Arrow vs. Deathstroke 2: Back in the Habit

**This post contains spoilers for the season 2 finale of Arrow, 2.23 “Unthinkable.”**

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Well, there’s no way around it: everyone’s talking about that scene. You know the one. If you don’t know the one, then this is your warning to avert your eyes. Maybe go watch this video. Have a croissant.

Yes, the unthinkable actually happened: Oliver declared his love for Felicity. Try to contain yourselves. I know it’s all very exciting, but have some dignity!

Oliver couldn’t get close enough to Slade to administer the Miracure, so after Felicity persuaded Oliver to come up with a plan to outsmart Slade (rather than killing him outright) he arrived at a pretty simple one: let Slade take Felicity, armed with the cure, hostage.

He took her into the foyer of the darkened (and undisturbed) Queen Mansion, which he knew was still bugged by Slade. He told her he needed her to stay, and that it wasn’t a request, and when she protested, he said, “Slade took Laurel because he wants to kill the woman I love.” Felicity knew that — she went to MIT, after all — and adds, “So?”

 

He stares right into her eyes as the words hang between them, which is so unlike him when he’s telling lies — and he’s really bad at telling lies. He’s so bad at lying! He’s good at lying to people who aren’t looking for lies — Thea, Moira for the first season, Lance, Laurel — but the people who look for lies, people like Diggle, Sara, and Felicity, they can always tell.

He didn’t warn Felicity about this plan because he needed it to be believable, he needed her reaction to be genuine, to really sell the story to an ever-watching Slade. What he didn’t realize was that he need to put all of his real feelings on the line in order to sell the story himself. He had to look right at her as he said the words, no usual evasive tactics, no mask, and mean them. And how many times has Felicity called him out on his lies? It’s kind of the crux of their relationship: she sees him for who he really is.

She didn’t see any lies this time.

 

It’s not until he presses the Miracure into her hand and asks, “Do you understand?” that she realizes. And she’s remarkably quick on the uptake, she probably figures it all out before he leaves the foyer. The viewers don’t realize it’s a ruse until much later, when Felicity stabs Slade in the neck with the Miracure.

Once you get over the sleight of hand by the writers, you can kind of appreciate the deep trust that Oliver and Felicity must have in each other. She had no idea of his plan when he confessed his feelings to her, but he trusted that she would figure it out. He trusted that she would go along with it. He trusted that she would sit in that dark mansion and wait to get taken hostage. He trusted that when it mattered, when she needed her strength and her wits, that she would stab Slade with that syringe. He trusted that she would make Slade underestimate her, just as Moira and countless others once underestimated her, to their great detriment.

Felicity trusted that Oliver would come for her. She trusted that his plan was good. She trusted that he was right. She trusted him even as Slade monologued, “When her body lies at your feet, her blood wet against your skin, then you will know how I feel!” Even after Oliver probably shattered her heart into a million pieces by placing that syringe in her hand, she still trusted him. Have you ever seen anything like this on television? Even if I didn’t like them romantically, I would still be all fluttery over their deep and beautiful partnership.

She gives him an out later, on the island, with the ocean as yet another light-filled metaphor as their backdrop: “When you told me you loved me, you had me fooled, for a second. I thought maybe you might have meant it… what you said. You really sold it.” Once again, he never breaks eye contact with her, and he sweetly smiles and replies, “We both did.” It reads as a bittersweet moment for me, because I think they reached some kind of unspoken understanding; they both know how they feel, but they’re not going to talk about it. And that’s okay. Slow burns are good for the soul.

Believe it or not, Oliver and Felicity’s relationship is not the only thing that happened in this episode. It was a grand and intense season finale, and I’m pleased to say that our prayer circle for Sara worked! She survived the episode and frolicked off to rejoin the League of Assassins and, you know, become a contract killer again. So that’s fun!

Not only did Nyssa and the League show up to fight on Oliver’s behalf, but Diggle and Lyla (who is pregnant, aww!) broke Lawton and the rest of the inmates out of ARGUS prison in order to confront Amanda Waller, who ordered a drone strike on Starling City. Malcolm Merlyn is also still alive and kicking (he cutely tells Thea, “It’s called ‘kevlar’” after he miraculously survives the shots she took at center mass, because no one takes head shots anymore) so basically, it’s like a guest star party in this episode!

 

The only significant death that occurred was Isabel Rochev’s, who died at Nyssa’s hand after Oliver stopped Sara from killing her. On the one hand, I would’ve liked to see Isabel die at Sara or Felicity’s hand, but on the other, Nyssa was the only one dropping bodies at the time. The poetry of the moment is significantly undermined by the fact that Sara rejoined the League at the end of the episode, but hey, what can you do?

