Arrow 2-14: “Time of Death”

Well. Let's dive into this overcooked mess of gluey instant oatmeal that The CW is trying to pass off as an Arrow episode, shall we?

The villain du jour is William Tockman (Robert Knepper), a criminal mastermind with a clock fetish who orchestrates high-profile robberies with clockwork precision; he’s the type of baddie who quotes War and Peace for gravitas and stabs insubordinate henchmen with novelty-sized clock hands. I'm always happy to see Knepper—I dug the sordid brand of villainy he brought to Prison Break—but his appearance on a show is never the mark of quality. He played a villain on an alarmingly ghastly episode of Criminal Minds, he played a villain on an alarmingly ghastly season of Heroes, and here... well, it's certainly not the worst-ever episode of Arrow, but it sure isn’t good. This continues Arrow’s hot streak of squandering name actors in crummy one-shot villain roles; I’m thinking of Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis, Farscape’s Ben Browder, and Firefly’s Sean Maher, to name just a few. Arrow’s overarching plots are always strong (there is no Sebastian Blood in this episode, and his presence is sorely missed), but the show tends to give its standalone stories a lick and a promise.

In the lair beneath Verdant, Sara, Digg and Oliver practice their fighting skills and compare battle scars. Keeping with this show’s unfortunate women-are-insecure-wrecks motif, Felicity spends most of the episode moping in a corner and taking passive-aggressive snipes at Sara, whom she fears is taking her place on the team. Fair is fair, Arrow: In the next episode, I want to see Digg fighting back tears as he realizes he'll never be as strong as Roy.

Oliver throws a welcome-home party for Sara at the mansion. He grows shirty with Moira when she shows up to the party, as he’s still giving her the silent treatment after the events of last episode. Moira: "If you don't want to pretend to be mother and son, then don't throw parties in my home." This is an excellent point. You’re the CEO of a multibillion-dollar corporation, Oliver. Since you can’t stand being around your mom, it’s probably time to move out of your childhood home.

Roy floats through Sara’s party like a cloud of luminous skin and great cheekbones and amazing abs, just to remind viewers he's still on this show. Sin is in attendance as well. Overcome with emotion at the sight of Sara, she gives her former secret-partner-in-vigilantism a spontaneous hug, then explains to a confounded Roy and Thea, "I love when people come back from the dead. Juices my zombie fetish." Sin, you are the best. May this show never turn you into a weepy, self-involved mess, a la Sara, Felicity, Laurel, and Moira.

Team Arrow (inexplicably minus Roy, whose non-involvement in events remains unaddressed) sets about hunting down Tockman. I’m going to blast through these scenes in less detail than usual, because… well, they’re pretty interminable. Both Emily Bett Rickards and Caity Lotz share a habit of muttering their lines in a rapid-fire slurred monotone (which can be effective, particularly when Felicity is delivering chunks of tech-based exposition), and both David Ramsey and Stephen Amell are pretty low-key performers, and when you stick all four of them in a scene together… holy hell, things become both low-wattage and incomprehensible. This is why you need to keep Roy on hand, folks—the kid has a whole lot of energy, and he can enunciate.

At Quentin’s urging, Laurel, who blew off Sara’s party (she opted to get drunk instead), begrudgingly invites her parents and Sara over for an intimate family dinner. Sara brings Oliver along, which the other Lances seem to think is wildly inappropriate. They are correct. Midway through an exceedingly awkward meal, it occurs to Laurel that Sara and Oliver are sleeping together. She doesn’t take it well: “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve been back like, what, a week?”

She storms out of her apartment. Oliver chases her down the hall to yell at her: “I’m done taking the blame, and I’m done caring. Go have a drink.”

Way to be a dick, Oliver.

Oliver baits a trap for Tockman by liquidating a whole lot of Queen Consolidated stock and storing it overnight in a bank vault. When Tockman breaks into the bank to grab the cash, Team Arrow attacks. In the resulting tumult, Felicity takes a bullet in the shoulder while protecting Sara, then brings down Tockman by blowing up his phone. Back at the lair, a newly-confident Felicity floats on oxycodone while Sara stitches up her wound. Felicity confesses to Oliver about how Sara’s arrival left her feeling like she’d been replaced: “I was just used to being your girl.” Oliver caresses her cheek and says, “You will always be my girl, Felicity.”

Barf. Nope. She won't. She doesn’t belong to you, Oliver. And can we knock it off with this “girl” crap?

Illuminating anecdote: At a 2013 Paley Center panel featuring the creators and cast of Arrow, here’s what co-creator Andrew Kreisberg had to say about the burgeoning popularity of Felicity: “Oliver needed to go to an IT girl … All of a sudden, it was like, ‘Who’s the blonde IT girl? Who’s the blonde IT girl?’ … (Warner Brothers president) Peter Roth called up and said, ‘Who’s the blonde computer girl?’”

I’m going to stop you right there, Kreisberg. See, Felicity’s an adult. She’s a grown woman. She’s an MIT graduate. She’s a tech professional. She’s smarter than Oliver. Maybe don’t refer to her as “the blonde IT girl”, okay? It’s condescending, and unless you’d also say something like, “Well, we were looking to cast a blond superhero boy” in regard to Oliver, it reeks of sexism.

Sara takes a job bartending at Verdant. Laurel unexpectedly shows up just as Oliver is leaving. “You can go,” Laurel tells him cheerfully. “I’m not here to kill her or anything.” Heh. I kind of like this loose-cannon, acid-tongued version of Laurel. The estranged Lance sisters finally have a nice reconciliation, complete with hugs and tears, then Laurel heads off to join Quentin at an AA meeting.

Later, Sin finds a still-emotional Sara weeping in the empty club. “Didn’t think anything could make you cry,” Sin observes. Where have you been, Sin? Sara weeps all the damn time. She cries more than Felicity. She cries more than Laurel!

Island flashbacks: A small plane crashes on the island. The mortally-wounded pilot begs Sara to make sure his young daughter has someone to take care of her after he dies. He gives her a photo: His daughter is Sin.

And then! Then! In The Only Good Scene of the Entire Episode, Oliver returns home to find Moira in a meeting with a dashingly handsome man with a patch over one eye. As Moira blithely introduces him to Slade, Oliver looks numb with horror and shock.

Aw, yes. Slade, you almost saved the episode. Almost.


DKoren said…
The only part of this ep I liked was that last minute with Slade. That rocked. The rest... well, you summed up its problems far better than I could! Felicity has gone from one of my favorite characters on the show to me feeling a bit of dread when she appears. That makes me angry.

Sin was cool as always, however, it gets really old when shows have to tie Every Single Character to A Moment In The Past With Meaning. She couldn't just be someone Sara befriended? It kind of takes away from their friendship when you know that Sara deliberately sought her out to make good on a promise.
Morgan Richter said…
Thank you for articulating exactly what made me a little... disappointed or something when the pilot's daughter turned out to be Sin. One of the bits I've liked most this season was the Sin-Sara teamup in the early episodes, and just that faint bit of exposition that we were given at that time, that Sara had rescued Sin from an attack by a bunch of men, was all that was needed to establish their dynamic.

I just rewatched a first-season episode, which had a little moment where Felicity gets a bit overwhelmed by the violence of the job, and Oliver very kindly tells her she can always discuss her problems with him. It was nice, and so much better than this "I was just used to being your girl" crap we're getting now. The Felicity-Oliver dynamic -- and, sadly, the entire character of Felicity -- has gone badly awry this season.

No complaints about Slade, though. His appearance in the Queen living room was magnificent.

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