Arrow Episode 1.22 Review
The Not-So-Incredible Journey
All season long, I have been harping on writing and structure and allowing relationships, both platonic and romantic, to develop organically. As I feared, the penultimate episode, instead of establishing itself as a springboard into an epic finale, instead felt as if a chef were standing in a kitchen, realized he had only ten minutes until dinner was served, and threw everything he could get his hands on into the stew. There was an undercurrent of, “Oh, crap. We’ve only got two episodes left and a gazillion plot threads to address. So, let’s just address what we can and hope it comes off as cohesive.” Sorry, it didn’t.
There are episodes which have been infuriating from a character-development standpoint, but tightly-wound from a plot-development standpoint. There have also been episodes that were weak on plot but excellent for those little moments which define the characters. Tonight, not only was there a serious lack of plot focus, but the characters made absolutely no sense. They would say one thing and then turn around and do another, or engage in behavior which frankly contradicts everything we have known about them for the past twenty episodes. I’m all for plot-driven stories, but that does not excuse inconsistency in the characters.
In this review, I’m going to focus on The Triangle. Regardless of anything else that might have happened, the damage done to all three characters in this disastrous triangle proves to be the dominating element of the episode. We’ll start with Oliver…
I think perhaps the biggest blunder Arrow makes – and continues to make with each passing week – is that the hero is anything but. Look, I’m all for the damaged guy. I’m a card-carrying Damon Salvatore fan girl. There is a poster of Chuck Bass hanging on the back of my bathroom door (I ran off those season one fumes for six whole years). I still rally for Team Spuffy on Buffy message boards. I can handle bad guys who do awful things, especially if I can understand the root of what makes them act the way they do. What I cannot handle is good guys who do awful things and they get completely whitewashed
I think I’ve made this comparison before, but I’m going to make it again – Oliver Queen is Elena Gilbert. Both are presented as the protagonists of their respective programs and both are as propped as the day is long. For Oliver, it’s how much he’s changed. For Elena, it’s her alleged compassion. Just as I cannot help but be frustrated by the myopic focus of the entire Vampire Diaries cast on protecting the precious snowflake, even going so far as to kill innocent people and swear vengeance when one of their own falls, I am equally frustrated by everyone saying Oliver has changed when he’s still acting like a first-class jerk. How else do you explain him considering his secret life as the only thing keeping him and Laurel apart? Would most people in that situation not take their best friend’s feelings into account? If your best friend said, “the fact I only make minimum wage at my job is the only reason I’m not making a play for your girlfriend,” how would you feel? Because, to me, it’s the exact same thing. Oliver, the correct response is, “I am not making a move on Laurel because I value our friendship and respect your relationship.”
Furthermore, how do you go to said best friend, encourage him to try to mend the relationship with the girl in question – and then go hook up with her? Honestly, I don’t care that you save the city. You suck as a human being.
Forgetting pacing issues and jumping plot points, I believe this to be the fatal flaw of Arrow. Our hero isn’t one. And, I doubt there will come a time when he isn’t victorious. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I want to be satisfied by the conclusion of a story arc. I don’t mind endings that aren’t happy. But, I do mind endings that do not satisfy their beginnings. I want my heroes to make sacrifices. I want my heroes to do selfless things. This isn’t to say I want them to be squeaky clean. I hate the squeaky clean characters. All I ask for is to look at this guy and say, “Yeah, I believe he would fall on his sword to save the world.”
Oliver won’t even fall on his sword to protect his best friend’s heart.
I have a soft spot for Katie Cassidy. I’ve been following her career for a long time, and she was one of the things that first drew me to this show. That said, I’m okay with Laurel dying. Clearly the writers do not care to develop her as anything more than the ping-pong ball being slapped back and forth between Oliver and Tommy.
On paper, she should be a strong heroine. She’s a lawyer. She’s got an excellent comic-universe pedigree. And, for the most part, she’s presented as a woman who is practical. So, why does it seem like Laurel Lance’s worth as a character begins and ends at her role within the triangle? It feels almost as if everything Laurel should be has been completely eclipsed by Felicity. The writers got a new toy and don’t care about the old one anymore. And, that’s fine. They’re entitled to write for whichever characters inspire them. But, Laurel’s existence as she is continues to be detrimental to the very fabric of this show
Here are the options as I see them: Let the bird out to play or kill Laurel off. I hate to say this because I adore Katie, but I would rather see no Laurel than whatever this was tonight. We have been given the impression that Laurel is strong and formidable and cannot get past Oliver not only cheating on her with her sister, but pretty much getting her killed. But, she finds out Oliver has feelings for her and suddenly all that Sarah mess is swept under the rug. It makes her look weak as a woman and only serves to validate what Tommy has been feeling all along … he was always a placekeeper for Oliver.
I think we all knew that it was going to be Laurel and Oliver in the end. The sledgehammering, remember? But, as I said before … the end needs to justify the beginning. We need to see Laurel coming to terms with the Sarah thing. And, quite frankly, their hookup in this episode felt beyond rushed. I have whiplash from the whole “I reject you, but wait, let’s hook up” thing. I guess my point (I promise I have one) is that regardless of which avenues the writers choose, even if it’s not the ones I would prefer, I’m going to be much more apt to travel with them on that journey so long as the end destination is earned. But, if you’re asking me to just jump in a wormhole to get from Point A to Point B, I’m not interested. I don’t watch the first and last five minutes of a movie. I don’t read the first and last chapters of a book. The getting there is more important than wherever the there is.
But, back on Laurel … bird or box. Make your choice, writers. Because this flimsy excuse for a heroine is almost as bad as the jerk you’re presenting as your hero.
I make no secret of my affection for Tommy. I think he is everything the writers want Oliver to be. He has heart and vulnerability and truly has changed his ways. There’s some debate on the forums about whether or not it was necessary for Tommy to break up with Laurel like he did, and I fall into the “yes,” camp, but I certainly see the “no” camp’s view, too. He could have talked about things with Laurel, but what’s the point? She would just say she loves him and can’t be with Oliver because (insert lame excuse here). But, as we saw tonight … he was right. If Oliver opened the door, she would run right through it, arms open and eyes squeezed shut.
Of course, the show and I see Tommy very differently. The show sees him as the loser. I want to believe lightning can strike twice – that Tommy can be the Pacey Witter of Arrow and actually get the girl in the end. But, Pacey Witter is the exception, not the rule.
My wish for Tommy is to see him find love and to blossom outside of the character-suck that is the triangle. That’s not going to happen, of course. We’re most likely going to be fed a healthy dose of, “Who does this guy think he is, being in love with Oliver’s girl? He deserves whatever he gets.” We saw the beginnings of this tonight with the sinister looks as Oliver and Laurel started getting naked (side note: close the curtains, guys).
I fully anticipate, if Tommy survives the season, for him to pick up Malcolm’s mantle as The Evilest Evil to Ever Evil. And, I also expect when Oliver puts an arrow in his one-time BFF for him to shed a single tear as Laurel scribbles, “L+O 4EVER” on the back of Sarah’s funeral programs and Detective Lance prepares his best man speech because he’s totes on board with the whole vigilante dating his daughter thing.
I’d love for the show to prove me wrong, but at this point, I’ve learned to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
FINAL GRADE: C-