“I keep my promises, kid.”


**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.14 of Arrow, “The Return.”**

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that, Malcolm Merlyn aside, much of the present-day stuff in this week’s Arrow was almost up to par. There were familiar faces, island scenery, a ridiculous booby trap, and some much-needed truth-telling from Oliver. Unfortunately, there were also flashbacks… and the only good things about the flashbacks were Andy Diggle and the incredible Tommy Merlyn. (Sorry, Felicity fans, but you might want to skip this post. I promise this will hurt me more than it will hurt you.)

I couldn’t even write about last week’s episode, aka the Oliver Steals Everyone’s Agency Episode. He was downright awful to Laurel, and he even did it to Roy! It was all just bad, and I think it was a misuse of Caity Lotz when there is still so much of Sara’s story that we don’t know. I will say that Katie Cassidy knocked that one out of the park, but I couldn’t bring myself to write an entire post slamming the episode and then have one paragraph that said “At least Katie was awesome! Go Laurel!” So I’m saying it now: Katie was awesome. Go Laurel!

The only reason I had any sort of hope for this week’s episode can be summed up in two words: Slade Wilson. I don’t even know why I held out hope for him — whether it’s because his season 2 storyline was so great that his face just reminds me of why I loved this show, or whether it’s because Manu Bennett just seems to elevate the show indescribably — but he was definitely a sight for sore eyes. And his scenes with Oliver and Thea brought back a lot of the frenetic action that’s been sorely lacking this season. People like Malcolm and Ray Palmer, they’re calculated and precise, to the point that they get boring. Malcolm Merlyn is boring, his particular brand of psychopath is no longer intriguing because we spent all of season 1 exploring that. There was no outcry when he was gone, because the character arc stopped being interesting the moment Oliver thwarted him.

Slade Wilson’s brand of psychotic is still refreshing, somehow. It helps that his vendetta is focused solely on Oliver, and everyone else is just collateral damage. He’s not acting out of selfishness or self-preservation, he’s still reacting to the love he lost, and he’s willing to die or trade his freedom just to watch Oliver suffer. Malcolm is not that intriguing — selfish characters are not that interesting. Show me a selfish lead character on a show that is fun to watch or is beloved! There aren’t any, that’s why the Bad Boys with a Heart of Gold is even a trope, because people want to believe that selfish people are actually acting out of love. Malcolm isn’t doing that, he’s never done that, even the Undertaking wasn’t really about his wife, it was about control at first, and eventually it became about power.


Slade, on the other hand, has never exclusively wanted power. Power, via his Mirakuru army and Sebastian Blood, was a means to an end. Power was what would enable him to torture Oliver Queen. He’s acting out of love, not just for Shado, but for the betrayal he felt from his brother-in-arms. He even said it in this episode: “Maybe if you’d told me what really happened with Shado, your mother would still be alive.” In this respect, Slade is the killer counterpart to Moira Queen. Everything Moira did, she did out of love for her kids. In a way, and I say this grudgingly, it’s kind of poetic that she died by Slade’s hand.

(Sidenote: Did the writers ever think about that aspect of Sara’s death? That Oliver chose Sara over Shado on that island all those years ago, sealing his fate with Slade and leading to the events of season 2, only to have Sara die for no reason by Malcolm Merlyn? It actually cheapens Shado’s sacrifice. And if and when Slade finds out about Sara’s demise… there will be hell to pay.)

So I was hoping Slade’s presence would bring back some of the energy and pace of the second season, especially in regards to people finding out certain secrets, and it worked for the most part. Thea freaks out when Oliver finds out that Malcolm had freed Slade just to turn them into murderers, and it eventually forces Oliver to tell her the truth about Sara’s death: that Malcolm had drugged and manipulated Thea into doing it.


They have a fantastic tag-team fight to take down Slade, who holds his own even without Mirakuru now, and Thea has him at gunpoint when Oliver stops her and talks her down. Together, they manage to overcome Malcolm’s ministrations and continue to honor Oliver’s promise to Tommy after he died. That, of course, means nothing to Malcolm. And just when you think this episode is going to fix the fundamental problems with the show… Oliver and Thea go and agree to continue working with Malcolm, because they need him so badly. You know. For the mess he created. Sigh.

I’m sad to see Slade go, but I’m happy that he’s still alive, and I loved his interactions with Thea (he seemed to grow to respect her over the course of their encounters; she’s not the same girl he kidnapped only eight or so months ago) and his last conversation with Oliver.

Slade: “She’s lost, your sister.”
Oliver: “No, she’s not.”
Slade: “You can see it in her eyes. She’s been touched by darkness. Was it Merlyn? He’s an interesting man, to do that to his own daughter. So now you’ve lost your father, your mother, and now your little sister. How’s the girl in the glasses? What’s her name? Felicity. How many people can Oliver Queen lose before there is no more Oliver Queen?”


I’ve got news for you, Slade: there already is no more Oliver Queen. This guy is not the same Oliver we saw for the last two seasons, or the Oliver we see in flashbacks. This guy is just a travesty… and Felicity is the least of his problems. (I like how Oliver immediately says Thea isn’t lost, like just by saying it, it must be true.)

Nonetheless, the Slade fan in me appreciates how he can just cut right to the core of Oliver, and I think if Oliver weren’t so wrapped up in his League of Assassins stuff, he’d realize that that was, and still is, Slade’s intention all along: to turn Oliver into himself. Slade lost all the people in his life, so he’s no longer Slade Wilson. And from what he’s seen, the last link to humanity lies in Felicity Smoak, which is why he says her name like a threat.

Which goes to show that even Slade Wilson underestimates the importance of John Diggle in Oliver’s life.


Hey! Speaking of Diggle — we met Andy this week! We only saw him for a minute, just long enough to establish that Andy got Diggle the Rich Kid Bodyguard gig, and that he thinks Diggle was a fool to divorce Lyla, to which Diggle dryly replies, “Thank you, Andy, I appreciate that.” Heh.


Tommy also appeared as an overbearing but good-hearted big brother figure (nice that he turns out to actually be her big brother) to Thea, who was already getting into drugs and acting out. She still goes to talk to Oliver at his gravestone, which is sweet until her drug dealer meets her there. Oliver, who is back in Starling this week for really dumb lampshaded reasons, watches appreciatively from afar as Tommy intervenes. Tommy also flirts adorably with a radiant Laurel, and I had honestly forgotten how delightful they were together until now.

If I could choose one other person to be in flashbacks, it would be Moira. I feel like that deserved a long, resounding DUH after that statement, but unfortunately, this show decided to cater to the lowest common denominator and have Oliver have a near-brush with… Felicity. Who talks to a terrifying picture of him… and calls him “cute” even though he’s dead. It was painful and weird and bad and I hate when shows retcon and rewrite history to have people crossing paths in contrived ways, but the shippers are eating it up. The cynic in me thinks this crew really knows how to manipulate the fanbase.

Oliver kills Thea’s drug dealer, probably causing a lot of emotional and mental harm to his little sister along with the fact that he kind of ruined Tommy’s party, then throws a fit when Waller won’t let him stay in Starling. The only reason Oliver even survived this season of flashbacks is because Maseo is repeatedly sticking guns in his back to keep him from doing stupid things.

