TV Review: Arrow: Season 2: Episode 20: Seeing Red (CW)

*SPOILERS* Watch Arrow. If you aren’t already watching Arrow, watch Arrow. The entire first season is on Netflix, and you can watch any of the season 2 episodes thus far […]


Watch Arrow. If you aren’t already watching Arrow, watch Arrow. The entire first season is on Netflix, and you can watch any of the season 2 episodes thus far on Amazon, Playstation, or Xbox. There. There are no more excuses. It’s important to understand that without perspective there’s no way to adequately describe the importance of Seeing Red with just words; but I’ll try.

Seeing RedRoy is on a tear, due to the effects of the Mirakuru, after escaping the Cave. He has gone berserk before, but Colton Haynes brings this performance to a whole new level as more monster than man. His reactions to conversations and threats and even his fighting are all very primal, and he conveys this change in nature with real dedication. It makes the amount of effort that Slade goes through to act like a human seem that much more monumental in effect and also shatters any delusions of grandeur that come with seeing the effects of the Mirakuru in action. Roy excels as the primary antagonist of the episode. The setup works well because there’s never a focus on how Roy is actually responding to his actions. He’s characterized as more of a natural disaster or cataleptic frenzy; like being more of a Hulk type character but much more grounded in reality (or Arrow’s reality, rather). Admittedly, his rampage is relatively minor in comparison, but the emotional and psychological impact of his rage is so significantly focused that it never seems minute. This fact is solidified irreversibly in a moment that had even me going “I can’t believe they actually did that…” There’s going to be no coming back from taking an innocent life, no matter what the situation was. This may be the shock that Roy needs to really become a hero, but it could also be the thing that destroys him. Whatever it is, it was clear to me that this episode wasn’t pulling any punches. I was right, but I had no idea…more on that later.Seeing Red


There are a few side stories that all get a decent amount of screen-time. There’s an interesting side-arc of Sara having to deal with her willingness to take life, and inability to reason her past with moving forward in her relationship with Oliver, and another side story of Moira grappling with repairing her relationship with Thea and her candidacy for Mayor. Those are both quite well realized and they mix well with the main arc so everything comes together in a nice tight little package at the end. But no arc has the same punch as the flashback scenes. This time it’s a very personal story about how Oliver’s playboy lifestyle caught up to him many years ago, and how Moira has protected him from a life changing secret. I’ve always lauded Susanna Thompson’s performance as Moira Queen, but this flashback sequence perfectly illustrates the most interesting and complex parts of her character; specifically, how passionate she is about being a mother. In fact, there’s another monologue about raising children that she delivers with such sincerity that it induces chills. And Oliver having a son that he doesn’t know about will have comic fans squealing with delight. I’m included in that of course.

Seeing Red


The finale sees every single storyline of the episode pulled in to a sole point, and then basically implode. It’s made a little more natural when Moira reveals that she’s known Oliver’s secret this whole time, and there’s even a little drama when Sara essentially breaks up with Oliver and leaves Starling, but speaking plainly the conclusion in Verdant is decent, but it’s also sort of weak compared to all the other things that were happening in the earlier parts of the episode. It’s all resolved a little too simply. That’s not necessarily bad, but it takes away from the emotional severity of the events prior. Roy gets taken down relatively easy, and save for some emotional friction between Sara and Sin, (Yes Sin is back, and she couldn’t be more welcome!) and a nominal exchange between Thea and Roy, the finale just sort of ends a little too flatly. It felt like there was a more substantial bang coming from all that the episode was building on, but I guess that we’ll have to wait till the next couple of episodes to see how Roy deals with being a genuine killer, and what’s going to happen to the character of Sara after her departure. It’s a good episode, and the main storyline had a lot going for it, but just like Heir to the Demon, it takes the easiest ending available to it to end the episode, and as a result it loses a phenomenal narrative right at the very end. It’s still a great arc, and even when it gets flat it doesn’t drop in quality too much, but it’s still significant enough to notice.






…Just kidding. You thought that was where I was going to end it? No way in hell. The final minutes of Seeing Red left me absolutely speechless.  And I talk a lot, so that isn’t easy. I thought this episode was a bit more severe just from watching it, but the true finale took that farther than I ever thought Arrow would go. I mean Tommy’s death in season 1 was sad for sure, but this was such a personal scene that it really felt sort of wrong to watch it. That’s how a truly traumatic scene should make you feel, like you aren’t supposed to be seeing it. That’s emotional impact. Everyone just kills it. It was just brilliant acting on everyone’s part that made this scene matter so much. Stephen Amell’s desperation is so heart wrenching and for a moment we just forget how much of a badass he’s supposed to be, as he just pleads desperately (which is very characteristic of Oliver from the comics), Manu Bennett’s quiet rage is terrifying as always, but he really conveys a sense of duty instead of this being a passionate slaying, which is incredibly Deathstroke and brilliantly conveyed, Susanna Thompson really nails both the fear and courage that she needs to exhibit to get this scene to work as well as it did, but what makes it all come together, the thing that drives that emotional punch to the gut, is Willa Holland. Thea’s cries are what reallIMG_0298y make the scene feel personal. The whole scene is brilliant, but Willa Holland’s performance makes it feel real. Her desperation and fear is so palpable, but it’s her ignorance that makes it a true tragedy. It feels like it’s hardest on her because she is the only truly innocent party, and she conveys that with true proficiency. Of course special mention goes to the editing for showing the conclusion of the flashback story in the middle of the scene, and the ending shot just pushes this whole sequence down your throat and makes it the single most memorable moment of the series thus far.

Seeing Red is without a doubt the most significant episode yet. What makes that so strange is that the premise is so simple, yet the events of the episode’s story, and the ending in particular, are going to reverberate through every arc for the remainder of the series. There will be an element of this episode in every future story or character arc. It’s not going to be about the fallout they will deal with in the next episode, but the true emotional burden that will weigh heavily on them in every episode to come.

-PS (for real)

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

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