Arrow 2-20: “Seeing Red”
Well. I’m trying to find just the right phrase to sum up this episode. After giving the matter long and careful consideration, I think I’m going to go with “shit show.”
Yes. Indeed. ‘Twas a shit show.
So Roy’s still in a coma after Slade used a whole lot of his blood to create his army of mirakuru-enhanced super-soldiers last episode. He’s just been lying unconscious on a table in the lair beneath Verdant for, like, days or whatever, while nobody bothers to seek medical attention or at least take his shoes off and throw a warm blanket over him. Roy wakes up and goes utterly berserk. He tears up the lair, scaring the pants off of Felicity and Digg in the process, then embarks upon a citywide rampage.
Meanwhile, Sara and Oliver have shacked up together in a hotel because, as Oliver explains, they can’t keep staying at Verdant as long as Roy’s there.
Huh. What am I missing here?
Seriously. I’m having a lot of trouble with this one. Sara and Oliver, the two people most qualified to deal with Roy in his current state, check into a hotel because they don’t want to be around him while he’s either: a) dying, or b) further evolving into an unstoppable super-powered creature who will quickly reach Slade-esque levels of dangerous unpredictability. This is what I mean by “shit show.” This episode is a shaky, sloppy, shoddy mess.
Important Starling City mayoral race update! Moira pulls ahead of Sebastian Blood in the polls! Oh, citizens of Starling City, you are a downright whimsical bunch. Over the course of a season, you’ve gone from demanding the death penalty for Moira for her knowing participation in the mass murder of five hundred of your fellow citizens, to snubbing her by not showing up to her “hey, I got an inexplicable acquittal for my part in mass murder” party, to thinking it’s a super-awesome idea to elect her as your mayor. Nice job, everyone! Pats on the back all around. Anyway, Moira’s giving an interview at the mansion about her path to victory, but Thea snots it all up by picking a venomous fight over her plans to throw a rally at Verdant. I love Thea—she is far and away my favorite member of the Queen family, not that there’s much competition for that honor—but she’s not at her most sympathetic this episode. Everyone’s pretty awful, actually, except for Digg and Felicity, and that’s mostly because they don’t get much to do.
There are no island flashbacks in this episode. Instead, we get a ghastly pre-island flashback to seven years ago, in which Oliver glumly confesses to Moira that he cheated on Laurel and knocked up another woman. Showing some of those stellar parenting skills we’ve come to expect from her, Moira promptly pays the woman a cool two million bucks in return for telling Oliver she lost the baby and leaving town. On learning of the woman’s alleged miscarriage, Oliver says to Moira, “I continue to be the luckiest guy on the planet.”
See what I mean about everyone being pretty awful this episode?
Roy’s rampage of senseless violence continues. When Sin tries to calm him down, he roughs her up and punches her in the face.
I really hate this plotline. I’ve hated it for weeks, true, but now my hatred has evolved into a glowing crystalline force powerful enough to reignite a dying star. This plotline has made the worst possible use of Roy. At no point in this episode is Roy actually Roy—instead, he’s a mute, brainless force of destruction. It is singularly tedious to watch him mindlessly smash his way across the city, and that’s a damn shame, because that’s a waste of Colton Haynes. I know I yammer on an awful lot about the awesomeness of Haynes’s performance as the damaged, villainous Jackson in Teen Wolf, but guess what? I’m going to yammer on some more. Jackson’s season-two plotline bore some similarities to Roy’s; like Roy, Jackson turned into a mute, murderous, rage-driven monster for great swaths of the season. But where Jackson managed to be slinky and icy and hyper-focused and vicious (playing to Haynes’s skills set, in other words), Roy is just… there. Smashing stuff, beating people up, maybe snarling a little. It’s a shame.
(Don’t get me wrong: One could very easily describe all of season two of Teen Wolf—hell, all of Teen Wolf, full stop—as a shit show, but Jackson, man, Jackson was something else. The cold, deadly, wounded, pansexual weirdness of Jackson—remember him deep-throating a snake in the science classroom?—elevated it at times into something kind of amazing.)
