Calling all apprentices and mentors: Starling City is hosting some kind of vigilante convention.
Let’s bitch it out…Last week’s episode ended on a mini-cliffhanger as Roy (Colton Haynes) dream-remembered that he killed Sara (Caity Lotz). It was a lovely, unexpected twist that suggested Roy was headed for big things as he grappled with the truth and consequences of his actions.
Unfortunately in the space of 42 minutes ‘Guilty’ completely erases those storytelling options in favour of using Roy as a red herring. Not only did he not kill Sara in a mirakuru haze, his real crime – killing a police office during Slade Wilson’s rampage – is flagrantly excused by virtually everyone on the show.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Arrow chose not to turn one of its youngest (and most photogenic) supporting characters into the murderer of one of its most popular characters. In terms of publicity, the cliffhanger was effective – it got people talking about the show between episodes. But it also smacks of a bait and switch, engineered solely to manipulate viewers for the purpose of goosing ratings. While I would be the last person to advise Arrow to go darker, this development feels like a missed opportunity to beef up Roy’s role and take the story in a new direction.
It also means that ‘Guilty’ suffers as a bit of a lark. The central “case” is so obviously positioned to act as commentary about what is happening between Oliver (Stephen Amell), Roy and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) that it can’t help but feel heavy handed. This is especially true when it is revealed that the slate of murders around town is the work of “homicidal former vigilante apprentice” Isaac Stanzler (Nathan Mitchell) who was disowned by his mentor, Ted (J.R. Ramirez), aka Wildcat, for murdering someone six years earlier. I’m not one to cry “convenient!” but this feels a little too perfectly timed, coinciding exactly as Roy’s dreams and Laurel’s training come to a head with Oliver.
This isn’t to say that ‘Guilty’ isn’t enjoyable to watch, however. I always like seeing Oliver get taken down a peg or two when his moral pedestal gets a little too high, so I appreciated Ted’s comment that Laurel’s training is her decision to make. While Oliver’s desire to control Laurel’s actions & body is uncomfortably possessive (and has all of the necessary components for a university paper on misogynistic body politics in Arrow), this storyline helpfully pushes forward the all-important character rehabilitation of Laurel Lance, which is important because we all know where her character is headed (SPOILER images at the link). If anyone needs to buff up their image and be taken a little more seriously, it’s the damaged goods working in the DA’s office.
- Where can I get one of those fancy virtual autopsy projections that Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) has? Not that I’m hanging around a lot of dead bodies, but it would be fun to be able to whip out some 3D images whenever I like.
- Diggle (David Ramsey) continues to excel in his role as reliable back-up, but these episodes really reinforce just how much of a utility player he is. When is this guy going to get something meaningful to do that doesn’t require the team jetting off to Russia or Corto Maltese?
- Quick question for the legal eagle readers: if Laurel vouched for Ted after the discovery of the body in his gym, would the police really need to hold him? I would think that the word of someone like Laurel, who works in the highest legal office in the city would count for more.
- Oliver finally names Roy’s alter ego after Stanzler infers that Roy is nothing more than a weapon in Ollie’s arsenal. While the name is cool, doesn’t it also just reinforce that Roy is a weapon to be deployed as opposed to his own crime fighter?
- In the coda, a red headed archer who calls herself Cupid (Amy Gumenick) kills Stanzler as he’s taken out of the police station. If you pay close attention, you can spot her eyeing up Laurel at one of the crimes scenes earlier in the episode.
- While the flashbacks with Maseo (Karl Yune) and Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) tie into Ollie’s memory meditation techniques, they also feel further removed from present day than any of the island events ever did. I wonder if an episode-long Hong Kong flashback would help to clarify the value of these flashbacks because at this point the current structure feels more like a deterrent than an asset.
- Felicity (when Roy asks her to test him): “For what? And don’t say STDs because that would be crossing the line.”
- Oliver (when Ted calls the locker his training pad): “Mine’s bigger.”
- Paul Blackthorne’s Lance (as Laurel goes to speak with Ted): “You sure can pick ‘em”
- Oliver (after Maseo asks if he knows what steganography is): “Is that the dinosaur with the plates on its back?” Oh flashback Oliver…so cute, so stupid.
Your turn: did this episode feel a little too conveniently timed to Roy and Laurel’s struggles? Are you intrigued by the news that there was vigilantism in Starling before the Arrow? Are you excited to see Laurel getting fight-ready? Disappointed that the cliffhanger was a red herring? And is the flashback structure working for you this season? Sound off below.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW. Here’s a glimpse at Oliver’s #1 fan getting showcased next week: