Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “The Man Under the Hood” (S2/EP19) – What Goes Up…

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

The Man Under the Hood

  •  Airdate: 4/16/2014
  • Director: Guy Bee (Supernatural, Criminal Minds, recently directed Arrow‘s “Deathstroke”)
  • Writer(s): Andrew Kreisberg (Arrow‘s co-creator) & Keto Shimizu (The Cape, Being Human, recently wrote Arrow‘s “Blast Radius” & “Suicide Squad”)

Last time out, Arrow impressed by turning its recent weaknesses into strengths which had simply been awaiting a strategic pay-off.  Sure, it was over-stuffed and a tad clunky, but it was one of the more purely entertaining episodes of the season.  Yeah, cherish that thought because “The Man Under the Hood” was a reversion back to the norm, though perhaps even worse than the norm.

THE RECAP –

Team Arrow Vs. Team Slade –

At Felicity’s suggestion, Team Arrow blows up the Queen Consolidated warehouse with the ginormous centrifuge introduced way back in Barry Allens’ first episode.  Why?  Because Slade needs it to mass produce the mirakuru from his blood.  Slade’s reaction?  He ambushes the team at the Arrow Cave, easily taking each one of them out

The Man Under the Hood
Well, not really Felicity, who hides until Slade leaves

Slade was really just there to steal the Clock King’s master key so he can break into the STAR Labs facility to steal their centrifuge since Oliver blew his up.  He gets some resistance from Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) before leaving with what he came for.  Oliver decides the centrifuge will require so much of Slade’s blood it’ll weaken him meaning it’d be a great time to swoop in to kill him.  Big twist: Roy is actually the one powering the machine!  Oliver and Diggle take Roy and get the hotel out of there, though not before Diggle kills Isabel Rochev.  No worries – Slade just revives her with mirakuru.

Thea Merlyn –

Thea’s still mad at the world, realizing things like just how creeptastic her relationship with Tommy Merlyn actually was (she had a crush on her half-brother!). Oliver’s awful sorry ’bout that, but he really needs her to cosign a legal document preserving whatever Queen assets they can before Isabel gets to them.  Speaking of which, Oliver confronts Isabel at Queen Consolidated only to find out she and his father were lovers planning to run away together until one day Thea fell off her horse and Robert remembered just how much he loved his family.  Also, he apparently always knew Thea wasn’t his daughter.  Oliver thinks that’s awesome, but Thea accurately deduces it really means that the one person she thought hadn’t lied to her, Robert, was just as guilty as Moira. Epic fail, Oliver.

Laurel’s Choice –

Laurel has resorted to TV’s beloved big wall of crazy, pinning a collage of pictures and newspaper clippings about the Arrow to a wall as a way for the writers to quickly communicate that she has looked into Slade’s claim about Oliver being Arrow and stumbled across overwhelming evidence.  So, what will she do with this evidence?  First: find out who else knows.  Not her dad.  Second: figure out who the Canary is.  Oh, duh, it’s her sister.  Third: confront Oliver.  Can’t.  Right as she’s about to do so Sara calls to let her know their dad got beat up in prison.  So, she runs to Quentin’s side, and right as she’s about to tell him Oliver is Arrow he cuts her off, claiming he doesn’t want to know because as soon as he does then Arrow becomes an actual person, not a symbol.  He can’t imagine what the Arrow’s life must be like, living in the shadows, never thanked for his efforts.  Laurel agrees.  After she throws around her new take-charge lawyer mode to get Quentin out of prison, she heads to Verdant to give Oliver a hug because he’s important to her.

Meanwhile, Back on the Island… –

Basically, Ivo’s going to get tortured, then he says, “But, wait, I can help you stop Slade!”  He  has a cure which can reverse the mirakuru, but it’s back on the boat.  In exchange for the key to the safe containing the cure, he wants a mercy killing since his severed hand has created a nasty infection leaving him in a very bad way.  While Sara can’t bring herself to kill him as promised Oliver quickly puts 3 bullets into the guy.  Goodbye, Dr. Ivo.

