Arrow "The Man Under the Hood" Review: Those Who Matter Most

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Apr 17, 2014

Arrow S02E19: "The Man Under the Hood"

As we hit the homestretch of Season 2, Arrow has once again found its groove. The show briefly lost track of itself upon returning from the December hiatus, and while I enjoyed a few episodes after that break, they were heavy on the arranging of things so that Arrow could increase its momentum starting with "Deathstroke" and not have to look back. Season 1 did this in a soft way with "The Undertaking," using flashbacks to flesh out Malcolm's motives and plans before sprinting hard through the penultimate episode and the finale, but Season 2 is looking decidedly more ambitious, with essentially a six-episode arc to wrap up the season.

And it's not only ambitious, it's smart. One reason why the season's first block of episodes—from the premiere to "Three Ghosts"—worked so well is that it used self-contained arcs to propel the narrative forward. So while we had a new criminal element to deal with each week, there were also narrative and emotional climaxes that provided just enough resolution to make it feel like things were moving. With that run, Arrow hit a sweet spot of episodic and serialized storytelling that was absent from the string of installments between "Blast Radius" and "Birds of Prey." Sure, there was the Laurel's-addiction-and-anger storyline that worked fine for some (depending on your personal level of Laurel appreciation/tolerance), but it got bogged down by middling criminals of the week and made that stretch of episodes feel fuzzy.

Now, however, Arrow has set up enough targets (and is still setting up a few more) that it can start hitting them without the need to round out episodes with random baddie who're looking to rob banks or blow up buildings. It has more than enough to do, and it's all stuff that Arrow has been building to all season, which is why it's so exciting.

We ended up with quite a range of action sequences this week, from the covert blowing-up of Queen Consolidated's Applied Sciences building to Slade wiping the floor with Oliver, Sara, and Diggle in their own headquarters to Oliver arriving at Slade's hideout to shut down the biotransfuser, only to find Roy hooked up the machine in a bit of (annoying) off-screen shortcutting. Not only did they provide plenty of thrills, they were motivated by more than just, "It's time for Oliver to fight some guys!" 

Razing the Applied Sciences facility was the natural—if slightly over-the-top—way to stop Slade from further weaponizing his blood, something Team Arrow discovered that he intended to do after he recruited those convicts. But couldn't they've just destroyed on the centrifuge, instead of the entire building? I suppose there were other goodies they didn't want Slade having access to, but in any case, they was also operating covertly, something I think benefits them; it's more proactive than waiting on someone else to do something, and it underscored the type of situation they've found themselves in, where they're having to make careful, if flashy, moves to undermine Slade's plans.

This resulted in Slade needing to fix the situation, leading him to break into the Arrow Cave, steal the techno-skeleton key, ruin a bunch of stuff, and, really, prove that he can do anything he damn well pleases. It was a personalized form of escalation, which is something that Slade excels at. The obliteration of the Applied Sciences building hurt his plan, but it didn't hurt him. Breaking into the Arrow Cave and taking things sent a message to our heroes that they're not safe anywhere; it undermined their confidence, and it demonstrated just how in control Slade is.

So Slade stole another doodad from S.T.A.R. Labs, one that requires a lot of electricity to work, and that led to Oliver heading out to kill Slade when he would, presumably, be at his weakest. It was a logical chain of events organized around action-filled set pieces, plus there were narrative beats that instigated each one, which elevated the episode as a whole. 

Those of you who've been reading my Arrow reviews since the beginning know that the only thing I love more than action set pieces brought on by narrative logic are episodes that have a hook upon which to hang their story—some sort of idea that unifies their actions. Part of the reason is that such episodes give me something to write about and pick apart a little, but a larger part of me just likes it when all the plots feed into the same purpose. It gives everything a little extra weight and, perhaps most importantly, it signals that everything in the episode matters.

In this case, it was Quentin's little spiel to Laurel that told us what we needed to know about everything going on in "The Man Under the Hood." Quentin didn't want Laurel to spill the beans about what she knew because he wants to think of the Arrow as just a force, an entity with no other concerns outside of saving Starling City. It's the symbol that matters, not the man.

