Let’s be honest, last night’s episode of Arrow was about as near perfect an episode as they’ve had yet. And this season, as I’ve mentioned over and over, is already a vast improvement over its first. “Deathstroke” is the icing on the cake (which is saying something considering there’s still four more episodes to go). It’s thrilling, tense, and keeps you guessing at where its heading the whole time; an impressive achievement for the often heavy handed show.
The mastermind behind it all is Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett). A real shocker, I know, given the episode’s title. He begins his machinations against Oliver (Stephen Amell) by kidnapping – quite easily, mind you – Thea (Willa Holland). But she’s merely a distraction intended to throw Ollie off his game, cloud his mind, impair his judgement. As is Slade allowing himself to be taken in to custody so easily, followed by releasing Thea before The Arrow has the chance to rescue her. It’s all one massive mindfuck, and it works brilliantly.
The centerpiece of Slade’s plan is, basically, let Oliver screw up everything himself. There’s a parallel drawn between him and his mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) about being so concerned with protecting what you love from others that you don’t see the harm your causing yourself. Moira’s achieved this in spades: every lie she told, every deal she made to protect her family eventually coming back to tear them apart. Amell and Thompson share a rather beautiful scene where she makes this exact confession, admitting how it’s she who’s been the family’s largest threat. Sadly, it isn’t a lesson Olives takes to heart, deciding to make the EXACT same mistakes. Like mother, like son.
Distracted by Thea’s kidnapping, Oliver stupidly – so stupidly, like scribbled on the corner of a legal pad stupid – signs temporary control of Queen Consolidated over to Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau). Remember her? Yeah, I know, she is in this show. That proves a huge bust because Isabel simply uses the opportunity to swipe the whole kaboodle from Ollie–permanently. On top of that, she reveals she’s been working with Slade all along (and may or may not be his Olives’ father’s spurned lover, as was her comic book counterpart)! A terribly obvious revelation it pains me to admit I hadn’t already put together.
And that’s because, much like Slade, Arrow has been playing at a clever game of misdirection. I flat out forgot all about her character since Olives slept with her in Russia, clearly because he’s been too busy obsessing over Slade to bother with the company, making Isabel’s takeover all the easier. I fully expected Thea’s kidnapping to be a sick, twisted affair where Slade tortures her live on television a la The Joker in The Dark Knight. Instead, while Oliver hunts for an already freed Thea, Slade uses the time to free and enlist an army’s worth of convicts for his latest Mirakuru trials.
Bennett is magnetic as Slade Wilson, you can’t take your eyes off him. There’s something so unabashedly evil about a suave man with an eyepatch it’s almost laughable, but with the way Bennett sells it, it’s delightful. Suited up as Deathstroke he’s menacing, even with that unnerving but obnoxiously orange hockey mask. Admittedly, John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn was a tough act to follow when it comes to a season’s maniacal evil bad guy, but Bennett has stepped out from Merlyn’s shadow easily.
And speaking of Malcolm Merlyn, recruiting an army wasn’t Slade’s only achievement: he also dropped a pair of bombs. To Thea, Slade reveals her true parentage, somehow managing to pin even more of the blame on Oliver than they’re own mother. Truly, a masterful stroke in manipulation. To Laurel (who I honestly feared made an appearance just in time to get damseled–whew! close call), he reveals that Oliver Queen is… THE ARROW. [Credits.]
“Deathstroke” is a game-changer of an episode. Duh. But where it could have entirely hinged its success on twists and turns and shocking reveals (though there were many), it had good pacing, clever scripting, and standout performances from its leads and fantastic support from the cast as an ensemble. Even Roy put in a good one, that is, if we were supposed to find him barely tolerable, whiny, and immature. If were were. great job!
There’s no telling where things are going from here, but four more episodes leaves a lot of time. I wouldn’t expect Slade to enact his endgame anytime soon. Especially given that we now know he’s legitimately insane, what with hallucinating Shado is with him, instructing him in how to enact his revenge.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm on the CW. Catch up with our recap/reviews!