Oliver’s journey from series beginning was to save Starling City after saving his father’s reputation, restoring his memory, and forgiving his father for his sins. The journey ended badly. Oliver was more killer than hero. He hurt the people he love, put them in danger whether he meant to or not. A certain detachment existed in Oliver once he returned from his five year ‘exile’ after the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit. Laurel tethered him to the present; his friendship with Tommy also acted as a tether. They kept him level, sane, behaved, inhibited. Things went bad with Tommy in the season finale. Malcolm Merlyn’s insanity resulted in over 500 deaths and the death of his son. Oliver resolved to become someone else—no longer a vindictive vigilante hell-bent on a blood for blood philosophy. Oliver wanted to be the hero the first season teased he was. Oliver vowed not to kill, to do what’s right, to protect those he cared about from what Tommy faced.
Tommy, however, unbeknownst to anyone in the series, besides Slade, and to the audience, was the final life Oliver watched die that he had a direct role in, and he couldn’t be that guy anymore. The past made him who he is and defined him throughout the first season. The island scenes were, initially, a way to show how playboy billionaire Oliver Queen transformed into The Hood. Impossible and dangerous situations changed him, choices he made informed his character, and he looked more a victim refusing to succumb to victimhood. The past hovered over the first part of the two part mid-season finale. Oliver’s looks whenever he discussed the serum suggested a disturbance he felt, as if a memory hit him as unexpectedly as a sudden wind.
Oliver’s past confronts him during his hallucinations. Shado and Slade haunt him after Barry saves his life using rat poison. The rat poison does not affect Oliver. His mind does. Barry explains his hallucinations aren’t pharma-logical but rather psychological. Oliver feels guilt and remorse. Shado comes to him gently, softly recommends letting, which doesn’t mean to let go of the fight to live but to let go of the guilt he feels for what happened on the island. Ivo gave Oliver a choice between Sara and Shadow, just like the Joker gave Batman a choice between Harvey and Rachel. Unlike Batman, Oliver wants to save both. Batman yelled, “I’m going to Rachel,” unaware of the trick played on him. The critical moment is oddly staged and confusingly shot. Oliver runs forward, kneels down, shouting, “No!” Ivo shoots Shado in the head afterwards. It looked like Oliver dropped to his knees between the women, but from the angle of Ivo, which the episode cuts to when Shado is shot, it looks like Oliver’ kneeling in front of Sara. Shado’s death is cataclysmic.
The formerly dead but instead very much alive Slade awakes asking for Shado and then unleashes incredible power on Ivo’s men, throwing soldiers through trees and ripping a man’s still beating heart from his chest. The prone dead body of Shado unleashes a torrent of grief, proclamations about what he’ll do to those responsible for her death. Sara lies to him about why Ivo shot him, leaving the part about Oliver’s choice out. Slade eventually learns what happened because he’s in present-day Starling City to work with, or rather oversee, Blood’s work with the serum. Slade’s plan of revenge involves destroying Oliver’s life. It’s not an original vengeance plan but it is a plan. I assume Slade spent time watching ABC’s Revenge and liked Emily’s approach to vengeance (though that character is more hands-on than Slade). The reveal of Slade as the man overseeing Sebastian Blood is framed for the effect of the surprise, though his profile is visible in the monitor on his desk. The camera pans up from his hand to reveal Business Suit Slade who wants to hurt Oliver as much as he hurt him the day he chose Sara over Shado.
Previous to the reveal, Cyrus Gold unleashes carnage on the city. Quentin follows Oliver’s advice to bring men in an attempt to take down Cyrus, but all of the men except him die at his hand. Slade anticipated every one of Oliver’s moves, seemingly. His goal is to crush his life, so Blood goes after Roy, will go after Felicity, and has nearly killed Quentin through Cyrus Gold. Cyrus is killed after an explosion. Sebastian Blood leaves, which leads to the aforementioned reveal. The end cuts between the past and present—Slade cradling Shado followed by present-day Oliver trying on his mask. I should mention Oliver’s third ghost (his second was Slade, who he lost to in an imaginary fight) is Tommy, who tells him to continue fighting, to not blame himself for his death for any death. Quentin tells Oliver the same thing. He cannot continue blaming himself. It’s an important truth for him to embrace for that inevitable fight with Slade, which he’ll have to engage in without guilt, without remorse, or else he’ll lose and the bad guys will win. That won’t happen. Oliver won’t triumph soon. Slade will hurt the people he cares about.
The scope of the second season is really impressive. The writers haven’t lost track of the characters (well, the ones that matter—Laurel’s doing nothing) in the midst of tremendous plotting. There are big bads all over the narrative. Big moments and little moments are written with equal nuance. Oliver’s internal psychological struggle with the past is important as Felicity’s feelings for him, as Oliver’s way of making right what he did to Roy’s leg, as Diggle’s issue with Deadshot, as Thea’s whatever. The writers haven’t thrown in these bad guys willy-nilly the way Sam Raimi was forced to in Spiderman 3, which derailed the film. Ivo, Blood and Slade connect. Merlyn’s shadowy operations above and beyond Oliver and Diggle tie into the actual Queen family. Arrow’s set up well for an awesome 2014.
-The . episode concluded with Barry Allen’s Flash transformation event. The CW’s planning a spinoff for next season. Right before his transformative event, he tried to transform Felicity’s idea of whom she wanted by asking her out on a date sometime.
-I’ll miss watching Celina Jade light up the television with her transfixing beauty. Did the writers just run out of ideas for Shado? Her death’s important for the Slade v. Oliver, I know; however, the character had nothing for this season besides being involved with Oliver while Slade looked on enviously.
-Geoff Johns & Ben Sokolowski wrote the episode. Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisburg got the story credit. John Behring directed the episode.