Finding out about the man ruins everything. Roy found out about Oliver and ended up running away from the man he used to believe in—a man who Roy thought was doing good—and it got him hooked up to a machine that's sucking his blood and transfusing it into a bunch of convicts to give them superpowers. Thea's entire world came crashing down as she learned about the people under the lies, as it were: Moira, Oliver, and now Robert Queen. The people who were supposed to love her and protect her were lying to her, and the truth has just been too much. Those forces of good were dragged down by fallibility, by being human, exactly the thing Quentin wants to avoid.

What was so great about all of this, however, was how much of this very idea—which means more to you: the idea of a person, or the actual person?—applied to Isabel as well. Her affair with Robert Queen was based on Robert being her soul mate, a man who loved her and understood her better than anyone else. Instead, she found that he was more Queen than Robert, tied to a family that included an illegitimate daughter. That's what drove her to team up with Slade, to train with him, and to die for him... until she received a helpful injection of mirakuru blood, of course.

The one person who saw it from another angle was Laurel. Quentin didn't want to know because knowing would make Oliver human. Thea, Roy, and Isabel didn't want to know because knowing would mean their loved ones were liars. But Laurel, with her hug to Oliver and her canny epiphany about Sara's alter ego, realized that knowing the identities of the people beneath the hoods and the masks doesn't mean judging them—it means understanding that they're not two different people, but rather individuals with motives and experiences all their own, motives and experiences that drive them to do the things they do. They may not make the best decisions, but the decisions come from a place of love, and that's what's important.


– "A bomber. I'm a bomber. I wonder if I can list that on my resume under 'Special skills'."

– "I tried to kiss my half-brother before my real father killed him. That's how screwed-up I am!" Seriously, Thea has had like the worst few episodes.

– Starling City DA Kate Spencer: Super-impressed with being blackmailed once. Not really keen on it happening twice. Methinks she doesn't understand how blackmailing works: You always keep paying, no matter what.

– Everyone say "Hello!" to Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes, who were playing Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon. Both of them have been cast in the pilot for The CW's The Flash spin-off, and their appearances here were sort of a "Yeah, remember when we were going to do the Flash pilot as Episode 20, but then the network decided to give us more money to make the pilot we so dropped that idea and put Barry in a coma? How about we give you two supporting characters to help Felicity make the mirakuru cure instead?" Both of them have sizable roles in the DC Comics universe, but you can look them up if you'd like to be more in-the-know.

– Earlier this week, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg held a Q&A session at a screening of this episode and next week's episode, and he said that the big reason Isabel disappeared was that the writers didn't know how they were going to play her: good gal or bad gal. It seems really bizarre to me that you wouldn't play Isabel as evil, but whatever. You can read the whole interview here, but I'd caution that it contains spoilers.

What did you think of "The Man Under the Hood"?

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  • 377221 Apr 22, 2014

    Excellent episode. One criticism though:

    Slade has been hit with a toxic arrow, an explosive arrow and some kind of wacky gun. Fool Slade once, shame on you. Fool Slade twice, shame on him. What happens when you fool him three times? He likes to boast that nothing will kill him, but when will he learn that some things can temporarily incapacitate him and maybe he should dodge the next attack instead of just standing there grinning like an idiot?

    Also, do we know exactly what the deal is with Slade and what he's been doing besides devising convoluted plans to make Oliver suffer? He's amassed a huge amount of money in a very short time...doing what? And Oliver didn't know about him? We know Oliver didn't get his MBA on the island (although apparently Slade did), and presumably doesn't know much about Starling City's corporate fat cats beyond the list from season 1, but surely he would have eventually found out just by dumb luck that there was a one-eyed Australian billionaire living in his city before he showed up at the mansion?

