Season 2, Episode 20
When I read the synopsis of this episode I was immediately apprehensive, fearing that this had all the hallmarks of a filler episode to lead into the last three, which would make up an extended finale. Fortunately, the episode that was advertised was somewhat of a misdirect. While the focus of the episode started as Mirakuru-addled Roy becoming overcome with rage, the real focus here was the Queen family matriarch, Moira. I’m struggling to think of a single episode in Arrow’s history that has completely forgone any island flashbacks. However, in this episode, the flashbacks were all about Moira and her unwavering (and almost sociopathic) love and loyalty to her children. In his younger, douche-ier form, Oliver’s philandering has left him in a tough spot. There was a really nice parallel between Oliver’s naivety in present as well as the past. Younger Oliver accepts at face value that the girl he got pregnant has lost the baby and disappeared from his life, while the older Oliver is blown away by the revelation that his mother knows his crime-fighting alter ego. It’s an interesting dynamic that has existed between Moira and Oliver, from the beginning to the end (more on that later), Moira has always had secrets that Oliver has never known. With the reveal that she knows, Moira proves herself the true keeper of all the secrets. Oliver talks a lot about sacrifice on the show, whether it’s sacrificing himself or others, and no one on the show understood this more than Moira.
What the show has always done well is constantly remind us that Oliver is a human being with weaknesses. This week, the show demonstrated Oliver’s physical weakness when he has his leg effortlessly broken by Roy, but also his naivety when it comes to Sara. Oliver’s problem is that he always sees an idealised version of everyone. It’s for this reason that he won’t kill Roy, because he has to believe that Roy can be redeemed. This road to redemption got a lot longer this week, with Roy turning cop-killer in his Mirakuru-raged state. The Oliver of old would have put Roy down long ago and not everyone has reached Oliver’s higher moral ground, namely Sara. As Oliver states outright; Sara is basically him when he first returned from the island. The difference between the two is that Oliver arrived home with the goal of ‘saving’ the city. As abstract as that idea may be, it’s an idea none the less. Outside of the people she cares about, Sara doesn’t really have anything to fight for. Having said that, she chose a very bad time to bail on Oliver. With the upcoming battle royale with Slade, his army, Isabel Rochev (now Mirakuru-ed) and Sebastian Blood, her timing couldn’t really be worse.
Despite this, it seems fairly obvious that the ‘friend’ she was visiting will be Malcolm Merlyn, who’ll no doubt be an unforeseen opponent to Slade’s master plan. So that leads me nicely into what Slade did in this episode. If the character was going to be hard to redeem before this episode, well, let’s just say I can’t see things ending well for him. Which is kind of shame, but then again, he did kill Oliver’s mum, right in front of him and his sister. This was a shocking and nicely hidden moment on the show. It was inevitable that a main character would be killed in this season, but the effect of this killing was so much more potent having happened in what appeared to be a filler episode. It wasn’t a built up finale where we were guessing who might die. Instead, like the car crash itself, it was sudden, unexpected, and raw in its violence.
There is no Machiavellian goal in this killing, it happens because Slade is insane. It’s easy to forget with his sharp suits and master plans that this guy is seriously cracked. If anything, killing Oliver’s mother will only make him a tougher opponent, but Slade is so overcome with despair that he simply can’t abide Oliver not suffering as he does. While this might make them even in some warped way, Oliver’s punishment must be more severe (Slade is essentially filling a Nolan Batverse Bane role here).
It’s telling that I’ve barely talked about the Roy story, but frankly, it’s not particularly important in tonight’s episode. It’s a red herring (no pun intended), in a sense. While it’s important for Roy’s character, he is basically short changed into being a largely mute plot device to bring Thea back into the main thrust of the story. While this is unsatisfying for the Roy character (a character I’ve always struggled to engage with), the way it subtly obfuscates the Moira story makes her death so much more shocking.
With this huge character death happening, we really are in the final days of Arrow season two. Having killed off a main character in episode twenty, the stakes are even higher for the three remaining episodes. While I’m not expecting Game of Thrones levels of murder, I wouldn’t bet against more major deaths. As the old proverb goes, ‘shit is getting real’.