‘Arrow’ Review: “The Man Under the Hood”
‘Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its nineteenth episode of the year with “The Man Under the Hood,” as Oliver fights to prevent Slade from achieving his goal of a Mirakuru-enhanced army, even enlisting the help of a few 'Flash' characters, while Laurel wrestles with her newfound knowledge of the Arrow's identity.
Last week's ‘Arrow’ installment “Deathstroke” saw Thea's kidnapping force Oliver to take the offensive against Slade, as he discovered Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau)'s intentions for the Queen company along the way, so what does the nineteenth 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 19, “The Man Under the Hood!”
Felicity, Oliver and Sara mask up in a van en route to the Queen Industries Applied Sciences warehouse, now under the control of Isabel Rochev. In order to deter Slade’s progress, the team infiltrates the facility and place a number of explosives, safely clearing out the guards before Oliver reluctantly pushes the detonation. Rochev swears on the morning news justice will be done, though Oliver admits they can’t be certain what, or when Slade’s retaliation will come.
Laurel continues pondering Oliver’s identity as the Arrow, asking her now-incarcerated father to offer up the identities of the hero or his blonde accomplice, though he insists he has no idea. Meanwhile, the Queen family accountant lays out that Isabel Rochev fairly effectively managed to dilute the Queen family’s hold on their company, though they’ll need Thea’s signature to establish a new family trust that Isabel can’t gain access to. Oliver laments that what happened with Isabel was his fault, as Moira reveals that Rochev and Robert Queen had been involved during Isabel's time as an business school intern. In the past, Anatoli prepares to torture Dr. Ivo, who claims he has a means to cure the Mirakuru in Slade’s system.
With Roy nowhere to be found, Oliver, Sara, Diggle and Felicity return to the lair to find Slade there waiting to ambush them. All three fighters do their best to challenge Slade, but end up defeated with ease, before Slade mysteriously disappears. A while later, Laurel visits Sara in the hospital, noting the extensive scarring on her sister's back she’d never seen before. Sara and Oliver pass the injuries off as a motorcycle mishap, but Laurel realizes from the scars she’d seen on Oliver that Sara must be the other vigilante.
Oliver asks Thea to sign the document that could protect their trust from Isabel, though Thea remains bitter to have found herself out as the daughter of two mass murderers, that of Malcolm Merlyn and Moira Queen, and all the resulting implications for Tommy and beyond. Downstairs, Felicity figures out that Slade hadn’t intended to kill them, but rather to steal William Tockman’s master key, so that he might find the equipment he needs elsewhere.
Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) inventory the Starling City S.T.A.R. Labs facility in advance of its closing, before the death of a security guard draws their attention to the appearance of Deathstroke. The pair flee, before Cisco uses a prototype sonic weapon to slow Slade’s advance, buying them enough time to escape. Slade settles for a machine housed in the stores, as Oliver and Sara see from afar that they’re too late, unaware that the nearby Laurel is also watching them. Later that night, Felicity greets Cisco and Caitlin for an update on Barry’s condition, though Caitlin refuses to divulge exactly what was stolen.
A little hacking tells Felicity that Slade stole a prototype “bio-infuser” that could take the blood from a single patient and dilute it into multiple subjects, though it at least uses enough power to be tracked remotely. Elsewhere, Oliver confronts Isabel with an opportunity to do the right thing, though she corrects Oliver that she and Robert didn’t merely have an affair, but rather were soulmates intent on running away together. In the end, Robert chose to return to his family, despite already knowing that Thea wasn’t his biological daughter. Back in the past, Ivo assures Sara that the cure is real, though he’ll only give up its location in exchange for a quick death. Ivo provides a key to a safe in the freighter, and Sara goes to hold up her end of the bargain with a gun.
While Laurel calls to set up a meeting with the Arrow, Quentin finds himself confronted and beaten by a fellow prisoner looking for a bit of revenge on the man. Later, Laurel admits to the Arrow that she didn’t initially understand why she felt so connected to the vigilante, but a call about Quentin interrupts Laurel’s opportunity to explain herself. Laurel rushes to Quentin in the prison hospital, offering to tell her father the vigilante’s identity, but Quentin refuses, given all the Arrow has done for the city. Laurel once again manages to press-gang the DA into dropping the charges against her father, though the beleaguered woman urges Laurel to pick her battles in the future.
Oliver convinces Thea to meet up briefly, but ends up called away when Felicity learns that Slade has activated the infuser. Later entering the factory, Oliver finds the unconscious prisoners hooked up to the machine, with Roy at the center having his blood diluted for its Mirakuru. Slade and Isabel appear, forcing Oliver to cut power to the machine and battle it out with the villainous duo. Diggle shoots Isabel from above, seemingly killing her, while Oliver manages to incapacitate Slade with an explosive, and free an unconscious Roy from the machine before their escape.