THE REVIEW

Arrow, at this point, is pretty darn silly.  Silliness is baked into the DNA of any show which asks us to believe in people dressing up in costumes to be crime-fighting vigilantes.  However, season 2 seems to have proven that at heart the people behind Arrow have always actually wanted to make a fun comic book show, and last season’s more Nolan-esque approach was a Smallville palette cleanser dictated by a need to mimic the cinematic DNA of something like The Dark Knight Rises, which came out literally just a couple of months before the show premiered.  Now, “Man Under the Hood” gives us a man strapped to a centrifuge distributing his super-powered blood to escaped convicts to form some kind of stupid ass super soldier army to do…who knows what.  On top of that, Oliver yet again drops a bit of, “Oh, btw, this crucially important detail that has massive ramifications on our lives?  I’ve know about that for at least 5 years.  Just didn’t think you needed to know until now.”  Plus, we close the episode with Isabel Rochev being revived like Bride to Slade’s Frankenstein.  This isn’t a show or an episode you really analyze.  This is one you either have to suffer through during a binge-watching marathon since you’re committed to seeing how this plays out, or you watch with a bowl of popcorn and just go for the ride (or liquor to play drinking games based on how many times Stephen Amell does his patented dramatic pause, or characters are interrupted during important conversations by far more pressing phone calls).

So, what keeps us coming back?  The characters, and because sometimes Arrow pulls everything together to give us a powerhouse hour of television like “Deathstroke.”  Picking up on that, “Man Under the Hood” attempts to keep pace with “Deathstroke,” almost literally opening on an explosion and having Slade Wilson attack and easily defeat Team Arrow in the Arrow Cave before the first commercial break has even arrived.  Plus, “Deathstroke” left some threads immediately begging to be answered: Why is Isabel working with Slade, and so opposed to the Queen family? Will Thea forgive Oliver for lying to her?  How will Laurel react to discovering Oliver is the Arrow?  Will anyone really miss Roy?

So, “Man Under the Hood” is obligated to hit all those points.  Isabel – she’s a jilted lover of Robert Queen’s; Thea – she’s going to need more time to ever forgive any of them; Laurel – aw, shucks, Oliver’s life must suck so hard.  I’ll go hug him.  Roy – his faith in anything has been destroyed meaning he doesn’t volunteer to be Slade’s guinea pig, but he doesn’t exactly fight it either.

Isabel‘s explanation can’t be a surprise for those familiar with her character from the comics, and even for those who aren’t I don’t know that “jilted lover” is really that compelling.  In general, Arrow consistently struggles with its main villains by giving them motivations that are seriously not proportionate to their evil plans.  Everything Isabel has done seems disproportionate to her kind of basic back story.  The same goes for Malcolm blowing up an entire section of a city to avenge a dead wife. and Slade devoting everything he is or ever will be to destroying Oliver Queen as payback for the death of a girl who was real nice to him that one time.

Isabel's new BFF
Isabel’s new BFF

As Arrow‘s consistently out-of-the-loop character, Thea can often feel like one of the the show’s least essential parts.  The Malcolm Merlyn dad reveal, as monumentally stupid and ill-advised as it was, likely resulted from a writer’s room pitch, “How can we keep Thea involved without her finding out about Oliver’s secret?  Oh, just give them another secret to keep from her” (To be fair, many argue they were planting the seeds for this story line as far back as last season).  “Man Under the Hood” was finally her opportunity to take some ownership over the story, but with Roy gone it is a bit jarring how her primary connection to the rest of the cast is still just through Oliver and Moira (Sara technically works for her as a Verdant bartender, but how often have they ever been on-screen together?).  The crucial legal document Thea needed to co-sign with Oliver and Moira was a perfectly economical way to draw her into the competing story line involving Isabel’s takeover of Queen Consolidated.  However, since “Man Under the Hood” is a transitional episode the end result is that Thea ends it just as she began it: mad as hell at her family, especially since before this complication she pretty much had her life figured out.

How should Laurel react to discovering that Oliver has been lying to her for the past 2 years?  Sure, she can be thankful for all the times Oliver saved her life as the Arrow, but how many of those times was she put into danger in the first place because of him?  Plus, what of her sister?  Suddenly, Oliver and Sara’s seemingly rushed recent reunion would make sense to her, but that is still her little sister that Oliver is if not putting directly into danger then at least enabling her dangerous behavior.  Should she really be happy about that?

