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- Airdate: 4/23/2014
- Director: Doug Aarniokoski (Criminal Minds, Arrow directorial debut)
- Writer(s): Wendy Mericle & Beth Schwartz (previously wrote this season’s “Time of Death” and “Blind Spot together”)
Roy became the Terminator? Oliver has a 6-7-year-old kid out there he knows nothing about? Sara would seriously just leave town like that without checking in with her family, temporarily abandoning not just them but Team Arrow despite everything going down with Slade? Moira knew Oliver’s secret for at least a year? Slade Wilson delivered the death stroke to Moira Queen?
It was another clunky episode of Arrow, but boy did they ever stick the landing. Let’s break down “Seeing Red”:
THE RECAP –
Bye-Bye, Moira –
Moira’s mayoral campaign continues with a clear path toward victory, but Thea drops by Queen Manor to interrupt Moira in the middle of the press interview to let her know she can no longer use Verdant for a fundraiser as previously planned. But, wait, you signed an actual contract with Moira’s campaign, and backing out of it now for personal reasons would not be legally wise! Daaaaamn, well played Moira
However, Moira can’t rightfully be mother to Starling City, as per her campaign promises, when she’s no kind of mother to her daughter at the moment. So, she informs Sebastian Blood in person that her upcoming fundraiser will be used to announce her intention to drop pout of the race. He has the tact to not do a happy, but evil dance right in front of her. Oliver later mayor-blocks Sebastian, convincing Moira that the way to win back Thea is to continue being a good person and good mayor. She gives him your standard, “You’re right. Oh, btw, I’ve known about you being the Arrow since the Undertaking last year.” Okay. That last part wasn’t so much standard as fairly random.
Halfway through Moira’s speech at the rally, she takes Oliver’s advice, and pledges to save Starling City. On a limo ride home with Thea and Oliver, Moira is about to turn over a new leaf and abandon the age of secrets, reveal that Malcolm Merlyn is still alive when the car is suddenly sideswiped Bournce Supremacy-style. Oliver awakes somewhere in the woods, tied up and looking up at his mother and sister both on their knees in front of him as Slade Wilson demands he chooses who dies just as Ivo once made him do with Sara and Shado. Moira makes the choice for Oliver, standing up to offer her own life to protect her children. Slade is impressed. Someone with such courage and devotion doesn’t deserve a bullet through the head. No, they get the honor of a sword through the heart, and with that Moira Queen falls dead to the ground, off to an afterlife where she will undoubtedly continue guarding major secrets for sympathetic reasons.
Roy’s Not Here Right Now –
After waking up from the metal slab in the Arrow Cave, Roy escapes through Verdant into Starling City, and while he may look Roy Harper and walk like Roy Harper boy howdy is he not really Roy Harper anymore. He doesn’t speak or even appear to recognize anyone. He just goes around beating people up, even punching poor Sin outside of a nightclub (maybe he just really hated her always calling him “Abercrombie”).
Not cool, Roy Harper. No one hurts Sin on Sara Lance’s watch, even though Sin was already punched once by Roy earlier this season. Sara plays it Oliver’s way, tracking Roy to the old clock tower to talk him down. All bets are off after Roy effortlessly tosses Sara across a room, fractures one of Oliver’s legs, and kills a random cop outside the clock tower building. Shoot to kill now, right? Sara says yes, Oliver says no, but Oliver’s leg means he can’t stop her. So, she leaves him behind in the Arrow Cave to hunt Roy down and shoot him between the eyes, an apparently fatal shot for even mirakuru-enhanced monsters. That was all fairly pointless, though. Roy is fixated on Thea, hallucinating a version of her (like Slade does with Shado) which begs for him to kill Thea. So, of course he just shows up at Verdant, but before he has a chance to choke Thea to death – and in the middle of Moira’s fund rally, no less – Sara almost puts him down for good until Sin stops her.
Ultimately, Sara goes Terminator 2, taking out Roy’s kneecap. Oliver pumps him full of fancy snake venom, and they keep him sedated in the Arrow Cave…for now. Before all of this went down, Oliver and Sara were making sweet, sweet love in a hotel, and he was talking about moving in together. However, Sara realizes through the Roy encounter that she’s basically the season 1 version of Oliver, except worse in terms of the darkness of her soul. So, already spooked by Oliver’s earlier overture of serious romantic commitment she decides he is too good for her, needing someone who can help him harness his inner light (ears up Olicity, Lauriver fans). She breaks up with him, says goodbye to Sin (though not to her sister or father), and heads off to destinations unknown to “see an old friend.” Translation: hello, Nyssa Al-Guh.
