TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 19: The Man Under the Hood (CW)

*Possible Spoilers ahead* After losing everything to Isabel Rochev and Slade Wilson, Oliver and his team decide that the materials in the Queen Consolidated Science lab are too dangerous for […]

*Possible Spoilers ahead*

Man Under the Hood Oliver bombAfter losing everything to Isabel Rochev and Slade Wilson, Oliver and his team decide that the materials in the Queen Consolidated Science lab are too dangerous for their enemies to have access to. The episode starts with Oliver, Dig, Felicity, and Sara (sans Roy) making a desperate gambit to keep anything unsavory from being used against them by planning to blow up the Applied Sciences building. It’s refreshing to see Team Arrow as the rebels instead of the law in Starling city because it’s a common theme in the Green Arrow comics for them to be up against an authoritative or government level enemy with illicit yet official ties. Now that Slade has taken over Queen Consolidated pretty much completely and Quentin Lance, The Arrow’s only ally in law enforcement, has been taken off the board, the team is experiencing the underdog lifestyle like never before. It’s successful in establishing the team as the merry men rather than the sheriff, and also sets the tone of the episode. The island scenes also shake things up when Ivo reveals one of the biggest secrets Oliver has been keeping from his team. There are a lot of firsts, and for the most part the episode is relatively small, but it still has a lot to say.

The main story is very and compact, and on its own could have been considered quaint or obvious. Deathstroke is after a device that can help him build his army of super soldiers, but after the team blows up the Queen Science building, he has to find one somewhere else, so he targets the one from a S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Starling City. Team Arrow waits for him to turn on the machine so they can track him and Oliver can hit him when he’s at his most vulnerable. They could have gotten away with this being the whole episode, but the story finds a lot of life in what the team and characters are doing in between the panels (for more information on this reference watch Super. Or just do that anyway.), and really creates an emotional pull that makes for a pleasant surprise that they didn’t even have to include (thanks Arrow!). Oliver (Stephen Amell) has a lot of great scenes as he tries to repair the bridge between Thea (Willa Holland) and himself.  Although we see a return of Thea’s teenage angst from the first season, this time around her reactions actually seem pretty reasonable for a nineteen year old girl considering the new information she’s gotten about who her father actually is. But it’s Oliver who gets the important character moment. In his desperation to stop Slade, he leaves Thea hanging at a critical moment, and it may cost him and his family more than their ready to pay. It’s should make for a compelling arc that will show some unique conflict in future episodes as we see Oliver facing financial crisis for the first time. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how Team Arrow faces it as well.

Killer Vibe

Once the S.T.A.R. Labs scene starts its comic reference after comic reference, starting with S.T.A.R. Labs itself, then introducing Caitlin Snow (DC’s Killer Frost) and Cisco Ramon (DC’s Vibe), pre superpowers, played by guest stars Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes respectively. They will also be appearing as regulars in this year’s upcoming Flash series.  Then there’s a HUGE reference to DC comic’s Doctor Light and a representation of the broader science fiction implications in the universe of Arrow; as well as a small update on Barry’s condition, which all just makes the prospect of a Flash series in the same universe that much more exciting.

It seems that everyone has a stake in the story, but the real credit for holding up their ends of the larger narrative, despite not having main character statuses, goes to Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Laurel putting the pieces together is decent enough side story, but it’s her final realization of her information that makes the wholeThe Man Under the Hood Laurel and Lance thing come together in an interesting way. A lot of the credit for this conclusion goes to an emotional speech from Paul Blackthorne’s Lance that makes the whole identity journey more worthwhile and the downplayed conclusion all the more natural and convincing. But his prison beatdown, and the conversation with the guard really showcases the price for helping The Arrow, and how willing he is to pay it. It strengthens his character’s stock immensely, and Paul Blackthorne sells the hell out of it. Another side story that doesn’t get a lot of screen time yet has a significant emotional impact is on the island, where we finally figure out the fate of Anthony Ivo (guest star Dylan Neal). Oliver takes the burden of killing him from Sara, and also exhibits his willingness to sacrifice his soul for the good of others. It’s a powerful character moment that makes their bond in the present day that much more substantial, and puts us one step closer to understanding what events led to him to becoming The Vigilante in the first place.

The Man Under the Hood

“Don’t forget who taught you how to fight, kid!”

The Man Under the Hood takes a small step back from the earth shattering Deathstroke. But it’s not actually lesser in any way for doing so. It has a tight script, with plenty of side stories that get a significant enough amount of screen-time to not leave any of them hanging. There are a ton of comic references that will have longtime fans of DC Comics practically giddy, and may leave the new fans a bit confused (call a local comic nerd, believe me, it’s going to be important). But for new fans and old, The Man Under the Hood succeeds. Oliver and his team take the fight to Deathstroke, and actually manage to scrape out some ground against him in the coming battle. Slade’s genius plan takes an even more genius turn, when Roy (guest star Colton Haynes) shows back up in an incredible scene that I personally didn’t see coming (but you might’ve). Isabel Rochev (guest star Summer Glau) also gets new life as a more than capable supervillain that I doubt will be going away anytime soon now that she’s a true student of Slade Wilson and possibly a reference to Ravager (Yay! More days of Summer!). But the true standout of the episode comes from Paul Blackthorne and Katie Cassidy’s Lance and Laurel respectively. Laurel’s character finds a cogent new cause as she discovers the secret behind the Arrow and Canary, and what she does with it makes for some great character development that I for one was happy to see her get. Speaking of character development, Paul Blackthorne has always been amazing as Lance, but he gets much more to do when his character reaches a low he’s never experienced, and his subsequent survival and the source of his strength in the face of this adversity reveals an integrity only hinted at in past episodes. Manu Bennett’s Slade absolutely kills as usual, but he diminishes his presence enough to let the other characters have a chance to be brilliant as well.

So I would have say this week’s Arrow comes up flush.

Everyone pulls twice as much weight than usual, with a little bit extra from Lance and Laurel, to give equal performances that don’t overshadow one or the other, and exhibit a brilliant showing of characterization as well as plot and mythology development that proves just how alive this show really is. The first of the five is down, then Arrow goes on hiatus to bring more goodness back next season, I’m happy to see this season start to wind down, but I doubt the biggest and best reveals have already happened. Stay tuned, I’m sure there will be plenty more for all of us to nerd out about in the coming weeks. 

Seeing Red

Be sure to stay glued to the CW for next week’s episode “The Man Under the Hoodie”! …that’s not really what it’s called, but I couldn’t resist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-PS

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

Killer Frost/Caitlin Snow wiki
Vibe/Francisco Ramon wiki

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