  • Pnascimento Apr 21, 2014

    This episode made perfectly clear what's the difference between Oliver and Slade. Oliver has people who care about him, Slade is alone in his misery and that's what makes a good villain.
    Now that Wilson was forced to see Oliver taking (although indirectly again) another woman out of his life the war between Arrow and Deathstroke will reach a whole different level. It's clear that Oliver doesn't stand a chance against mirakuru fueled Wilson, he's counting only on Ivo's so-called cure to stop Deathstroke and his army of monsters.
    Isabel had her very deserved ending. It's true what they say, hell has no wrath like a woman scorned. Join forces (or serve under) Wilson just to get back at the Queens was a bad move!
    Thea is so angry at Moira and Oliver that she's willing to see the demise of his previous family, which will happen when daddy Merlin gets back to Starling City to make up for the lost time. Malcolm will be only one of many tools the League of Assassins will use to destroy Starling City.
    Laurel apparently decided to listen to her father and turn a blind eye to the man under the hood in the name of what's best for the city. Is this the right decision? Only time will tell?
    As for Roy I think his disapponitment at Oliver will be the first step in his journey to become the Red Arrow.

  • daveparry507 Apr 20, 2014

    Finally had enough of good shows turning into soap operas. Laurel's angst. Thea's angst and Moria's angst...pass me the bucket. It's clear that there are only a few shows these days that are NOT marketed at women an dthis is certainlynot one of them.

  • beeMikeB Apr 19, 2014

    * Oliver is a complete POS to Isabel Rochev. Isabel did earn Queen Consolidated. She used her actual business skills. Queen Consolidated has been actually run by Isabel. Oliver was simply a very well compensated figurehead who did almost nothing for the company.

    Oliver reduces Isabel who a woman scored. But Oliver is only anybody because he popped out of Moira Queen. Yet he has the gall to pretty much dismiss his father's philandering and be smug and entitled to someone who actually works for a living and who's actually smart and capable.

    - I never recall a time when Bruce Wayne acted so entitled. He was grateful his parents were so wealthy and that that enabled him to have cool stuff. Oliver is the least intelligent and intellectual member of his family and is so incompetent that he didn't even know Isabel was diluting the Queen family's shares.

    - And Oliver can talk all he wants about Isabel being a 'woman scorned', clearly Oliver assumed that Isabel was somehow in love with him and therefore would never act like a businessperson regarding him. He already knew Isabel wanted Queen Consolidated, but either he forget that or he somehow assumed that that one-time sex session with Oliver made her no longer want to 'betray' him.

    - Oliver doesn't even know what a hostile takeover is. Isabel already had half the shares of the company, Oliver doesn't do anything for Queen Consolidated, Oliver doesn't even seem to know how Boards work, or what a Chairman and CEO can do.

    * I assume the writers aren't trying to make Oliver seem unlikable. But if so that means they assume that the audience would support whatever Oliver does and however he acts.

    * So Robert Queen was going to leave his family to go off and be with his 18 year old intern?

    That man is a worse father than Hank Summers!

    * By the way, Robert knowing Thea was Malcolm Merlyn's daughter, Tommy Meryln being a pretty much worthless spendthrift, and Oliver was also a worthless spendthrift, Robert probably didn't want Malcolm having a capable scion. Thea is clearly smarter and more capable in business than Oliver. Malcolm if anything was probably more respectable and perhaps even more powerful than Robert. Malcolm clearly loved his son. Malcolm's wife had died. It's NOT actually a good thing that Robert kept Thea from Malcolm. Malcolm may have been less evil if he had Thea.

    * Isabel was murdered by Oliver's bodyguard. The Queen family would obviously be the number one suspects for Isabel's death and/or disappearance.

    * Finally, it's interesting that Thea didn't actually need to sign those papers. She made the club a successful business and therefore she likely has her own money. Plus, being Meryln's daughter, she can easily inherit Meryln Global.

  • aktarian Apr 20, 2014

    Yes. Oliver is clueless about how such company works beyond "people call me boss and I get a ton of money and cool corporate toys to play with"

    Seems only time he got involved in company was when it was in trouble and then it was somebody else who bailed him out and saved the day. If he had no business sense he should either realise that or have somebody explain it to him then appoint somebody to do actualy work in his stead.

