Arrow "Blind Spot" Review: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Laurel?
Last week, I talked about how Laurel's been an issue for Arrow due to her personal plot-hopping at the start of Season 2 and then her subsequent disappearance from the narrative. So her return to the fold in "Blast Radius"—and with a connection to the season's overarching plot, to boot—was cause for celebration. This week marked the apparent conclusion of her participation in things, but it's also probably for the best, as Arrow essentially hit the restart button on the character.
It's a good reset button, though. Quentin and Oliver have both lost faith in Laurel, and Adam fired her. Even her Carrie Mathison-esque theory about Sebastian being a criminal mastermind ended up in tatters. She has nothing left but her guilt, her sense of wrongness, and her drug problem. When a character hits rock bottom like this, it's a prime opportunity to rebuild them, to create something that's hopefully better than whatever was there before.
Of course, this seemed to be Arrow's plan all along. The utter destruction of Laurel's world was intended to put on her a new, and perhaps more heroic, path, the same way the island broke down Oliver and Sara. Arrow' has always emphasized its love for an origin story by keeping the island plot going, and in that vein, it wouldn't have made much sense for Laurel to just become a costumed do-gooder without first giving her a real reason and drive to be one.
The journey hasn't been particularly well-managed, though. There's a clear sense that everything Laurel's gone through this season, from hunting down the vigilante to assuming the guilt for Tommy's death to the drugs, has been building to this episode. Since Laurel has largely felt like a background character in spite of all those things, the arc didn't have the dramatic oomph it probably should have had. The narrative threads were all there, but it was just oh so very difficult to care since we never really got to spend time with Laurel dealing with any of it. Keeping her and her plots on the periphery likely served the show as a whole more, but it didn't do the character any favors.
So "Blind Spot" ended up feeling like a bit of catch-up on everyone's part, as it rushed to pay off all of the Laurel plots that in turn would also further/delay the season's larger story in Oliver's unknowing hunt for Blood by making everyone think that the man in the skull mask is dead (RIP Officer Daily). I don't know that I actually care more about Laurel than I did before—though Katie Cassidy did manage to wring out some sympathy for the character in Laurel's distraught conversation with Quentin—but I'm at least more interested in what the show does with her going forward. You know, provided she doesn't just exist on the edge of the show to the degree that she has in the past. Maybe she can become Verdant's in-house counsel!
Then again, the mess that is now Laurel's life may just be a happy accident for Slade and whatever he has in store for Oliver. While Slade's plans for Oliver are still super vague beyond the whole "destroy everything he possibly cares for" aspect, we do now know that Sebastian getting close to Laurel is part of it, though to what end isn't clear right now. At least the events of the episode provided Slade and Sebastian a way to throw Oliver off their trail and provide a breaking of the trust between Oliver and Laurel. It wasn't the goal, but they did get the desired outcome, even if Sebastian is now on very thin ice as Slade's happy to get into an updated version of his old Deathstroke outfit from the island and kill some mooks to make a point.
The idea of breaking bonds of trust appeals to me since it offers some potential plot symmetry going forward, provided Island Slade finds out about what Oliver did that resulted in Shado's death. Slowly isolating Oliver from those he cares about and those who support him would be a fine form of revenge from a jilted ex-friend, leaving him emotionally and logistically vulnerable for a final confrontation. Oliver's already off his game a little bit because of the mirakuru, but now that he thinks it's all taken care of, that's a very dangerous sense of security for Slade to exploit.
Speaking of the mirakuru, Roy's all pumped up and ready to beat up scumbags now! I do like how Arrow is pacing itself with the Roy storyline, which presumably will reach a new point next week as Oliver starts to train Roy beyond parkour and beating prostitute-killers nearly to death. It serves as a nice counterpoint to Laurel's many plots that lingered about without much advancement. The show's choosing not dwell on Roy having lots of "Whoa, dude, look how hard I can punch things!" moments and instead is moving it along at a reasonable pace. Sure, I'm sort of rolling my eyes that Thea's in the dark still -- Sin didn't explain things to her? It seemed like she was about to at the hospital! -- but like Laurel, Thea's not always privy to the bigger going-ons.
That Roy's powers are moving right along while Laurel sort of languished for half a season, does demonstrate the show's trouble in managing the competing impulses of personal melodrama and superhero action. Arrow's gotten loads better at balancing those elements on an episode-to-episode basis, but that it is putting Roy in a fast lane while Laurel struggled to find an on-ramp demonstrates its priorities, and probably where its strengths are. There's nothing wrong with this as it's nice to see the show figuring itself out; it's just a matter of learning from those strengths and weaknesses, and using that knowledge to continue to hit new highs, as Arrow has done very well this season.
FROM THE QUIVER
– I want Glen Winter to direct all of Arrow's episodes. He doesn't settle for easy shot composition or blocking (I loved the scene with Sebastian and his mother), and he even gives scenes like Laurel explaining her visit to St. Walker's to Adam a bit of life, simply by having the actors, and the camera, move around. Little bits of visual flair like that help keep scenes moving, even when they're just serving up exposition and internal plot-recapping.
– Starling City can't be bothered to organize its archives, but boy howdy, when they need cops at Archive No. 7, they show up double-quick and fully armed. I mean, a whole unit arrived in a blink of an eye, and the security guards hadn't even mentioned on-screen that they had the vigilante in the archives—just that they needed some officers. I can only assume that the truth about the Kennedy assassination is somewhere in that mess.
– Can I just tell you how much I love that Thea and Sin are friends, that they seem to genuinely like one another ("You are not touching the hair, Queen."), and there isn't any "Are you trying to steal my boyfriend?" nonsense. It's soooooooooooooooooo nice.
– I got a nice chuckle out of Oliver interrogating a super-snitch-y looking criminal with the use of a Bluetooth polygraph and asking what color his shoes were. Nice dash of humor.
What did you think of "Blind Spot"?
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