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‘Arrow’ Review: “Deathstroke”

Arrow Deathstroke Review Isabel Rochev
The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its eighteenth episode of the year with “Deathstroke,” as Thea’s kidnapping forces Oliver to take the offensive against Slade, discovering a shocking truth about Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau)’s intentions for the Queen company along the way.

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ installment “Birds of Prey” saw Helena “The Huntress” Bertinelli (Jessica de Gouw) returning to Starling City seeking vengeance against her father, taking Laurel hostage, while Roy wrestled with a difficult decision regarding Thea, so what does the eighteenth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Does Slade’s master plan bring more death and destruction for the final episodes of the season?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2, episode 18, “Deathstroke!”

Slade briefly consoles Thea about the loss of her boyfriend, but orders her out of the car in a deserted alley, and straight into the path of Brother Blood. Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to bolster Roy’s archery skills, assuring him that he did the right thing with Thea, and that to tell her the truth of their identities would only jeopardize her further. In the meantime, Felicity presses Oliver that he needs to attend one of the board meetings he’d been shirking.

Back in the past, the surviving Amazo crew members question the morality of handing over Hendrick to Slade, given his likely fate thereafter, but Sara poses that they might use the opportunity to kill Slade instead. In the present, Oliver finds Isabel Rochev waiting for him in a boardroom, assuring him that she keeps him on track. Moira arrives to remind her son to be present for the debate against Sebastian Blood later that night, nothing that they haven’t heard from Thea just yet.

Oliver attempts to track down Thea from the debate itself, while Laurel apologizes to Sebastian for accusing him weeks earlier. When the debate commences however, the talk turns to horror as Deathstroke reveals over a video feed that he has Thea Queen hostage and intends to bargain for her life. Hours later, Queen Consolidated is in full damage control swing, though Isabel presses Oliver that he still needs to make a few company decisions, for which Oliver grants her temporary CEO status. When Felicity tracks Slade’s license plate to an abandoned warehouse, Oliver recruits Sarah and Roy to accompany him to the fight.

Back in the past, Sara has Anatoli disarm one of the island’s landmines to attach to Hendrick after exchanging Oliver, believing that Slade will end up killing Hendrick anyway. Meanwhile in the present, the three vigilantes arrive to find Slade reclining comfortably awaiting them. Roy takes a swing, to no avail, as Oliver suggests they call Officer Lance to take Slade into custody, next shooting the villain with a poisonous arrow that manages to sedate him.

Later at the station with Slade in custody, Oliver and his family arrive, while the detectives bristle that Lance brought a respected businessman into custody on the say-so of a vigilante. Oliver confronts Slade in the interrogation room alone, wherein Slade reveals that he survived his injuries at Oliver’s hands and got off the Island by swimming, the Mirakuru regenerating his body thereafter. Oliver attempts to broker peace, begging for his sister’s life, before the police are forced to release Slade without any charges.

After Slade makes a show of offering a public reward for Thea’s return, Diggle and the team all attempt to follow his car to track the man, though the tracking becomes useless when Slade activates a number of decoy signals. Roy attempts to follow the car on foot, but finds the vehicle lost in the shuffle as well. When Slade returns to Thea, he explains that he only needed to make a point, and that she can leave. Before she does however, Slade offers to tell her the truth about her brother. Back in the lair, Roy begins to turn against Oliver, pointing out to Diggle, Felicity and Sara that his actions have done nothing but make things worse.

Oliver reluctantly comforts his mother on Thea’s continued absence, assuring her that her daughter will turn out alright, in spite of the many secrets that have ripped their family apart. Back in the past, Slade and his men bring Oliver and Ivo to the plane in exchange for Hendrick, but Slade quickly smells the TNT on the man’s back, and threatens to detonate it then and there. Before he does however, a vision of Shado appears in his mind, and urges him to leave Oliver and the others to rot on the island until the end of their days, visiting his family in Starling instead. Back in the present, Oliver separates Roy attacking Diggle in anger, before Felicity alerts him to something alarming at Queen Consolidated.

Oliver breaks up a late-night board meeting run by Isabel Rochev, who has since used her temporary CEO status to steal Oliver’s company out from under him, with the full support of the board. Oliver quickly realizes from her suggestions that Rochev is actually working with Slade, which leads the two to spar, but Oliver easily overpowers her. Isabel admits that the sins of Oliver’s father led her into an alliance with Slade, who planned for Oliver to attack, before Isabel gives him a location to find Thea. Slade insists on Oliver coming alone, for which Felicity surprisingly supports his decision to follow through.

While Oliver arrives to the facility and fights a number of thugs, Slade stops a prisoner transfer bus to Iron Heights, killing the guards, and inviting the men out with the promise of a proposal. Oliver arrives to the room that holds Thea, though she appears to have disappeared once again, until Felicity calls to explain that Thea walked into the precinct minutes earlier. Realizing that the kidnapping was a distraction to get his prison transfer Mirakuru subjects, Oliver races to the precinct, though Thea reveals that Slade told her Oliver’s secret: that they’d been keeping the truth about Malcolm Merlyn being her father for years. Afterward, Lance is arrested for his collusion with the vigilante, and Thea leaves the station alone, watched by Roy from a distance, before he drives out past the Starling City limits.

