Arrow "Seeing Red" Review: The Light Inside of You

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Apr 24, 2014

Arrow S02E20: "Seeing Red"

I am very conflicted about "Seeing Red." 

First there's the whiz-bang-pow of Moria's death—or apparent death, who the hell knows with Arrow at this point (though Moira not staying dead would be really awful and lazy, so really, show, she needs to stay dead). Then there's the fact that it was compounded by both the suddenness of it and her tantalizing mention of yet one more secret about Malcolm Merlyn (odds on it being "He's still alive"?). It's exciting, because it was not only shocking, but it promises to escalate the conflict between Oliver and Slade in a very real way. It will also rattle things even more for Oliver and Thea, on a personal level—Oliver is "responsible" for Moira's death—as well as on a basic survival level. Queen Consolidated is out of their reach. Their income, so far as the show seems concerned, is basically Verdant and their savings accounts.

It's just those flashbacks that keep tugging at me, leaving me slightly frustrated with the whole episode.

Moira's arc this season has been about nothing if not redemption, and then certainly atonement. She was ready to accept—and felt she deserved—the death penalty for her part in Malcolm's machinations. But she decided to fight that legal battle in no small part because of her desire to be a better a parent, at least in her own eyes, since Thea and Oliver didn't begrudged her involvement with Malcolm's plans for the Glades (even if took Thea a while to get there). Her campaign for mayor was framed in similar terms—of being better, of doing better, of making up for damage she had done. Such a narrative allowed her to inch ahead of Blood in the polls, and to view being mayor as another way to prove herself to her children, to prove to that she still had a sense of self-worth.

The flashbacks to Moira dealing with the unnamed mother of Oliver's baby (seriously, she doesn't even get a name?) were there to provide a counterpoint on this. At least, I think that was the point? I'm not entirely convinced that it worked as well as maybe the show wanted it to. We saw Past Moira not making an actual sacrifice, or even having Past Oliver make a sacrifice, in an effort to protect her children and the lives she wants for them. She didn't even float the idea that the pregnancy was Oliver's fault for not using a condom, noting that, "Where there is money, Oliver, there are people looking to take advantage." It's the world that's against the Queens, and all you need is a file about your life and $2 million to solve problems like young women looking for a handout.

We're forced to juxtapose those flashbacks with where Moira's arc has led her: to standing up and volunteering to die to save her children. She was protecting them again, only this time, instead buying off a nameless woman, Moira sacrificed herself. It's a suitable contrast, especially as we got the last bit of Past Oliver saying, "I don't think I could've gotten through something like this without you." Past Oliver didn't actually get through anything then, even if he didn't know that; he only thought he'd gotten lucky, not learning anything with Moira not actually teaching him anything. Present-Day Oliver knows and understands this gesture of protection, this sacrifice.

I think this may be my hang-up with the flashbacks. They feel unnecessary to Moira's arc this season. We already knew that she went to extremes to protect her children, including kidnapping her own son not long after he returned from the dead as a part of going along with Malcolm's plan when everyone else was trying to bail. We already knew that Moira did horrible things in the name of keeping her children safe, so to intimidate and pay off this young woman didn't feel particularly extreme relative to what she's already done. Removing the flashbacks wouldn't change or even better inform Moira's behavior. We already had all we needed. The epiphany was already there for her—and for us—and so her bravery, as Slade called it, felt like the completion of her arc.

There remains the issue of Roy and his mirakuru-fueled rampage through the city. It was more necessary than it was interesting, but I wasn't crazy about reducing Roy to a near-silent, twitchy, hoodied hooligan to be hunted like the Hulk or Frankenstein's monster. But of course he had to be, so that the show could bring about the rift between Oliver and Sara and start another discussion about their differing philosophies and approaches to dealing with adversaries. Namely, Sara's fondness for killing them, and how she thinks killing is a part of her now. I'm not going to expound further on Sara's mental state (I did plenty of that with "Heir to the Demon"), but suffice it to say, this episode was more of Sara running away and thinking she's not worthy of those who care about her. Which is, as I've said the past and as Oliver pointed out in this episode, exactly how Oliver felt in Season 1.

So perhaps Oliver's sense of hope is what's supposed to pull all of this together for us. Moira buying off that woman seven years ago was deeply cynical, but she found a way, in the end, to use her love for her family in a way that actually saved them (at least temporarily) and herself, morally speaking. Sara thinks Oliver needs "someone else who can harness that light," and that she is not that person, that she doesn't deserve to be that person. Even Roy, as he peeked through his mirakuru rage, thought he needed to be put down, that he wasn't worth saving.

To potentially bring everything full circle, Slade has had his light twisted by the mirakuru. Shado should be a source of hope for him, but her memory has become something that weighs him down, the same way Sara's guilt drags her away from others and Roy's passion leads very quickly to anger, made all the worse by the mirakuru. Is there any chance for them to recover? And if they do recover, what's it going to cost?


– Was this the first time Diggle and Thea have had an extended conversation of any sort? I feel like it was, but I could be wrong.

– I wouldn't be surprised if Slade's ultimate plan, based on the line "There is still one more person who has to die before this can end," is to drive Oliver to kill him. Some sort of "You have to kill me or someone dies" situation, in an effort to scrape away whatever last bit of hope resides in Oliver's soul. Something only made possible by the no-kill vow that Oliver appeared all ready to abandon in the woods.

– "Can you ever get into those leather pants with that knee?"

– I'm going to miss Susanna Thompson a great deal, despite my ambivalence toward this episode. She could always be relied upon to make just about anything work, including making that final scene a sad farewell for the character. It was a performance that the episode didn't really earn, but it at least helped to find an emotional truth for Moira. This was the case with her more often than not, throughout her entire time on the series.