Sara could have easily died right there
Sara could have easily died right there

“The Man Under the Hood” lets Laurel go through all of those motions, though I wouldn’t say she ever seemed exactly angry about any of it.  Her dad being in prison for concealing Arrow’s identity at the same time Laurel has discovered Oliver’s secret is a perfectly compelling scenario without an obvious easy solution: betray Oliver to save her dad, or let her dad rot in prison for 12-18 months to guard a secret she’s not even supposed to know.  Of course, their solution would most likely be some kind of third option, but having Laurel threaten the DA (again)?  There are better ways to chart Laurel’s growth than this.  It’s just flat out lazy that Quentin would be arrested for obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting at the end of one episode, and then released by the end of the next episode because Laurel makes some threats.  They created a perfect lose-lose scenario for Laurel, but instead of owning up to it they waved it away.

As for Roy, he’s basically a cameo in this episode with a promised big role next week.

These are all distractions for Oliver which have been created by Slade, who is a villain I now only find even the slightest bit interesting when Head-Shado is around dictating his actions.  Why would I dare claim the great beloved Deathstroke is boring?  He’s too unstoppable.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer once had that problem with Glory in season 5, but they made it entertaining through fun juxtaposition: a Clueless-like valley girl in the body of an invulnerable god.  Arrow instead gives us Manu Bennet’s low, scary voice, a slasher villain-like (slow and steady) approach to potential victims, and the continued passed opportunities to kill his enemies and just be done with all this.

Deathstroke showing up at the Arrow Cave to take everyone down is an awesome idea.  Him doing so because he needs a master key to break into a lab?  Not so much.   Part of the pitfall of so thoroughly building Slade up as an unstoppable machine is that it’s hard to believe this machine would actually need a key to break into anywhere.  Couldn’t he just punch a door in?  Plus, if you really want to beat home his dominating nature then actually have his actions at the Arrow Cave mean something, and not in a “Well, that’s how Laurel finds out Sara is Canary” kind of way.

The Man Under the Hood

Don’t put a freakin’ brace on Sara’s hand, and have her discharged from the hospital in less than half a day.  Put someone on the sidelines for longer than that to heighten the stakes.  That would be far more effective than having to raise the stakes by Oliver’s moronic, “I could have cured him 5 years ago; didn’t; my bad; so guilty, y’all.”  He already feels guilty about Slade.  You’ve shown us that.  You didn’t need to add anything on top of that.  Having it turn out that Oliver has been lying this whole time has been their answer to far too many story line challenges this season.  Don’t you think the cure would have come up by now?  Roy would have loved to have heard about it, I’m sure.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If “Deathstroke” was Arrow following all of its best impulses then “Man Under the Hood” was it indulging all of its worst ones.  However, it did actually give some of its weaker links, Thea (historically) and Laurel (recently), interesting character work, even if their resolution in the latter was asinine.  This adds up to a transitional episode which lost most of the electric momentum of “Deathstroke,” and featured a rather poorly shoe-horned in introduction for two Flash characters.  Speaking of which…

THE NOTES

1. There were a lot of Flash references this week, and since I run this website I full well knew about Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and understood the references to Iris West and Harrison Wells.  However, if you didn’t know anything about any of that is there any you could watch Caitlin and Cisco’s expository dump of a scene at STAR warehouse and not think, “Who the hell are these people, and why should I care about them?”  It is always a challenge to work in characters meant for a spin-off, but your best option is to introduce them alongside characters we already know who can deem them important by extension.  Plus, that musical theme which accompanied their scene feels exactly like what it was – something from a completely different show.  The same went for the jaunty character theme which went along with Barry Allen earlier this season.

2. This week, Both Arrow and Agents of SHIELD had to honor the magnitude of the most recent episode’s game-changing twists by taking a moment to kind of breath and let the characters process everything.  However, this might be the first time I’ve ever said this, but SHIELD did it better.  A lot better.

3. Was the editing making it perfectly clear that Laurel remembers Oliver’s scars, realizes Sara’s looks just like those, and bada-bing, bada-boom, Sara’s Canary totally necessary?

4. What did Slade Wilson think would happen when he told Laurel about Oliver?  We can’t really believe he thought she’d literally just go hug him.  Oh, big distraction, Slade.  Way to go.

5. Stephen Amell non-verbal acting moment #1 – Oliver’s face when he learns Isabel Rochev was one of Robert’s mistresses?  Instant ick.  Yep, that’s right buddy – you had sex with a woman who also had sex with your dad.  Getting closer and closer to living in some kind of Greek play.

