“End this, once and for all.”

**This post contains spoilers for episode 2.18 of Arrow, “Deathstroke”**
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One more person knows Oliver Queen’s secret. The more compelling story? Someone else has known his secret all along.

There were a lot of things I liked about this episode, starting and ending with the amount of Slade we got to see. I will never, ever be upset about seeing more Slade, especially two-eyed flashback Slade. I liked how Roy’s storyline from last week continued right through to this week. I liked seeing Team Arrow, the original Team Arrow, at the end of the episode. And everyone’s acting was on point, especially within the Queen family.

Unfortunately, there were two things I hated, and I thought they were glaring enough to eclipse an otherwise solid episode.

— I’ve talked at length in my Arrow reviews about how strongly I believed that Beat Cop Lance figured out the Arrow’s identity way back in “Broken Dolls.” Brightly-lit rooftops, close proximity, and a revealing heart-to-heart made it seem pretty obvious that it was Oliver Queen under that hood. If he hadn’t figured it out then, then surely Sara’s reveal as the Black Canary would’ve helped Lance connect the dots, right? She’s friends with the Arrow, she was shipwrecked with Oliver, now she’s dating Oliver. Any detective worth his salt would’ve figured that out.

After a while, it seemed likely that Lance was just employing plausible deniability, so that if someone (such as Lt. Pike) walked up to him and demanded he reveal the Arrow’s identity, Lance could categorically state that the Arrow’s identity was never revealed to him. It’s clever, right? But maybe too clever for this show, as they’ve insisted in back-to-back episodes that Lance has no idea who is under that hood.

Lance: “Does Oliver know that you’re working with the Arrow on this?”
Sara: “Oliver doesn’t know anything about the Arrow.”

There was no reason for Lance to ask that, between the two of them, if he secretly knew that Oliver was the Arrow. So now we’re supposed to believe that Lance was this great detective, the best in Starling City, yet he doesn’t have the skills to take these basic context clues and piece them together. I wish the writers understood how much this undermines him and his profession, how it affects our faith in the character itself. Last season, he had nothing but vengeance and tunnel vision, fueled by his alcoholism. Last season was excusable. But he’s clean now, he’s focused but not too intense, and he’s a beat cop now, which gives him the ability to stand back and look at the big picture of the SCPD inner workings, but also the proximity of being part of the day-to-day criminal activity that goes on in his city.

He should have perfect clarity, his skills should be sharper, but instead we have this. We have Lance blindly trusting a man whose identity is unknown to him. So when he is arrested for conspiracy with the Arrow, after just arresting Slade Wilson on the Arrow’s orders, it’s hard to actually feel sympathy for him. If we were operating under the notion that Lance was trusting Oliver, protecting Oliver’s identity, then we would’ve felt real sympathy for the guy. But it’s kind of crazy that he’s just been following suit, never suspecting that he was a pawn in someone else’s game.

Such an odd choice for a police detective character. It’s different with Laurel, or Moira, or Thea; they’re not trained to notice patterns, inconsistencies, subtleties, connections. If anyone on this show should’ve had the bead on Oliver long ago, it should’ve been Lance.

— The second thing I didn’t like might seem like a direct contradiction to the points I just made, but it’s not. At the end of the episode, Slade knocks on Laurel’s door and announces that Oliver Queen is The Arrow. We got a shot of Laurel’s shocked, blinky expression as Slade turned away with a smirk, and then the episode is over.

Personally, I would love if Oliver managed to talk her out of that notion. Slade just kidnapped Thea, Laurel was literally just watching that on the news. What reason does she have to believe what he just told her? She wondered last season, just like everyone else, and yet she hasn’t suspected it since then. It’s a secret Tommy took to his grave. So why should she start believing the man who just kidnapped Oliver’s little sister and is now on the run from authorities?

There’s a bigger chance that Laurel’s actually going to believe him, and she’ll be in for not one, but two nasty surprises: Oliver is the Arrow, and Sara is Black Canary. This will lead to more anger and feelings of betrayal from Laurel, with a possible desire to backslide into drinking, before she eventually accepts the truth and has to live with it. So… what then? What’s the shelf life on the Foundry being stuffed with six people (provided Roy comes back)? What’s the shelf life on Oliver dealing with both Lance sisters, both with their own versions of justice, on a day-to-day basis as the Arrow?

I’m pretty sure it won’t last very long. I think this reveal, if it’s followed through, bodes badly for Sara. Laurel is the Canary in the comics, as people on Twitter remind me whenever I get to yelling about Laurel. There’s a contingent of fandom that believes this show will stick to canon and that Laurel will eventually be in the Canary costume. Now that she’s in on the secret this early on (and yes, near the end of season 2 is “early” to me, since I think a logical story frame for this series is at least five seasons, to cover all five years that Oliver was on the island) that means they’ll be making some story decisions to either push Sara out or… to kill her off.