They end up capturing China White and turning her over to military custody, with a particularly villainous looking Army guy telling Oliver that he will be debriefed in China before they drop him off wherever he wants to go. Oliver doesn’t seem to notice that Waller seems scared of the Army guy, but we do know that China White somehow makes it out of custody and that Oliver never makes it back to Starling City until the day he’s rescued. Presumably.

The only good thing to come out of the flashbacks is the video Oliver found of his father, Robert, telling him about the list. So that’s one mystery solved, clumsily, but solved nonetheless. I appreciate the casting for Oliver’s father, when he talks, he has a lot of the same mannerisms and facial tics as Stephen Amell, and that’s when the resemblance really comes through.

Quentin was awful in the flashbacks, but in a realistic way. He was deep into booze and blaming the world for his troubles, and it played painfully but accurately; it shows the tremendous growth he’s made since then. Unfortunately, present-day Quentin is really mad at Laurel, not for donning the mask or becoming the Black Canary, but for lying to him for months. He tells her she broke the bond between them, and he leaves for a separate AA meeting from hers. And I’ll just end with this observation: This is the same sort of secret and breach of trust that created the Slade Wilson we know and love today.

Next week: It looks like everyone takes a field trip to Nanda Parbat. Hopefully this ends with Malcolm Merlyn’s demise. Also — ugh — ATOM stuff.


“You said we were brothers.”

**This post contains spoilers for 2.15 of Arrow, “The Promise.”**


Literally. He’s in the Haunted Queen Mansion, and the best part is, he’s just there for the fun of it. He savors Oliver’s bug-eyed expression, then grins and wanders around the living room, pretending he and Oliver are strangers as Moira acts increasingly agitated by Oliver’s rudeness. It’s as tense and awkward as I always hoped it would be, especially when Slade persuades Moira to show off the Queen’s art collection, enabling him to walk around the house and plant secret cameras on every surface he touches. It affords us the opportunity to watch as Stephen Amell portrays Oliver trying not to jump out of his skin. He’s trying to run through all the scenarios, figure out a way to keep his mother and sister safe, and also keep his former acquaintance with Slade under wraps. He tries to stab Slade with a screwdriver and fails, and then Thea makes eyes at Slade and Oliver looks like he wants to die. He’s pretty much just a walking, brooding live wire behind the group as Thea takes them on a tour and talks about art.

Oliver finally gets the bright idea to sightlessly dial Felicity, who is hanging out with Team Arrow (the entire team: Diggle, Sara, and Roy, who is shirtless, I’m not gonna ask questions) and puts him on speakerphone. Sara immediately recognizes Slade’s voice, and then the show makes the strange decision to do this panning close-up of Caity Lotz as she tells everyone how dangerous Slade is.

They hatch a plan to help Oliver that proves unnecessary; Slade either decides to stand down, or his only intention was to bring himself right into Oliver’s home life. He recognizes the Mirakuru in Roy, and he looks surprised and crazy-eyed when Sara appears, but he still decides to go on his way. Oliver escorts him out and asks what, exactly, he wants, and Slade says it’s simple: he’s going to keep the promise he made five years ago. Also, one of his henchmen knocked out Diggle, who was positioned with a sniper rifle up on a hill. I’m a huge fan of Slade, but if he ever comes near Diggle again, I’m willing to kill Slade off the show.

As fun as the present-day, tense-Oliver stuff was, this episode mostly takes place in backstory form, much like “Odyssey” from last season. Back on the island, Oliver’s working out hardcore to get in shape for Operation Infiltrate the Black Pearl. The plan involves some nasty-smelling herbs, big secrets, and a flaming arrow to a bonfire on a beach. But first, they had to burn a box of dirt. They didn’t know it was dirt — Slade pocketed the Mirakuru — but he still hilariously made them go to the trouble of burning a box of dirt, and that’s really funny to me.

Oliver also endures a horrifying dream where Shado yells at him for killing her, then she stabs him in a white-hot rage. He blames himself way too much for that. He wakes up in a cold sweat, where Slade tells him to shake it off and get ready, because it’s time to take over the Black Pearl and capture Ivo.

Oliver sasses to Sara and Slade that “There’s a breeze” after he misses the first flaming arrow shot, but he eventually hits the mark and then… runs down to the bonfire to stand beside it. So shooting the flaming arrow was completely unnecessary, because he could’ve lit it from, like, three feet away. He’s caught almost immediately, and he’s taken aboard the Black Pearl. He’s thrown into a jail cell just long enough to reacquaint himself with the Bratva guy (“Told you I’d come back.” “Fantastic. We’re saved.”) and meet Missionary Thomas, then he’s dragged in to get eye gouged by Ivo.

Ivo’s not messing around, though — he injects Oliver with truth serum, but Sara’s one step ahead of him. That’s what the herbs were for! So Oliver’s drug-induced confessions are just cute. His name is Oliver Jonas Queen. He was born in Starling City, and he smiles as he says that. The bonfire was a distraction. And oh, he totally lies and says Slade and Sara are on the Black Pearl. They’re not really — they’re parachuting in as soon as the top of the ship is empty. (He adorably mutters “Oliver Jonas Queen” to himself as Ivo takes off.)

Once Team Island meets up on the deck of the ship, they head off in different directions to do different jobs (Sara frees the prisoners, Slade kicks everyone’s butts, Oliver hunts down and kills Ivo) and predictably, Oliver is the one who fails. You had one job! As war wages on the Black Pearl (it really does look like a scene straight from Pirates of the Caribbean, hence my nickname for the ship) Oliver allows Ivo to monologue about Shado’s death, and unfortunately, Slade overhears and breaks into a Mirakurage. Ultimately, it’s Oliver’s inability to lie to Slade that does him in.

An explosion throws Slade off-balance enough to release Oliver, who is able to escape… but as he’s jumping off the Black Pearl, Slade grabs his foot and swings him all the way around back onto the deck. Oliver is now his prisoner, and Slade is the captain now.

The prisoners make it to shore safely (this island is less and less deserted by the hour) and that’s when Sara realizes that Oliver’s not with them. He’s passed out on his cell floor, but he’s dragged out to face Slade and Ivo. Slade accuses Ivo of killing Shado (he did) and Ivo once again tries to put blame on Oliver. After being told to show him how he killed Shado, Ivo points a gun at Oliver, who tries to appeal to Slade’s human side. “You said we were brothers. You said that.” But he looks ready to accept his fate when — surprise! — he cuts off Ivo’s hand. He doesn’t want to kill Oliver, because he wants him to suffer, to know complete despair. He promises Oliver that he will make this happen, and five years later, he’s here to deliver on that promise.


So at this point, it’s all about Shado. That’s a long time to hold a grudge, but you know what they say… Mirakuru is a helluva drug.

“We all have to keep secrets, Miss Smoak.”

**This post contains spoilers for episode 2.13 of Arrow, “Heir to the Demon”**

It was a Lance family reunion last night on Arrow, but it didn’t exactly go as Oliver (and Quentin, and Sara, and the viewers) had hoped it would.


Last episode, we saw Sara drawn back to Starling City by Oliver, who called her when Laurel showed up drunk and insulting everyone in sight at Verdant. Sara showed up just in time to watch Laurel collapse in a drunken (okay, poisoned) state and then boom, we were made to wait an entire week — seven whole days! — for sister reunions.