6. Stephen Amell non-verbal acting moment #2 – Oliver’s face when he clearly thinks he has said something so profound as to win his sister back only to have her essentially throw back, “You know that means Robert was lying to me my entire life, too, right?”  The look on his face was the perfect representation of, “Damn, I seriously did not see that coming.  I’ve got to start thinking these things through a little more.”

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

14 comments

  1. This one was of the episodes where I had to watch it twice because I was too busy during the first viewing pondering potential moments than focusing on the actual moments. This time, it was whether or not Laurel would sacrifice her father’s freedom for Oliver’s sake without a thought. Thank goodness she didn’t do that because it’s not who Laurel is and they’ve already written her far too out of character this season. As far as them missing out on a lose-lose situation for her, does she really need another one of those after all they have put her through? The hug at the end, while it made my Lauliver heart beat fast, feels like it was giving Oliver another free pass on not being a good human being to her and that makes me mad. Being a vigilante doesn’t give him some excuse for treating her poorly and he’s been very verbally and emotionally abusive to her this season.

    The Laurel-Oliver stuff tonight coupled w/Kreisberg comparing Laurel’s trajectory post-Oliver is Arrow revelation to Tommy’s makes me really nervous, tbqh. It feels like they are just rehashing the same story in reverse with only the ending staying the same and that’s with Oliver crying over someone’s dead body. Think about it.

    Tommy and Laurel both found out about Oliver by force. Oliver was forced to reveal himself to Tommy in 1×16 and Slade forced Oliver’s identity on Laurel. While Tommy’s good views of Oliver turned to the worse when he found out, Laurel’s bad views seems to have turned good or, at least, accepting. Oliver treated them both like crap after they called him out for his crap. Laurel is giving him the “it doesn’t matter if you’re a jerk, being a vigilante must be SO HARD” free pass now. Tommy gave that speech and even took all the blame for their fractured friendship while he was dying.

    Cisco and Caitlin make me want to watch The Flash even more. They were great. I was REALLY creeped out by Felicity’s response to finding out about Iris though. She spent like three days with Barry and she’s talking about him “moving on” and acting upset about it? I love seeing the Lance sister’s being all adorable together. I’m also wondering if something is going to come from the fact that Slade beat the crap out of Sara but Oliver barely had a scratch on him. I wonder if something happened on the island, aside from the Sara vs Shado thing, that made his rage against her even worse. Speaking of the island, Oliver was soooo concerned about Sara taking the stain of killing a person on herself. Yet he hasn’t said word one about Laurel killing a man to save his life?

    I guess, in the end, it’s best to watch this show without thinking too hard about things like that. I thought it was a good episode just because any episode of this show that doesn’t make me actively angry is a win as far as I’m concerned.

    1. I’m sorry, i have to ask, if you were REALLY creeped out by Felicity’s response, what do you think of sister triangle story?

      1. The whole show is full of problematic behavior. Just because we call one specific thing out, it doesn’t mean we don’t find all the other things problematic. I mean, we’re rooting for a mass murderer in the name of vigilantism after all.

    2. “I guess, in the end, it’s best to watch this show without thinking too hard about things like that.”

      That’s starting to become my mantra, which is probably pretty rich coming from the guy who habitually writes 2000-2500 word assessments of every episode. This episode didn’t leave me actively angry, although few have (State Vs. Queen from this season sure did). It just left me feeling like when this show isn’t totally clicking it ends up looking incredibly silly, especially the further we get into the mirakuru story.

      It was a lose-lose for Laurel, and of course they’d compromise their way out of that. I’m mostly annoyed with how they had her simply make threats to the DA to get out of it. That’s two times they’ve had her do that now, and it shouldn’t be that easy.

      There’s no perfect way to do the “girl finds out his secret” angle in your standard vigilante story. If you have her react realistically and become angered all of the lies and deception, an anger she is unwilling to let go, then you risk “Skylar White”-territory where although she is right in everything she says she still comes off as nagging the central character. If you have her just give the guy a pass then it makes her look weak. I thought they actually did a good job with Laurel until the end, and I did especially enjoy her surprisingly sweet interaction with Sara where she was making sure she was okay.

      You’re not wrong about the parallels between Laurel/Tommy and Oliver’s secret.

      I’d actually assumed Sara had already killed or helped kill guys on that boat. It seems like they presented her as a bad-ass in the flashbacks initially, but have since backed off of that to make her more sympathetic. Absent any of that, her struggling to pull the trigger, and Oliver doing it for her was a perfectly executed scene. Maybe it’s not so much that her hands aren’t already bloody (just not from killing anyone), but that she still had very mixed feelings about Dr. Ivo, who we knew had a messed up, psychologically abusive relationship with her for a year.

