Despite this season of Arrow having an amazing story, the flashbacks have seemed a little lack luster compared to past season. Well all that changed this episode as the past and present perfectly reflect each other not only in Arrow’s life; but also in Roy’s. So let’s take a closer look at this episodes organization and see what’s coming next for Team Arrow.
Going Rogue & Remembering The Past – Themes:
Usually a great episode of Arrow has a underlying theme that is shown in both the present as well as referenced in the flashbacks. This episode however had not one; but two as we investigate Oliver Queen’s past and hear about Ted Grant’s – Wildcat’s – past 6 years ago. As I’m about to show, these two storylines will combine in the character of Roy who will both benefit from something in Arrow’s past; but also become the juxtaposition for something in Grant’s.
When Sidekicks Go Rogue:
When another vigilante starts leaving dead bodies around the city, it’s up to Team Arrow to figure out who’s responsible. Though the answer comes rather easily as all the evidence, and even a recent crime scene all point to Laurel’s trainer Ted Grant. It turns out Ted, a former boxer, was also a former vigilante known as Wildcat who fought crime in the Glades 6 years prior. As for why Oliver never heard of him, Ted kept to the Glades so the news never covered him – also, Oliver was busy being trapped on an island.
Anyway, Ted’s vigilante career ended one night when one of his targets was beaten to death. Though as it turns out it wasn’t Ted; but his sidekick. Wrecked with guilt, Ted hung up his vigilante days and abandoned his sidekick, who later got abducted by the gang who’s member he’d killed and tortured. All of these killings are him returning to get revenge of Ted for letting him go. Sound familiar?
This history lesson is to be juxtaposed with what Roy is currently going through. With fears that he suffered a mirakuru-induced blackout, Roy feels that his dreams are telling him that he killed Sarah. At first this seems preposterous; but then Felicity reveals the strange angles of entry the arrows took into Sarah and knows that a regular bow couldn’t have made them; but arrows thrown with added Mirakuru force could explain it.
When Roy reveals all of this tensions run high and Laurel and Diggle both call for justice and to set Roy free; but Oliver feels differently. When Ted’s former apprentice kidnaps Laurel and Ted, it is Roy who is able to swoop in and facilitate the rescue as well as catch the revenge-filled vigilante. The two apprentices face off bringing this implied juxtaposition front and center as he even compares himself to Roy. Roy wins and proclaims that they are not the same; but just to be safe asks that Oliver never abandons him. This confidence, dedication to the team and humbleness of realizing he needs help is why we love Roy as a character – who now receives his official name – Arsenal.
Comic Book Reference – Arsenal:
In the comics, Roy Harper was once known as “Speedy” but then graduated to his own grown up character – similar to Robin becoming Nightwing – and became Arsenal. In Arrow the show, despite “Speedy” being Oliver’s nickname for Thea, he called Roy “Speedy” once in Season 2 to make him remember Thea and stop the Mirakuru rage. Though Roy quickly said to “NEVER” call him that again. Now that Roy is called “Arsenal”, he not only follows the comics; but also has a much more fitting name. You can’t even call his character “The Red Arrow” – another comic identity of Roy Harper – since his new costume isn’t just a recolor of Oliver’s; but is actually it’s own design. Nicely played Arrow, nicely played.
Recovering The Past:
As I mentioned, the theme of this episode wasn’t just ‘when sidekicks go rogue’; but also how to recover your past. During Oliver’s flashbacks we see how he must try to remember what his subconscious saw in order to discover where China White’s messenger dropped the package. It is through a deep meditation with a particular red candle that he is able to accomplish this; and that is exactly what he’ll use in the present to help Roy remember.
Oliver already had an idea of what Roy was feeling guilty over; but he had to let Roy see it himself in order to let his mind rest. What Roy was dreaming about was actually a mixed bag of two different occasions. As it turns out, his dreams were the end result of post-Mirakuru rage; but of an event that happened in Season 2 when he killed a cop with an arrow. Roy didn’t consciously remember this event; but the actions were remembered as well as the look on Sarah’s face as she watched.
So when Sarah was killed and Roy heard how the event happened, his mind merged the two events and had him throw arrows into Sarah rather than stab a cop as Sarah watched – both actions require similar hand motions. Despite the relief that Roy didn’t kill Sarah, he now has to come to terms with the fact that he killed an innocent cop.
Oliver’s Crate of Tricks:
As we’ve seen the past two Seasons, the crate Oliver took with him from the island had a lot of different trinkets and miracle items, though each associated with someone who he learned from; but then watched die. The miracle herbs and hood of Shadow and her father are just a few. So could the fact that this red candle was in his box hint at the fact that things might not go so well for his new foster family. As of right now, the wife doesn’t like him; but perhaps in the end Oliver will do something to change their minds. Whether they’re saved or lost, possessing this candle shows that Oliver carries that family with him even today.
As I mentioned last week, Laurel’s whole approach to avenging her sister has me worried. It seems rushed and not as disciplined as the other vigilantes for good we’ve seen. In the end Laurel might end up hurting the ‘Canary’ name rather than honoring it – or worse herself. Oliver of course discovered Laurel’s ‘hobby’ this episode and once again asked her to stop; but its not because he thinks she’s weak; but rather because he’s worried about her. Laurel doesn’t understand everything that is associated with the dual identity/vigilante life. She thinks it’s a game you win; but in reality it’s not a game at all.
All in all a great episode of Arrow. Story and action was impressive. The flashbacks are finally hitting their stride and relevance this season. Sure Laurel is getting on our nerves a bit; but when has that not happened? This season started off big and it’s growing with each episode as next week we meet Cupid – who is actually a character from the comics as well. So see you all next week for that one.