[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Mark Bunting
Writers: Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Colton Haynes, Kirk Acevedo, Katie Cassidy, David Nkl, Alexa Doig
The discovery of Oliver’s true predicament shocks Felicity as Diggle employs Curtis to go undercover and Dinah is forced to collaborate with an unlikely ally.
Working out of one’s comfort zone has become another norm of the season, and this week the focal points were Oliver, Curtis, and Laurel.
Let’s start with Oliver’s odyssey into Level Two, which not only puts him face to face with “The Demon” – a scarred but alive Talia al Ghul – but risks his very sense of self thanks to the unorthodox “treatment” by Dr. Jarrett Parker. The almost-name drop of a certain Dark Knight as the culprit who put Talia in there was brilliantly delivered and didn’t deter the very tense encounter. Amell and Doig have brilliant chemistry together, although they are on opposite sides. It’s just another one of Oliver’s teachers-turned-enemies and a ghost from his past revisiting him as collateral damage. The fact that Talia deliberately leaves bread crumbs for Oliver to follow her down to Level Two makes the viewer have a “I should’ve known by the name” moment. It shows the level of rage enveloping her as much as the desperation to protect Felicity and William that consumes Oliver. It’s a perfect parallel in that these two are fighting for family in their own way.
What makes Alexa the perfect casting choice for Talia is that her expression barely changes; it’s always visually monotone so you don’t know what she is thinking or whose side she is on. The metaphysical discussions over “the monster” within Oliver offered a chance at closure for both of them and perhaps a reconciliation between them. The fights between each other and together were brilliantly choreographed.
With regards to Oliver’s interactions with Parker, you got the sense that he was close to breaking him, and felt the need to cheer when Oliver reaffirmed his identity to Parker in the breakout scene. This was an announcement to both Parker and the viewer that this was a man who would not be broken by a misguided doctor violating his oath through torture disguised as psychotherapy. While not a memorable villain, Parker was designed as a psychological obstacle of Slabside for Oliver to overcome.
This week we got to see a little of the old Felicity return played against the business-only Laurel Lance. After seeing Emily play pissed off and driven for two weeks, her character seeing a light at the end of the tunnel allowed some of her sense of humor to shine through at certain points (i.e., “Team Felicity”). It’s only when she’s made aware of Oliver’s situation and Parker’s background that you see that desperation for her husband’s safety. Felicity and Laurel are more of opposites to each other than Laurel and Dinah, and yet all three women must work together to figure out the mystery of Level Two and Jarrett Parker.
Katie Cassidy’s portrayal of a once-cold-hearted woman trying to turn over a new leaf and show empathy is very subtle and believable. You can feel the reluctance through every snarky-but-helpful remark; she cares about Oliver in her own way and is doing her best to honor the memory of Quentin. Her “adopted” dad started her on this path and she’s trying to continue that on her own as best she can. That offer of lunch with Felicity was a huge step forward for Laurel.
That reluctance is shared by Dinah; while not as ready to throttle Laurel at first glance as before after their team-up, she is forcing herself to assist in the research scenes alongside the murderer of her boyfriend. In short, they are both trying to move forward for the greater good. The fact that Parker’s culpability in torture can be used a loophole to get Oliver out of prison thanks to their combined research is reason enough to continue the alliance. What makes it all the more intriguing is that Dinah is still in the dark about Felicity temporarily holding Silencer prisoner for questioning.
The former Mister Terrific had his moment in the sun this week as the latest Team Arrow alum thrust back into the field against his will. Echo’s scenes with David harken back to when Diggle was Green Arrow and leading the team. He was the rock and continues to be such for his friend. Oliver’s oldest ally and a seasoned veteran, Diggle knows when to ease up and when to press when Curtis goes off the books and why he does it. He knows the difference between a burned out soldier and a conflicted one. Like everyone else, Curtis’s dual life has cost him professionally and personally, but unlike Rene, he sees it as a mistake he doesn’t want to repeat. He’s in his element as tech development for A.R.G.U.S., so “secret agent man” isn’t something he signed up for. What works is that this continues the plot point of Lyla’s and John’s trip to Switzerland – A.R.G.U.S. up to clandestine operations – and the fact it could be a crucial factor in the season. This story arc for Diggle, Lyla, and Curtis will most likely intersect with the threat of Diaz, and it will be interesting to see where that goes.
The fact that Team Arrow has a possible means to get Oliver out of Slabside Penitentiary could be a double-edged sword. The problem with last season’s The Flash was that the means by which Team Flash got Barry out of jail was tedious and had to be addressed with utmost care. Arrow is a more-grounded show and just because they have evidence of mistreatment isn’t cut and dry. With that alone they may only be able to move him to another facility. The show’s strength is that it keeps one foot firmly on the ground and doesn’t have the same liberties that other Arrowverse shows have via time travel or metahuman abilities. Also, I’m hoping that they address the suspicious final fate of Dr. Parker in this case because he is integral to this evidence and Talia may have cost Oliver that loophole with her actions.
Great fight choreography and chemistry between Amell and Doig and the the women of Team Arrow. Again, the loophole needs to be handled realistically, but it makes sense to take an inmate out of an environment where he is physically threatened. It just has to be handled the right way so that fans aren’t scratching their heads saying “Can they do that?” Also, while Oliver’s Shawshank days have to be put to an end before the crossover – or do they? – I hope that the road back to freedom is a few more miles. Then he can give Braun Strowman his beard back.