Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arrow "Unthinkable" Review

Arrow caught the wandering gaze of television critics and bloggers around mid-season when The CW sent out an advanced copy of an episode. Ever since the advanced copy hit the mailboxes of critics nationwide, Arrow became more part of the pop-cultural fabric. Discussions about ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of Shield would inevitably include comparisons to The CW’s Arrow, and how Marvel could not compare. Perhaps that’s why Arrow didn’t catch on with the general Internet public, and why it didn’t become a buzz-worthy or ‘trendy’ show until some critics started writing about it. The CW was the Gossip Girl channel. Folk couldn’t believe that the teenage melodrama channel boasted the best superhero series ever made. Indeed, believing and accepting is more prevalent here in the month of May, seeing that Entertainment Weekly named “Unthinkable” a must. The critical attention didn’t validate Arrow, of course. Arrow kicked ass in season 1. Season 2, as the best series do, as the best movies do, improved upon what came before.

Two main essential conflicts dominated the second season of Arrow. First was the conflict between Oliver and himself; the second was the conflict between Oliver and Slade. Their final conversation of the season, set in A.R.G.U.S.’ super maximum-security prison (located below the island), touches on the two essential conflicts. The two conflicts rode parallel lines until it reached the end point below the surface of the island where Oliver reminds Slade of his role in his, Oliver’s, development and transformation. Oliver wanted to become a hero instead of a killer. The Vigilante was the killer; the Arrow is the hero. A character only grows through conflict. Dan Harmon, creator of Community, reveres the monomyth. Essentially, a person should return to where he or she began, having changed. Oliver, of course, couldn’t become a hero because he wanted to. He needed to earn it. He needed to experience the dark night of the soul. That’s why a hero has his or her nemesis. The nemesis is the anti-thesis of the hero’s thesis, but together they form a synthesis that forms the next thesis.

Slade claims victory after Oliver, with the help of the League of Assassins, saves the city from the drone strike. Slade claimed victory while behind the bars in his cell, his physical purgatory (as Oliver calls it). Oliver calmly sits on a stool, listening to his deluded friend continue to delude himself by such concepts as winning and losing. Oliver doesn’t challenge those concepts or point out the arbitrariness of claiming ownership over one or the other. Slade saved Oliver’s life five years ago. Oliver would not have survived without his friend. His family would’ve never seen him again, and he never would’ve been able to love people and have friendships with people with Slade. Loyalty and friendship motivated Oliver to save his friend’s life on the submarine after Shado’s tragic death. The mirakura infected Slade with a deadly parasitic-like virus that eroded the mind and corroded the senses.  Both men were responsible for each other’s survival during their time together, but they each lost a lot because of what was borne between them in those early days on the island. So, both lost. Slade lost his soul and his Shado(w). Oliver lost his mother.

Oliver told Slade he didn’t kill him because of a weak will, but because of strength in his will. Slade promises to do all sorts of horrible things to the rest of his friends and family, unwilling to let Shado’s death go. Oliver thanked Slade for making him a hero. Felicity also aided Oliver’s ascent to true heroism. Slade posed a seemingly insurmountable to Oliver: endless strength and a personal vendetta. Until Felicity helped Oliver clear his mind and figure out a way to resolve the Slade problem without regressing, he’s ready to regress. Oliver’s “The Road Less Traveled” moment happens after Laurel’s taken, and Quentin wonders why the Arrow won’t kill to save a life, a good life, his daughter’s life. Why won’t he, indeed? Oliver thinks about the moment when his distorted globe led to his mother’s death, i.e. when he didn’t act before and wonders why he didn’t act. The times he didn’t act led to his mother’s death. So, he thinks he should kill Slade and end it. Felicity reminds him that he killed him before and nothing happened. Slade lost his eye but nothing more. Slade, then, almost broke Oliver’s life.

Felicity suggests beating Slade with their minds, because Slade’s really the one with distorted globe. Sane folk can outthink an insane man suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Oliver employs misdirection. The misdirection leads to Felicity jamming the cure into the neck of Slade’s. The way they get there involves love and playacting that probably set the hearts of shippers of Oliver and Felicity aflame. Later in the episode, on the shores of the island where Oliver learned to survive with Slade five years ago (now six, right), he and Felicity share meaningful looks, and then laugh before a question about how he learned to fly a plane sets up season three’s flashbacks that involves Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S.

Without Slade, Oliver wouldn’t have been made, as he is when he sits across from him. Without Oliver’s triumph and his continued existence on the planet, and the continued existence of his family and friends, Slade could not sit and stew and simmer in his cell, planning for the day he escapes and makes Oliver’s life a living hell again. A synthesis forms the next thesis.

Other Thoughts:

-Other happenings in the finale, of course, because it is the finale. I thought it more worthwhile to use the main body to write about the most important narrative of the season. Anyway, Sara did not die. She returned to the league of assassins with Nyssa. The character sort of faded away in the last four episodes.

-I dislike overt finale feeling in a season finale. Laurel had the worst line regarding what she learned this year. I shook my head. Quentin may die, and Laurel doesn’t like that. I assume he’ll survive. Quentin had a badass moment when he saved Nyssa’s life.

-Diggle’s going to become a father. I liked that Amanda used Lyla’s pregnancy as leverage. Arrow has its unapologetically soapy moments.

-Thea wore expensive leather pants after she decided to leave the city with her father, fed up by everyone in her life lying to her. I still adore Willa Holland, but her character needs more kick. Come on, writers: Laurel had a good arc this season. Find one for Thea this summer.

-Stephen Amell’s damn good. The scene when Oliver told Felicity he loved her was wonderfully underplayed. He’s basically as good and reliable as David Boreanaz was during ANGEL now.

-Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisburg wrote the script. Greg Berlanti got the story credit. John Behring directed the shit out it.

-Terrific season. I tip my hat to the entire writing staff, the cast, the production crew, the post-production crew, the drivers, and everyone else responsible for season two. Everyone, enjoy your summers. Read a lot of books. Come back to The Foot tomorrow for Vampire finale fun.

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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.