“Welcome home.”

**This post contains spoilers for 2.19 of Arrow,  “The Man Under the Hood.”**

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Two weeks ago, in my review of “Deathstroke,” I talked about how disappointed I was that Beat Cop Lance still did not know the identity of the man under the hood, as well as the fact that I disliked Laurel knowing Oliver’s big secret. I also touched briefly on the fact that we aren’t as plugged in to this version of Team Arrow, now grown to five members. Well, I’ll go ahead and say it: That’s what I get for judging storylines that were still in progress. (In my defense, I’ve been burned on this front before.)

The biggest issue, for me, was the Team Arrow stuff. As we picked up in last night’s episode, “The Man Under the Hood,” we learned pretty quickly that Roy was still on the run. That left the remaining four members of Team Arrow to work together to blow up the Applied Sciences division of Queen Consolidated, in order to stymie Slade even a little bit in his quest for world domination. This required all four of them, as they set off detonators around the warehouse and took out guards (non-lethally, of course) in unison. It’s this sort of one-off, two-minute sequence that could’ve elevated the previous episodes and given the viewers the reassurance that Team Arrow is still a well-oiled machine. There was no bickering, in fact, there was even some banter. I wish this sort of scene had come sooner, but at least it happened now.

The second biggest issue was Laurel. I talked about this last time, how I’m not sure how the team would work with Laurel in the know. It would change the dynamic of everyone: Oliver would feel torn between the Lance sisters, there would be potential animosity with Sara, Diggle deeply distrusts Laurel and her hold over Oliver, and of late, there have been some not-so-friendly overtures on Laurel’s part toward Felicity. I know Laurel’s knowledge of the Hood was an inevitability, but I think it would work better if she joined a team that wasn’t so big already.

But once again, this show surprised me, dovetailing Laurel’s storyline neatly with Beat Cop Lance’s. She’s pretty sure Slade’s telling the truth about Oliver, and when she goes to tell her father, Lance stops her.

Lance: “Don’t say another word. Don’t say anything. Listen, there was a time that I would’ve sold my badge to know his name, you know that. But then I realized I didn’t care I knew who he was. In fact, I didn’t want to know who he was.”
Laurel: “Why not?”
Lance: “Because I knew if I knew who he really was, then he would become a person. Maybe he’s got family, friends, people that care about him. Someone with a life. Then he couldn’t be what I needed him to be. What this city needs him to be. It’s The Arrow that matters. The man under the hood isn’t important. Can you imagine what it’s like to be him? What he has to live with, day in and day out? What that’s gotta be like? The least I could do is sit in here and do a little bit of time for him.”

Lance has come such a long way, but I really love the boost to his characterization that this reveal gives. It’s never been about his detective skills — he’s not a bad detective, as I’ve been not-so-nicely screeching for the past few weeks. Instead, it’s something so quintessentially Lance that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner: He forces himself not to figure it out. He goes out of his way to block out the details — the stubble, the movements, the ringing phone, the Smoak connection — in order to preserve his own peace of mind. If he knew it was Oliver Queen under that hood, he couldn’t bring himself to call The Arrow and put himself in danger. Not now, after knowing what Oliver Queen has been through. Not knowing that both of his daughters would be destroyed if Oliver died. How could Lance look Moira or Thea in the eye if one of his calls ended Oliver’s life?

He calls on the Arrow because he needs the Arrow, and bringing any humanity into it is what would ultimately ruin the charade. It’s dehumanizing, but it’s also exactly what Oliver asks for, because he wants to be a tool used to fix the city. The alliance between them works as it is, with the perfect anonymity and plausible deniability. Do I believe Lance doesn’t know it’s Oliver under that hood? I do, because I think Lance works hard to convince himself that he doesn’t know.

Laurel, on the other hand, is not so much like her dad. She’s too inquisitive by nature to just will knowledge out of her brain. Slade planted the seed, and her pursuit driving and absurd murder board helped it grow. She’s certain now, and while she heeds her dad’s advice by not confronting Oliver, she also can’t help but remember his words when she encounters a brooding Oliver at Verdant: “Can you imagine what it’s like to be him? What he has to live with, day in and day out?” It results in an unexpectedly touching scene, where Laurel just hugs him. She wraps her arms around him and offers comfort, and (equally as unexpectedly) Oliver accepts the comfort.

 

In fact, a lot of the darkness surrounding Laurel seems to be lifting. She expertly strongarms the district attorney into freeing her father and getting him reinstated following his prison cell beatdown, and she confirms that she’s still attending AA meetings regularly. There’s still some grittiness around her edges, and the ruthlessness she displayed to the D.A. could still swing into villain territory, but for now, this was one of the most enjoyable Laurel episodes since season 1.

While the smaller parts of this episode worked to smooth out the wrinkles from previous weeks, the big plot involved Slade. He effortlessly infiltrates the foundry, greeting the team with a chilling “Welcome home” before issuing threats and shooting bullets all over the place. It’s a tight and intense fight scene that ultimately sends Oliver and Sara to the hospital (under the guise of a motorcycle accident, which Laurel doesn’t buy for a second) but not before Oliver does an amazing flip over the stair railing, scooping up Felicity as he goes, and landing both of them on their feet. It might be my favorite stunt they’ve ever done, window-smashing be damned.

