Arrow season 2 episode 19 review: The Man Under the Hood

Review Caroline Preece 18 Apr 2014 - 14:39

Lots of different characters got a chance to shine in this week's episode of Arrow...

This review contains spoilers.

2.19 The Man Under The Hood

And just like that, Laurel is a character we can get behind again. The Man Under the Hood might have had a lot of Slade-related shenanigans going on but, for a lot of people, it was also the episode in which almost everyone’s least favourite element of Arrow found her place on the show again. I think we all expected Laurel to react badly to the news that her ex-boyfriend might also be the vigilante that’s been running around Starling City for a year, but just didn’t have the specifics. Instead, her reaction to the potentially earth-shattering news Slade deviously delivered was one of grace and acceptance.

So, with Oliver still under the impression that he’s keeping his (and Sara’s) big secret from Laurel, she’s now keeping her own from him. Why? Because Quentin’s words about not wanting to know the name of the titular man under the hood made sense, and this isn’t some annoying way of drawing out the inevitable, mutual revelation that it might have been otherwise (I’m looking at you, Smallville). This, and Thea’s own struggle with discovering her true paternity, have made the two spare parts of the season (and possibly the series) suddenly matter again. With more than one costumed hero in town, that’s no mean feat.

Roy and Thea’s journey has splintered, with the latter not doing too well after being hooked up to Slade’s super-soldier machine, and that leaves space for both Laurel and Thea to become characters in their own right. They’re not just Oliver’s love interest and Oliver’s sister, just as Suicide Squad made sure Diggle wasn’t just Oliver’s mute driver, and that’s something that has been needed. There are a lot of characters on this season of Arrow, with a fair few of them already having taken up residence in the Arrow Cave at some point, and it’s a shame when new players like Sara are more developed than those who have been around since the pilot.

Speaking of pilots, this episode also found time for some handy set-up for Flash, which involved not much Barry Allen and quite a lot of Caitlin and Cisco. Both are characters from the comics I’m not familiar enough with to comment, but their introduction here felt very comedy sidekick-y. There’s nothing wrong with that, since the hope is that Flash will be a lot lighter in tone than Arrow, but it meant that their inclusion in a pretty heavy episode of this show was a little jarring. With Slade running around and Oliver having an internal crisis every other scene, there wasn’t a lot of room for quirky lab assistants.

Relatively speaking, a lot happened on the Deathstroke front this week but, in a show that does action so well and with the promise that this episode would see a showdown between Oliver and Slade, nothing new really developed between them. We already knew that Slade was planning a building an army with the prisoners he released, and the new bit of information about Oliver choosing to kill him rather than cure him on the island didn’t land quite as shockingly as the show seemed to think it would. A shameful secret from Oliver’s past seems to get aired in every episode right now, and this one could kind of have been assumed.

But now Summer Glau’s Isabel is a threat to Team Arrow both through her control of the Queen’s assets and her brand new superpowers, apparently able to bring her back to life. I think we were all worried there for a minute that Arrow wasn’t going to use the character for more than as a jilted lover of Robert with a good brain for business, but now we have a Mirakuru-charged villain more expendable than Slade. Though I’m almost certain that Deathstroke will meet his maker by the end of this season, its feels right that a third juiced-up character has been introduced at this point in the season.

Next week’s episode, Seeing Red, is a Roy-centric adventure that promises to either make or break his connection to Oliver and Thea while also, we assume, solidifying his status as hero or lone vigilante.

Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, Deathstroke, here.

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