Arrow went under the hood this week for an hour that was more about advancing character relationships than it was about kicking ass. That’s not to say this episode lacked action; far from it! It’s just that when a show is as consistently high-flying and explosive as Arrow, the relatively quieter episodes tend to stand out all the more. Honestly, we needed it this week, as certain characters have recently struggled to get their screen time when they have to share it with the villain of the week. No more. Slade/Deathstroke is the man of the hour, and it’s going to take the combined efforts of Oliver & Co. to bring him down. Hit the jump for this week’s Arrow recap, “The Man Under the Hood.”
In “Island Time,” we discovered the hopeful news that Dr. Ivo had actually synthesized an antidote to the mirakuru, and would divulge the secret location of his stash (ie, in his locked safe on board the Amazo freighter) in exchange for a quick death. Sara would have given it to him, but Oliver did it instead, wanting to save her from taking a life, and the personal trauma that would mean for her. It was a short sequence on the island this week, but one that was edited well to pair with one of Oliver’s own revelations to his crew late in the episode.
Speaking of the crew, they’re working like a well-oiled machine of late (as long as Felicity gets her ski mask on properly). They expertly take down some truly terrible Rent-A-Cops who are guarding the Robert Queen Applied Sciences division. A few well-placed charges of C4 later, and bing-bang-boom the building comes crashing down, destroying Slade’s stores of the recently manufactured mirakuru. This event is the catalyst for the rest of the action in this episode (which we’ll cover in a second), but it was surprisingly secondary to the character work that came in the quieter moments.
With Slade’s batches gone up in flames, the team knows that he’ll soon be on the hunt for a new centrifuge to start synthesizing more. What they don’t expect is for a heavily armed and armored Deathstroke to be waiting for them in their very own headquarters! This was one of my favorite action sequence of the series so far. It was short, it was brutal, it was dynamic, and it was ultimately futile. Deathstroke, who’s like a slasher-movie villain with a better arsenal, is simply too much for the team, mentally and physically. During the carnage, he manages to steal Felicity’s skeleton key, which he soon uses to raid S.T.A.R. Labs.
Now’s as good a place as any to talk about Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin Snow and Carlos Valdes’ Cisco Ramon. These two are the new faces of The Flash spin-off that also stars Grant Gustin in the title role. We spent a bit more facetime with these two than I had expected, even if half of it was watching them run from Deathstroke, and the other half was watching them exchange quips with Felicity. I like their on-screen chemistry so far, but we’ll have to see how they match up with Gustin in the future. Let us know what you think of the new additions in the comments!
Now, back to the action. Slade hightailed it out of S.T.A.R. Labs, before Arrow and Black Canary could stop him. He managed to liberate a “bio-transfuser” which will allow him to transfuse his blood into the bodies of his newly recruited prisoners-turned soldiers. Bad news bears. Felicity comes up with the somewhat logical plan to wait until Slade fires up the machine, after which she can track the power drain on “The Grid.” Ollie’s somewhat more nonsensical plan allows for Slade to use the machine (thus powering up his army of super-soldiers…) in the hopes that it weakens him. Kinda silly, yeah? Well, even if Ollie’s plan was sound, Slade was a step ahead of him again, because none other than Roy (!) was actually at the heart of the bio-transfuser. Admittedly, I didn’t see that one coming, just as I didn’t expect to see Diggle shooting Isabel in the chest as Oliver zip-lined Roy to safety. Nobody in the comics (adaptations) stays down for long, however, as we see Slade transfuse his blood into a born-again Isabel as their new super soldiers gather around them. Phew!
