You are such a tease, Arrow. I was all pumped for a mayoral debate and then you interrupted it with a hostage video. SIGH.
While Slade has been lurking around Starling City for a while now, giving growly instructions to Sebastian Blood or poking at Oliver with memories of time on the island, he hasn't really taken action. So, having grown tired of Shado's home movies and taking in the Queens' collection of American landscape paintings, Slade made his move. In fact, he made several moves, and they were all doozies.
The goal was always to make Oliver suffer, to strip him of his life, his allies, and his family, but it was never really clear how Slade intended to achieve any of that until now. Like most supervillain plans, Slade's was a little convoluted, but it was also predicated on the hero doing exactly what the hero is suppose to do. In this case, Oliver was expected to get distracted and leave himself wide open for the body blows Slade delivered this week.
The search for the Mirakuru and Brother Blood, and then his growing paranoia about Slade's plots, caused Oliver to become singularly focused on figuring out how his time away from Starling city had come back to haunt him. Factor in Laurel's addiction problems, Sara's return, keeping Roy in line after he was injected with the Mirakuru, and then random ne're-do-wells like Shrapnel and William Tockman, and Oliver's plate was pretty full. So full, in fact, that thinking strategically became even less of a priority than usual, and instead Oliver took more reactionary steps that left him vulnerable on all fronts.
So he chased after Slade, even while acknowledging that Slade had likely been working on his plan for years, and couldn't catch up to his old friend. He looked for bank accounts, followed them to offices manned by dead Bratva members. He attempted to protect those who could not protect themselves, only to call off Roy and, in doing so, allow Thea to be kidnapped. These sorts of happy accidents often make villains seem more omniscient than they might otherwise be—could Slade have truly anticipated Oliver ordering Roy to break up with Thea, and just in time for the mayoral debate to provide the perfect stage for a splashy hostage video?—but they're also part-and-parcel of the hero squaring off against his arch nemesis, and the nemesis gaining the upper hand.
In this case, Thea's kidnapping served two handy purposes. The first was that it made Roy so understandably angry with Oliver's actions in putting Thea at risk that he abandoned his belief in Oliver—strengthening the Roy/Slade and Thea/Shado parallels the show's been building since Oliver decided to train Roy—and then he got the hell out of Starling City. So Slade managed to remove the Mirakuru-infused variable of Oliver's team from the equation, even though it appears that Roy's strength poses about as big a threat to Slade as a flyswatter.
The second was to reveal to Thea the true nature of her paternity. This aspect of Slade's plan—just like telling Laurel that Oliver is the Arrow—was another instance in which its success hinged on people behaving just so, and here it required Thea (and Laurel) to believe what Slade was saying. That Thea would be angriest at Oliver struck me as decidedly odd, but given Slade's framing of the information, he did what he set out to do in demolishing Thea and Oliver's relationship just as Oliver and Moira's seemed to be laying a new bit of foundation.
Which left us with Arrow addressing one of its big criticisms of the back half of the season: that Oliver is an absolutely horrible CEO of Queen Consolidated. Again, Oliver's been distracted, so running the company that keeps his family in that mansion hasn't been high on his list of priorities. But the fact that Oliver's neglect only became an issue this week, as Arrow decided to pay off Isabel's presence, is rather lazy. It'd be one thing if Felicity had even once mentioned all the missed calls she's been taking as Oliver's secretary since the show returned from its winter break, but instead it's only something that's surfacing now. So, yes, the show purposefully took Oliver out of Queen Consolidated's orbit to play up the distraction angle, but since the show didn't really mention that orbit, it seemed more like a dropped storyline than a way of saying something about how Oliver is spending his evenings.
The reveal of Isabel working for Slade threw me for a small loop, because I was so focused on Isabel playing her own agenda or working with the League of Assassins (don't ask me to what end; I never made it that far in my theorizing) that I didn't even think of her as being in league with Slade. Hindsight being what it is, this was the part of Slade's plan that worked best for me, as access to a major corporation's resources would be exactly what Slade would need to manufacture himself a merry band of Mirakuru-boosted criminals. Isabel's reasons for agreeing to the scheme—"The sins of the father are the sins of the son."—hinted at some past deed Robert had performed, so hopefully that'll be explained soon, especially considering all the little things Moira has said about him throughout the season.
With all this having happened—and Quentin's arrest!—"Deathstroke" hopefully set the stage for Arrow to hurtle itself through its final five episodes of Season 2 in an exciting fashion. Hopefully, now that Oliver's been given a very bloody nose (though how much did Queen Consolidated really matter to the show?), we'll see him follow through with his goal of fighting back. I like the idea of Team Arrow as a bit of a covert ops team, and, if anything, it's an angle the show likely would benefit from playing up a bit more often.
– This episode gave us a bit of insight into Slade's mental state, namely that a warped voice of Shado is influencing his actions. Oliver had better hope Thea doesn't die, otherwise Roy's going to end up with his own Mirakuru-fueled ghostly delusion.
– "Just wondering: When did you become so scary?" David Nykl is having a ball with Anatoli, delivering delightfully loopy line readings.
– "They're calling you Deathstroke." "A bit flamboyant. I like it."
– "I swam." I'm so glad there's nothing more complicated to Slade's escape from Lian Yu than that.
– Thea's 19 and running a nightclub. I really thought the writers had just aged her up between seasons and decided not to mention it, but nope!
– Arrow is off next week, so we'll return on April 16 to discuss "The Man Under the Hood." See you all then!
What did you think of "Deathstroke"?
AIRED ON 12/7/2016
Season 5 : Episode 9