Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Arrow "Blind Spot" Review

Television directing is rarely focused on in weekly review, mostly because the producing director and the “Pilot” director creates a series’ visual aesthetic. The job of a visiting director is to maintain what’s come before, i.e. to blend into the world rather than standout in it. Glen Winter, the director of tonight’s Arrow episode “Blind Spot,” didn’t standout in Arrow’s world. I incorrectly predicted the director of the episode after watching its open, because I’m a guy who likes to guess who directed an episode of television—so that if a ‘name’ director dropped by a series to direct an episode I wouldn’t act like I knew Big Name Director directed the episode when that Big Name would do what every other visiting director did. I digress. “Blind Spot” had a lot of interesting shots, though--the type of shots I don’t pay much attention to while watching a TV episode.

“Blind Spot” opens with a bird’s eye view of a staircase, which is the entrance to the psychiatric hospital where Sebastian’s mother is imprisoned. The rain falls from us, our perspective, and then follows Sebastian through the halls, bird’s eye view still, until he’s in the room. The angles change, the lighting changes, and standard Arrow mise-en-scene follows. The eye-popping stylistic choices return a little later. Whereas “Blind Spot” begins openly, the rest of the episode becomes more constricted and confined. Tight close-ups dominate scenes. Sneaky one-ers are staged, as seen when Roy walks away from the hospital room and around the corner. I noticed the focus on the face more and more as the episode progressed. The opening shot of the building as rain pours suggests anyone above is as blind as anyone below. The viewers’ blind spot is what’s not in the frame. Sebastian cannot leave any blind spots.

The face, though, the faces matter. The tight close-ups of many faces in this episode mean a great deal for what’s happening in the episode. Laurel goes through a downward spiral that’s mostly told through close-ups of Katie Cassidy’s face. I’ve never seen runny makeup tell a story like hers. Laurel continues to suspect Sebastian of bad things, especially after she receives news of his mother’s death two days after she left with information about what Sebastian did to his father. Laurel asks for the Arrow’s help, but winds up arrested for drugs. Her habit finally gets her. Quentin expresses disappointment. Oliver sort of lectures her. Laurel thinks Sebastian set her up, which he did, but her problem’s a problem regardless of set-up. Oliver listens to her because of his attachment to her. Sebastian sets her up again after kidnapping her and leading the Arrow to them, to throw off both off the scent.

Laurel’s initially determined, followed by fantatical and conspiratorial, and then she’s confused and doubtful. Laurel shoots the man in the skull mask dead and loses her job. What she thought she knew she doesn’t, even though she’s right, but villains excel at making sane people feel insane, in inducing doubt when one should not doubt. Laurel and Oliver right into a trope. Oliver’s face receives little close-ups. He’s rock-solid in his personas. He communicates his feelings through language, telling Diggle and Felicity why he followed Laurel’s lead to the Sebastian dead-end, that she’s his blind spot. Oliver discusses Laurel with Sara on the island in the flashbacks. Their conversation revolves around Laurel, how Sara said yes to the boat invite because of Laurel sort of stealing Oliver years earlier. The main takeaway is Oliver’s importance to her.

Oliver’s importance to her directly influences her conversation with Ivo. Ivo rescued her, sheltered her, took care of her, and showed her things she never knew before. I assume fighting is what he showed her since Arrow airs at 8PM. Sara’s relationship with Ivo brings to mind Faith’s relationship with Mayor Wilkins in Buffy’s third season, though the specifics of each female character’s dynamic with the older male figure is different. Wilkins looked at Faith like a daughter and treated her as his own blood. Ivo’s not as layered as Joss’ delightfully evil mayor. Ivo insults Sara quickly after she chooses death over allowing Ivo more chances to torture people for the sake of science, of saving the world. When she turns around after her stand to Ivo, Oliver stands there as steady and solid as he is Starling City. The camera rushes in tight of Lotz’s face when she makes her choice known to Ivo.

Facial expressions tell Roy’s internal story, especially in the hospital hallway scene, seconds after Sin lets Thea knows something is wrong with Roy. Roy decided to become his own vigilante because of his newfound strength and ability to heal quickly. A dirty lawyer ends up nearly dead because Roy can’t control his strength or his mood. Roy turns away from Thea and Sin, the camera follows him in a sneaky one-take, a stretcher passes in the background as he sinks to the floor and cries. Roy’s face is wildly expressive. From torment to confusion to panic to anguish, his face conveys more than the perfect line of dialogue. Oliver offers to help him control what he feels. Roy accepts without a moment’s thought.  I thought Oliver would pull off the hood, in a show of ultimate trust and confidence, but such a reveal seems likely for next week.

The focus on faces comes into focus during Slade’s overt threat to Sebastian after a series of trying events previous to Slade’s quick slaughter of Sebastian’s trusted crew of criminals. Slade wants to rip Oliver’s heart out and show it to him, and he wants Sebastian to follow the plan without screwing the plan up. Sebastian probably pissed his pants when he looked upon Slade in his Deathstroke costume, unmasking himself as he held a slick blade to his throat. Slade’s Deathstroke represents rock bottom for anyone who used Mirakura, the transformation of man into monster.

Other Thoughts:

-Diggle made many snide remarks tonight, didn’t he?

-Laurel’s bound for better narrative, right? The writers made great use of the character tonight. Katie Cassidy was great.

-Blind spots were a theme tonight, but so was the ‘you never know someone truly.’ Of course, the latter’s the thesis of the series. Every character’s been shortsighted before as well, which is the same as being blind within the scope of the show.

-Wendy Mericle & Beth Schwartz wrote the episode. Glen Winter directed the episode.

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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.