 

Roy recovered from his Miracure and snake venom cocktail with no memory of his roid-rampage through the city a while back. That’s a tough truth someone’s going to have to break to him eventually. He calls Thea, who is still facing off against her father, and asks her to meet him at his house. Thea tells Malcolm in no uncertain terms that she wants nothing to do with him, and she and Roy share a tearful and touching reunion after she realizes he’s been cured. Unfortunately, he lies about having any knowledge of the Arrow, so when she later finds his bow and quiver under his bed, she takes this as base treachery and peaces out. She leaves behind a bitter note, which Roy tearfully reads as we watch her get into a limo belonging to Malcolm. She’s not anyone’s innocent anymore — in fact, Thea looks as dark, angry, and betrayed as Laurel looked at the beginning of this season. She vows never to come back to Starling City.

Speaking of Laurel, she’s tranquilized by Nyssa (rude!) and is left facedown and unconscious in the police precinct. She’s later found by Lance, who has only barely revived her when they’re attacked by more masked men. Lance is thrown across the room and Laurel is taken hostage, because Slade believes her to be the woman Oliver loves the most. (I won’t debate that point, because my biases are clear and they also don’t matter. But I will point out that it was Laurel’s picture that Slade often saw Oliver staring at during those long nights on the island. I was wrong about Slade seeing this as an eye-for-an-eye situation, but that also makes it a bit worse in his mind: Oliver cared for Shado so little that he saved the life of a woman he only loves second-most in the world over hers.)

Laurel is freed when Felicity stabs Slade with the Miracure, at which point Sara and Nyssa come in like wrecking balls and get Felicity and Laurel to safety. Later, as Sara says goodbye, she hands over the iconic leather jacket and tells Laurel she thinks it’ll look good on her. They smile and hug and then Sara leaves. Unlike last year, Laurel seems to have come out of this finale unscathed — until Detective Lance collapses on the docks, coughing up blood and struggling to breathe. That’s when Laurel realizes he’s sustained severe internal injuries to his torso, and she frantically calls an ambulance. Things are looking grim for Lance as we zoom out from his unconscious form.

As for Slade, he thinks he’s got Oliver over a barrel, having taken Felicity. He recaps for the audience, how he’s going to kill the woman Oliver loves.

Oliver: “Like you loved Shado.”
Slade: “Yes.”
Oliver: “You see her, don’t you? What does she look like in your madness, Slade? What does she say to you? I remember her being beautiful, young, kind… and she would be horrified by what you’ve done in her name.”

Slade fights even after he’s Miracured, because “The Mirakuru isn’t what made me hate you.” The entire fight sequence is spliced with their fight sequence from five years ago, inside the flooding Amazo. It’s incredibly well done, with most of the shots matching into seamless transitions between past and present. The stunt choreography, direction, and editing are some of the best I’ve seen.

In the past, Sara is swept away into the whirlpool of the sinking Amazo, which is the last time Oliver sees her alive. Slade is trapped by fallen metal scrap and goads him, asking if he’s going to kill him or cure him, then adds, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll take away everything and everyone you love! Sara was only the first!” Oliver decides in an instant, gripping an arrow in one hand and the cure in the other, and it really could have gone either way, but he stabs Slade in the eye with the arrow and believes him to be dead.

In the present, Oliver manages to get Slade tied to a pillar, and Slade whisper-growls, “You can kill me, or not. Either way, I win.” Oliver hands Slade over to ARGUS, who imprisons him in a cell on Lian Yu. Oliver visits him at the end of the episode, battered and bruised, and they exchange final words.

Slade: “You’re a killer. I know. I created you. You’ve killed plenty.”
Oliver: “Yes, I have. You helped turn me into a killer when I needed to be one. And I’m alive today because of you. I made it home because of you. And I got to see my family again. But over the past year, I’ve needed to be more, and I faltered. But then I stopped you without killing. You helped me become a hero, Slade. Thank you.”

Slade has tears in his eye as he looks at Oliver askance, and I think that exchange is so beautiful and tragic at the same time. They were brothers once, they went into battle together, taught each other, relied on each other. In many ways, Oliver’s pre-Mirakuru relationship with Slade mirrors his current relationship with Diggle. The tragic thing is, Slade could’ve been a hero, too. If he hadn’t been overcome with bitterness, jealousy, and hate, he could’ve survived that island with Oliver, had a lifelong friendship, and become a hero in his own right. Instead, all he’s known is darkness, anger, and hatred, and now he’s staring at his antithesis through bars as he faces a future of being trapped. What Oliver is saying, he says from the heart; but they’re taunts to Slade’s ears, they’re barbs and insults. They’ll never be the same again.

Slade: “I keep my promises, kid! I keep my promises!”

The episode ends on a flashback: Oliver, waking up in Hong Kong and meeting Amanda Waller for the first time. Season 3’s flashbacks are gonna be crazy!

Next season: Don’t forget to tune in for The Flash, which ran a promo during Arrow’s season finale. It looks fantastic! Now let’s join in a summer hiatus prayer circle for Detective Lance.

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One thought on “Arrow vs. Deathstroke 2: Back in the Habit

  1. fortunately, we still have access to all the candles in the nine realms. they seemed to work for Sara, so beginning the vigil for Lance. because I will rage.

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