Well, the reunions went a bit out of order. The episode opened with a beautiful woman (Spartacus alumna Katrina Law, but I recognized her from Legend of the Seeker) at the Starling City airport, where her passport is flagged by A.R.G.U.S. She knocks out a bunch of guards and saunters through the terminals, and I actually wanted to see more of that. She’s Nyssa al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s (“heir to the demon”), and she’s here for Sara… but not for the reason we expected.


Yes, readers, Sara is a bonafide bisexual character! Her orientation might have been played as a twist for shock value, but the rest of the characters treat it like it’s non-news. Indeed, Lance outdoes himself for Father of the Year award by simply expressing his relief that she had someone to love during her six years of hardship. Hooray! This show did it right!

Sara admits that she loved Nyssa, and not just because Nyssa rescued her. But Sara asks Nyssa to convince her father to release Sara from the League of Assassins (we learn that he’s only excused one person before: Malcolm Merlyn). Nyssa doesn’t take this well, and decides to kidnap Mama Lance, who is in town to help care for Laurel after her apparent overdose.


The showdown is explosive and emotionally-charged: Lance and Sara bust in and rescue Dinah, who is shocked to see her daughter is alive. Lance drags Dinah out of the warehouse before they can have much more than a tearful embrace, and it turns out Sara’s taken a lethal dose of the same snake venom that Nyssa had used to poison Laurel. After Oliver appears and saves Sara’s life with his Magical Healing Island Herbs of Sunshine and Happiness, Nyssa releases Sara from the League of Assassins. That won’t be the last we see of her!

Speaking of the island, this week’s flashbacks go all the way back to six years ago, where we see the Lance’s side of the story of the week that the Queen’s Gambit sank. Last season, Quentin and Dinah’s relationship was so strained that it was hard to imagine them happily married, but in this episode, we finally got to see the Lance family together and happy, for the most part. Laurel and Sara get into a fight about Oliver, because Sara is flirting with him via text while Laurel’s trying to find an apartment for herself and Oliver.

Sara: “This is kind of assuming that he’s ever ready to settle down.”
Laurel: “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Sara: “We both know at least ten girls that he’s slept with.”
Laurel: “Can’t you just be happy with me? If you met some amazing guy who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you, I would be so supportive and so happy for you –”
Sara: “I wasn’t trying to be a bitch.”
Laurel: “Title of your autobiography.”

It’s not exactly what we were hoping for in the flashbacks of Sara and Laurel. It would’ve been nice to see happier times between them before Oliver came into the picture, but clearly their relationship has always had an element of hostility. Sara leaves the room and texts Oliver, “See you at the docks,” and the rest is history.

Laurel drops a plate when she sees the news that the Gambit went missing, but it’s not until Moira rings their doorbell that they get the news about Sara. “The dock master saw her sneak onboard.” Paul Blackthorne deserves all the praise for his acting in that scene (and really, the entire episode.) It’s nice that Lance’s season 1 antics of drunkenness and tunnel vision vengeance was the anomaly, and that this New and Improved Beat Cop Lance is the real Quentin.

Elsewhere, the nonexistent relationship between Felicity and Moira took a huge hit when Felicity confronted Mrs. Queen about Thea’s paternity.



Her tactics work. She finds a pressure point and bears down (oh, too soon) with all of her might. That Felicity has a history of abandonment was just a bonus; losing Oliver is scary, but the fear of losing someone else was paralyzing enough that she kept that secret for a couple of days, aided by Moira’s constant side-eyes and threatening glances. (I half expected Moira to drag a finger across her throat in Felicity’s direction.)


It’s a natural course for their dynamic to take: Felicity and Moira have similar motivations toward Oliver, and both possess a deep loyalty to him, but their moral codes are wildly different. Moira will do anything for her children, even if it means selling her soul or coming off as selfish and conniving. Felicity has the capability to go that far for the ones she loves, but she has an innate sense of right and wrong that makes her question everything and everyone around her, even Oliver and Diggle. It would’ve been nice to get a storyline where Moira and Felicity team up to help Oliver before it took this turn, just to give them a bit more depth, but Moira showed her hand when she called Felicity by her first name. Felicity showed hers when she gave Moira the opportunity to tell Oliver the truth first.

And in defense of Moira Queen, don’t forget that this was a secret over which she was willing to go to jail. Not just jail, prison. For the rest of her life! So when this upstart blonde girl comes in, aggressively telling Moira she doesn’t trust her and that she needs to tell Oliver the truth, Moira essentially went Mama Bear on her. She saw, in her mind, a family torn asunder by a secret she had moved heaven and earth to keep under wraps. No way was she going to let someone as inconsequential as Felicity Smoak undo all of her hard work! (Unfortunately, she underestimated two things: Felicity’s importance, and the strength of the relationship between Oliver and Felicity.)

I’m not saying she was right to manipulate and threaten Felicity in such a way, but it was a great demonstration of the power Moira wields and how she’s made it this far in her life. If we want women on TV to be portrayed as powerful and varying, then sometimes, those strong women are going to clash. Moira fits that bill: Nothing she does is inherently evil, but in some cases, she’s not morally sound. If her every motivation in life is in the quest to protect her children, that makes her one of the most fascinating characters on television.


Because of her own family history, Felicity struggles with the secret. Oliver proves to be highly perceptive, and after two days of distraction and jumpiness, he finally corners Felicity at his mother’s campaign announcement rally (as she’s walking away, “Felicity? Fe li ci ty…”) and demands she tell him what’s bothering her. That’s when we finally, finally get a bit of backstory on Felicity: Her father abandoned her family, and all she remembers is how badly it hurt when he left.


Moira greatly underestimated their relationship; the moment he takes to process it is probably the most intimate scene he and Felicity have shared. If this were Gossip Girl, Oliver would’ve gotten up onstage and embarrassed his mother, but Arrow is not your typical CW fare. He does right by his mother, but ultimately, he keeps the secret for Thea’s sake. As he leans down to hug his mother, he tells her that he knows the truth.


That night, Moira’s worst nightmare comes true.


“Because Thea can never find out about Merlyn, and she can never know the truth about us, which is that as of right now, we have no relationship. I will keep up appearances for Thea’s sake. Publicly, I will support your campaign. But privately… we are done.”

Keeping in mind that she was afraid of this sort of thing happening back during the trial, and how happy she was when her kids reassured her that none of her secrets would make them hate her, this scene is particularly affecting. She should’ve taken Felicity up on her offer to tell Oliver herself, because it’s not the secret that he’s angry about, it’s the lie. The subtext is that he’s mad that she went to such lengths as to threaten Felicity, that he now has to keep this secret from Thea, that he can’t trust his mother anymore.

The question is, what does this mean in the war between Moira and Felicity? Is she going to give Felicity the respect she deserves, or is Moira going to try to squash one of Oliver’s closest allies like a bug?

Laurel spends most of the episode in the hospital, recovering from her poisoning (which was originally thought to be an overdose, so everyone was relieved to hear that it was just deadly snake venom that someone had slipped her, at least it’s not rat poison). She doesn’t turn up until the end of the episode, when Quentin and Dinah are tearfully hugging their recently revived daughter on the docks. She looks stunned and shaken before it cuts to commercial.