Sebastian Blood bristles that the kidnapping has since put Moira ahead in the polls, though Slade fires back that Blood will soon have his army to to take the city, thanks to Isabel Rochev tasking Queen Consolidated’s applied sciences with replicating the Mirakuru serum. Still seeing his vision of Shado, Slade steps out to provide Oliver with one last distraction. Meanwhile in the lair, Oliver laments that his bad decisions have made him his own worst enemy, though the time has come for them to fight back.

Finally, Laurel watches news of Slade’s fugitive status on TV, before the man himself shows up at her apartment, not intending to hurt her, but only to reveal that Oliver is in fact the Arrow.

OUR REVIEW:

Oy, this show, and the many ways in which it kills us from week to week. If we are to take ‘Arrow’’s first season with ‘Batman Begins’ as its north star, we had to wonder by which time the DC drama would enter its ‘Dark Knight’ phase, which is to say an entirely original menace hanging over Oliver Queen’s head causing far more chaos than his past. It’s a loose metaphor at best, though it certainly seemed as if the show’s second season still had a bit of gas in the ‘Begins’ tank to burn off before heading into figurative Joker period. The awkward construction of our analysis aside, good grief does an episode like “Deathstroke” firmly launch the series into some grim, unforgiving territory for Oliver Queen and his. Without so many words, ‘Arrow’ has become so very, very good.

To speak a bit more eloquently on the matter, without delving into some of the major twists just yet (of which there were many, and effective), it’s the strong sense of narrative parallel that keeps ‘Arrow’ aiming higher and higher with each episode. It isn’t just that Slade endlessly tortures his former Island companion over an incident in their past, but rather that both their experiences have set them along side-by-side paths, with their island ghosts never quite releasing their grip on them. Oliver has come a long way since the killer rescued on the beach, but Slade serves an important function in Oliver’s evolution toward heroism; a harrowing portent of what he might become if he lets the island determine his future.

And yet, even beyond the continued pressure and torment that sees Slade outguessing Oliver at every turn, proving further and further that Oliver can’t rely on skills learned in the past to deliver his future, there’s a sense that he must also embrace his vulnerabilities. Sins of the father drove the story last season, where now the sins of Oliver himself have come back to haunt them all, and Oliver isn’t so bullheaded as to ignore his mother’s desperation when he himself created its source. Of course, we know Malcolm Merlyn to be out there somewhere, but it’s still nice to push Oliver and his mother back together in a manner that feels earned, and entirely relatable for such outlandish comic book villainy.

Speaking of sins of the father, we’ve gotten the sense that Summer Glau’s availability has been sporadic enough (or at least the writing had so much to cover) that Isabel Rochev’s presence this season has been a bit inconsistent, but tonight’s twist makes all manner of perfect sense in context, regardless of fans treading on knowledge from the comics. Of course you wouldn’t hire Summer Glau without some eye toward showcasing her fighting prowess, and her alliance with Slade puts a strongly personal button on the character that more than justifies the earlier inconsistency.

Really, there’s a tremendous amount of material to digest tonight, particularly now that Thea knows her true parentage and Laurel has finally been alerted to Oliver’s secret identity, though we’ll have to wait a few weeks before finding the consequences of either. Even amid all that, “Deathstroke” found surprisingly effective use for Roy, who like Sara last week, voiced some unexpected, but genuine questions for Oliver’s leadership, and has now left Starling behind for parts unknown. Officer Lance too seems to be in a bit of a pickle, though his inevitable discovery of Oliver’s true identity will seem laughable by the time we finally get around to it, especially if Laurel beat him to it.

Bravo, good ‘Arrow.’ “Deathstroke” no doubt offered a bit of early crescendo for a season that still has five more episodes to go, but when it’s this effective, we’re not going to complain in the slightest.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Felicity didn’t have terribly much to do tonight, though we loved her “cool glass case” crack, and the surprising way she rallied Oliver to take down Slade where even Sara appeared to have her doubts.
  • If we’re going to spend more time with the Amazo crew on the island, it wouldn’t hurt to drill in their names just a bit more. The guy objecting to turning over Hendrick wasn’t the missionary guy, right? Or was he?
  • Did the other board members really not notice Oliver attacking and bending their new CEO over a table? That looked more than a little off-kilter, considering such expert blocking in the fight sequences tonight.
  • It’s a good think Slade only visited Laurel to drop some knowledge, lest he commit her 13+ kidnapping this season.

Well, what say you?  Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its latest installment? Were you shocked to see Slade revealing Oliver’s secrets to Thea and Laurel? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us April 16 for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 19, “The Man Under the Hood” on The CW!

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