    Also not sure why Queen's personal stuff would be threatened. If that's theirs and not owned through company it should be safe, no matter who owns the company. Yes, they could be broke and forced to sell it but the impression I got was that Isabel is poised to take the house and stuff away due to her taking over the company.

  • beeMikeB Apr 21, 2014

    * It seems Isabel Rochev was actually running the company. Remember that Oliver's family AND a bank affiliated with the family owned 50% of the shares. Oliver couldn't actually appoint whoever he wanted to be CEO.

    * Regarding the personal possessions, it's possible that they are collateral in terms of some of the stock the family has in the company - meaning used to try to get the family to owns as much as possible so that Isabel Rochev wouldn't be able to own over half the company.

  • aktarian Apr 21, 2014

    I ment not as formal position but somebody who would do actual work in his name then Oliver would just sign off on it.

    If their personal possesions are tied to stocks then whoever owns the stocks owns that. So they can't move things around to keep it out of Isabel's hands. Either she owns them because she owns the company so whole plan is moot and impossible or she doesn't at which point plan is pointless since they are out of her grasp.

    And if they are used as collateral for stocks then they are still family's since family owns the stock, even if it's worthless. At least that's how I understand situation.

  • beeMikeB Apr 24, 2014


    Again, Oliver's family didn't own enough stock for Oliver to install whomever he wanted to do the 'CEO work'. The only reason Oliver was still CEO is because Isabel Rochev's company didn't own a majority share and she wanted Oliver to remain as CEO so that he'd be the figurehead of the company.

  • aktarian Apr 23, 2014

    Isabel was doing CEO work because she owned part of the stock (or at least worked for people who did). What I'm saying is that Oliver couldn't be bothered to do actual work he could appoint somebody to do it for him. Like you hire a lawyer to represent you, do the paperwork and such and then you sign the papers. You are making the call but lawyer does the work.

    Let's say I own company A. That company than buys stock in company B, allowing me to sit on their board and make dicissions. But I don't feel like doing that (or don't have time) so I hire somebody who does. He then sits on their board and represents me. Legally I'm making the decission since he is just my representative and not independant actor but he is doing the actual work of voting, talking, sitting on meetings and such.

    As for collateral my problem is that once Isabel took over and ousted Oliver things froze in place, so to speak. If their personal possesions were tied to their position then they lsot control over it and whetever moving they want to do can't happen. If it's not tied that way then it's safe and there is no need to move it.

    But yes, I agree, it doesn't seem much thought was given to it and writers jsut went for drama and shock effect.

  • beeMikeB Apr 23, 2014

    * It seems Isabel Rochev was doing the actual CEO work. Oliver Queen seems to have been simply a figurehead. I don't know what else to say about that. Again, Oliver couldn't install whoever he wanted. Isabel for whatever reason wanted to have Oliver as a figurehead instead of immediately demanding that she be CEO.

    * It seems you don't know what collateral is. The Queens wouldn't be legally "out-maneuvering" Isabel Rochev or Queen Consolidated -- they'd be "out-maneuvering" whatever bank or whatever gave them the loan, which would probably be Oliver's former stepfather's bank. And if the stock is worthless, the bank could take the collateral -- that's what collateral is.

    - Anyway, I'm sure not much thought was actually put into this. The show is simply going for the "drama". Moira's lawyers would already had the family's property and possessions in a trust and her former husband's bank simply would have bought a bigger share of the company or would have given the Queen family a loan. No one would ever put all of their wealth into one stock.

    Also, it's about impossible that Isabel could have reduced the Queen's shares to that extent. Even if Oliver, Moira, and Thea were completely not paying attention, that bank certainly would never allow their shares to be diluted to that extent. And it's pretty much legally impossible to dilute shares to that extent without the content of the shares' owners.