Later, at Laurel’s ill-fated apartment, three of the Lances are talking about how happy they are that Sara’s back and alive, but Laurel’s still boozing. Sara says Laurel must have questions, but Laurel claims she has none. “I already know all of the answers to them. How could you still be alive? Where have you been all this time? Why didn’t you call us? And the answer to all of them: Because it’s Sara.” The fact that Laurel doesn’t even give Sara a chance to explain herself is evidence enough that she’s not ready to hear any hard truths. Laurel spends her days railing against the world that she perceives as unfair to her, but she insulates herself from the harsh reality that other people are paying for their sins, too. Sara’s paid for hers through six years of exile and captivity. Dinah pays for hers in loneliness and regret. Quentin pays for his by watching his daughter disappear into the same bottle he’d hidden in for five years. Oliver pays for his every single day, in ways that Laurel would notice if she’d just pay attention. Laurel wants to believe that her life is harder than everyone else’s because it’s easier to feel like the world’s victim than it is to admit that maybe she’s just weak. She doesn’t have to be weak, she’s demonstrated strength before, but her constant misplaced blame and isolation from the people who love her is a sign of hiding from the larger truth, and that will always breed weakness. Until I’m explicitly told otherwise, I’m going to start watching Arrow with the understanding that Laurel is on a villain arc.

Quentin starts to ask Laurel not to drink the wine she just poured, but Laurel’s already on the sauce and she snaps at her father, “Dad, I swear, if you say one more word.” Sara asks Laurel not to blame their dad, to blame her instead, and that’s all the invitation Laurel needs. She rattles off a list of ways that this is all Sara’s fault.


Given the story Sara told Oliver on the island a couple of episodes ago, it sounds like there’s equal blame to spread around here, but neither woman is blaming the real culprit: Oliver. It was that fateful boat trip that changed everything, he had cold feet about getting serious with Laurel, but he could’ve invited anyone. He chose to invite Sara, and both families were destroyed when the Gambit disappeared.

Laurel forgave Oliver, so why won’t she forgive Sara? It probably goes back to their deep sibling antagonism, and the fact that Sara never seemed to be happy for Laurel’s successes. Coupled with Laurel’s growing self-victimization and the fact that she’s emotionally compromised thanks to the alcohol, it was a tall order to expect forgiveness of Sara anytime soon. Laurel throws her out of her apartment, and Sara goes straight to the foundry.


Oliver loved Sara, that much was evident when she first reappeared and he nearly had a breakdown. He spent five years believing her to be dead, and he never hid his feelings for her, not even on the island (where he chose to save Sara over Shado). Their final scene is actually detrimental (and maybe a nail in the coffin) for the Oliver/Laurel relationship; not only did he not spent the five years of exile obsessing over Laurel as we’d previously thought, he spent a portion of it running around with Sara. When he came back to Starling seeking out Laurel, we know it was partially because of guilt… but could it also have been because he thought she was his last connection to Sara? (That makes Oliver the jerk, and it makes Laurel right about a lot of things, but still, it’s up to her to decide whether to move on.)


Either way, Oliver and Sara’s emotionally charged makeout (which presumably led to other things) at the end of the episode makes a lot of sense. Their shared history and shared double-lives make them naturally compatible, and the actors have a lot of chemistry. However, Sara’s always been portrayed as a free spirit, and I have a feeling she won’t stick around Starling City for long, especially after being rejected by her sister.

Finally, Slade Wilson watches news coverage of Moira’s campaign announcement as Sebastian Blood walks in to his office. “I warned you not to underestimate Moira Queen.” Sebastian asks what to do next, but Slade tells him to do nothing. “I’ll take care of it.” What does that mean?! I want nothing less than a scene where Slade confronts Moira in person.

The bad news is, we have to wait until February 26th (after the Olympics that no one is going to watch) to find out! How will we survive?

“What color are your shoes?”

**This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Arrow, “Blind Spot.”**

This week’s Arrow was a Laurel episode, as least as much as any Arrow episode can be character-centric. It was also heavy on the Roy storyline (with bonus Sin!) as well as the island flashbacks. That means we saw a lot less of Oliver than usual (both in amount of screentime and amount of skin) and we really only got two good scenes of Team Arrow. But there was this:


This episode felt a little disjointed, especially given that we’ve been treated to tightly-plotted and fast-paced episodes since we met Sara. I saw it as a good thing; I think shows like this need to take an episode or two to step back and reconfigure their storylines, at least to establish a base line of normality so that we don’t start losing our connections to the characters. The alternative would be something akin to The Vampire Diaries, a show that went full-throttle with every episode, to the point that some beloved character had to die (and come back to life) at least once a week in order to maintain the momentum. Arrow is doing a better job of striking a balance, and a slower-paced episode couldn’t have come at a better time. Shado is dead, the Mirakuru is at work in the city, and we know that the end of this season is going to be explosive. It’s nice to watch an episode where Oliver spends most of his time in regular street clothes instead of in business attire or a hood.

Unfortunately, the slower pace happened during a Laurel episode. Her character has many detractors (sometimes including me) so it’s easy to pin this episode’s lack of action to Laurel. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Yes, Laurel’s scenes could’ve been more dramatic and emotional, but she’s not a superhero or a villain. She’s a normal person struggling with addiction, so her scenes are going to be a little more human than the ones with Roy or the island flashbacks.

I will give Katie Cassidy credit where it’s due: her scene with Paul Blackthorne in the interrogation room is some of her best work. Even though she still doesn’t actually shed a tear onscreen, she looks absolutely wrecked, like a person going through the anguish of drug withdrawal. Her sobbing and begging to her father were heartbreaking, and Blackthorne in turn gave a deeply emotional performance.

In fact, if there’s an MVP in this episode, it’s Blackthorne as Beat Cop Lance, because he straight up Diggled this episode. (To “Diggle” something means “to make the most of one’s very limited screentime by being amazing.” I’m determined to make this an actual verb.) He had three key scenes: One in the interrogation room, one with Oliver, and one at the end where he debriefs with Laurel. The scene with Oliver, in particular, shows his growth as a character.


It also supports my theory that Lance knows Oliver is The Arrow, just because I want it to be true.

And Diggle also Diggled this episode big time.


But let’s get into the meat of the episode: Laurel is busted for illegal possession of narcotics. She’s busted because she’s getting too close to Blood, who kills his mother in the cold open. She went to Hooded Oliver for help, and they went on a wild goose chase for a file that would prove Blood killed his father, but the file turns out to be empty.

Present-day Slade gets on Blood’s case for being sloppy, so Blood has Daly ransack Laurel’s apartment with a warrant, which is how they find the drugs. This, plus the fact that Laurel’s kidnapper turns out to be Daly himself, effectively discredits Laurel’s increasingly screechy theory that Blood is a criminal mastermind, as everyone from her own father to ADA Adam think she’s lost credibility. In the end, she loses her job, as well as the trust of her closest ally: The Arrow.

But things aren’t looking so rosy for Laurel from a backstory standpoint, either. Sara tells a story about how she had a crush on Oliver back before he dated Laurel, and that her dear sister called the cops to bust a party so that Sara would be grounded. A month later, Laurel and Oliver were dating.

It certainly doesn’t excuse what Sara did, going on the Gambit and sleeping with her sister’s boyfriend, but… it certainly provides the motivation. And if the details are to be believed — if Laurel truly busted that party just to get Sara grounded so that she could take her shot at Oliver — it certainly changes the commentary on the elder Lance sister, doesn’t it?

The island flashbacks also explored Sara’s Stockholm Syndrome with Ivo, but she manages to separate herself from him at the end of the episode, just as he vows to find her and end her. Sara turns to Oliver and says they should find Slade. Hopefully they find him soon.


