Arrow season 2 episode 18 review: Deathstroke

Review Caroline Preece 4 Apr 2014 - 13:25

Slade Wilson enacts his complex attack on Oliver Queen in an Arrow episode that doesn't disappoint...

This review contains spoilers.

2.18 Deathstroke

Since he literally swam across the ocean and dropped back into Oliver’s life in Starling City, Slade has been gleefully promising his sweet, sweet revenge and, this week, he put that plan into action. Targeting every part of Oliver’s life at once, with the best kind of evil villain omnipotence and an only slightly ludicrous amount of power, resources and influence, Slade finally donned his Deathstroke clobber and set about getting stuff done. That included, as we saw at the end of last week’s episode, taking Thea hostage, unleashing secrets left, right and centre and, somewhat unintentionally I’m sure, driving a wedge between members of Team Arrow.

This is the third episode in a row that deals directly with fans’ expectations from comic-book incarnations of characters or super-teams (after Suicide Squad and Birds Of Prey) and, if the quality, excitement and thoughtfulness of those episodes are anything to go by, then that’s probably the best way for the show to continue. As a portrait of Slade Wilson, Deathstroke was a brilliantly twisted and dark hour of Arrow that, by focusing on just one outside character and his effect on Oliver and the rest of the team, feels tighter and more urgent than the bulk of the Malcolm Merlyn stuff from last year.

His first move to turn Thea against her brother was just step one in a grand scheme to toy with Oliver, break him down gradually and revel in the chaos he’s caused and, by telling her of her true patronage just one week after she declared Oliver the only trustworthy person in her life was the lowest blow he could deliver. Thea might be a little inconsequential to the show, but that’s just a by-product of what she represents to our hero. Thea is the only person who trusts and believes in Oliver somewhat unconditionally, and this innocence and naivety is something that he relies on to maintain the lies he tells himself.

She sees him as the man he’d like to be without the complication of his night-time activities and, short of telling her the biggest secret of all, Slade couldn’t have chosen a better person to strip away from his life. Then there’s Laurel, left until the final moments of the episode just to tease us that little bit more, who now knows everything. Laurel is a character currently undergoing refurbishment by the writers after her disastrous first half of the season, so letting her into the inner circle at this point could accelerate her development back into a vital part of the show. That said, it could just as well push her back down into the gutter.

So meticulous are his moves, Slade even manages to drive away Roy and Quentin, we assume without really meaning to. Roy’s frustration with the way Oliver has chosen to train him and keep his powers in check has been bubbling under the surface for weeks and, with Thea in trouble and both of their judgements skewed, it was only a matter of how that would explode, rather than if. Now, Roy has abandoned Team Arrow and Quentin has been arrested for allowing a costumed vigilante to dictate police moves, leaving Oliver with an ever-dwindling collection of allies. Thank God for Felicity and Diggle, is all I say.

But we know this can’t be the end of Slade’s tirade against his old friend, and we’re left to wonder what he might have planned for the two core members of Team Arrow. Maybe he’s simply underestimated them, given that neither is particularly powerful and are lacking in a bond either familial or romantic, and that would be a neat little twist on the way Oliver has decided to establish his secret identity. Despite his most loyal companions talking him off the ledge at the end of the hour, however, Slade has succeeded in exposing Oliver as a liar to those he holds most dear, and that’s going to take its toll.

We can assume that this is Oliver’s lowest point, from which he can begin to fight back, but will he be able to repair his relationships with Laurel, Roy and Thea, as well as get his company back from Isabel’s clutches with half of his team disassembled? With the big showdown scheduled for next week, we’ll soon find out. 

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, Birds Of Prey, here.

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