      I wasn’t really swayed by Cisco and Caitlin, even though they were perfectly fine in their roles, because I was so distracted by how remarkably clunky and out of place the whole thing was. I will say this – they managed to cram as much exposition as they possible could have in maybe the 2 minutes of screen time those two had before Deathstroke showed up. That was impressive. Plus, we did a fairly decent sense of those two as characters, especially Caitlin who you can tell will be sympathetic but a bit of a b.

      I was fine with Felicity’s line. Barry references Iris in conversation with her in “Three Ghosts” – he just didn’t actually say her name. So, all Felicity knows is that Barry can relate to her feelings for Oliver because he also had someone in his life who didn’t return his affections. Now, Cisco super-super awkwardly brings up Iris. We the fans know she is Barry’s wife in the comics, and that on the show Flash she will have been someone he was raised with after his parents died, he hopelessly in love with her, she thinking of him as her best friend and almost brother. All Felicity knows is, “Who the heck is Iris?” Sure, there is a certain “While You Were Sleeping” aspect to Felicity’s relationship with Barry in that although not complete strangers she is fairly devoted to a guy she knew for all of 2-3 days. So, it’s like she has any rightful claim to Barry or anything. Based upon Felicity’s “I’ll come visit again, soon” line, I am under the impression that should Flash make it to series they’re setting Felicity up for a cross-over event where they can give her and Barry some kind of resolution.

      1. “I did especially enjoy her surprisingly sweet interaction with Sara where she was making sure she was okay.”

        I liked their scenes, more than in earlier episodes, but it bothered me that Laurel was much more interested in the fact that Oliver was Arrow than her own sister being the other vigilante. I wanted her to show some concern about Sara’s scars, like she did about Oliver’s last season, and worry that Sara could get hurt doing what she does. It doesn’t always have to be about the guy in a woman’s mind.

        I didn’t mind Felicity’s comments of Barry moving on, but if she’s been spending as much time in Central City as the show is trying to tell us, it seems strange that no one around Barry has mentioned Iris’ name yet, if for no other reason than they were raised together.

      2. “It bothered me that Laurel was much more interested in the fact that Oliver was Arrow than her own sister being the other vigilante.”

        I was just impressed they even acknowledged any potential concern at all with that scene near the end where Laurel made sure Sara was okay, but considering that Sara was “dead” to Laurel and her family for 6 years you’d think she’d be hypersensitive and protective to anything potentially damaging to her little sister.

        Plus, WTF, has no one in Sara’s family asked where the hell she was for all those years? Sure, Nyssa’s arrival probably gave them some kind of idea, but they’ve never really asked for any details.

        Felicity –
        You’d imagine Felicity would have likely heard or perhaps even run into Iris while visiting Barry in Central City by this point.

  2. Any and all things Laurel Lance are not worth mentioning or watching. I don’t know whether the writings are just lazy or they really don’t know what to do with her character. I’m going with the latter. An addiction cured over an episode. From being infatuated with the Arrow, to misplaced anger, to indifference, to whatever-the-heck-she-is-now. This character fails in every sense of the word to have a purpose. Even with her family and history with Oliver and the Queens.

    Cisco and Caitlin it was a subtle introduction, I would have wanted more. But it was good – leave us wanting. I am very excited about the Flash. Mention of Iris gives me tingles.

    Oliver and his “by the way I’ve got the solution” was too easy and laughable.

    Thea’s inconsistency; it’s so hard to care because we barely see her. However he character has potential.

    Oliver and Sara are a mix of completely bland and “hey they fight super awesome together i love it but aside from that two planks of wood” – because they are both quite dead and stoic.

    Isabel is the very definition of jilted lover. She makes a point to say she isn’t – the basically describes Jilted Lover 101. I agree with this article the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Isabel, in case you didn’t notice, Robert is dead. He chose his family, his children over your affair – get over it! Slade, Shado just wasn’t that into to you. Find your child and get over it!

    This mikaura storyline is getting out of hand – call it a day.

    Sara Lance – a favorable character in her initial introduction, but she keeps increasing in Mary Sue points by the episode.