Elsewhere, Roy is dealing with his superhuman strength by trying to use it to make the city better. That involves getting Thea to dress up Sin in her “first date outfit” which of course makes Sin look like a prostitute. She’s able to lure someone called the “Starling Slasher” into Roy’s trap so that he can apprehend the guy, but Roy ends up losing control and beating the guy to within an inch of his life. The resulting angst sends Roy running from a concerned Thea, and he sinks against a hospital wall and cries.

Thea later tells Oliver about the man Roy nearly beat to death, and that finally compels Oliver to go to Roy and offer to train him to control his emotions. I’m not sure how Oliver knows how to do that, but I do think it will involve Oliver finally revealing his true identity to Roy in the near future.


Finally, after Blood has successfully discredited Laurel, sacrificed Daly, and taken the heat off of himself, Slade has a logical response: slaying all four of Blood’s henchmen. He’s wearing his Deathstroke mask and warns Blood that if he fails again, he will be the next to die. It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.

None of that compares to the greatest scene of the entire episode:


That’s a scene you need to listen to in order to enjoy. Never has the question “What color are your shoes?” sounded so threatening.

Next week: Roy gets house trained! I mean… Roy gets trained!

Shrapnel All Over the Place

**This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Arrow, “Blast Radius.”**

Oliver Queen is really stressed out, y’all. He’s worried about this Mirakuru that has resurfaced in Starling City, he has to keep an eye on Roy, he has to track down the man who is blowing up buildings all over the city, and His Girl Wednesday is still out of town tending to a lightning-struck Barry Allen. But he’s totally not jealous, okay? He’s just stressed!


It’s been five weeks since Roy technically died after being injected with the Mirakuru. Oliver’s been spending that time stringing up petty criminals and questioning them about the whereabouts of Skull Face Man. It’s probably earning him a reputation as a crazy person, but Oliver doesn’t really care — Diggle points out that Oliver’s got a bit of tunnel vision about this, and Oliver doesn’t deny it.

Barry’s been in a coma for all that time, and presumably, he will stay that way until his pilot airs in the fall. Whether Felicity will continue to split her time between Starling and Central City remains to be seen, but it’s still an effective way to raise Oliver’s hackles about Barry in general. The thing is, he’s not being jealous so much as he’s being selfish about Felicity’s situation; he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t sit at someone’s hospital bed as they recuperate, instead he’s out hunting down the jerk who put them there. He can’t wrap his head around the idea of spending day after day by someone who is comatose when there are lives to be saved elsewhere. In a way, it’s a sad commentary on Oliver’s current state of being. Will he ever get to the point where he can just press pause on the vigilante-ing and go sit by someone’s bed, just to be there?

I think it’s another good example of the perspective Felicity brings to the team. Diggle is a lot like Oliver, he’d rather be out in the trenches, bringing in the bad guys and making the city safer. Felicity still has the ability to put aside this aspect of her life and just be a person who cares about someone else, and I think that’s something that Oliver (and sometimes Diggle) needs to see.

Diggle: “I’ve just never seen you spooked like this before.”
Oliver: “That should tell you something.”

And with that, we flash back to the island. For once, I was looking forward to these flashbacks more than the present-day plot. It turns out… not a whole heck of a lot happens in this episode, island-wise. They bury Shado, which is so sad to watch because Slade’s basically weeping. He’s also not hiding his feelings anymore, and it’s likely a combination of the grief and the Mirakuru. Still, for now, he’s Slade at his very core, and he hands Oliver the Hood that we know so well.


And doesn’t that just break your heart? It breaks mine. Oliver is distraught over Slade not knowing the truth about Shado’s death, but Sara wisely tells him that dropping that sort of thing on Slade right now is not the best idea. Turns out, Sara’s done the research on the Mirakuru. The Japanese tested the serum on hundreds of people, and “the people who died? They were the lucky ones. The ones who survived, they were deformed. Either their bones or their minds. They became someone else.”

That’s sad for me, I got very attached to Slade, but I know this is also what I signed up for when I wanted him to survive the serum. As they wander around the island, Slade undergoes an obvious change: he becomes rage-filled and hell-bent on taking out Ivo, and it ends with him grabbing Oliver around the neck and lifting him up. It takes Sara actually beating him with a huge tree branch to get him to drop Oliver, and that’s when it becomes clear that Slade was not himself in that moment. Later that night, Ivo contacts them and says he plans to blow up the whole island, and they discover Slade has run away with the Mirakuru. That’s about it for the island.

In the present, Oliver is publicly endorsing Alderman Blood’s campaign for Mayor, while Laurel is pretending to date Blood in order to get information on him. She suspects he isn’t who he says he is, and she later tells Oliver that Blood reminds her a lot of him in that way.


Laurel actually has a pretty solid storyline in this episode! Her brand of non-emotion is a particularly good match for Blood, whose underlying sinister nature makes their scenes compelling. Laurel’s rightfully picking up on the thread of secrecy, but she’s hampered by her growing addiction to narcotics. Blood feeds her a sob story about his upbringing (his abusive father was shot by his mother, who ran away and left him an orphan) which she seems to buy until she sees the name “Maya Resik” on a bill on his desk.

She goes to her dad (who is telling Corrupt Cop Daly that he can’t find his pain meds, leading one to believe Laurel is swiping her dad’s pain pills) and asks him to dig up information on Maya Resik. Beat Cop Lance agrees just to humor her, but later he reveals that Maya is Blood’s aunt, who is in a psychiatric facility. Blood actually gets Lance’s seal of approval, just because on paper he sounds good, but he also advises Laurel to stop looking for reasons for this relationship not to work out.

To her credit, Laurel goes with her gut. (It is part of her characterization, to be so driven to find the truth that she loses sight of everything else. It’s actually refreshing to see her go back to that.) At the end of the episode, she goes to visit Maya, who grabs Laurel and warns her that Blood is a bad, bad man.


Anyway, back at the political rally at the beginning of the episode, Oliver asks Thea how Roy’s doing, and she basically says he’s fine.

Then someone blows up a building and all hell breaks loose.

Thank goodness Felicity gets a news alert about the bomb and arrives at Queen Consolidated bright and early the next morning, much to Oliver’s poorly-concealed delight.


He woodenly asks how Barry’s doing while Diggle makes sympathetic and observant faces at both of them. Felicity says Barry’s “still sleeping” because “‘coma’ sounds… not fun.” Then she ends the whole awkward exchange by going to contact Beat Cop Lance.

They meet on a rooftop again, because Oliver likes to be up high where he can see the city I guess, and Lance even comments on the absurdity. He gets close enough to The Arrow to ask about the mask, which just strengthens my hopes that he knows who it is under that hood. Plausible deniability is a strong motivator. Just ask Blair Waldorf.

Anyway, Lance brought over the sample that Oliver had requested, but not without his own request: phone records for everyone in the department. Oliver is incredulous at the idea that there might be a leak in the department, but as we know, Lance is right. It sucks that he’s finally becoming a good cop right when he’s doling out bad fatherly advice to Laurel.

“Your blonde friend, she’s pretty good with computers.”

Aw, Lance. She’s gonna blush when she hears that.

