This Arrow review contains major spoilers.
“The Man Under the Hood” is essentially a direct sequel to “Deathstroke” and as close to a proper two parter as we’ve had since “The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts” “The Man Under the Hood” is a solid piece of TV, and there’s plenty to be excited about for Arrow fans and DC Universe spotters. So many characters have key moments in this one that it’s going to be difficult for me to discuss this chronologically, so be ready to jump around a bit. I apologize in advance. Please beware of spoilers, though.
Right out of the gate we have a plainclothes mission for Team Arrow, with even Felicity getting her hands dirty. It’s nice when Arrow steps outside of its comfort zone a little like this, and there was a fun caper/heist movie feel on display. Many times this season, the focus in that opening is on fights, chases, or both (not that I’m complaining), but this was a nice change of pace. Even the music faintly apes the James Bond theme, and it’s definitely in keeping with the tone. Good fun, and since it’s a Queen Consolidated warehouse that’s getting blown to bits, it’s a nice holdover from the chess game in “Deathstroke.” Even a small victory over Slade requires Ollie to hurt himself.
Quentin Lance is in jail, and ultimately becomes the central figure of this episode, despite appearing in only two scenes. We get the old superhero standby of the guy behind bars having to take a beating from the guys he helped put there. Fair enough. It fits in quite naturally, and has some added weight here considering how much Quentin hated Green Arrow throughout season one.
But it’s his later scene that really nails it. After “Deathstroke” I assumed that the title “The Man Under the Hood” referred to Slade Wilson…or maybe Oliver Queen. And while the latter is correct, it wasn’t quite in the way I expected. With Quentin in Iron Heights infirmary, and with his daughters by his side, Paul Blackthorne delivers probably my single favorite line of dialogue of the season. He makes it clear he doesn’t want to know Green Arrow’s identity (because he can’t lie under oath if he honestly doesn’t know), and points out that he’s quite happy to not know and will keep quiet because after all that the vigilante has done for his family and the city “the least I can do is sit here and do a little time for him.” Excuse me, I…I think I have something in my eye.
That scene says a lot, not just about Quentin, but about how the general sentiment about Oliver Queen’s nocturnal activities has changed on this show. It’s downright inspiring, which is exactly what I want from a superhero show. It shows just how completely Quentin Lance has turned away from the bitterness that haunted the character throughout season one (AND is a textbook example of how you can do slow turns with characters on this show and make ’em work). You know what this means, right? Now more than ever, I am convinced that Quentin Lance is TOTALLY a dead man before the end of this season. Damn it.
Laurel is a bit confusing these days. Remember what I said about the slow turn of Quentin Lance? Laurel seems to snap back and forth between cool, calm, and collected and nervous breakdown/heel turn ready from episode to episode, if not from scene to scene. Her conflicted feelings about knowing Ollie’s identity are sensible, and I DO like where she ultimately ends up with it. The problem is, this really should have been introduced earlier and teased out over a few more episodes. I feel like she’s making peace with everything too fast (including FINALLY putting two and two together about her sister), but perhaps this will all go out the window if Sara or Quentin end up in the Tommy Merlyn Season Finale Hall of Fame. For the record, I don’t want that to happen (we can discuss that line of thinking more in the comments).
On the other hand, though, her first scene with Quentin is great, and quite telling. When she asks him point blank about Green Arrow’s identity (something she already knows), that’s a nice way to gauge who is lying to her, and this show has been obsessed with the webs of lies that listing vigilantism as one of your hobbies tends to bring. But shortly after, when she puts everything together, and especially after Quentin drops his good guy bomb on us all, it’s like a fog lifts. Again, I still have issues with the pacing of Laurel’s arc, but this is a nice contrast to how Thea is handling things (we’ll get to her in a minute).
But…one thing thoroughly annoyed me: Why would Kate Spencer be afraid of anything Laurel Lance says to her? How many times is she going to threaten and blackmail her way to victory over someone who is probably more competent (and with less recent and public baggage) than her? Did I miss an episode or three? This is how they chose to get Quentin out of the clink? C’mon. This show should be better than that, especially with this week’s team of writers (which included Greg Berlanti, Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg, and Keto Shimizu).
I’m also not sure I really buy Isabel Rochev’s “spurned lover” motivation. For a character that hasn’t been around a whole hell of a lot, they’ve managed to keep her plenty interesting, with a serious air of mystery about her. But for this to be the big answer about the “sins of the father” hinted at in the previous episode felt like a bit of a letdown, even if it DID lead to the ultimately quite useful revelation that the elder Mr. Queen did, in fact, know the truth about Thea’s parentage. For a show that has done a great job of giving us plenty of powerful female characters week in and week out, I think it lets the air out a bit when so many of them have romantic ties to various Queen men.
