Arrow 2-02: “Identity”

Two motorcyclists attack a FEMA truck carrying vital medical supplies to the only hospital in the Glades. Roy Harper, at the wheel of a stolen car, tries to chase away the attackers. He manages to run one off the road, but the driver of the other shoots through his windshield, causing Roy to flip the car. The cops arrive and arrest Roy, while Triad assassin China White (Kelly Hu) intercepts the FEMA truck and kills the driver and passenger.

(I shamelessly adore Roy. The kid steals a car to fight crime. I mean, come on.)

At the police station, assistant district attorney Laurel interrogates Roy about his possible connection to the Hood: She knows he’s been fighting crime in an attempt to emulate his former savior (he’s even been carrying around his own wee little red arrow), and she suspects the Hood might be encouraging his efforts. Laurel, who has adopted a bizarre new hard-line anti-Hood stance, urges Roy to stay far, far away from him: “He has this way of seducing you,” she says wistfully. Roy blinks at her uncomprehendingly.


Thea and Oliver show up at the police station to bail Roy out. Oliver takes Roy aside to chew him out for a while, but you can tell he’s already secretly thinking about how it might be cool to have a spunky, hero-worshipping teen sidekick assisting him with his vigilante escapades. Roy fills Oliver in on all the recent attacks on deliveries of medical supplies—if the attacks continue, the struggling hospital will be forced to close, thus cutting off the only convenient source of medical aid for the impoverished residents of the Glades.


Oliver and Digg check out the hospital situation themselves. It’s chaos—too many sick and injured patients, too few resources. Outside, Alderman Sebastian Blood (True Blood’s Kevin Alejandro) gives a press conference on this sorry state of affairs. Spotting Oliver, he berates him on camera about the Queen family’s role in the devastation of the Glades.


Oh, this. This. At Queen Consolidated, Felicity is irate—against her fervent wishes, Oliver has transferred her from the IT department and has made her his executive assistant. Felicity is having none of it: “Did you know I went to MIT? Do you know what I majored in? Hint: not the secretarial arts.” Oliver informs her in the most condescending manner possible that they all have to have secret identities now (says the man with a secret identity as a billionaire CEO), and anyway, he needs a Girl Friday (actually, he says “Girl Wednesday”, because Oliver is kind of dumb, but let’s all be perfectly clear on this: In 2013, the term “Girl Friday” is offensive as all hell). He coldly shuts down her objections, and… wow, there’ve been plenty of occasions in the series thus far where Oliver has been an entitled ass, but this is the first time he’s been a deeply misogynistic one.


Digg points out to Felicity that things could be worse: “My secret identity is the black driver.” I respect the idea behind this, but it’s an invalid comparison, Digg—at the start of last season, you voluntarily took the position of Oliver’s bodyguard and driver, a position you: a) apparently wanted, and b) were qualified for based on your military experience. Felicity, on the other hand, does not want to be a corporate executive assistant, nor is she in any way qualified to be one, and the idea that Oliver can just pick her up and slot her in that role strictly on the basis of her gender (see: his “Girl Friday” comment), regardless of her skills, her education, her experience, her planned career trajectory, and her feelings on the matter is… pretty powerfully misogynistic.

Fix this, Arrow writers. This is a deep blunder. You have messed up badly. Fix this.

(One of the co-writers of this episode is a woman. Here’s my message to her: You’ve got a hotly-coveted, prestigious job in a highly gendered industry—only about 30% of television writing jobs are held by women. So imagine one of the executive producers coming up to you and saying, “Hey, I need a Girl Friday, so from now on, you’re going to be making my dinner reservations and fetching my coffee. I mean, you’re still going to be writing episodes, too, but you’re not allowed tell anyone that. As far as anyone knows, you’re my assistant, not a screenwriter.” Kind of mind-blowingly offensive, right? Yeah, that’s what Oliver did to Felicity.)

Another truck from FEMA tries to reach the hospital. Once again, it’s intercepted by China White, and this time, she’s brought along a buddy: Bronze Tiger, a dude with a badass set of Wolverine-esque metal claws, who is played by Spawn’s Michael Jai White. Oliver, in his guise as the Hood, arrives and battles them, but the police (inexplicably accompanied by Laurel) swarm the scene and open fire, sending everyone scurrying in all directions.


Fed up with Roy’s nocturnal escapades, Thea presents him with a check for two weeks’ severance pay, the carved arrowhead Oliver gave her when he first returned from the island, and an ultimatum: She doesn’t want to spend all her time worrying about his safety, so she’s firing him and dumping him unless he stops going after bad guys. Aw, I really wish the show wouldn’t do this. I mean, obviously Thea was 100% right to dump Roy last season when she discovered he was knocking over liquor stores, but this is different. It’s not that I don’t see her point—hey, it’d sure suck worrying about your boyfriend’s safety all the time—but this is a very tired, very hackneyed, very gendered trope, because it’s always the wife or girlfriend who worries about her husband’s or boyfriend’s dangerous job, never the reverse. And right now this show needs to steer far, far away from hackneyed gendered tropes, because it’s not doing so well on the gender-issues front.


Just keep Roy and Thea fun and light, Arrow. Don’t drag them down into your murky abyss of sucktacular, soul-killing interpersonal relationships.