Okay, so even for a “slow, character-building episode,” that’s a lot of action. But I think the more important development this week was found in the bonds between the characters. Laurel, of all people, finally has something to act on rather than react to. She did her reacting last time when Slade told her that Oliver Queen was, in fact, the Arrow. The pieces clicked together for Laurel, who surely knows by now that Ollie and Sara are the masked, motorcycle-riding crimefighters. What was interesting in this episode is how they handled that realization. Could they have strung out the secret identity shtick for multiple seasons? Of course. Instead, “The Man Under the Hood” chose to give Paul Blackthorne’s Quentin Lance a rather eloquent monologue (reminiscent of the ending of The Dark Knight) in which he explains that knowing the identity of the man under the hood isn’t essential, and in fact would be detrimental to the vigilante’s ability to fight crime. Laurel’s embrace of Oliver towards the episode’s end lets all of us know that she knows, and that she cares most about the man under the hood. Hopefully that puts to rest some of the complaints of viewers about how the show handles obvious secret identities. (You know who you are!)
Meanwhile, the Queens are dealing with family issues of their own. Oliver and Moira are back on speaking terms after Thea’s kidnapping and Isabel’s hostile takeover, but they must get the increasingly estranged Thea on board in order to save the rest of the family’s assets. Thea, who I thought had perhaps run away with Roy at the end of the previous episode, is still tending bar, but is obviously distraught over her parentage and Ollie’s betrayal. The poor thing was just starting to get her life in order, and has now fallen apart completely. Even though Ollie tries to convince her that their father loved them, and in fact chose to stay with them, it’s not enough for Thea. Stay tuned to see what happens with her next week.
And finally we come to Ollie. The series may be named for the vigilante, but this episode is titled after Oliver Queen. In a nice reveal on Ollie’s part, he clues the team into the fact that an antidote to the mirakuru is indeed possible, and that Dr. Ivo had previously synthesized it. Diggle, in a great bit of self-aware writing, asks him why he didn’t mention it sooner, to which Oliver responds that he, ashamedly, could have cured Slade years ago, but chose to kill him instead. Everything that has happened so far was Oliver’s fault. This is the great conflict at the heart of this entire series: the internal struggle of a man who has lived a life of excess, and whose choices have irreversibly affected the lives of so many others. Now that he has decided to use his abilities to make a change for the better, he’s finding it increasingly difficult to stay the course without collateral damage or ghosts from his past haunting him. It’s a great thread that’s been pulled along through the better part of two seasons, and a core conflict for the comic book hero.
While some of the science is fluffed, some of the backstories (ahem, Isabel) are weak, and the legal/political system is without a memory (Is this the City of Amnesia?), Arrow remains a solid and entertaining effort week in and week out. There’s only four episodes left, folks! Fingers crossed they finish strong!
Quips & Quivers:
Felicity: “I don’t think my eyeholes line up properly.”
Felicity: “I’m a bomber. I can’t believe I’m a bomber. I wonder if I can list this on my resume under ‘Special Skills.'”
Deathstroke: “Welcome home.”
Thea: “Thea Merlyn. Kinda has a nice ring to it.”
Thea: “Face it, Ollie. I was never going to be okay. It’s not in my genes.”
Deathstroke: “The longer the chase, the sweeter the kill.”
- Caitlin Snow – A gifted scientist working at S.T.A.R. Labs who eventually develops rather frosty powers and takes a villainous turn.
- Cisco Ramon – A somewhat bizarre break-dancing superhero with seismic/sonic abilities.
- Iris – A possible mention of Iris West, who eventually married Barry Allen.
- Arthur – I think I misheard this one, but it sounded as if the sonic (?) weapon in S.T.A.R. Labs was once property of an Arthur Lake? If I heard that right, it could be a stretch to make an Aquaman reference? Please correct me in the comments!
Laurel: “There’s no such thing as ‘protective custody’ in Iron Heights.”
Laurel: “I’m getting tired of visiting my relatives in the hospital.”
Quentin: “The man under the hood isn’t important.”
Slade: “If you could feel the power surging through me, then you would know that I do not fear an arrow. And soon, I will not be alone.”
Watch the promo for next week’s episode of Arrow, titled, “Seeing Red”: