Arrow season 2 episode 20 review: Seeing Red
When a TV show names an episode "Seeing Red", you know nothing good is going to happen...
This review contains spoilers.
2.20 Seeing Red
Going in, we all thought that Seeing Red would have to be about Roy – the episode title was there, the issue of a Mirakuru-infected teenager was getting more pressing and, for all the relationship issues in Oliver’s life, it was the ones with Thea that seemed to be plaguing him the most. But the episode wasn’t really about Roy, who barely featured aside from lurking and throttling, and the real reason we were watching only became apparent in the hour’s last moments.
There’s a well-known rule that applies to shows like Arrow, and it’s that when a character learns the big secret, they’re not long for this world. Tommy was first, although the series did at least use his discovery of Oliver’s secret identity in some character development for both characters, and now Moira has also bitten the dust. It’s not even that she just this week learned the truth, but that she chose her moment to reveal the depth of her knowledge to Oliver very carefully, and that fine detail makes her death completely different.
Oliver’s choice to be secretive with those around him might be about protecting them on some level, but it’s also about protecting himself. Tommy’s reaction to The Hood plagues him just as much as his friend’s death and, should someone on the outside accidently find out without the proper time to vet how they might feel about his night time activities, he fears they will reject him in the same way. Moira telling her son how proud she is of what he’s been doing, then, are words as powerful to him as Tommy dubbing him a murderer.
Despite this, and the pointed flashbacks all leading up to that final few minutes, the episode’s apparent focus on Roy was an ingenious distraction. Had things turned out a little differently here, it could well have been Thea who got the chop but, with Roy’s story left unfinished and Thea surely only weeks away from discovering Oliver’s secret for herself, Moira had to go. If the fight between Slade and Oliver wasn’t fraught with enough pain and righteous vengeance, Oliver now has a vendetta that’s arguably stronger than Slade’s.
With only two episodes left before we’re done with Arrow’s second season, however, this week’s episode managed to squeeze in some set up for other characters too. It’s safe to say that Roy will not be dying this year, for example, as too many opportunities have come and gone for this to have any impact. Sara, however, has always been a possible candidate for the big season finale death, as big a loss as that would be, and her self-deprecating breakup speech to Oliver and subsequent trip to “see an old friend” suggest that, even if she doesn’t make it out of the season alive, she may help to introduce some new characters before she goes.
Sara’s presence in Oliver’s life at this point in his journey has been about confirming his growth since returning from the island, and Slade’s plan to slowly chip away the same hope and goodness that Sara has put on a pedestal works brilliantly with this. Making Oliver choose between Thea and Moira was never a fair fight, even if he had accidently shown favour to one of them as he did on the island, but the point of this twisted little exercise didn’t even seem to be about choice or sacrifice. It was about punishment, as with the moment Roy hallucinated Thea, and Oliver’s renewed sense of self-worth means that he has something to lose.
Slade would never have been able to hurt season one Oliver in the same way, but now the life that he’s built is ripe with opportunities to punish him for perceived past mistakes. Next week, that will lead Oliver to hand himself over to Slade, but I get the sense that killing Moira was just the warm-up act for more mayhem to come. Let’s hope Sara’s mysterious friends can bring some fire power with them.
Read Caroline's review of the previous episode, The Man Under The Hood, here.
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