    The island flashbacks are just mundane now since they added her to the mix. Her hands shook when she was about to shoot Ivo (poor Sara) but – she was on the boat subjecting men to torture – come on writers the prop of ‘Sara in The City’ for the second half of the season is draining the life out of it.

    Is it the curse of the Lances? Quentin is great – it’s just his daughters. Maybe they should follow their mother to Central City…wait that would ruin the awesome upcoming series Flash. Seriously if Arrow is not careful The Flash could overtake it, just like this second half has not been praiseworthy. Just add Emily Bett Rickards to the mix of The Flash, alongside the very likable Grant Gustin as Barry and co. And you could have yourselves a hit. Of course no romantic entanglements between the two i’m set on Barry/Iris, I actually see a deep soul twins friendship between Barry and Felicity. Felicity headlines on her own – and who knows? Meets Nightwing.

    The writers have shown they don’t have a clear direction from their interview on what they “planned” to do with Summer Glau’s character – which was basically – we don’t know.

    Hopefully season 2 will reel it back in, focus on characters, developments and dynamics of intrigue. The first half of Arrow season 2 was fantastic. The writers need to go back to that drawing board. Team Arrow (+Roy -Sara). Development of Diggle, Felicity, Roy. And hopefully Thea.

    1. They’ve clearly been struggling with Laurel all season. The initial idea was obviously to flip the script, and have her and her dad switch roles this season. So, functionally, that made her the representative of the established authority’s rejection of the Arrow. Then that stopped in “Broken Dolls,” and all she had left was her substance abuse story. At this point, it sure seems like they are really trying to return her to season 1 Laurel, hitting a bit of a reset button. Plus, since she decided not to tell Oliver she knows we can expect to see plenty of drama from her being in scenes where she knows more then the characters around her think she does. Overall, I think that bringing Sara back kind of robbed Laurel’s purpose on the show. You used to always know “she’ll be Black Canary” someday, and then all of a sudden we had Black Canary and it wasn’t Laurel.

      “Oliver and his ‘by the way I’ve got the solution’ was too easy and laughable.”

      They’ve done that enough this season that I just kind of rolled my eyes and thought, “Seriously, again with this shit?” We are meant to believe the only way he can make the cure now is because he has the mirakuru, but I’d think the second that mirakuru re-entered his life way back in the mid-season finale he would have instantly used Queen Consolidated’s R&D Department to get on producing a cure. You know – the R&D Department so advanced that gaining access to it was apparently Slade Wilson’s primary reason for wanting to take over Queen Consolidated via Isabel. Either way, this SHOULD have come up by now, and the fact that it didn’t is just lazy.

      “She makes a point to say she isn’t – then basically describes Jilted Lover 101”

      Yeah, I know. The girl is clearly in denial, or else the writers were worried we might think Isabel was just a jilted lover so they had her explicity state that she wasn’t before, like you said, describing “Jilted Lover 101”

      “This mirakuru storyline is getting out of hand – call it a day.”

      Agreed. To me, this has clearly gotten away from them.

      “Just add Emily Bett Rickards to the mix of The Flash, alongside the very likable Grant Gustin as Barry and co. And you could have yourselves a hit. Of course no romantic entanglements between the two i’m set on Barry/Iris”

      Oh, come on. You just know that if Felicity was a full-time cast member of The Flash the love triangle between her, Barry, and Iris would be teased endlessly. Greg Berlanti co-created Arrow and is doing the same with The Flash, and he also co-created The Tomorrow People. Arrow operates under the principle that they want us to ship for every possibly coupling or permutation of a love triangle. So does The Tomorrow People, whose lead character now has at least 3 potential girlfriends, 2 of whom are clearly into him, one of whom he’s sleeping with. Flash could be different because it has a different kind of non-Amell leading man, but I honestly doubt it. I just think that’s the type of show these guys want to do, following the successful romantic tropes ridden to great ratings success on CW’s Vampire Diaries.

      “The first half of Arrow season 2 was fantastic. The writers need to go back to that drawing board.”

      Yeah, I went back and re-read some of my earlier reviews, and it was interesting to see how although I’ve been worried about this season from almost the get-go I used to couch any criticism with far more optimism. Even now, the episode prior to this one was a lot of fun to watch. So, it’s like I know they can still pull it all together and be awesome, but I no longer really expect it to happen because I think their main story lines have all gotten away from them.

