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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Arrow: Seeing Red

I'm so close to the end I can taste it...
This episode is essentially forty minutes of misdirection before it swerves into a game-changing murder. While the audience is distracted by Roy and the effects the mirakuru have on him, sending him rampaging around the city and focusing his hyper-rage on Thea, the episode is all the while setting up Moira Queen's swansong.

In hindsight, the flashbacks should have clued us in. What otherwise seems like a completely superfluous and out-of-left-field subplot about Oliver getting a girl pregnant is actually a demonstration of Moira's two halves: the loving mother and the ruthless Lady Macbeth. In order to spare her son the burden of early fatherhood, she goes to the pregnant girl and pays her two million to tell Oliver she lost the baby.
Just like that she changes the course of his life without him even knowing it, sacrificing a relationship with her first grandchild in the bargain. I mean, wow. This woman is stone cold! It's a classic case of Death in the Limelight (a character is explored in-depth right before their death) and one that vividly captures Moira's qualities: horribly manipulative, yet a total Mama Bear.
As an aside – Oliver has a child out there somewhere! Hah! Oh man, I don't know if this thread will ever be picked up again but I really, really hope it will be. I'm cackling just thinking about everyone's reaction to that bit of news. (And it also tells us that Ollie was cheating on Laurel even before Sara entered the picture. Urgh, she's well rid of him).
***
So a week after the last episode took place, Roy is still unconscious and there's been no mention of Isabel's death in the media. Moira is prioritizing her campaign over her severely (and righteously) ticked-off daughter, and Sara is getting cold feet at Ollie's suggestion of moving in together.
It's the calm before the storm, but just a minute into the episode Roy is awake and juiced up on the drug in his system. His rampage begins, forcing Felicity to call both Oliver and Sara's phones simultaneously, and unfortunately denying us the sight of her pulling a Malcolm Tucker:
In the episode's mandatory Contrived Coincidence, Roy is spotted by Sin coming out of a nightclub and realizes something is very wrong. The show's established net of acquaintances is used to good effect when Oliver arrives at Verdant to see Sara, and Sin arrives at the same time/place to see Thea – thereby giving Sara the information she needs to find Roy.
Roy ends up going to the clock tower, and in a nice touch Oliver takes off his mask/hood in order to confront him and appeal to his better instincts. It all goes terribly wrong when Roy badly injures his leg, punches a hole through the floor, and makes his escape by killing a cop.
(I'd like to think this has consequences, either by having the police really crack down on vigilante justice after the death of a college, or in having Oliver somehow blamed for the man's death, but my brief glimpse of the next episode suggests that it's forgotten about entirely. Sigh.)
There's a nice little scene in which Sara/Ollie seek out medical aid in a nearby hospital, and getting it from one of the doctors who is still grateful for the way the Arrow prevented the Asian Triads from stealing all their medication – it's a glimmer of light in what has so far been a very grim run of episodes.
There was some brief exploration of the fact that Sara's first instinct is to simply shoot Roy while Oliver argues for a less fatal course of action (which includes the intriguing line: "this is the exact conversation we had five years ago," something we don't actually get to see in these flashbacks) but it seems mostly designed to give her a reason to break things off between them by the end of the episode.
Meanwhile Moira is pushing to have a rally at Verdant against Thea's wishes, and when she falters under her daughter's anger, she hears an ultimatum from her personal aide: she can be a mother, or a candidate – not both.
And to my surprise; she chooses motherhood. I'm not entirely sure why I'm surprised; I suppose I always had her pegged as an ambitious woman who loved her children but definitely kept them as second-tier attributes of her life.
And yet after a pivotal scene with Oliver – one in which she reveals she's known about his vigilantism for some time – she changes her mind again. It's a little difficult to weed out everyone's motivation here: for instance, why on earth does Oliver want Moira to run for mayor so badly? According to him it's so Moira can finally do something good for the city (and Thea by proxy), but surely if his mother is a city leader than there's only going to be more media attention on him and his activities.
So Moira changes her mind about the election mid-speech (oddly enough, by looking directly at Thea, the reason she wanted to quit in the first place) and reasserts her commitment to the campaign. Honestly, I just don't have the energy to try and wrangle out the thought-process behind this, so I'm just going to assume it's the writers pulling a good-old Bait and Switch.
After Thea reacts to the sublime irony of Moira saying: "you are my family and there is nothing more important to me than family," she takes the opportunity to take the podium and make a small speech designed to bring Roy to the club.
I'm not sure why she would choose to draw him to a crowded venue where people could easily get hurt, but her ploy works and Roy arrives (though how he saw the broadcast when he was apparently just roaming the streets is a mystery). Sara takes a leg shot and Oliver injects him with pit viper venom (just go with it) which finally knocks him out.
But all of this is just the aforementioned misdirection. Beyond establishing the broken dynamic of the Queen family and the unstoppable qualities of people filled with mirakuru, there wasn't anything especially pertinent about this episode until its final few minutes...
In the car ride back home Moira is on the verge of telling her children that Malcolm is still alive, when Slade drives into their vehicle and (off-screen) drags the three of them into the forest in order to recreate Shado's death.
It's pretty awful, and it still doesn't make any damn sense, but this time it doesn't end with Oliver's choice. Having gone from mayoral candidate to mother to mayoral candidate again, Moira finally settles definitively on mother and tells Slade she's willing to die so her children can walk free. He duly stabs her through the heart with his sword.

I'm not sure what to make of it all. Another female character has died in a situation deliberately meant to invoke Shado's death (which I hated) but it felt inevitable in a number of ways. Moira's sins finally caught up with her, though there's a touch of irony in the fact that Slade's agency had nothing to do with her, and the dichotomy existing within her – of mother and manipulator – was resolved in a fairly elegant manner.
There were also a few interesting touches that I appreciated, such as Oliver responding furiously to the idea that Shado belonged to anyone (giving her a tiny bit of dignity) and Moira trying to take charge of the situation by offering up her own life (giving her an equally tiny bit of agency) and naturally the actors gave it their all.
So we end with Team Arrow once more on the back-foot, and with only three more episodes to go.
Miscellaneous Observations:
Well, that's the end of Oliver/Sara as a couple. It was rather anti-climactic all things considered, with no real build-up or sense of closure. It seemed clear that the two of them were only together because of their shared history on the island, and though that forged a very deep bond it's clear that Sara went through plenty of other stuff that she hasn't worked through yet (namely, her time with the League and Nyssa).
I still wish I knew what drew Oliver/Sara together in the first place (seriously, I don’t know why Sara endangered her relationship with Laurel to pursue Ollie) but their breakup was pretty much inevitable.
Did the actress playing Sin have a bad cold or something? She sounded really stuffed up throughout all her scenes.
When did Sara get her own motorcycle? And I'd like to be able to say that the vigilantes reaching a crime scene before any ambulances was unlikely, but I get the sad feeling it's probably quite realistic.
Sin describes Roy as: "comic book strong." Hee.
It was great to see Thea/Sin and Sara/Sin interacting again.

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