(Speaking of sucktacular, soul-killing interpersonal relationships: In a side plotline, Oliver fails to notice that Digg has broken up with Carly. Oh.)

At Queen Consolidated, Oliver meets with Alderman Blood (he asks Felicity to fetch coffee for their meeting. Hey, Oliver? Go screw yourself. Hey, Arrow writers? Go screw yourselves, too). He suggests arranging a benefit for the hospital as a way of publicly atoning for the harm the Queen family has done to Starling City’s less fortunate. Alderman Blood agrees to this.

Disguised as the Hood, Oliver visits Laurel in her office at night to question her about the reasoning behind her new anti-Hood stance. Laurel bawls him out for failing to save Tommy’s life. Kind of an odd way of looking at it, since she’s  the one who refused to leave her office before the destruction of the Glades despite multiple warnings about the looming catastrophe, thus leading to Tommy’s death while trying to rescue her, but whatever.

Anyway, a third FEMA shipment is scheduled to be delivered at the same time as the hospital benefit, so Oliver blows off the gala (Alderman Blood gives a blistering speech excoriating Oliver for his unreliability and shiftlessness) and heads after China White and Bronze Tiger instead. He foils their plans and, still trying to adhere to his no-killing policy, turns them over to the police.


Island plotline: Oliver, Shado and Slade find a photo of a rock formation on the corpse of the unidentified man who kidnapped Shado last episode. They find the rock formation and enter a hidden cave. Inside are the long-decayed remains of members of the Imperial Japanese Army, all of whom have mysteriously misshapen skulls. Oliver (who can now add “corpse-looting” to his list of character flaws) steals the arrowhead he will later give to Thea off of one of the skeletons.


The Hood approaches Roy in a dark alley and tells him to knock it off with the amateur heroics. Roy begs the Hood to take him under his wing; the Hood refuses, but asks Roy to keep him abreast of all illegal and dangerous shenanigans in the Glades.


Roy reconciles with Thea, promising he’ll give up crime-fighting. He is so totally lying.

And then the Hood visits Laurel at her office once more, in an attempt to figure out why she’s acting like such a jerk these days. Turns out it’s a trap: As soon as he shows up, Laurel signals the police. Oliver suddenly finds himself surrounded on all sides by dozens of gun-toting cops.


Well. It’s a shame the let’s-make-Felicity-a-secretary-isn’t-it-funny? plotline crapped up this episode so badly, because otherwise there’s some fun stuff here—it’s always good seeing China White, there's a cheap thrill in watching Alderman Blood giving Oliver a hard time in the press, and seeing Roy taking the first tentative steps towards possibly becoming Oliver’s eventual sidekick is exciting. However, if it’s not made clear in later episodes that Oliver has made a serious misstep in his treatment of Felicity, it’s probably going to be a deal-breaker for me. There are shows out there that don’t treat their female characters like their concerns are inconsequential and foolish; I’ll find one of those to watch.

Comments

DKoren said…
I get the feeling that because Felicity gets to object so perfectly to Oliver for demanding she do the whole secretary thing, that the show thinks they covered that one. But yeah... really, Oliver? That is quite insulting. He could have said, look, I need you up here, figure out a way to do it. And I'll bet Felicity could have found a way to stay IT and still be accessible to Oliver (which is a very lame reason to want to transfer someone to secretarial position anyway).
Morgan Richter said…
That scene pissed me off (and, indeed, continues to piss me off. I probably need to chill out about my fluff television viewing, actually). Hated how Oliver refused to see Felicity's point and instead made a condescending comment about needing secret identities. Yeah, but he and Diggle get to maintain their status quo in their secret identities, whereas Felicity has now done some bad damage to her CV (a woman in tech who gets booted over to the admin side is going to have a difficult time shifting back into tech, should Felicity ever opt to leave Queen Consolidated). Factor in his comment about needing a Girl Friday--implying that Oliver can't conceive of an executive assistant who isn't female--and the sexism is glaring.

Oliver's the CEO. If he thinks it's important to have Felicity close by during the day (even though they really don't do much crime-fighting during office hours), he can say he needs a tech person on hand at all times and stick her in an office next to his. No one would question it.

(I won't give spoilers, but this whole situation got even grosser and more maddening in the most recent episode.)

I don't know. The sexism that women in tech face--that women are undervalued, under-hired, and under-promoted--has been a huge hot-button topic in recent months. Weird that Arrow would be so tone-deaf on the issue.
DKoren said…
I hear you, and not too pleased to hear this situation gets worse, rather than better. Hmm. I'm hoping this plays into something and gets completely turned around later.

This is one of the first shows I've liked where I don't actually like the lead. Although, to be fair, I don't dislike Oliver either, I just don't want to be him (I usually only like shows where I want to be the lead character), and I do like that he's unstable and tends to make wrong choices more often than right choices. But I love so many of the other characters to make up for Oliver.
Morgan Richter said…
I have the same reaction to Oliver. I have a hard time getting a handle on him (part of that is how he's written inconsistently, and part is inherent in his character). I don't dislike him, but I also don't empathize with him. I can mostly see why he is the way he is, but if I knew Oliver in real life, either pre- or post-island, I doubt I'd be friends with him; if I worked at Queen Consolidated, I doubt I'd have much respect for him as the CEO. It's tricky having him as a protagonist.

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