Slade wasn’t there to kill anyone, though — he stole a skeleton key, which means he needs something big. That leads them to Star Labs, of Barry Allen fame, where we come across two soon-to-be Flash characters: Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow, and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon. They do their best to fight off Deathstroke, but he makes off with a biotransfuser in the end, and Oliver and Sara arrive too late to stop him. Felicity later reveals that she is friends with Caitlin and Cisco, and at the end of the episode, she even entrusts them to create a cure for the Mirakuru.

{Sidenote: Everyone likes to tease DC for sticking to Batman when they want to reinvent the franchise, but I think the CW is onto something here. This is an ingenious way to do a backdoor pilot, because it’s not asking us to care about these characters exclusively for an entire episode like Gossip Girl’s failed Lily-centric backdoor pilot did. It just has them as guest characters, already somewhat fleshed out, in a universe with the title character of their future show. It enables the cast of both shows to move back and forth as needed when they need to cross storylines, and it builds up even more potential to do additional spinoffs, because why stop at Flash? Marvel can do it with blockbuster films, why can’t DC do it on television?}

A power surge leads Oliver to a building where Slade is using his new gadget to create a MirakurArmy, but he’s not the source; Roy is. Slade appears, with a smirking Isabel Rochev in tow, and they say that they found Roy in Bludhaven, where he was easily overpowered. Another fight ensues, with Isabel shooting a gun while Slade and Oliver battle, and Oliver manages to surprise Slade with a Mirakusplosion, giving him a chance to free Roy’s cuffs. Unfortunately, Isabel has the bead on him, and just when you think she’s about to take the kill shot, she’s shot twice in the chest by Diggle. Go Diggle! And here’s your first life lesson, should you ever confront your very own nemesis who is in possession of some miracle drug: Never leave the bodies behind. Isabel’s awake and Miracured by the end of the episode.

Speaking of Isabel, she and Oliver had a confrontation at QC earlier in the episode, where she revealed that she and his father were soulmates. Robert was all set to leave Moira and run away with Isabel when Thea fell off her horse and broke her arm. “I begged him not to go! I reminded him that Thea wasn’t his!” This is news to Oliver, who thought his father died believing himself to be Thea’s biological father. He’s stunned enough to go looking for Thea, not ever really questioning that this whole soulmates thing sounds like it belongs on Revenge more than Arrow.

And let’s talk about this soulmates business for a second. Right as Oliver confronts her in her office, she claims that she is “under 30, and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” First of all: congratulations? So was Oliver. But besides that, let’s assume that Isabel is 29 years old. Oliver’s been back for almost two years, and he and his father shipwrecked five years before that. So if we’re being generous both with Isabel’s age and with the timeline, and we assume that Thea broke her arm and tore Robert away from his soulmate right before he got on the Queen’s Gambit, Isabel was still only 22 years old at the time. The alternatives are even worse: If it was a whole year before Robert died, Isabel was 21. Either way, she’s always been Oliver/Tommy/Laurel’s contemporary since, again, she went out of her way to tell us that she’s under 30, so ostensibly, Robert was prepared to run away with a woman who was roughly the same age as his son.

It’s an odd thing to learn about Robert in an episode where we also find out that he knowingly raised a daughter that was not biologically his own. One action is supposed to outweigh the other, and indeed, Oliver chooses to focus on the good part as he tries to talk to Thea, and he never really connects the dots for the audience that the Robert/Isabel romance is even creepier than the simple fact that Isabel purposefully seduced her soulmate’s son. I’m not one to get squicky over age differences — I’m a Community fan — but this sounds more and more like Robert was leading Isabel on and used Thea’s accident as an excuse to break off a tumultuous affair. This really colors Isabel’s whole vendetta, as well, because it seems like she might actually be horribly misguided in her anger; she shouldn’t be mad at the Queen family, she should’ve only been mad at Robert.

Since Oliver can’t tell Thea the whole story — the fact that Robert chose to stay with his family rather than be with his soulmate — the revelation doesn’t change Thea’s mind. She’s packed her bags and declared Moira and Oliver a bunch of liars who lie, and she doesn’t want to live in this big stately soon-to-be-government-owned mansion anymore! She’s leaving for parts unknown! She’ll live in the streets if she has to, just like Jenny Humphrey!

Next week: Roy is loose, and he’s Hulking out! … Wait. Sorry. Wrong franchise. Bruce Banner is loose, and he’s Roy Harpering out! Wait, dangit. Just watch next week. It looks intense.

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One thought on ““Welcome home.”

  1. Ah, this is why I miss your posts on your posts on LJ, cuz regardless of who your fave characters might be, you still manage to account for what works and what doesn’t among the whole storyline. And throw in a few pop culture references from other things that so fit the analysis of the show.

    Second the yuckiness about Isabel, which they twist everythig else about the comics but here they stayed surprisingly true to that GA canon.

    I have come to like Laurel even if she doesn’t have strongest plot, and I also liked that investigated (as a lawyer and a detective’s daughter it made sense she would want stone-cold proof). I agree w/ you this was one of her stronger episodes.

    Ooh, I love how you put that bit about Quentin and also how it’s quintessionally Lance-ian. Not just to him, but even to Laurel. It’s like idealism but it isn’t.

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