Review: Arrow 7×04 – “Level Two”

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Director: Ben Hernandez Bray

Writers: Emilio Ortega Aldrich and Tonya Kong

Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Ben Lewis, Jason E. Kelly, Andrew Sixtos, Miranda Edwards, Adam Bogen, Eliza Faria, Jack Moore

Summary

As Oliver enters Level Two to locate “The Demon” to extract information on Diaz, Felicity interrogates The Silencer and the new Green Arrow targets arsonists determined to burn down Rene’s community center.

Positives

The strength in this episode is both the examination of character motivations and how all the protagonists’ approaches are forced to flow with change, both present and future. I know this sounds vague, but I will go in order.

The force of nature that is Felicity Smoak continues to evolve and get progressively darker. When interrogations of Silencer lead nowhere, the desperation oozes out of Emily’s performance. She has little patience with both the system and Rene’s hesitancy, albeit still sympathetic to his trauma in the naval forces. It is in this episode that, through desperation, she finds a parallel in Laurel Lance, whom she turns to for harsher torture methods.

Katie is really working to chip away at this new version of Black Siren who is trying to honor her father’s memory. (Kudos for whoever decided to have Felicity note how she is able to practice law without any training.) The writers are putting a lot of thought into how Laurel is trying to genuinely work towards redemption despite still having an edge to her. Seeing her open up about how the death of her father and her version of Oliver on Earth-2 affected her is a huge leap from when she first appeared in season 2 of The Flash and returned in season 5 of Arrow. Given that this brilliant woman has her own Oliver that has been ripped away from her, you really feel that she is trying to steer Felicity away from crossing a line. This is the second time Laurel has helped the former Team Arrow this way and best of all, it feels genuine and not forced.

Oliver’s transfer to Level Two, like every mission he’s taken, leads to a detour of forced starvation and unwanted therapy. The writers use this subplot as a vehicle to get new viewers caught up on what made this hardened vigilante through flashbacks to the pilot. Stephen keeps an even, monotone voice with few breaks from that pattern; his portrayal of Oliver is a man that expects the worst and prepares himself for it.

The dialogue of Dr. Jarrett Parker is smart in that it makes both Oliver and the viewer think about how he originally views his father’s parting words and his murder-suicide to ensure his son’s survival on that raft. It was a clever decision to implement that son-becomes-the-father moment with Oliver and William that gets across to the viewer that Parker’s treatments are close to making him crack. The subtle key question that symbolizes his being the unyielding rock in the river is that of his name. The viewer is left guessing whether this is a ruse or a genuine loss of identity with him responding with “Inmate 4587” instead of Oliver Queen. Oliver deliberately got himself sent down there to extract information from “The Demon” on Ricardo Diaz, and this is one father who is willing to go through hell to protect his wife and son.

And even though there is no incredible fight sequences or arrows flying, Stephen manages to rope the viewer in to his story through the subtlety of his dialogue and blank stare.

Rene was given a chance to shine this week through both his refusal at further torture of Silencer and his insistence on working with the new Green Arrow. What makes his story work is that his aiding and abetting in this new archer’s escape makes Dinah call his bluff and arrest him. Julia Harkavy and Rick Gonzalez have solid onscreen chemistry, and it gives you reason to believe that there may be something more between these two in the future. Hell, Zoe is already calling her “Aunt Dinah.” Out of everyone this season so far, Dinah has clashed and winds up working with Rene more so than anyone else. Her motivation is simple: She wants to restore the honor of the SCPD after Diaz made a mockery of it last year when he swept in and took control.

The scene in the community center is necessary to show that their efficiency isn’t enough to help in the Glades and this new Green Arrow is both filling that gap and making fools of the police. Rene, on the other hand, is trying to make the Glades a safer place for his daughter to grow up in. It’s only when Zoe is critically injured by these arsonists does his support of the new Green Arrow become cemented, even if it means betraying his friendship with Dinah. This episode saw Dinah recognize the need for both the police and the vigilantes to work together despite the new mayor cracking down on this new Green Arrow through wrongful vilification. It’s only by working with her former teammate and the new archer in a limited capacity to investigate and apprehend these arsonists. She knows that the moment she allows Rene to escape with an injured Green Arrow that she is compromised and has endangered both her command and her immunity by her actions.

Dinah’s demonstrated belief in the system is properly layered against the future version of her fighting against it as Black Canary again in a Dystopian-esque Star City with Zoe as her protege. That could also be a clue into the aforementioned possible romance between Dinah and Rene. What works in her look is the tragic slash across her throat, suggesting her Canary Cry has been forever silenced.

The flash-forward sequences that depict the journey of Roy Harper and an adult William Clayton back to Star City is as evenly paced as Oliver’s flashbacks. What works is that little detail is offered as to how the city became this nightmare and the grisly fates that await Team Arrow. The incorporation of the arrowhead as the housing for Felicity’s tech is very ingenious and symbolic. The son is trying to reconnect with his father with his stepmother’s touch.

The demonstration of William’s hacking skills shows that it’s not just Oliver in his bones. What also works is that the linear sequence is slowed to a crawl that subtly pulls the viewer along as we see the formation of the new Green Arrow and how he travels back to the past.

The prosthetic stomach on Haynes is realistic looking and a touch of common sense; he’s been out of the game for a long while and he’s probably in his fifties. The mysterious note in the bow, the fate of Felicity, and the horror of what Star City became are all mysteries that will keep viewers guessing until the final piece of the puzzle is unveiled.

Negatives

The only complaint I have is why hasn’t Dinah thought about establishing a precinct in the Glades given that there is so much crime and it takes her forces two hours to respond to 911 emergencies.

Verdict

The disassembly of Oliver’s psyche and more of the new Green Arrow are done with the trademark grounded approach. Things are extremely bleak for the team and the season is just getting started. The further down into darkness Oliver and Felicity go the eager it becomes to see them pull themselves out of the nosedive. Throwing in the flashbacks only when the new Emerald Archer is featured works to better connect the present-day events to the flash-forward sequences. I look forward to seeing what has become of the other members of Team Arrow and how William travels back to the past. Also, I’m curious as to what role – if any – he may play in the DC Crossover. Time will tell.

 

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Jay

I'm an Ontario-based news writer, as well as graphic illustrator with his own commission business. I've been a comic collector since I was ten and have enjoyed the lore of these larger than life figures ever since. I graduated with an HBA from the University of Toronto in Humanities and have worked for both local and online news outlets.