Meanwhile, Oliver Has a Kid He Sill Doesn’t Know About… –
7 years ago, Oliver knocked up a girl who was not Laurel or Sara. The poor, little rich boy was all mopey about it. So, mommy made it go away, buying off the unnamed mother wth $2 million, $1 million to go back to her family in Central City and another $1 million to tell Oliver she’d lost the pregnancy in a miscarriage. As a result, one of Moira’s lasting legacies for her own son is that she’d do anything to protect him, but as a result somewhere out there he has a 6-7-year-old kid he knows nothing about.
In this brave new death-happy post-Game of Thrones TV landscape, I have decided to make deal-breakers with certain shows whereby if they kill a specific character no matter how dramatically satisfying the story I will forever be done with the show. For example, if Bates Motel offs the girl with the oxygen tank, or Vampire Diaries ever dares to kill Caroline Forbes (the wickedly talented Candace Acola) they’ll have lost themselves a customer.
Moira Queen is not a deal-breaker for me with Arrow. In fact, around halfway through “Seeing Red” I began suspecting she was as good as dead, and was generally fine with it. You don’t have her just randomly reveal in the middle of an episode that she’d known Oliver’s secret for around a year unless you’re scrambling to provide some closure to her before her death. Plus, Arrow’s creatives increasingly subscribe to the Joss Whedon Buffy/Angel school of story telling whereby as soon as the characters achieve any kind of happiness bordering on complacency you tear their world asunder. So, just as the second Oliver suggested getting a place with Sara you could guess they’d be broken up by episode’s end you could also assume Moira’s clear path to electoral victory and triumphant speech/reconciliation with her family was all a precursor to tragedy. Plus, something about the episode felt oddly off, as if all would be made clear in the final minutes.
And then Slade killed Moira. That was a devastating sequence, at least as devastating as Arrow gets, but it was entirely fitting for Moira to go out quite literally sacrificing herself to protect her children. As Sarah Palin would say, Moira was above anything else just a mama grizzly protecting her little cubs.
So, why kill Moira? The longer teen-centric, heightened reality (e.g., superheroes, vampires, etc.) CW shows go on they less need they have for any parental figures (actual or surrogate) because eventually they are simply blocking the dramatic growth of the central characters. However, rather than simply having the central characters grow up and move out the choice is often tragically forced on them. For example, every single Vampire Diaries parent is dead this point (except for Sheriff Forbes) and anyone who dared ever be a surrogate parent is long gone. The same pretty much goes for Supernatural. Going back to the WB days, Buffy the Vampire Slayer wisely refrained from ever killing Buffy’s surrogate dad Giles, but instead had her mom die a sudden and devastatingly realistic death. Other parents on the show were spared death but crucially almost never seen if ever even referenced. Smallville stuck with comic book lore by eventually having Jonathan Kent succumb to a heart attack, and though unwilling to kill Martha Kent they did write her out of the show (by sending her off to state congress!!!).
Oliver Queen is fair deal older than most of those show’s central characters were when they started, but shows of this type tend to resort to killing off the parents to force the star of the show to grow up and into maturity (much as Harry Potter was always losing all of his father figures to make him grow into independence and leadership). So, maybe Moira was always heading this way.
If so, they did so by completing her season 2 arc of redemption. Once upon a time, in the show’s pilot, we were meant to believe Moira was actually one of the show’s secret villains. Instead, she turned out to be a woman forced into an impossible situation where she chose not self-preservation, really, but protection of her children at all costs. Season 2 was meant to be her period of redemption, but it was handled in repeatedly awkward ways, giving her yet another secret, ending her trial way too soon and abruptly, putting her into a mayoral race. The idea seemed to be that while Moira was genuine in seeking to atone for her sins she was still Moira, coldly threatening Felicity at one point in queen bee fashion and harboring too many secrets. The result was yet another season 2 character who kind of came and went, one who apparently served no purpose if not in direct conflict with Thea or Oliver over some deep, dark secret. That gets old fast.
But why kill her now? Because it raises the dramatic stakes. I criticized the show last week for having Slade’s visit to the Arrow Cave ultimately mean nothing (Sara’s already lost that bandage from her wrist by “Seeing Red”). Now, that crazy sonofabitch killed Oliver’s mom, bringing about some fairly severe and very permanent consequences. That’s why the writers did it, but why did Slade decide to do it now? Was this directly related to Moira’s decision to NOT pull out of the mayoral election? Was it somehow a response to Oliver’s efforts last week which resulted in the temporary death of Isabel Rochev? It does seem a tad on the sudden side, but that, of course, is also part of its effectiveness. You’re not supposed to see it coming.
It’s unfortunate that to hammer home Moira’s long-lasting love for her son they introduced a pregnancy scare in the past meaning not only did Oliver cheat on Laurel with someone other than Sara but he now has a kid out there he knows nothing about. If they go Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Ally McBeal with this, and at some point turn the kid turns up as a major character (please God, no, do not let it be as bad as Connor on Angel) at least now they’ve given us the heads-up. The track record in this department is pretty much completely negative, but that’s still down the road.