      Others obviously disagree. Some people have never been more enthusiastic about Arrow than they are right now just as there are people who will argue that Smallville was a far superior show than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, shows go through some rough patches sometimes, and while it is disheartening to learn (as you indicated) that the writers admit to having had no idea what the hell they were doing with Isabel Rochev I think some of the stuff they’re talking about for season 3 sounds encouraging. Changing things up and having Oliver potentially without his fortune or mansion or even convenient cover stories for why Diggle and Felicity are around (both of whom would presumably need new actual paying jobs during the day) could be interesting. I am ready for Arrow to change things up, but before that happens we still have the home stretch of the season to go. Then again, next week’s episode looks to be all about Roy – a character I have really tried to care about, and just simply can’t, “But, wait, he’s Speedy/Arsenal from the comics!” be damned.

      1. The one thing that has been bothering me is how most of the critical reviews I have read have been so praise-worthy and I’ve hated this season. So the writers have been seeing all this praise and thinking they’ve been doing such a great job and I’m slamming my head against the wall most of the time. Most of the fandom I have seen have been unhappy with it, too.

        I think it must stem from reasons people are attached to the show. Me? I basically love everyone but Oliver. Which kinda messes things up because the show will always serve him over everyone else. And it seems like you’re frustrated by how much he’s messing things up with this mirakuru thing (because the writers have let it get away from them) and it’s starting to influence how you’re seeing the show, too.

      2. The critical praise for Arrow this season has certainly been more than plentiful, and other than the big episodes most everyone seemed to like (e.g., “Deathstroke”) I have certainly read reviews which were far more positive about certain episodes than I was in my review. For example, I’ve found myself consistently disagreeing with the AV Club reviewer who more often than not will acknowledge all of the episode’s clunky plotting if not outright plot holes but then hyper-intellectualize why it all still worked. I usually don’t completely agree, but it’s a different viewpoint. That’s one of the reasons I do the “Second Opinions” links with all of my reviews.

        I recall that you and I have disagreed about individual episodes on occasion, and sometimes some of the criticisms you offered were just things I had given a pass. You would have thought that after “Deathstroke” I would have been again willing to give “Man Under the Hood” a pass in spite of its clunkiness, but coming after such a fun episode another one which yet again resorts to, “Oliver has the answer to the problem; he just chose not to mention until now” just made me all the more annoyed. And yes the deeper they dig themselves into the mirakuru story the sillier the show starts to look, and more evident becomes that the story has gotten away from them.

        It’s like I said in my review, at this point Arrow is not a show which lends itself to any kind of analysis because it’s gotten so utterly comic book-y and soap-y (and downright lazy). You either go with it or you don’t, and because I like all of these characters (though at best indifferent about Roy) I’m sure not giving up on it. To some, this is the version of Arrow they’ve been waiting for, crying throughout season 1 about why there weren’t any meta-humans around and more comic book-y stories. To others, their Christopher Nolan film is gradually turning into something far too close to a Joel Schumacher film.

        I hear what you’re saying about Oliver, and though that’s never bothered me I have seen others struggle with this show due to being appalled by Oliver’s actions.

  3. Late to the discussion, and I don’t have much to add after everything that’s been so well said.

    “It’s like I said in my review, at this point Arrow is not a show which lends itself to any kind of analysis because it’s gotten so utterly comic book-y and soap-y (and downright lazy)”

    I think this is the key to the problems I’ve been having with the show since the Christmas break. I want to go down into the writers’ room with a large whiteboard, mark it off into segments for each episode and then break it off into, storyline, characterization, relationship and hand them markers to block everything out. If Isabel was going to be this important to the Slade story by taking over QC, there should have been mentions of her through the season, something as small as Oliver saying he can take care of Barry because Isabel is taking care of QC. Bringing in Caity Lotz as The Canary was a great move (unless they want Laurel to end up as the BC in which case it was idiotic) but from Heir to the Demon to Deathstroke, she and Laurel kind of took over the show and Roy, Thea, Moira and especially Diggle and Felicity got relegated to background props. I thought Team Arrow of O/D/F was the best thing about the show but while I understand the desire to keep the Team from stagnating, I didn’t enjoy the shows being so much about Sara and Oliver. But even with that, they failed to explore the relationship between Sara and Oliver and whether they are a good romantic fit with each other.

