Ever since Arrow capped off its Season 1 finale with the unexpected and tragic death of Tommy Merlyn, the series hasn’t let up. In a way, tragedy has become the name of the game, because no one ever became a broodingly heroic savior without losing a few of those closest to them. [SPOILERS]
Admittedly, I wasn’t looking forward to “Seeing Red” all that much. The preview showed us a lot of Roy (Colton Haynes), a lot of Roy and Thea (Willa Holland), and if you’ve been following along with these recap/reviews you know I don’t find Roy an interesting or compelling character and his unnecessarily tumultuous relationship with Thea has been unbearable.
I struggled to stay invested for much of the first half of last night’s episode. Roy loose on a murdering rampage, fueled by hallucinations, while Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Sara (Caity Lotz) argue over whether not he should be put down like a mad dog? Just do it and move on. Learn from the past, Ollie. I mean, he straight up asks for it at one point, you’d be doing him (and us) a favor.
But obviously the CW isn’t going to part with a grada-A hunk like Haynes, so Roy isn’t ever in any peril. An older woman who’s fulfilled her purpose of perpetuating family drama, conspiracies, and has finally had an honest moment with her son? You’re number is up, Moira Queen.
Susanna Thompson has done much with Moira. Always toying with our expectations of what the Queen matriarch should be, of how she cares for and protects her children, and how she out-manipulates those who would use her nefarious past against her or her family. Moira has been one of Arrow‘s most mysterious and intriguing characters. Thompson has played her perfectly, with a subtle performance that never disclosed Moira’s entire motivation.
For as much as I feared this episode would be Roy-centric, he really has little to do with the most impactful moments of “Seeing Red”. The first of which was Moira deciding to pull out of the mayoral race after having everyone agree she has it in the bag. She later chooses to stay in the race, but its her willingness to again put everything aside for her children that’s admirable.
The next shocker was her admission she’s known Oliver was The Arrow since the end of last season. It takes Oliver (and us) completely by surprise, though it’s good to see she’s smart enough to have figured it out and didn’t need to be told (like some characters). Dropping this bombshell in such an unexpected manner was yet another great job at misdirection from Arrow. They’ve gotten really good at it this season. Know what else they’ve also gotten really good at doing? Killing off characters.
After leaving the rally where Moira had her change of heart and vowed to win the campaign and be the best gosh darn mayor Starling City has ever seen or whatever–CRASH.
Being absent for what now feels like clearly way too long, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennet) arrives on scene. We know the guy is crazy. As in certifiable insane because he’s been hallucinating Shado, and more importantly, hallucinating that Shado is urging him to kill Oliver. (It’s a symptom of the Mirakuru echoed earlier by Roy hallucinating that Thea wants him to kill her.) Overtaking the Queen’s limo, presumably killing the driver and any security that may have been on hand, Slade presents Oliver with an ultimatum: Who do you save? Your mother or your sister.
And here’s where Moira gets to show off how frickin’ awesome she is one more time. Quickly putting the pieces together Moira realizes Slade must have been on the island with Oliver, that there clearly is more going on here than is readily apparent, and whatever it is the stakes are incredibly high. Again choosing to put everything on the line for her children she, not Oliver, chooses who should be saved, and after observing her courage and lamenting she didn’t pass that on to her son, Slade stabs her through the heart.
It’s a death I’ve been grappling with ever since the episode aired. On the one hand, I know why Slade did it. He’s hell bent on revenge and making Oliver feel all the grief he did and more. I know why Moira did it. She’s only proven again and again her children come first, as misguided her ways of protecting them may have been. And I know why the show did it. There’s a fear that once a character who’s been best at being secretive is brought out into the open, you can’t simply have them start lying again. And were Moira to become mayor she would need to begin lying again to protect her family foremost, but to also keep her shady past hidden.
Basically, I can understand Arrow felt it had run the gamut with Moira and rather than have her turn into a cheap caricature, chose to have her exit–permanently.
Yet, I can’t shake this feeling that, to me, her death felt hollow. Perhaps it’s because her death seemed imminent from the moment she told Oliver she was proud of him. From there, I knew Moira had served her purpose, had given her son what he’d been seeking, and could no longer factor into Oliver’s arc. I’m not sure if my finding Moira’s death predictable is a fluke or a sign the series has begun relying too heavily on character deaths to provide Oliver with motivation. As the fallout from Moira’s death shakes out, it’ll likely become more clear.
Not that her death with be the only thing Oliver has to deal with. Sara left him after realizing how ready she was to kill Roy, saying Oliver needs someone better. Roy is still a danger to himself and others. Blood will undoubtedly continue unopposed and become mayor, furthering Slade’s twisted plan. Thea will either spin into a massive depression or go through some breakdown because learning your real father is mass murderer, seeing your mother murdered in front of you, and knowing your boyfriend wants to murder is too much for anyone. And on top of all that, let us not forget Olives’ mystery baby who’s out there right now just waiting to appear when it’ll be most dramatic.
Only three more episodes to go!
Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm on the CW. Catch up with our recap/reviews!