In general, the whole flashback story was perplexing, primarily serving to remind us of something (Moira will do anything to protect her kids) we already knew just so we might feel Moira’s death more profoundly. Moira working in the shadows to protect her son in the past does kind of, sort of resonate with the present-day revelation that she’d known Oliver was the Arrow since the season 1 finale. Moira’s the queen of secrets; of course she’d know Oliver’s. Does it actually track? Aren’t there practical questions she’d want to pose, such as who exactly it was she saw dressed up as the Arrow and beating the heck out of Oliver last season? Recently, when Thea was kidnapped wouldn’t she turn to Oliver to employ his Arrow persona to find her baby girl? Plus, when he was being so sanctimonious about her keeping secrets for the greater good wouldn’t she want to put all their cards on the table, call a spade a spade? Or, to her, would she relate to Oliver’s need for secrecy, and choose to honor and protect that just as she’d also do everything to protect her children?
As for everything with Team Arrow, I gather that Roy is basically overdosed with mirakuru right now thus explaining why he’s behaving in a way neither he nor Slade did upon their first mirakuru exposure. There are certain practical questions, such as how did Roy in his robot-like state actually see any kind of TV coverage of Moira’s fund rally to see that Thea was there? Plus, does no one find it supremely weird that the Arrow and Canary just suddenly showed up at Verdant to stop Roy? That’s probably less glaring than Sara breaking up with Oliver and leaving the city by episode’s end. We are most likely to take it that she has left to retrieve help from the League of Assassins, setting her up as leading the cavalry in the charge against Slade and his super soldiers. If she’d asked for permission Oliver wouldn’t have likely granted it, but as far as we see Sara leaves without saying goodbye to either her father or sister. Like so many of Arrow‘s season 2 moments, there is a kernel of truth to this resolution, as it is I guess consistent with Sara’s behavior as well yet another example of someone Oliver has failed to save (Shado, Tommy, and Moira literally, Huntress, Roy, and Sara morally). However, with the show ever-burdened with so many characters and story lines things like Sara suddenly exiting seems, well, very sudden.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is an episode which, over time, will likely not be remembered for anything other than its ending, e.g., “Oh, that’s the episode where Oliver’s mom died.” The manner in which she died was “Geeze, I need a hug”-depressing, and has certainly elevated the stakes for the remainder of the season. Of course, the rest of the episode contained some surprising twists which are harder to take but likely ignored due to the good will earned from a well-executed (albeit devastating) climactic death scene. The notion that Moira’s known about Oliver’s secret this entire season is kind of workable, but the idea of Oliver having a love-child he knows nothing about simply serves to re-inforce Moira’s love for her son here but quite regrettably likely sets up some unfortunate story lines in the future.
1. I’d never actually wondered where Sara had been living this whole time until Oliver mentioned she was living with Laurel.
2. I really like Bex Taylor-Klaus as Sin, and was delighted to see her back. However, am I the only one who thought maybe poor Taylor-Klaus must have been suffering through a cold the day they filmed her first scene of the episode when she sees “Abercrombie” Roy in the street? Her voice sounded that way at least.
3. It’s adorable how little Oliver and Sara looked around the clocktower before confidently concluding Roy wasn’t there.
4. “Like comic book strong” – That’s one of those tricky lines to throw in there because when your show is already so comic book-y actually pointing that out can be a bit jarring.
5. Thea was scrappier than normal this week, and generally very strong. I like this Thea.
6. Though awesome when The Bourne Supremacy (2004) did it we’re all now accustomed to the convention of the camera placed in the interior of the car not seeing the car about to run into them until the literal last second. Heck, a “Don’t Drive and Text” ad running in the US right now uses that convention quite effectively. However, it was still quite jarring in “Seeing Red”
7. The last flashback when Oliver finds out the girl has lost the baby was a tough scene for Stephen Amell to play. The dialogue literally has him rejoicing over the rich kid getting lucky again. However, while Oliver may not have been ready for fatherhood that does mean a potential child of his is gone (as far as he knows). There’s an inherent tragedy to that. My interpretation was that Amell used pained facial expressions to indicate Oliver wasn’t 100% okay, but using the dialogue to find comfort in remembering that he wasn’t ready to be a father. However, it’s open to interpretation, and those who find Oliver a morally compromised, unlikable character likely had a less charitable reading of the scene.
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: Seeing Red (screencrush.com)
- Arrow: “Seeing Red” Grade: B (avclub.com)
- Arrow “Seeing Red” Review: The Light Inside of You (tv.com)