Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Arrow "Deathstroke" Review

Isabel wouldn’t follow Slade Wilson if she knew he listened to the prettiest ghost that ever haunted a person. Actually, she would. Slade’s not-so-secret secret is his craziness. The eye-patch, the measured tone he uses to address those around him, the influence he has on people, and his cryptic warnings that others take for casual language suggests one whose every syllable is measured and every sentence written and re-written before it leaves his mouth. Slade’s very, very good at acting the role of the supervillain. Villainous characters earn the super prefix in comic books and any kind of genre fiction. These characters are very good at theatrical villainy. The depth of planning, the intricacy of detail, and the play-acting performed for various people throughout their villainous play on perceived enemies and other innocents, resembles a carefully produced play. Slade’s hitting his marks as a well-trained actor hits his marks in a play. The rising and falling volume of the audience let the performer know what is felt and what is not. Slade sauntered over to the Queen residence to let Oliver know his plans to for Oliver’s future suffering, but that didn’t hit Olive; kidnapping Thea hits Oliver; informing Thea that her father is Malcolm Merlyn hits Oliver (and Moira); telling Laurel Oliver’s secret hits Oliver. Slade strolls about the stage he made for himself since his arrival in Starling City, manipulates the crowd before him as a good writer, director, and cast of actors will for a theatrical production, and leaves all wanting for more: for some, power; for others, destruction and death.

Thea’s kidnapping drives the action in “Deathstroke.” Oliver, Sara, Diggle, Felicity, and Roy, develop a plan immediately after Slade interrupts the mayoral debate with a video of a tearful Thea, begging for help. Slade used Thea to make a point and as a diversion to his hijacking of a transport vehicle for the Department of Corrections Thea’s kidnapping divides Roy and the others, while bringing together Oliver and his mother. The mirakura continues to affect Roy. He’s reckless, quick to anger, quick to defiance, and needs Oliver to yell authoritatively at him to stop him from breaking Diggle’s arm. Roy feels frustrated about Oliver’s leadership in the early stages of the kidnapping. The initial plan of his captures Slade and places him in police custody. Slade scoots away due to a false alibi in Costa Rica. Roy feels his forced abandonment of Thea led directly to the kidnapping. Oliver knows why Slade took Thea. Thea represents a weakness for Slade to exploit. The people around Oliver’s life are pawns in Slade’s life. He can use them as he wants. He uses Thea to distract Oliver. His last threat of the episode is to distract Oliver one last time by telling Laurel Oliver’s secret.

Distraction’s the lone thing a Big Bad can do with four episodes left in a season. The great big clash won’t happen until the peak period of May sweeps, when people come home after a evening twilit stroll through the neighborhood or a park and want to see what will happen when Oliver wages battle with the ultimate weapons and his associates. Isabel betrayed Oliver after Oliver gave her temporary control of the company. Slade placed her in the company for that betrayal. Isabel’s motivations are unclear. Summer Glau looks exceptionally mean when staring down Oliver while he asks, “Do you know what he did?” Summer Glau’s so talented that she’ll pull of ‘Evil’ elegantly as her character’s lone motivation because of her balletic movements, her grace while kicking the ass of the hero. There’s more than evil to Isabel’s motivations for working with Slade. Sebastian Blood loses a lot of ground in the polls after the failed debate. Slade reminds him of the deal they made for power in the city. Blood will not earn the vote of the people; he’ll force himself upon the people as leader after Slade brings Starling City’s citizens to their knees. Blood was once the baddest guy Oliver had to face, but he’s been reduced to a play-thing in a scary mask since Slade’s arrival.

Through the kidnapping, Thea learns the truth about her lineage. Thea looks like a wounded, vulnerable bird, more shaken by Oliver’s choice not to tell her the truth than by the truth. Oliver and Moira re-connect during the kidnapping. The problem between Moira and her children has her reserve, her distance, her inability to open up. She kept many secrets in her life, among them her role in her son’s disappearance. Thea’s kidnapping moves Moira to a open, vulnerable place. Almost involuntarily she opens up about her anguish when Oliver disappeared and how she feels the same with Thea gone. Oliver moves near her and holds her hand. Moira has manipulated people her entire life, lied to her children, and currently runs for office, but all that seemed to fall away in a moment that won’t soon repeat on Arrow.

“Deathstroke” is charged with an epic vibe through the acts. It builds and builds to a fight between the Arrow and Deathstroke. Oliver dismantles a pack of men as he moves to rescue his sister, only to find both gone. The episode deflates once he bursts into the empty room, and once Slade’s master plan is a rip-off of The Joker’s plan to enlist inmates in his army. The most devastating moves Slade makes against Oliver’s family is of stock soap-opera stuff. The episode is absolutely charged with tension and urgency until the soap opera stuff. The flashbacks throughout “Deathstroke” show the differences between past and present Slade: he sensed many things and was indestructible then, but he’s honed his senses, controls every aspect of his power, and those in his life drawn to his power and what it can do. Indeed, he’s near-unstoppable, the ultimate weapon, but he’s also the super villain in a hero’s story. How and when Oliver kills Slade is really a matter of when. There is no ‘if.’

Other Thoughts:


-Marc Guggenheim & Drew Z. Greenberg wrote the episode. Guy Bee directed. The fight between Oliver and Slade’s men is my favorite of the series. Terrific choreography and direction in that sequence. Oliver is a badass.   

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.