    The big problem, however, is Laurel. Between Felicity and Sara, there really is no room for her on the A storylines and the writers attempts to give her something to do have fizzled. She’s never really understood Oliver, even Sara knew back 6 years ago that Oliver was a cheater, and when she has to find out from Slade that he’s The Arrow while everyone else figured it out on their own or were told by him, it makes her look clueless. The producers’ interviews on how wonderful their relationship is and how much we would be surprised by how Laurel took the news and love her for it (which was basically as most of us had predicted) aren’t helping matters.

    As regards the AV reviewer, I thought this was an interesting article on fandoms analyzing things:
    http://fanlore.org/wiki/Watsonian_vs._Doylist

    1. First off, good link about fandoms. I seem more like a Doylist, and a lot of TV show analysis which is offputting to me, no matter how well-written, is likely more Watsonian.

      “I want to go down into the writers’ room with a large whiteboard, mark it off into segments for each episode and then break it off into, storyline, characterization, relationship and hand them markers to block everything out”

      I’ve had similar thoughts myself. Though I thought it was a good idea at the time, in retrospect one of their biggest mistakes might have been completely dropping the concept of Oliver and his father’s list. I know that him simply checking names off a list is what a Kill Bill-esque vigilante does, not a hero, and their stated goal for season 2 was to begin Oliver’s transition into being a hero. However, it really turns out that for their writing they kind of needed the structure that list provided them. They’ve been gradually flailing without it every since, pulling things together perfectly for a couple of episodes here and there while just awkwardly jumping from A to C without hitting B elsewhere, and resorting to tired tricks like the villain back from the dead, characters just simply having known secrets this entire time, and now a potential lost son drama next season.

      ” If Isabel was going to be this important to the Slade story by taking over QC, there should have been mentions of her through the season, something as small as Oliver saying he can take care of Barry because Isabel is taking care of QC.”

      No arguments here.

      “I thought Team Arrow of O/D/F was the best thing about the show but while I understand the desire to keep the Team from stagnating, I didn’t enjoy the shows being so much about Sara and Oliver. But even with that, they failed to explore the relationship between Sara and Oliver and whether they are a good romantic fit with each other.”

      It’s still true that Team Arrow works best when its focus is on O/D/F, with Sara and Roy not adding as much to it as the writers clearly hoped for. I do like Sara and Oliver together as a couple, and looking back at it you kind of see how they’ve been trying to establish how the two were ultimately not compatible almost along Catwoman/Batman grounds. However, I was fairly stunned when the most recent episode began with the two in bed together, him literally on top of her, because other than the episode where he tried to break up with her and didn’t we didn’t have a great sense of those two as an actual couple.

      They’ve made a real mess of Laurel this season, despite Katie Cassidy’s best efforts.

      1. I’m a Doylist myself. I think it’s more interesting to be aware of the man behind the curtain.

        I didn’t mind Roy so much, in spite of Colton Haynes acting abilities, because Roy was still very much a junior in the Arrow Cave. Sara’s time bothered me more because she took Diggle’s place as co-leader of the team and both Diggle’s and Felicity’s places as the person Oliver talks to in addition to all her island scenes. It felt like Diggle and Felicity became stage crew. (I hated Felicity’s resolution in Time of Death that she was happy at the end not because she was content with who she was but because she now had a scar and a leather jacket just like Sara.) I don’t want Sara to be killed off or even put in a wheelchair to be The Oracle but for me a little of her goes a long way and I’d rather see her as a recurring character next year.

        I’ve just been listening to Katie Cassidy’s panel from Calgary FanExpo on youtube and it sounds like they told her she is going to end up as the Black Canary. She also said that Laurel and Oliver love each other and will end up together. If that’s how it’s going to go, I feel like they’ve been gaslighting me for the past two seasons because Laurel continues to be clueless about the real Oliver and all I get is old get affection on his side any more..

      2. The team dynamic is a tricky thing to pull with these kinds of stories, and it’s generally agreed that Joss Whedon is the master of it. However, it was a common complaint that they had erred with their very conception of characters on SHIELD because there was too much overlap between character’s functions on the team with May/Ward too similar and Fitz/Simmons too similar. Arrow had avoided that fate until this season when, I agree, Sara did kind of occupy a role on the team formerly held by Diggle and/or Felicity. As a result, sometimes Diggle and Felicity just became point/counterpoint/Oliver decides sounding boards.

        As for Roy, it’s honestly difficult to get too annoyed with him one way or another because he’s been the character who’s kind of floated in and out of episodes the most, held off the screen because they had nothing for him to do just yet.

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