Oliver’s answer is interrupted by another explosion, which looks like it’s only a few blocks away. Felicity traces the detonator and Oliver chases it down on his motorcycle. But much like that episode where the bad guy was underground, Felicity loses the signal and Oliver nearly crashes into a bus.

Now, for some perspective: We have no idea what happens with Slade now that he’s been injected with the Mirakuru. It’s bad, clearly, because it has Oliver jumping at loud noises and raging without warning. To him, these are high stakes that could end up changing not just the city, but the world. To him, it’s not too ridiculous to expect the same sort of urgency from his team.

Except… he hasn’t told his team anything about this. For whatever reason, he’s keeping the exact facts about the Mirakuru (and Slade) to himself, so neither Digg nor Felicity know the gravity of the situation. So this might explain Oliver’s mindset in this next scene, but it does not excuse it at all, because in the end, it’s on him for not being forthcoming. (And it makes me worry about just what happened on that island.)

Oliver comes back to the foundry and snaps that Felicity was supposed to be the expert on electronics and tracking. Diggle is immediately on alert as Felicity comes back with an “Excuse me?” but Oliver’s on a tear. “People are dying. So I would like you to pull your head out of Central City and get back in the game.” She’s not having any of this, as she tells Oliver in no uncertain terms to get his head out of his ass.


How she managed not to punch Oliver right in the stubble, I’ll never know. Maybe I’m just more prone to violence than she is?

Diggle is such a calming presence in these situations. He gently but firmly tells Oliver that his theory of distraction is complete bull, and then he drops the truth bomb:


Oh Diggle. So much smarter and more observant than the rest of us.

Alderman Blood announces a rally at a downtown plaza, which Oliver sees as a suicide mission. He hoods up and goes to Blood’s office to try to convince him to call it off, but Blood refuses. It scares him, though — he reaches for a concealed gun, fearing that The Arrow has finally figured out who is behind the skull mask.

Oliver and Felicity continue to bicker the next day, and Diggle asks, “Is this how it’s gonna be with you two from now on?” But Felicity’s had a breakthrough — she knows who the bomber is. He’s active on forums and message boards, and he goes by the name Shrapnel. She traces his IP, and Oliver heads that way as Diggle goes to the rally.

At the toy store that Shrapnel owns, Oliver’s trapped by lasers as a recording tells him that the plaza is rigged with explosives. He contacts his team, and Diggle sets off to find the detonator as Felicity works to help Oliver out of the laser trap. “Are you sure you want me doing this? My head might not exactly be in the game.” He yells at her, but she points out a fuse box for him to shoot.

They get to the rally but just as they find the detonator in the sound system, Shrapnel appears and shoots Diggle in the shoulder. The shot causes chaos, and Shrapnel throws the detonator into the crowd. Oliver shoots it in midair and it explodes, causing a light tower to fall straight toward Moira, but she’s saved by Roy, who takes the hit himself. He escapes without a scratch.

Oliver corners Shrapnel, who says he has explosives all over the city, but Oliver simply cuts the wire to the detonator and punches him out. That was easy!

Thea’s figured out that Roy’s hiding something, he’s not scratched from the incident at the rally and he has no marks from when he broke a box of glasses during his and Thea’s makeout the other day. He runs away before Thea can ask too many questions, but she’s the inquisitive type, so he has that to look forward to next week.

Diggle’s wound is “just a through-and-through, a walk in the park,” he might as well have said “Tis but a scratch!” After Diggle leaves, Oliver considers Felicity and then does the one thing we’ve never really seen him do before: apologize.


He actually apologizes twice.

But it gets even better!


But he still wasn’t done!


He relies on her, on them, and even though we all knew it, it’s nice to see him finally admit it to himself and out loud! And it’s so sweet and real that even though Felicity might let him off the hook just a little too quickly, considering how he treated her the day before, it’s a fitting reward for the vulnerability he just showed.

He even talks about Barry without grimacing or clenching his fists!


Maybe he is. And maybe that’s an incredibly considerate thing for Oliver to say to her. She gets all science-y about dreams and hallucinations during comas, but Oliver puts his hand on her shoulder to stop her babbling and reinforce the nice thing he just did, and she smiles and thanks him.


It’s basically the second-sexiest thing to happen with shoulders on TV.

His last errand of the night is to visit Blood once more, to congratulate him on his rally. Blood offers an alliance of sorts — that they work together to save the city. How are these not red flags to Oliver? The last time he met someone who talked like that, it turned out the guy actually meant to save the city by using an earthquake to wipe out half of it. But maybe he’s shaking his hand in a “keep your enemies closer” kind of way.

Next week: Laurel takes her suspicions about Blood to Oliver. This should go well!

Favorites of 2013: TV Characters

Merry Christmas (or as Penny from Miranda would say, “Happy What I Call Christmas”) to all of our dear readers who celebrate the holiday. Today is all about characters, so here are our favorite TV Characters of 2013!

Abbie Mills and Jenny Mills

{Sleepy Hollow}


Jenny: Corbin said, that one day, you’d be back. When you were ready. Asked me to find a way to forgive you. I said I didn’t think I could.
Abbie: I’m sorry that it took me so long to find you.

The Mills sisters, despite being estranged for years, manage to make working through their past issues while saving the world look manageable. That they’re quicker witted than their male counterparts is simply a bonus. —Moff

Alice Morgan



Yes, she may be a murderer, but her loyalty to Luther is wonderful. She is an intelligent woman, and she always makes an episode of Luther even better. —Becca

April Ludgate

{Parks and Recreation}


“Leslie said it was a ‘come as you were in the nineties’ party, I assumed it was the 1690s.”

April has slowly grown up over the past few years, and it has become more obvious over this last season. She still has her Keep Away demeanor, but the loyalty she has for her friends is genuine. —Becca

Carlton Lassiter



“I have one speed, and it is full throttle.”

Lassiter is finally a happy and well-adjusted adult, thanks in large part to Juliet and in small parts to Shawn and Gus. He’s more relaxed, open-minded, and willing to compromise than he was when we first met him, and he’s become an even better cop thanks to Shawn forcing him to stay sharp. —Kerry

Diane Buckley

{Trophy Wife}


“Oh, relax, it’s just some light catfishing.”

The wives of Trophy Wife are sort of like the Hogwarts houses: who you relate to says a lot about your personality. Most people seem to favor Jackie, the second ex-wife of leading man Bradley Whitford, but me, I’m a Diane girl through and through. (I’m also a Hufflepuff, if you were wondering.) She clearly loves her kids, but she also wants the best for them. She is passionate but calculating, strong but practical, and above all, she gets stuff done. —Kerry

Donna Paulsen



“If you were ever lucky enough to have me, you wouldn’t want to share.”

This season of Suits did some not-so-great stuff with Donna, but she still came out of it looking classier and stronger than any other character on television. —Kerry

Felicity Smoak



“Never meet your heroes, right?”

It says something about an actor when a one-time appearance turns into a recurring role. It’s even more remarkable when that actor goes from recurring to series regular. The quirky, bright IT girl has won several hearts, saved countless lives, and helps humanize Oliver Queen. —Becca

Jemma Simmons

{Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.}


“I can’t be a part of your bad-girl shenanigans. I like following the rules and doing what’s expected of me. It makes me feel nice.”