And if this reveal isn’t followed through — if Oliver manages to convince Laurel once more that he’s not the Arrow, that it’s someone else — then why bother doing this in the first place, narratively? The best I can hope for is that if Oliver manages to keep Laurel on his side, maybe Slade’s big plan will start to show cracks.

Those two points aside, there was a lot to like about this episode. It wasn’t as dense, plot-wise, as past episodes have been; mostly it was Oliver trying to get to Thea, and Slade being three or four steps ahead of him. There were some notable twists and plot points that are worth exploring.

 

— Distracted and upset about Thea, Oliver hastily gives Isabel Rochev temporary power as CEO of Queen Consolidated. She doesn’t hesitate to call an eleventh-hour board meeting and hold a vote to give her the company. In a blink of an eye, Oliver lost his own company.

It’s not the only surprise she has in store — she’s working with Slade. She’s been a plant at Queen Consolidated since the beginning, and this was all part of the plan to take over every aspect of Oliver’s life until he’s suffocating. He roars, “Why?” and she smiles at him and replies, “The sins of the father are the sins of the son,” which is cryptic and, at first blush, holds a lot of disturbing connotations. Did his father sleep with Isabel? Doesn’t that make the whole Russia thing kind of gross?

She turns into a badass, finally, because Summer Glau comes with a certain promise of badassery, so it was getting old just watching her frown at Oliver and disapprove of his business choices. They fight, but Oliver easily overpowers her, asking where Thea is. She gives away the location, to the actual warehouse, but warns him to go alone or Thea will die.

I’m sure we’ll find out more about Isabel’s involvement in another episode, but for now, it’s interesting how vast Slade’s network truly is. Who else has Oliver encountered this season that might be on Slade’s payroll?

— Slade tells Thea that he kidnapped her just to make a point, which is odd storytelling for a character that is hell-bent on making Oliver suffer. Around the first commercial break, I got to thinking how intense this show would become in the last batch of episodes if Thea did die by Slade’s hand. That would send Roy, Oliver, and Moira on guilt and revenge trajectories, it would effectively splinter Team Arrow, and it would cause Oliver more suffering than almost anyone else in his life if his little sister was killed. As much as he loves Sara, or Felicity, or even Diggle, nothing compares to losing your little sister.

So Slade choosing to let Thea live is either a miscalculation on his part, or it’s part of a bigger picture that we just can’t see yet. It clearly has nothing to do with the political campaign for Alderman Blood; at the end of the episode, he snarls to Sebastian that he promised him power and an army, he doesn’t need to be mayor for either of those things. (While Oliver thought he was rescuing Thea, Slade was freeing a bus of inmates to join his army of assassins.)

 

— Slade further twists the plot by revealing Oliver’s big secret to Thea, but it’s not the one we all suspected. When Thea turns up at the police station, alive but definitely affected, she tells Oliver, “He told me your secret.” Oliver takes several steps back from her, clearly frightened and upset, which highlights the importance he places on his sister. She rails at him about lying and betrayal, then reveals, “How could you not tell me Malcolm Merlyn was my father?”

It’s a huge relief that the paternity secret is finally out, and it’s a double-relief that Slade didn’t tell Thea about Oliver’s true secret. This one is just as damaging, as it breaks Thea’s trust in her brother, the only person in the world that ever told her the truth, but at least it doesn’t expose Thea to his alter-ego. She’s further disgusted by his reasoning that he was just trying to protect her, because he sounds just like their mother.

Why didn’t Slade tell Thea about the Arrow? Is it just because he needed that relationship to fracture, so he chose the simplest and most believable way to do it?

— By the way, Slade swam off the island. Dude just straight up swam. He credits the Mirakuru for helping him survive. He’s also being egged on by a demented ghost of Shado, who first appears in the flashbacks, full of vengeance and anger. She also appears in the office behind Slade after he’s taken over QC at the end of the episode.

— Moira and Oliver reconcile their differences, to a degree. Moira is certain, deep down, that Malcolm Merlyn had something to do with Thea’s kidnapping, and she tortures herself over it throughout the episode. Oliver, however, knows the truth, but there’s nothing he can do to assuage his mother’s guilt besides getting her daughter home safely.

“I woke up every day, for five years, the mother who’d lost her son. I can’t… I can’t endure it again.”

Oliver tries to let her off the hook for the fight they’ve been having, the hatred he’s been harboring, but Moira can’t let it go. She really did tell all of her lies, about Malcolm, about the Undertaking, about Robert and Walter, in a desperate attempt to keep her family together and safe. She admits that she’s been too weak to face any truths about herself, and Oliver tries to tell her that she’s not the reason Thea’s missing, but who can believe that? I wouldn’t, if I were Moira.

 

{The shot where Oliver stands behind his mother, his head bowed in anguish and guilt, is particularly affecting.}

“From the moment your children are born, you worry what the world might do to them. But you never stop to think what you might do to them, that we could be our own worst enemy.”

It’s a lesson every mother has to learn, and some of them still don’t.

