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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"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/13/2015

Season 3 : Episode 23

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