When the show started off, the focus was on Fitz-Simmons, but the show gradually began to separate them. Now they are Fitz and Simmons, and Simmons has my heart. The episode “F.Z.Z.T” made me cry (which I hardly do) because of the way Elizabeth Henstridge plays her role. —Becca

Joan Watson



“I think it’s sad that you’ve given up. I think you have a lot to share, if you cared to. I shouldn’t be the only one who knows you.”

Joan Watson set herself apart from traditional representations of the World’s Greatest Sidekick in season one, but she’s quickly becoming the fulcrum around which the show revolves without being anyone’s girlfriend, wife, mother or mistress. That’s nice to see both for Dr. Watson and for a woman in a mostly male ensemble. —Moff

John Diggle



“I’ve been meaning to tell you, it really weirds me out to no end the way you refer to yourself in third person like that.”

Any scene with Diggle in it is a good scene. —Becca

Leslie Knope

{Parks and Recreation}


“No one achieves anything alone.”

It’s difficult to picture a scenario in which Leslie Knope doesn’t top my list of favorite characters. —Kerry

Marcus Bell



Sherlock: “Have you always been this observant? I’m asking that quite sincerely. I was wondering if exposure to my methods had helped you in any way.”
Bell: “Actually, before you came along, I had never closed a case before, neither had the rest of the department. Most of us were thinking of packing up, leaving, letting the city fend for itself.”

Bell is such a great detective that Sherlock has taken to referring to all other detectives as “Not Bell.” Two of my favorite episodes of Elementary are Bell-centric ones (“Details” and “Tremors”) and I always look forward to his one liners to Sherlock. —Kerry

Oliver Queen



“The world doesn’t work anymore. It broke a long time ago, but it was like you were the only one who noticed. That makes you angry, and you’re afraid that that anger is going to burn you up inside if you have to live in the world one second longer knowing that you could do something to fix it.”

Oliver’s really come into his own since Tommy’s death, choosing now to save the city through non-murderous means. He still lives two (sometimes three) lives but now that he’s more removed from Laurel, he’s more three-dimensional and sympathetic. He’s still struggling to trust people, and thanks to the flashbacks to the island, we’re starting to realize why. —Kerry

Robin Scherbatsky

{How I Met Your Mother}


“I’m Sparkles, bitch!”

I love Robin, and I relate to her so much this season. I just wish we didn’t have to see every excruciating hour of her wedding weekend, but hey, that’s not her fault. —Kerry

Rosalee Calvert



Rosalee Calvert may have started as a one-off, but the decision to make her a series regular was inspired: She’s a source of wisdom, knowledge and reason on a show that routinely asks its audience to suspend disbelief. —Moff

Sara Lance



“No woman should ever suffer at the hands of men.”

Sara Lance managed, in a handful of episodes, to make a memorable impression as a variation on a classic comic book character normally inhabited by her sister, Laurel. But Sara made the role of Black Canary her own, and I can’t wait to see her return to Starling City. —Moff

Sarah Manning

{Orphan Black}


“Art, if you’re hearing this, you found a body. It’s not Beth. It’s me. My name is Sarah Manning and you’re about the only person I trust to figure the whole thing out.”

Sarah is the most practical and level-headed of the clones, focused solely on keeping her daughter, Kira, safe. I think she’s my favorite because her main instinct is survival. She’ll do anything to protect the ones she loves. —Kerry

Slade Wilson



“I’m sorry… for not telling you how I really feel.”

Former A.S.I.S. agent, island survivor, unlucky in love, and that accent? What’s not to love?! Kerry

The Cannon

{Back in the Game}


“No, Gannons, we inflict pain, and then we laugh!”

Rude, brash, drunk, and definitely not in touch with his feelings, The Cannon was an oddity on TV this season. There was no one quite like him, because while he said and did all these terrible things, he knows it’s his fault that he’s unhappy. He clearly loves his daughter and grandson, so I’m sad we won’t get to see what happens with them. —Kerry

Tinker Bell

{Once Upon a Time}


“I may have lost my wings, but I haven’t lost my dignity.”

There hasn’t been a whole lot for me to love on this season of Once; I was never a fan of Peter Pan in any of its various forms, so the idea of a whole arc set in Neverland made me wary. I especially dreaded the introduction of Tinker Bell, because I was sure this show would ruin that sort of complex female character. While this Tink has a backstory firmly entrenched in the Enchanted Forest, she still manages to be the best side character to join the show this season. The actress who plays her, Rose McIver, deserves most of the credit. —Kerry

Later today… Our favorite supporting characters from movies!

“What’s the matter, kid? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

This post contains spoilers for the mid-season finale of Arrow, “Three Ghosts.” 

When we last saw our heroes, Felicity was begging a recently-drugged Barry Allen to “Save my friend,” as Oliver lay unconscious on a table in the foundry. He’d been injected with two different needles during his fight with a scary superhuman, and while Diggle had frantically dialled 911, Felicity had made the executive decision to call Barry instead.


You know how in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s dad thinks Windex cures everything? Did you think that was ridiculous? Well then you’re not prepared for Barry Allen, who cures Oliver with rat poison. Diggle, the entire time, defers to Felicity to make all of the calls, and she decides that rat poison is the way to go. Diggle’s implicit trust in Felicity with regard to Oliver’s life is so fantastic, I can’t even put it into words.


When Oliver wakes up, he’s livid. Not because Barry, you know, technically poisoned him, but because Felicity revealed Oliver’s secret to Barry. It’s probably 50% disorientation from his current condition, 40% jealousy because it’s Barry, and 10% justified because Oliver is an intensely private person. He tells Felicity that he only brought in her and Digg after he did his research on them, but honestly, Felicity only needed to retort “Helena!” to shut down that line of self-righteous yelling. As Oliver and Felicity bicker, Diggle’s in the background rolling his eyes like “I told her he would react this way, no one ever listens…” and Barry tries to intervene on Felicity’s behalf: “You don’t have to thank me, but you should thank her instead of being kind of a jerk.”


You just know Oliver’s picturing at least seven different ways to disable Barry in that moment. Really, Oliver is a jerk the entire time, but it’s also great to see him be emotional and unreserved around Felicity, and it’s nice to see her hand him his behind in return. Oliver stomps away without a thank you or an apology, and Felicity quips to Barry, “Never meet your heroes, right?”

Oliver “Scrooge” Queen has also forgotten it’s Christmas for the second year in a row. Last year’s festivities ended with his stepfather getting kidnapped, so this year is bound to go better, right? Well not for Oliver Scrooge, who is in for some pretty trippy hallucinations thanks to ol’ Barry and his rat poison; italics are always necessary. (Okay, I’ll level with you: it turns out that hallucinations are psychological, but still, it probably started with the rat poison, right?)

This episode is surprisingly well-crafted. On the surface, it’s a nonstop thrill ride of action, suspense, agony, joy, and even some hilarity. It’s kind of like a regular Arrow episode on steroids, or on the Mirakuru that Blood’s injecting into everyone. But when you break it down and consider that Oliver Scrooge was visited by three “ghosts” at Christmastime, the structure becomes a little more elegant.


The Ghost of Christmas Past is Shado, who we see is killed in the flashbacks to the island. Professor Ivo, with no explanation, tells Oliver to choose who will live: Sara or Shado. Oliver can’t choose, so when Ivo turns his gun on Sara, Oliver leaps in front of her, sacrificing himself. Ivo takes that as Oliver’s choice and shoots Shado instead.