What did you think of "Seeing Red"?

  • Comments (436)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • ElisabethMuld Jul 08, 2014

    I actually cried when Moira died. Not because this show is particularly good but because its themes hit close to home. Even more so maybe because I have such a large amount of love for Susanna Thompson, her acting and the acting choices she's made in her career. What an amazing person. This show is going to miss her. A lot.

  • cnygen Jun 13, 2014

    I was wondering what the whole point of the pregnancy scare was, then Slade said "one more has to die". Then I started freaking out that maybe he knew about Oliver's kid. In Slade's mind, introducing Oliver to his child and then taking it from him would be the best revenge.

  • Ridnarhtim May 02, 2014

    Oh boy, I can't wait for Oliver's 6 year old daughter to enter the picture. Surely you don't think the flashbacks were just about Moira?

  • SandraMader May 13, 2014

    It would be the dramatic and cliche thing to do. In season 3 or so, Laurel and Ollie get together until the kid shows up. Laurel goes half-cocked and righteous again even though him cheating on her isn't a new idea. I wonder if that's how they're gonna introduce Artemis though. They're not actually related but it's not like the show has ever gone by the comic book anyway.

  • cinthy_11 Apr 27, 2014

    I have to admit that I loooove side-way car crushes (ONLY in tv shows) and it was a big surprise I din't see it coming moira is dead?? there is a little oliver out there??? sarah is gone? (yay)
    I can't wait for the next episode.

  • flintslady Apr 27, 2014

    I actually stopped watching this episode the first time I tried when Ollie and Sara were pillow talking about finding a place to live. This is virtually end of days for Oliver, all his "free" time should be spent on Slade, not in bed with "the other woman".

    But then a coworker told me how the ep ended, and since I've been waiting for Ollie to more resemble the orphaned archer he is in comic I tried again. Most of the ep was painful, the soap operatics have become too big a part of this show. I know this is the CW but when is whiny rich girls complaining about nonsense ever entertaining television? I actually almost missed Laurel, at least her drama is warranted...

    I know Ollie is supposed to be a callous playboy in the past, but do we really need to rip down his relationship with Laurel any more than we have. Must he really have been the literal scum of the earth for us to accept him as a hero now? They spent all last season telling us that she was the only light in his life and all this season throwing that all under the bus.

    And now a secret baby in central city? I think the writers may have been watching a little too much Telenovela over the break.

    The two highlights for me were Moira sacrificing herself for her children. Other than running for mayor, she's been one of the few consistent characters on the show. And Oliver actually acknowledging that Shadow might have meant something to him.

    I'm glad Roy is incapacitated, and that Sara is gone (though I'm sure that's temporary). As much as I love Manu, I can't wait for this story arc to conclude.

  • DinaSut Apr 26, 2014

    I'm starting to get really tired of Thea's constant bitching and the woe me pity party. What is even the point for her to be on the show now, other than this? She's like Aaron from Revolution, only worse.

  • greasy82 Apr 26, 2014

    I disagree, at least as far as Aaron is concerned. His role is to tackle the big question on the show: the nanotech and whether or not the power will ever come back on. Everyone else (Rachel included) seems to only be involved in the war on a physical sense while Aaron tackles the metaphysical.

  • DinaSut Apr 26, 2014

    This may very well be the intent of what Aaron is supposed to represent, but he is written as an utterly intolerable whiner and a coward to boot. His "persona" dwarfs everything else and makes him unrelateable--just like Thea is becoming.

  • dechinola Apr 26, 2014

    So . . . forgive me if I'm wrong, but did the show basically confirm that the reason for Roy and Slade's craziness is because the Mirakuru causes them to hallucinate about people they care about telling them to do certain things? For example, Roy saw Thea telling him to kill her, and a while ago we saw how Slade sees Shado and does everything she "tells" him to.

  • DavidSinger Apr 26, 2014

    I thought Sara was Slade's target until it was revealed Oliver had a child. Slade has known everything so far, and it's hard to imagine he doesn't know about that, too. Letting Oliver know he's a father and then killing his now seven-year old child would be the torment Slade's after. I don't think this show is that dark, and don't think that'll happen. I'm glad I've avoided spoilers.

  • Ninjaandy Apr 26, 2014

    As soon as Moira admitted she knew about the Arrow, I knew she was going to die. I'm more surprised that Merlin didn't show up at the last second to save her, as that's where the next "too different to work together" angle could have come from, with Sara leaving.

    Then again, I bet they can still do that -- both men trying to bring down Slade and avenge Moira. Thea can show up in the "Arrow Cave", generate some drama getting to know her real dad, the writers can play the "is he or isn't he reformed/sympathetic/understandable" card with Merlin . . . lots of things they could do.

    I'm surprised you didn't mention that there's a Young Arrow out there somewhere now, seven years old and probably living in Central City. That's a plot line waiting to happen.

  • current Apr 26, 2014

    I never thought I would've said it but I actually hoped Thea got aerated. Killing Moira, instead of Gossip Girl, has left a parental vortex now and only Paul Blackthorne left to work overtime on scripts for such moments - which isn't a bad thing, I still miss Dresden.
    And then there's Caity Lotz and her pumped Canary breast riding off just when they really need her too. Very odd. If she's so blood thirsty keep her around for a certain Kiwi, no?
    If Moira knew about Oli', then why'd she give him such a hard time before in which she gave him the you don't get the big picture speech leading to their dust up?
    I guess we could have Malcolm Merlin (that scariest of names) back now he's finished his old TV ad compaign - fitting last words in it, for Moira no doubt.

  • Grumpyclown Apr 26, 2014


  • See More Comments (190)