TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 18: Deathstroke (CW)

Spoilers below, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you only have yourself to blame.  In the Green Arrow comics it’s hard to tell who his “nemesis” really is. He […]

Spoilers below, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you only have yourself to blame. 

In the Green Arrow comics it’s hard to tell who his “nemesis” really is. He doesn’t have much of a rogue’s gallery and what he does have he usually shares with the other heroes. But there’s still a contention about who his actual nemesis is. Is it Merlyn? Count Vertigo? Nope. I think, and so do the creators of Arrow apparently, that it’s always been Slade. But a nemesis usually matches you blow for blow. Green Arrow is different, in the sense that he is never going to match up to his nemesis. Slade beats him at every turn. He is better in every way, and it never stops Oliver from fighting his hardest against him. It’s a perfect metaphor for the character of Oliver Queen and how hard he struggles against the parts of his life he has no control over. But sometimes struggle is the most important part of being a hero, and the main concept behind Deathstroke is struggle. So it’s no surprise that the episode ends up being so outstanding, and exhibiting the most humanity of any of the episodes prior.

“Now we fight back.”

Isabel and Oliver

“The sins of the father are the sins of the son.”
I got chills…

It’s difficult to pick apart Deathstroke and point out its flaws and merits (but I do, because I care) when it all blends together so well. Every one of the actors pull out all the stops to make their characters’ performances memorable, which is especially impressive considering how much is actually going on in the plot. All the characters are experiencing the same crisis, but they interpret and react to it in different ways. Most of the cast get plenty of screentime and it really helps to boost the characters’ development. Team Arrow’s fraternal relationship takes center stage this time as well, which fits the personal nature of the conflict, and brings out a more human side of what they do and why they do it. Extra credit goes to Colton Haynes, for this specifically, for playing the rebellious youth with actual substance. His age gap conflict, as well as the one associated with his ability level, has reached an incredibly natural climax that’s been especially well developed as the series has progressed. Though Roy’s part in the story and how it was presented was significant, it doesn’t mean that the other characters had to take sidelines (with the exception of Laurel, which is unfortunate after seeing her do so well in Birds of Prey). Contributions from supporting characters were at an all time high, including the return of Isabel Rochev (guest star Summer Glau), who’s been absent since the Moscow episode. She finally reveals her true nature, and it’s fantastic! I’m a Summer Glau fan, (Firefly and The Sarah Conner Chronicles are probably why) but I haven’t actually found anything lately that she was particularly good in. Arrow changes that when she gets to reveal that her character is absolutely insane, which she does pretty well. Her character’s motivation and allegiance are both surprisingly well played, and I’m looking forward to her continuing her story alongside Slade and Blood.

 

Deathstroke Moira and OliverStephen Amell gives a truly heartbreaking performance and creates an emotional balance regarding the difficulty of being a superhero, as well as an older brother. It makes for a more desperate and vulnerable Oliver Queen, which shows in the action and preparation scenes that exhibit a real necessity now that there’s something tangible at stake. Susanna Thompson’s Moira Queen compliments Amell’s portrayal perfectly, and gives the most convincing interpretation of Moira’s regret than she has ever exhibited before. The scenes of her and Oliver are some of the best that the episode has to offer, despite the lack of any key plot points and unproductive nature of their dialogue, which despite all that, is incredibly memorable (Especially Moira’s monologue about raising kids). A certain scene also gets special mention because of the effective use of music to really sell the tone. I don’t usually mention music in my articles because it’s always fairly obvious to me that the music is good unless it’s so bad it’s worth mentioning, but I was especially affected by the mansion scene with Moira and Oliver in particular, which gets a lot of credit thanks to Blake Neely’s score.

Deathstroke Slade and ShadoThe island scenes continue with Sara’s transformation from bubbly college girl to amoral survivalist. There’re actually a lot more of these than there were in the last episode, and it does a substantial amount to reveal how Sara took her initial steps to becoming the Canary, but it also reveals what drives Slade. The Mirakuru (or just plain insanity) make Slade think that he’s being followed around by the ghost of Shado (guest star Celina Jade). And it’s creeeeeeeepy. But it also solidifies the reasoning behind Slade’s madness. Celina Jade gives a haunting performance as Slade’s perception of the phantom of the woman he loved. It’s appropriately terrifying, and even more so when she’s seen in the present day with Slade in Starling City, but hasn’t changed in appearance at all. It’s a small detail, but vital to creating the illusion of…well creating an illusion. The final part of the episode, with Slade revealing Oliver’s identity to Laurel is meant to leave with a sort of cliffhanger to make the audience hungry for more, (which it does) but it also feels shoehorned in. Not enough time is given to process such a significant event. It’s a shame, but I doubt it will even be an issue in the next episode where we’ll see most of the fallout from it.

“You’d honestly kill me because I’d dare to criticize the almighty Oliver Queen?”

Deathstroke Sara bow

No. I’d kill you because you’re hurting my friend. Let him go”

Deathstroke is amazing though; no punches pulled, no strings attached, amazing. Everyone brings their performances to the next level to make this perhaps the most emotional Arrow yet. Amell exhibits a hell of a range as a complex character, as well as maintaining that he is a total badass. The threat of the villain and his plans don’t even need to be explained to make them seem convincingly horrifying. The exposition does the heavy lifting to let the audience come to that conclusion on their own, making it much more natural and authentic. Manu Bennett continues to push the envelope as a comic book style villain with a believable level of both menace and nuance. Colton Haynes also keeps getting better and better as Roy, and this episode shows more than ever how much potential the character has in future storylines. Dig, Felicity, and Sara take backseats, but never fade out of the story. In fact, their bond seems even stronger when Roy gets out of hand in a fantastic scene in the Arrow cave. Summer Glau finally gets to come out of her shell, with surprising results, and even gets a short but intense action scene that was easy to see coming, but still pleasantly surprising (Mostly due to the conclusion. That had me on the edge of my seat). Susanna Thompson gives possibly the best performance she’s given as Moira Queen so far. Her character’s reaction to Thea’s kidnapping ends up making the episode’s conflict seem that much direr.

I was honestly blown away with how well conceived this episode was, and now that I’ve really had time to process it, I can say that it’s definitely in the top 5 episodes of the season thus far. Deathstroke is everything that you wanted from Arrow; but more than that, it’s the things you didn’t know that you did.

-PS

Deathstroke Roy leaving

Hey Roy, while you’re out, can you be a pal and pick up a Nightwing for me? Thanks.

Arrow airs Wednesday nights 8 PM/7 PM C only on the CW©

All images courtesy of The CW©
Arrow — The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow

Isabel Rochev dcwiki: http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Isabel_Rochev_%28New_Earth%29

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