The real issue here is that I think, now that Moira’s reached this level of self-awareness, now that she’s admitted all of her mistakes, now that Oliver’s forgiven her… Now, I worry about Moira’s future on this show.

— Roy leaves Team Arrow, frustrated by Oliver’s tyranny (he actually calls him “King Queen,” sassy) and by everyone else’s blind belief in him. He even pins Diggle to one of the work tables, and Sara threatens to shoot him with an arrow if he doesn’t let him go. That’s when Oliver appears, asking what’s going on, and Roy flounces. Later, after Thea’s done yelling at Oliver, Roy watches as she leaves the station, all alone in this world, before driving off in his Mustang and leaving Starling City for places unknown.

— Oliver, frightened and upset after his confrontation with Isabel, insists on going alone to get Thea, as instructed. Diggle, ever the soldier, asks Oliver to at least let them set up a perimeter, but Oliver is insistent. Sara, who knows Slade almost as well as Oliver does, says that this is just another one of Slade’s games, that he should take a beat, but Oliver can’t stand still, and he snaps, “What I can’t do, Sara, is nothing!” He asks what she would do if it were her family, and adds, “I can’t get dragged into this same debate, over and over!” It’s true: It feels like he and Sara have had this conversation a million times by now, both now and in the flashbacks. The tough part is that Sara is displaying a deep understanding of Slade here, and a fundamental misunderstanding of how Oliver works now. He really can’t just stay there and do nothing — earlier in the episode, when Thea was first taken, Oliver was forced to stand still in his business suit and be Oliver Queen, Thea’s scared brother, when it was clear he would’ve rather been in his Arrow suit, knocking down doors until he found his sister. He was miserable like that, it’s just not how he functions now, and Sara doesn’t seem to understand that.

But Felicity does. She simply says, “Go.” That’s when Oliver stops moving, his eyes snap to her, and he finally focuses. When people are important to you, sometimes you hear their voices over everyone else’s; It’s how we work, because our brains place importance on those that we trust. Oliver is agitated and upset and lashing out, but one word from Felicity and he’s completely focused on her.

 

And don’t believe for a second that Felicity wants him to go. (Her first words, when he finally checks in with her later, are “Are you okay?”) She would rather he stay, because at least then he’s safe and unharmed. But she also knows, from nearly two years of experience, that if something happened to his sister and he wasn’t out there actively trying to find her and save her, that Oliver would never forgive himself. It’s for his own peace of mind, and for Felicity’s, that she tells him to go. It’s not an easy decision for her, but she knows it’s the right one.

She tells him to do whatever it takes to get his sister back, and his eyes never leave her face as she’s talking. When he turns to leave, his eyes don’t dart back to Sara or Diggle — they go straight to the door, to his mission, because it’s all that matters right now.

It was a subtle but strong reminder that Team Arrow was effective in its original form, when it was three people and some computers and weapons. Too many people means too many dissenting opinions, and as much as I love Sara, I think that’s why these last few episodes have felt like they’re missing that spark — the balance is still thrown off. She’s too close to Oliver, and yet not close enough, because her opinion and input matter, but not quite enough when lives are on the line. This scene, if anything, started to reveal that maybe Oliver and Sara aren’t compatible after all; they seem more like two fiercely independent spirits that are drawn to each other.

— There’s a sweet scene at the end of the episode where Diggle and Felicity are waiting for Oliver alone in the Foundry. He asks what they’re doing there, and they say that they suspected he’d go there to be alone. Besides, as Diggle says, “Where else would we be?” Oliver’s crying, because he’s lost and worried for himself and the people around him. He grinds out his admission, “I was so focused on what Slade might do to me, that it never even occurred to me what I could do to myself. I am my own worst enemy.”

Diggle advises Oliver not to let Slade in his head, but Oliver can’t help it. “I can’t stop him from doing anything!” Felicity speaks again, firmly, saying that he can. Oliver can’t look at either of them when he asks, “What makes you so sure?” and it’s Diggle who replies, “‘Cause you’re not alone, man.” #TeamArrow!

Most of all, they’re not going to let Oliver brood and angst when there’s work to be done. Diggle steps forward and says, “Now what, boss?” Oliver steels himself and tells them that it’s time to fight back.

Arrow’s not back until April 16th, a sweet reward for making it past Tax Day, probably. It looks like the team infiltrates some kind of facility and that there might be some dissention in the ranks. The one thing missing from the post-episode preview: Laurel. Hmmmm!

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3 thoughts on ““End this, once and for all.”

  1. I do think the scene where it becomes clear that Sara doesn’t understand this Oliver and Felicity indicates where the writers are headed with Sara. Guggenheim has said that Oliver and Sara will be in a different place at the end of the season. I know there has been speculation that they will be married, but I don’t think so. I don’t think Sara will be a regular in season 3. She’s either going yo die or return to Nyssa. Either way as long as I don’t have to see Caity Lotz every week, I’m happy.

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