Roy remains in a weakened state, though Oliver managed to snag a vial of the Mirakuru with which to synthesize a cure. The team bristles that Oliver never told them about any possible cure, to which Oliver explains that he’d been ashamed, years earlier declining the opportunity to cure Slade in favor of killing him. Back in the past, Oliver stops Sara from shooting Ivo, instead opting to do the deed himself, and sparing Sara the personal toll of taking a life. With Ivo dead, Oliver questions any of the surviving freighter men if they know how to pilot a submarine.
Thea prepares to leave the Queen mansion, before Oliver explains to both Moira and Thea that Robert knew all along of Thea’s true parentage, and opted to be her father regardless. However, Thea remains unmoved, and still opts to leave her lying family behind. A while later, Felicity tasks Cisco and Caitlin with deriving a cure from the Mirakuru, while Laurel pays Oliver a visit at the club, solely to hug him. Elsewhere, Slade revives Isabel with the Mirakuru, as his new super-soldier army looks on.
Considering the action-packed (perhaps even overstuffed) nature of the previous few episodes, ‘Arrow’ season 2 was bound to use up an hour shifting the pieces into position for its final run. There’s nothing wrong with that exactly, and to its credit, “The Man Under the Hood” still manages to incorporate some strong (if relatively brief) fight sequences, though much of the episode's function serves to clarify a few loose ends, and sprinkle about revelations to inform the ultimate endgame. Secrets are fairly common-place in the ‘Arrow’-verse, though despite the apparent bombshells dropped during “Deathstroke,” not much about tonight’s installment proves particularly shocking to the audience.
Laurel appears to have confirmed Oliver’s secret for herself, piecing together Sara’s vigilante involvement as well (Quentin still seems to miss this), and that should perhaps feel like heavier in the context of the story than it does, though the writers wisely position Laurel to accept the actions Oliver and Sara take, rather than confront them directly about it. Laurel has proven a difficult character to write for since the series' inception, season 2 bringing her through some of the most tangentially weak storylines yet, but it’s definitely at least a step in the right direction to stop positioning the character as an obstacle for others. How that plays out in the final episodes of the season is anyone’s guess, but for now, bringing Laurel into Team Arrow with baby steps proves about the wisest course to take.
And yes, tonight brings with it the introduction of ‘Flash’ characters Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow, though their inclusion neither greatly influenced the plot, nor gave us tremendously strong insight into ‘The Flash,’ itself, at least to the point that producers had so grandly hyped the 19th episode. Granted, the original plan had been to debut Barry as his costumed counterpart altogether, we’re not sure the setup proved entirely necessary. Nay, the biggest moments of “The Man Under the Hood” came from Isabel Rochev’s twisted involvement with Robert Queen, though we’re hard-pressed to imagine how much weight the revelation really carries with those unfamiliar with the comic character. Much more interesting was the effect on Thea, who rightly bristles against the implications of her Merlyn DNA, and seems for now unmoved that Robert Queen chose to raise her regardless.
The flashbacks also brought about an interesting wrinkle this week, as we learn Oliver once had the opportunity to cure Slade, but instead opted to kill him. It speaks to the unreliability of the flashback format that Oliver never divulged this information previously, though it at least serves as an effective reminder of the parallel narratives. Lest we forget, even as present and flashback Oliver keep on relatively level tracks with one another, the latter’s journey will only push him further toward becoming the killer we knew from the pilot regardless of how the present develops. One wonders if the flashbacks will tie to the main stories as effectively season-by-season, though the Mirakuru cure at least provides an intriguing complication going forward.
And that’s it really, pieces shifted around the board as Slade prepares his army (including the ravagingly-resurrected Rochev) for the final battles, with most everyone’s cards laid out on the table. A little awkward, here and there, but a reasonably effective setup for the endgame, and even ‘Arrow’ needs an autopilot now and again.
AND ANOTHER THING…
- So, understandably we can chalk up to willful denial Quentin’s inability to see the Arrow’s true identity, though we have to imagine the revelation proving fairly anticlimactic if it truly came out into the open. He has to know, but maybe acts as though he doesn’t want to.
- Nice of the writers to acknowledge the unforeseen consequences of Thea’s discarded attraction to Tommy. Oh, the Luke and Leia of it all.
- Notably chipper music in the introduction of our ‘Flash’ characters, presumably to foreshadow the series’ lighter tone, though darn if it didn’t stick out like a sore thumb here. And what’s up with Barry never mentioning Iris to Felicity?
- Of course, Isabel’s survival was even less of a surprise than her relationship with Robert, considering the leaked set photos of late. Still, we suppose the Mirakuru twist was preserved, at least.
Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its latest installment? Were you surprised by Isabel's true grudge against the Queens, or the appearance of 'Flash' characters? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next Wednesday for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 20, “Seeing Red” on The CW!