Arrow: Deathstroke review

Slade Wilson makes his move, and that means bad things for Oliver Queen and friends, but good things for Arrow viewers!

Had Arrow season two ended right here, I might have been okay with it. While it was free of the kind of extravagant, life-threatening set pieces of last year’s season finale, “Deathstroke” felt, in many ways, like a culmination of Arrow year one and two. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy that there are five episodes to go, because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye. While far from a perfect episode, it does enough things right, keeps the tension high, moves the whole plot forward, and never really goes for the cheap shots. I’m going to spoil the hell out of “Deathstroke,” so if you haven’t watched it yet, you may or may not want to read on.

We pick up moments after where we left off last week, with Thea hitching a ride with the esteemed Slade Wilson. Now, all things being equal, would YOU get in a car with this guy? I realize that we, as fans of the show, know considerably more about Mr. Wilson’s murderous proclivities, but isn’t his vibe just a little bit… intense? I know, it’s not good to judge a book by its cover, even when that book has elaborately groomed facial hair and a cool eyepatch, but in this case, the scowling, growling-voiced dude who has been throwing shade at your brother might not be the right fella to jump in the back seat with. Letting Thea run right into the arms of a waiting Brother Blood was a nice touch, though.

With Thea’s abduction out of the way, we could get right back into the interesting stuff…Moira’s mayoral campaign! Oh, the excitement. Sebastian’s line to Ollie about Thea’s “lateness” being his fault because of “gridlock” that his motorcade created was fun, though. I’ve missed Kevin Alejandro, even though his presence means the foregrounding of my least favorite subplot in recent television history. His Brother Blood has been a terrific background baddie this season, and as awesome as Slade Wilson is, I just want to make sure that Arrow isn’t going to get rid of TWO great villains at the end of this season.

Anyway, that subtle taunt felt like it carried even more weight as the episode progressed. Everyone has Oliver’s number and everyone is in the loop about the bad things that are about to go down…except him. For a guy who has successfully punched, kicked, and shot his way out of 41 episodes worth of tight spots, he sure does seem to be in checkmate right now, all before a single punch has been thrown. 

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I’ve kinda had it with Roy, though. The post miraclo mirakuru rage issues have been wearing on me for quite some time, and now, his whole metrosexual (and kinda incompetent) Wolverine thing is pretty done. This isn’t a knock on Colton Haynes, who does a fine job with an inconsistent character. But is there a single viewer who didn’t know that Roy would blame Ollie for Thea’s kidnapping? At least the rest of the team has had it with him, too. “Of course you take his side, you’re screwing him,” he barks at Sara…and everyone rolls their eyes. Love it.

It was nice to see Summer Glau back as Isabel Rochev, but we all knew that wasn’t going to end well. I realize that Oliver has never taken his duties as CEO particularly seriously (Felicity’s crack about him keeping his business suit in a “cool glass case” was a good laugh), and of course he’s under an awful lot of stress (even for him), but c’mon…signing over temporary stewardship of the company to her? I’m no expert in, well…ANYTHING other than writing about superheroes on the internet, really…but something about that seems a little goofy to me. Then again, I’m often confused by how anything resembling law works in Starling City.

It sounds like I’ve done an awful lot of complaining about this episode, doesn’t it? I’ll shift gears now that it’s all out of the way…because, actually, “Deathstroke” is a damn smart episode of Arrow.

Considering that it’s named after Slade’s more famous supervillain name, “Deathstroke” didn’t go for buckets of fan service or cheap pops. Instead, Slade uses everything at his disposal other than that (really cool looking) costume and mask to dismantle Oliver’s life. It’s great.

This episode might also mark Stephen Amell’s single finest performance since the show began. I don’t know if he has simply grown as an actor, or if I’m now so familiar with Ollie’s character that I finally really feel for the guy, but this one was huge for the series lead. The moment when he takes his mother’s hand…I absolutely bought that this is the moment, perhaps the first time all year, when he’s been close to being really broken.

Cutting immediately to a physically broken Ollie on the island as the castaways are getting set to exchange a booby-trapped Hendrick for him was a nice touch. I’ll confess to being a little thrown by the island sequences lately. Maybe it’s still part of the comedown after “The Promise,” but I’m not exactly sure where they’re going at the moment. And who is the “voice of reason guy?” I feel like he should be significant, but I’m having trouble placing him. This, dear friends, is what the comments are for.

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But while we’re talking about the island, our friend Anatoli (the future KGBeast…I hope) gets the line of the night when he asks Sara “When did you become so scary?” No reason…just because she’s talking about booby-trapping a living human being in order to get her boyfriend back. She also threatens to put an arrow through the heart of a friend of hers, and a regular castmember at that! She means it. She won’t hesitate. Hey, remember last week? That was when people kept telling Sara, “No! You’re not a killer!” Wrong. She’s a killer, folks. 

Surprisingly little out and out action this week, and considering how much tension has been built up, and how much of the season absolutely pivots on this episode, the fact that it never really felt like it was slowing down is a testament to how good the writing was (Marc Guggenheim and Drew Greenberg, I doff my cowl to thee). But those few times when Ollie puts the hood on? Killer. The Roy/Ollie/Sara/Slade staredown was fun, if ultimately uneventful, and I did get a thrill just seeing those four characters squaring off on my TV screen.

But Ollie’s final (and ultimately unnecessary) offensive on Slade was a highlight. Short but brutal. It doesn’t look like he broke his whole “no killing” rule, but he sure did make these poor bastards pay. Did he actually cut that one dude’s Achilles tendon to keep him from getting up? Harsh.

Of course, in the end, Slade lets Thea go. He’s not all that interested in killing a 19 year old girl. He’d rather ruin her life so that she can go forth and ruin her brother’s life. I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “you’re free to go…or you can stay and learn your brother’s secret” thing, though. After all, she was still free to go. The fact that she stayed…girl, you don’t need to know ANYTHING that badly. But now Thea knows she’s a Merlyn, and all three surviving Queens are divided against each other. 

I do have to take one more parting shot at the Starling City legal system and police department, however. It’s becoming tradition in these reviews. They let Slade go. Then Slade is clearly guilty. Then they arrest one of their own for doing the right thing in the first place. If that’s the case, these guys should all be arresting each other for gross incompetence, and then they can let the courts throw all their cases out! Thank Shazam that this city has vigilantes.

Where does this leave us? It leaves us with Slade, Isabel, and Sebastian conspiring with each other and getting ready to build an army of mirakuru enhanced convicts to take down Starling City. I suspect these final five episodes won’t exactly be quiet.

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DC Universe Watchtower

– Not much this week, other than the usual mention of DA Spencer. I’m a little punchy, so I failed to pay close attention to the Channel 52 news crawl, and deleted my recording before I realized that I might have missed something. What does that mean? It means I NEED you, my fellow Leaguers. Tell me what I missed…if anything. I’ve been off my game, but, that’s gonna change. Like Ollie said, “Now we fight back.”

– I do have to ask: where did Isabel learn to fight like that? Nanda Parbat, perhaps?

– Has Manu Bennett earned the title of definitive DC Universe screen villain of the moment, or what? This guy IS Slade Wilson. They could throw him on the big screen in whatever the real title of Batman vs. Superman is, and I bet he’d hold his own.

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4 out of 5