Sin, battered and shaken, heads to Verdant to warn Thea about Roy. She runs into Sara instead, who is understandably horrified at Roy’s actions. Sara is all for stone-cold killing Roy; Oliver still wants to give the adorable nitwits at S.T.A.R. Labs time to develop the mirakuru antidote.
With no particular plan in place for stopping Roy, Sara and Oliver track him to the clock tower. Roy knocks out Sara, breaks Oliver’s leg, and escapes, murdering a cop in the process.
Yeah. So… Roy just killed a cop, y’all. Is there any way he’s getting out of this mess of a plotline alive and with his soul reasonably intact, or have they now crapped up his character beyond repair? Because I don’t have any faith in the Arrow writers, I’m very much afraid it’s going to be the latter.
Meanwhile, Roy has mirakuru-induced visions of Thea urging him to kill her. Well. This is getting grosser by the minute.
In the face of Thea’s continued animosity, Moira decides to end her campaign and concede the race to Sebastian. Oliver tries to talk her out of this, sagely noting that Thea’s problems with Moira have nothing to do with her running for mayor and everything to do with Moira being an awful human being. In one of this episode’s few genuinely cool, nice moments, Moira drops a gentle bombshell: She tells Oliver she’s known he’s the Arrow since the night of the Undertaking, and assures him she’s very proud of him.
Revved up by Oliver, Moira gives a speech at the rally announcing her intention to stay in the race. Thea takes the stage and, on live television, delivers an impromptu speech designed to lure Roy to Verdant to come after her. Sure enough, Roy storms into the club, beats up everyone in sight, grabs Thea by the neck, and tries to strangle her.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but… well, apparently it does, so I’ll say it: While this is not a depiction of domestic abuse—Roy is not Roy right now, and he genuinely can’t control what the mirakuru makes him do—showing him violently attacking and trying to murder his girlfriend is not a shining moment for the Arrow writers, particularly when the attack is rationalized with excuses common to perpetrators of domestic violence (he didn’t mean to do it, he couldn’t help himself, he wasn’t in his right mind).
A gun-toting Sara arrives on the scene. She’s stopped by Sin, who throws herself in front of Roy to prevent her from killing him. Finally, Oliver riddles Roy with multiple venom-laced arrows and knocks him out. Sara and Oliver leave Roy in their lair, alone and unconscious (…again), then Sara announces her intention to leave Starling City. She tells Oliver, “I just care about you too much to be with you,” which makes as much sense as anything this episode.
She bids a quick farewell to Sin on her way out of town, calling her brave for preventing her from shooting Roy. Sin: “I knew you wouldn’t really hurt him. You’re not a killer.” Does Sin watch this show?
And then. Then! Oliver, Moira and Thea drive away from Verdant in the back of a limo. Conversation is prickly and uncomfortable, as usual, and then Moira starts to tell her kids something about Malcolm Merlyn. Presumably she’s going to spill the beans that he’s still very much alive, but whatever she’s about to say is interrupted when the window explodes and the limo crashes.
There’s a whole lot of blurry chaos, and then a groggy, injured Oliver returns to consciousness to find himself in a wooded area, with Thea and Moira, both distraught and panicky, desperately trying to wake him up. They’ve all been kidnapped by Slade (Slade!), who has decided to mount an impromptu reenactment of the scene where Dr. Ivo forced Oliver to choose whether Shado or Sara should live. Oliver refuses to play this game, so Moira volunteers to die. Slade applauds her bravery, then runs her through with his sword.
…I know there’s a long and storied tradition of this kind of crap happening in comic books, but Arrow, I’m sick of men murdering women for the sole purpose of making Oliver really mad.
Farewell, Moira Queen. I never thought much of you—I called you “spineless and unfathomably corrupt” at the start of this season, and I think that description still pretty much sums you up—but you died nobly under crappy circumstances.
We’re going to be heading into the three-part season finale next, but I’m having a hard time feeling much beyond antipathy toward this show. I don’t trust the writers enough to bring a shaky and often downright objectionable season in for a smooth landing.