Which brings us to Thea who is, actually…behaving like any 19 year old would, I suppose. I know I’m giving her a pass for things I’ve called Roy out on in recent weeks, but maybe my position is evolving. The danger here is that, as Thea herself says, she is “the daughter of two mass-murderers. I was never gonna be okay. It’s not in my genes.” She’s kinda right. And with her current obsession with the fact that folks have been lying to her at every turn, who is the one person who has been telling her the truth? That would be Slade Wilson. When Thea’s real father first revealed himself, I wasn’t too pleased, but this may be going somewhere, after all.
As far as the action sequences this week go: Deathstroke’s invasion of the Arrow Cave was just wonderful. You can watch that clip here if you’d like. That part where Sara makes a flying leap and Deathstroke just catches her by the throat? Incredible. Just terrific stuntwork and staging all around. It took me some time to warm up to Caity Lotz as Black Canary, but now I’m all in. I’d also like to give a big DC Comics hello to a proper exploding arrow, detonated right in ol’ Slade’s face. The big rescue of Roy was suitably superheroic, too.
All in all, a solid episode. We still have the matter of the show continuing to throw good plot points after bad ones in some of the b-plots, but in this case, considering how solid the overall race to the finish is, it’s hard for even these hiccups to feel like major missteps. I do kinda feel like the Flash connections were forced, and when you look at the episode as a whole they played like a bit of an afterthough, but (as I’ll discuss below) they’re such candy for DC Comics fans that I can’t really get mad at ’em.
There’s one more thing I’d like to spotlight, as the music throughout this episode was great. It definitely felt more cinematic than usual, probably because of the more varied group of “themes” we got. Whether it was that Bond-derivative opening or the lighter, or more heroic strains heard whenever Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) or Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) were on screen, it helped establish that the Flash and his friends will have a different tone than what we’ve been used to. Speaking of that lighter touch in the Flash related scenes…might these be the first strains of a possible Flash TV series theme? I don’t currently see Arrow composer Blake Neely listed anywhere in relation to that, but there’s still time. I do hope that’s the approach they take…a little less Hans Zimmer and a little more Jerry Goldsmith would fit Flash well.
Meanwhile…On an Island
Anthony Ivo, when he couldn’t replicate mirakuru decided to make a cure for it. That’s a big deal. Anatoli, who is generally a fun, lighthearted guy, is ready to do some serious “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Ivo. If you’re a KGBeast fan, that’s also a big deal. But the biggest deal of all that comes out of this is that yes, there IS indeed a cure for mirakuru issues, and Oliver had a chance to use it on Slade…but decided to try and kill him instead. If I was Slade, I’d probably be annoyed with Oliver, too.
DC Universe Watchtower/Flash Facts
– This is probably not a secret to anybody, but Caitlin Snow will (probably) eventually become Firestorm villain Killer Frost. I’d like to point out one more time just how neatly Firestorm’s origin could also be folded into the whole particle accelerator thing that gave Barry his powers. Cisco Ramon eventually becomes the unfortunately-named Vibe, a Justice League member who actually just wrapped up a rather good solo series from DC Comics.
– That piece of tech we saw Cisco wielding? That was developed by one Dr. Arthur Light, a former STAR Labs employee who was fired, according to Ms. Snow, because “he was a psycho.” Please tell me we’re going to see him in Flash season one! Yes, I realize I’m just assuming the pilot will be picked up.
– Felicity refers to the head of STAR Labs: Harrison Wells. While I don’t believe he’s anyone from the comics, he IS a member of The Flash pilot cast (he’ll be played by Tom Cavanagh). Felicity’s crack about hacking Wells’ files basically making her “unstoppable” was great. I love this character. Did anyone ever imagine she’d be this important when she first showed up in the IT department in season one?
– That was the first mention of Iris West in live-action television since the original Flash TV series went off the air in 1991…and even then, Iris only showed up in the pilot. It was a little heavy-handed as far as these name drops go, but it did serve as a little bridge between Barry’s relationship with Felicity.
– Speaking of Felicity, they’re playing up her connection to Barry pretty heavily. I can’t imagine that Felicity is going to jump ship from Arrow to The Flash, but it would be nice to see her show up in both shows. And if she were to adopt the code name of “Oracle” at some point, I wouldn’t complain.
– I avoided reporting this particular major spoiler on the site over the last few weeks, even though there are set photos out there and everything…but Isabel said she was trained by Slade. We can discuss that more in the comments.
UPDATED: NotBob in the comments has been on monitor duty, and he caught what I missed: Roy was found at a shelter in Bludhaven! Yeah, Arrow…just keep teasing us with Batman and Nightwing references. You’re gonna have to pay up one of these days!
And that’s all I’ve got this week! Let me know what I missed!