This Arrow review contains spoilers. You might now want to read this if you haven’t watched “Seeing Red.”
As I watched “Seeing Red,” making notes, mentally composing my review, I was caught up in how disappointed I was in the episode as a whole…how disposable it all felt compared to the recent string of exceptional Arrow episodes. Boy, was I wrong. While issues remain with “Seeing Red,” one thing it most certainly is not is “disposable.”
For all the carnage promised in all the promotional lead-up to “Seeing Red” this was a fairly low-key episode. And for an episode that I really expected to move the ball forward on Roy Harper’s character considerably it was, honestly, a bit of a failure. While Roy may end up “cured” when all is said and done, not much is being done here to actually heal him. If anything, his actions while on his mirakuru rage bender are going to haunt him further. Under the influence or not, now Roy is a cop killer and he’s done some damage to friends of his. Not only is he going to direct more anger at himself in the future, but someone is gonna figure out it was him. It’s not like he was any stranger to the police in the first place.
But that’s the thing about Roy Harper. He’s never been the squeaky-clean kid sidekick. He’s not Dick Grayson or Wally West. While the character has been around since 1941, for over forty years he’s been saddled with all kinds of issues across all his media portrayals. Whether it’s substance abuse, identity crises, being a clone…whatever. Roy hasn’t been a happy-go-lucky guy for ages. Still, if they DO intend to have him earn a proper hood and/or domino mask at some point in the future (and I really, really kinda want to see that happen), eventually he’s going to have to make actual progress. Putting him through the wringer is only going to work for so long.
It was great to see Sin again. One background character (before Roy snaps him like a twig) even cracks, “where you been?” I’ve been asking the same question. The cast of Arrow regulars and semi-regulars is pretty stacked, but I would like to see a little more room for her to shine at some point.
Ultimately, other than the final few minutes, “Seeing Red” just sorta meanders around. The ups and downs of Moira’s mayoral campaign, her relationship with Thea, the Roy crisis…none of them ever really seem to find any serious footing. It’s all about getting to that ending. Finding and de-toxing Roy seems like it’s in service of this, although the revelation that the mirakuru hallucinations aren’t unique to Slade (nor do they apparently go away) was interesting.
Still, there are moments. That initial pursuit of Roy, with Green Arrow and Black Canary showing up to crime scenes just after he’s left are probably about as pure “comic book” as this show has ever gotten. These bits really captured the feel of the Mike Grell Green Arrow issues of the late ’80s, and while I don’t expect Arrow to chase this vibe week in and week out, it really felt right in this context. The bit with the doctor (and later, Ollie’s self-medicating…with Felicity’s priceless reaction) got a smile out of me, too.
I do think Sara’s conflict of whether or not she’s really the killer she thinks she is/has been in the past is handled as well as it could be. Her reasoning for wanting to kill Roy certainly sounded right in the moment, and I can understand how crushed she is when Ollie proves there’s another way. I gotta say, I’m not sure ANY of this would have been as effective if Oliver had started out in season one with his no-killing vow. Watching him become more and more “heroic” this season has helped Sara’s character. Although the “I just care about you too much to be with you,” line treads dangerously close to Smallville territory. I would very much like to know who the “old friend” she’s off to visit could be. I’m so fried that I can’t even think of any good ideas…which is what the comments are for!
Major spoilers from here on out…
That ending, though. Woof. What a difference a swerve makes! Readers of these reviews have listened to my howlings about my issues with the Moira for Mayor subplot. I had hoped for a speedy resolution. I did not, however, expect or want it to end this way! Impressive stuff.
I was beginning to have my suspicions about Moira’s fate the minute that she started to reconcile with Ollie and Thea. “Here we go again,” I thought to myself. “Time for Arrow to wrap up difficult relationship and/or plot issues entirely too neatly and spoil all the hard work they’ve done.” And then they got broadsided and woke up with Slade Wilson looming over them. It’s increasingly difficult to be surprised in this business, so this was a fun shock.
I’ve gotta give everyone involved credit: that was a genuinely disorienting few minutes of TV. I went from ready to make with the eye-rolling to having my expectations shattered, to actually trying to figure out what the hell was going on as they intercut scenes from the island with the current crisis…all in what felt like seconds. It was effective, and once Slade was revealed (I did half expect it to involve a surprise Malcolm Merlyn appearance), I knew there was no way everyone was walking out of there alive.
Susanna Thompson is a wonderful actress, and while I’m sure that there will be plenty of opportunities for her to appear as a flashback or hallucination in future episodes, her regular presence will be missed (whether or not it’s a storyline I complain about). On the other hand, if Malcolm Merlyn can come back, and considering how close Moira is with him, it’s difficult for me to imagine that this death is anything resembling permanent.
Does this mean Thea is going to transfer ALL of her considerable anger to Oliver now? Wasn’t she just singing Slade’s praises earlier in the episode as the one person who has been honest with her this whole time? This is the kind of thing that could break a person, and I wonder if her alliances will shift. She’s down to one parent, after all.
I have to hand it to Willa, Stephen, and Susanna. In the wrong hands, this scene could have gone very differently. Really powerful stuff, and the chemistry of working these three together, and working all the little hints and allegations in the Queen family dynamic for almost two full seasons paid off big time.
For the second week in a row I have to give it up for the music. I don’t know if Arrow has only been more varied and cinematic lately or I’m just paying closer attention. Blake Neely really set the mood during the Roy-stalking scenes, and in general, I feel like more scenes in every episodes are establishing an identity. Something tells me that “Seeing Red” will be the last episode this season that struggles with pacing, so I suspect that Mr. Neely will get a proper musical workout as we head towards the finale.
Meanwhile…On an Island
There were no island flashbacks this week, instead reverting to the “7 years ago” soap opera lighting and soft-focus “domestic life of the Queens and Lances” approach last seen in “Heir to the Demon.” While I’m often not a big fan of these, this time, it all made sense. These scenes managed both to make Moira and her relationship with Ollie more “real,” give us added context for her later actions, AND make sure that we don’t get TOO teary-eyed about her death. Not bad.
Seriously, cutting right back to Ollie getting the phone call from that girl and Moira’s “Whatever is the problem, sweetie?” facade is almost enough to make you glad she ended up on the business end of Slade’s sword.
DC Universe Watchtower
– Sara refers to how she “looked into the eyes of the devil and gave him my soul.” This could, of course, all be metaphor…or she could be referring to someone. Ivo? eh, maybe. But Ra’s al Ghul means “Demon’s Head” so…could her ties to Ra’s be closer than we initially thought?
– On the Channel 52 crawl, there was something about a “local football hero could be first in this year’s draft.” I would love to think that this is Vic Stone…but I’m reaching pretty hard.
– Do these flashbacks mean that there’s a seven year old Connor Hawke in Central City right now?
I think that’s it, but as usual, I’ll be on monitor duty all week, so point out what I missed. Let’s talk some comics!