Shado –

      I’m not completely sure what to make of the inclusion of Ghost Shado. Oliver already saw her as a ghost in “Three Ghosts,” and he had his nightmare about her. Now, we come to find out that Slade’s probably been seeing her for quite some time now. There’s a Buffy First Evil, #7 on Battlestar Galactica, Dexter’s Dad, Due South’s Dad, Slings & Arrow’s Oliver, and any other number of TV shows to feature ghost-like characters quality to it. However, it allowed Slade to have what for me was his most interesting moment since his reveal as the big bad at mid-season. Menacing? Sure. Interesting? Not to me. But now we’ve seen him casually admit to Oliver that he has actually tried to move on, but the drug in his blood just wont’ let him, an admission coinciding with the reveal of the Shado ghost. So, it does visually establish how almost literally haunted he is by Shado….which probably puts her into more of a negative context. I wonder what the real Shado would think of all this 🙂

      Kidnapped –

      At one point last season after just the latest break-in at her apartment Detective Lance had a great moment where he floated the idea that maybe Laurel should think about getting a new place. So, they’re certainly aware of it, and you’re right – it’s like a running joke now. I wonder how much of her opening the door without hesitation at the end there was simply a time consideration – that they knew they wouldn’t have enough time to include some back-and-forth between her and Slade through the door, or the requisite tension to crank up if she looked through the peephole.

  3. I was really happy with this episode, the first one I’ve truly enjoyed since the Christmas break. I’ve been so frustrated with the show, so many ways in which they went in directions that lost me, that I was wondering whether I’d be watching next season. To know that Oliver being a douche and an idiot was deliberate and not bad writing gives me hope again. And great to see the original Team Arrow back again, after being diluted by Sara. (I don’t mind Roy so much but since Sara got back to Starling City, she’s been equal with Oliver and Diggle and Felicity became equivalent to stage crew.) Diggle and Felicity make Oliver a more interesting and entertaining person; with Sara or Slade, it’s all sturm und drag.

    I’m glad they finally gave Susanna Thompson and Willa Holland more to do because they both did it well. And Summer Glau’s fight scenes are always a thing of beauty.

    I liked seeing Shado as Slade’s very own Lady MacBeth.

    If they are going to push in Olicity scenes, I’d much rather have it as Felicity telling him to go out and do what needs to be done, than acting like his little puppy as he tells her she’ll always be his girl and then leaving to go to Sara.

    I agree Laurel should have looked through the peephole first. If for no other reason than she was watching the TV news with the announcement that there was a search warrant out on Slade.

    I never thought what Felicity’s days at QC must have been like — did she take over some of Oliver’s job, or was it all put on Isabel’s shoulders?

    Why did the police arrest Quentin when Thea had confirmed that it was Slade who had kidnapped her? They were stupid enough to let Slade go earlier, why compound the problem? The press is sure to find out.

    Why would Thea believe Slade, a man who had kidnapped her and held her for more than a day?

    1. Forgot to add, great clip of the soap opera acting class. It would have been a difficult scene for anyone to play; I wish Katie Cassidy had received more help from the directing as well as the writing.

      1. Thanks. I didn’t want to come down too hard on Cassidy because that is an incredibly tough moment to act, and maybe the director could have gotten something a little better out of her. However, she did fine enough, but my honest-to-goodness first thought was that she must be attempting to do complicated math in her head ala Joey’s class from Friends.

    2. One of the other readers who responded to this review said that Arrow’s clunky writing is a lot easier to take when it’s as impossibly fun as it was in “Deathstroke.” That sums up my thoughts as well. I saw your explanation of your disenchantment with this show in the comments to my prior review, and a lot of what you said is similar to my own thoughts. I think I might subconsciously extend the show a bit more patience at times because I have a bit of an invested interest in it since the most popular articles on my site are the ones about Arrow meaning I know I won’t be giving up on the show anytime soon – it would have to get a LOT worse for that to happen. However, nothing you said was really untrue.

      I remember a couple of weeks ago I saw someone say of Arrow, “Remember how awesome it was when Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle were just working together to break into Malcolm’s office? There were no super powers, visions of ghosts, trips to Russia, international fancy ninjas, dead characters coming back, baby daddy drama, season-long substance abuse problems, Oliver becoming kind of a douchebag and rushing into a relationship with Sara, etc. It was just those 3 working together to save the city. I miss that.” They weren’t wrong. So, I loved how “Deathstroke” broke Oliver’s team down to reveal that no matter what Felicity and Diggle will be there for Oliver, but Oliver had to pay for all of his questionable behavior as of late. For the comic book readers it’s cool seeing Roy Harper and Black Canary since they have decades of history with Green Arrow in the comics, but for the show Arrow the history will always go back to that central trio: Felicity, Diggle, and Oliver.

      Summer Glau’s fight was kickass, but there was that one wide shot which seemed to make it ultra obvious that Glau had been replaced with a stunt double.

      Poor Felicity just sitting at her desk, answering the phone, and taking all of those messages. Maybe she headed down to IT to touch base with her old hacker buddies only to get the cold shoulder since they all assume she slept with Oliver to get her job. Either way, with Oliver not showing up the implication was that Isabel was running things.

      The police arrested Quentin because in arresting Slade he clearly had worked with the Arrow even though he was under instructions not to – working with Arrow is the whole reason he lost his job as detective. So, if he could help them capture Arrow they’d forgive his transgressions, but since he won’t they arrested him, likely for aiding and abetting a fugitive or something along those lines. With Laurel in the DA’s office and now knowing Oliver’s secret, I’d imagine she’ll be involved if helping get her dad out of prison somehow.

      Slade did have Queen Manor bugged. Maybe he had video evidence of Oliver and Moira discussing the truth about Thea, but I don’t actually recall those two have any such conversation since Slade bugged the house. Either way, Slade must have had something very convincing or else (you’re right) why would Thea just blindly believe him. Surely, she’d instead take the, “Slade told me that Malcolm Merlyn is my father, and you knew. Tell me that’s not true, Ollie. Tell me he’s lying” approach.

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