Today, as Oliver recovers from the effects of the mysterious injections and the rat poison, he begins hallucinating, and the first phantom to appear is the most inexplicable death in Oliver’s past: Shado. She begs Oliver to stop fighting, to put down the bow and take off the hood, or else everyone he loves will die. We also got confirmation that Oliver wears the green hood to honor Yao Fei and Shado, which is unbelievably sentimental for him. I need a moment…


The Ghost of Christmas Future is Slade, who first appears on a rooftop as Hooded Oliver is talking to Beat Cop Lance. He only stands there silently the first time, but it’s enough to freak out Oliver. Later, Oliver’s shooting tennis balls in the foundry when HalluciSlade catches an arrow and snarks, “What’s the matter, kid? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

In the flashbacks, Slade wakes from the injection fully healed from the burns on his face, and he roars outside to save Shado. He’s completely primal as he breaks guns in half and rips out hearts, but he sobers when he finds Shado shot dead. He vows to Oliver and Sara that “Whoever did this to her is going to suffer.” In the present, HalluciSlade yells at Oliver for not being a hero, friend, or brother. He harbors a lot of bitterness against Oliver, saying “The island didn’t make you strong, kid. It revealed you to be weak.” (It’s a fantastic scene for Manu Bennett, who has tears in his eyes throughout.) Oliver ends up “fighting” him and ruining the lair.


The fun thing about this particular “ghost” is that Slade is actually alive and well and living in Starling City. He’s the Ghost of Christmas Future because he has a lot of nasty stuff planned for Oliver and his friends, stuff that will run the course of the second half of the season.

“I am going to tear everything that he cares about away from him. Destroy those who choose to follow him. Corrupt those he loves. Once he has lost everyone and everything he values, I will drive an arrow through his eye.”

Fans got really excited that the camera panned over Felicity when Slade said “Corrupt those he loves.” After sweeping up the lair and sharpening his arrowheads for battle, Oliver asks Diggle if he’s lost his mind. Diggle, ever the soldier, says that we’re all a little crazy anyway. He tells Oliver he’s just suffering from survivor’s guilt, something Digg himself has gone through, and he advises Oliver to listen to what the ghosts are trying to tell him.


This scene is lost in the hustle and bustle of the rest of the episode but it’s probably the most important thing that’s happening for Oliver on a personal level. In a lot of ways, Digg is Oliver’s present-day Slade: he’s military trained, he has an instinctual understanding of Oliver, and he’s Oliver’s closest ally. All along, we’d assumed Oliver had lost Shado and Slade to death and nothing more, but now that Slade’s back with a vengeance, Oliver’s friendship with and trust in Diggle is even more noteworthy. Oliver is at his most vulnerable when he asks Digg how to get rid of his ghosts, and Digg, true to form, handled it like a pro. These little moments are going to become more and more important as we get closer to the day that Oliver discovers Slade is alive.

The Ghost of Christmas Present was a terrible, powerful punch of feelings to the viewers. Oliver ambushes a masked Brother Blood and his cronies just a minute too late, as they’ve already injected Roy, whom they captured earlier, with the Mirakuru serum. He dies as Oliver tries to fight off Cyrus Gold, and that’s when Tommy Merlyn appears.


Tommy says the things Oliver needs to hear: that he’s a hero, that he beat the island and his father, and that he needs to fight back. He’s the Ghost of Christmas Present because he represents the normal life that Oliver should be fighting for. Shado reminded Oliver of everything he’s lost in the past, Slade reminded Oliver of everything that’s at stake, but Tommy reminded Oliver that he needs to fight every day because there’s no other way to survive. Oliver jumps up and fights off Gold as Blood runs away. He starts yelling the same sorts of platitudes at Roy, telling him he’s a strong kid and that he needs to fight, and Roy finally wakes up… with superhuman strength, presumably.

Does Oliver ultimately learn the lessons that his three ghosts were setting out to teach him? I think so. Then again, they were all hallucinations, so maybe Oliver just needs to lay off the eggnog for a while. I hear Barry spiked it with rat poison.

Outside of the demons that Oliver’s fighting, there’s a lot going on in Starling. Originally, Roy was recovering from the arrow shot to the leg in the privacy of Thea’s room. Oliver helps out (with a rather sweet and awkward “Hi” to Sin, suddenly I need them to be in more scenes together) by pulling out the arrow and then telling those meddling kids to stay away from that blasted vigilante. His poker face is a thing of beauty throughout the entire scene. Later, Roy wakes in the Haunted Queen Mansion after his ordeal with the Mirakuru, and his leg is fully healed. Oliver tells Felicity and Digg that they need to keep an eye on Roy for the time being.

Oliver also hands over his information on Cyrus Gold to Beat Cop Lance after a failed recon mission by Diggle. Unfortunately, Lance recruits the wrong people to accompany him on the bust–namely Officer Daly, Blood’s right-hand man. The bust ends up being an ambush, and everyone except Lance is killed, including his former partner, Lucas Hilton. Hooded Oliver visits Lance at the hospital and apologizes for the deaths, but Lance sagely tells him “Not every death in this city is on you.” It’s the nicest thing Lance has ever said to him. (I really, really hope it turns out that Lance has known it’s Oliver under that hood since “Broken Dolls.”)


And yes, Laurel was floating on the periphery of this episode, barely crying over her father’s injuries, chastising Oliver for not decking his Haunted House halls with boughs of holly, falalalala lalalala, and awkwardly hugging Alderman Blood in the hallway of the hospital. Where every other character got a great setup for the back half of the season, Laurel got nothing.

Felicity and Barry share some really great scenes, the best of which is when Barry tells Felicity that if she likes Oliver, he would understand why. “I just have a little experience with liking someone who doesn’t see you the same way.” Felicity never concedes the point that she likes Oliver, but she and Barry seem to have a sort of mutual understanding of where they stand.

She also has some rather intense scenes with Oliver; when he prepares to go after Gold, Felicity begs him not to.


Barry looks like a sad puppy as Oliver walks past him, but he doesn’t let it deter him later when he calls Felicity and asks her to give him a ring if she ever decides that Oliver Queen is not the man for her. Felicity, meanwhile, is incredibly relieved that Oliver is back safe and sound from his encounter with the superhuman.


Thanks to a combination of a malfunction with the oft-discussed particle accelerator, a bolt of lightning, and a mess of chemicals, we see Barry go from Barry Allen, Fake CSI, to Barry Allen: Probably The Flash. Don’t worry, bro, I’m sure some rat poison will set you right in no time.


That brings the count of potential superhumans up to three, with only two of them potentially being on The Arrow’s side. We already knew that Roy and Barry were destined to be superheroes, but the fact remains that Oliver is still just a mortal man who is a good shot and happens to like parkour. The danger now is that he’s descending into a world where other people have “powers” and he does not… unless you count the rat poison, of course.

Finally, earlier in the episode Barry had asked Oliver why he wears grease paint instead of a mask, and Oliver snapped, “Find me a mask that conforms perfectly to my face and doesn’t affect my ability to aim while I’m on the run.” Nice try, Oliver, but at the end of the day, you’re still wearing eyeshadow. Just own it. Anyway, the episode ends with Oliver opening a Christmas gift from Barry: a mask!


Felicity puts it on and Oliver asks how he looks. “Like a hero,” she says. And she’s right: Tommy said so.

No new episodes until January 15th, but I think this one gives us enough material to last until then, don’t you?