  • ABCRobbieB Apr 19, 2014

    The Queen's are meant to be billionaires. Oliver was always presented as a billionaire playboy in season 1. Queen Consolidated is a big weapons manufacturer with government contracts. The Queen's would never have got in financial trouble, but they still own 50%, so how Oliver can end up losing it and being poor so he can't pay Felicity and Diggle I don't know.

    How would anyone not immediately recognise Oliver and Sarah, when Barry said he was making Oliver a mask I thought, "finally an actual disguise", but no, it was a bit of rubber for his eyes and no better than the paint. This show is daft. Last season I'll be watching.

  • beeMikeB Apr 20, 2014

    * Stock is "paper wealth". Anyway, the episode specifically stated that Isabel Rochev was able to dilute the Queen's family's shares.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Apr 19, 2014

    Deathstroke kicking ass all over the place!! although it was pretty funny when Caitlin and Cisco got one over Deathstroke.

  • Mordon Apr 18, 2014

    I really didnt understand why a blood pump of any size and form needs so much power that it becomes easily noticable by the heroes. Even with 5000 tubes, its still a pump and nothing more.

  • vcivi Apr 18, 2014

    I just want to say that Deathstroke is the best villian i have seen in a while..he is so fantasticly evil and full with revenge...
    But damn, everything is falling apart for Ollie...
    Thea can be so dramatic, but she has indeed been trough some hell...
    Roy helping Slade or Slade choose Roy??
    Laurel knows now and Ollie knows that she knows...
    Can't wait for the season finale...

  • Mordon Apr 18, 2014

    Manu Bennett should play Deathstroke in everything DC, even do the voice for the character on the animation (the one on 'Son of Batman' was terrible!)

  • Aesandil Apr 18, 2014

    I still have my doubts whether it was the correct play to bring Slade into the present storyline so soon. I feel that the show could've benefitted from delaying his entry onto the current stage for a season more. Perhaps then both Blood and Rochev would amount to more than just being Deathstroke's pawns that they proved to be in the end, as they'd each initially hold more promise. Malcolm Merlyn and the League of Assassins could also appear as more than just throwaway plots in that case.

    The gradual dismantling of Oliver's life does hold a sizeable appeal story-wise, even if his opponent seems to be a tad too powerful and out of his reach. Overall, I'm not too impressed with the whole Mirakuru plot. I've always been more than fine with Arrow delving into the superpowers area, but this way hasn't particularly done it for me. It really didn't have to be "super-strong-could-break-your-neck-like-a-twig" with crazy regeneration powers all at once. Which became even more ridiculous after Roy was molded into a semi-Terminator offspring.

    So I did roll my eyes at the deus ex machina presented to us in the form of potential Mirakuru clue, that Oliver conveniently didn't mention at all before, not even when Cyrus Gold was an issue. I rolled my eyes at the over the top and somewhat unnecessary blowing up of the entire building. I suppose it would be easier to swallow if I could fully buy into Oliver's desperation.

    Thea reverted back to being a thoroughly insufferable brat. Such an unfortunate and misunderstood girl that she is, with life being so evil on poor her. Nevermind the huge fortune, good looks, and the elevated social position, she has it so bad that my heart nearly broke. Because hey, having a different biological father suddenly changes all that was real in the childhood experience. There is some logic in there, there must be. I'm sure it's just incredibly hard to find.
    On the other hand, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Laurel. I've been warming up to her for a few episodes now, something I would've never expected to happen. Not after everything.

    The fight in the Arrow Cave was a highlight of the episode, it demonstrated the power Slade possesses in a very evident manner. I also liked the S.T.A.R. labs kids (not that they could've been any younger, could they have) who kept their heads on their shoulders (why didn't Oliver think of browsing his Applied Sciences division in search of something useful against the unstoppable Deathstroke machine...). And the greatest mystery undoubtedly came with Barry Allen seemingly finding a new (?) girl while still being in a coma. That is truly impressive.

  • Copioli Apr 18, 2014

    I liked the mention to Iris.

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