Synopsis: No Criminal of the Week as this nearly All-Flashback episode features Oliver’s life on the prison island as no five-star resort spa experience, the fact that he read a book once and the demise of Deathstroke.
Details: Now that we are – mercifully – done with in-show narrations except for the opening “Previously on Arrow…” segments, we can get right to the action, which, in the case of this week’s episode picks right up from last week with Arrow tumbling into Moira’s office to inform her that she has failed Starling City. With everybody but Moira knowing that these are the words of a son talking to his mom, they seem fairly silly…until Moira pulls out the old female sentimentality ploy of using the family picture as an emotional shield before taking advantage of Arrow/Oliver’s expected wilting and pegging him with deft move and quick shot from her gun. This move means one of two things – either you fully drink the Kool-Aid and believe she can make that kind of move as an innocent person in heels or she has officially stamped herself as having some sort of nefarious involvement as only a true evil-hearted criminal-type can anticipate, premeditate and execute fancy heel maneuvers like that [just ask China White whenever we see her in these parts again – you’d think she’d want some revenge on Arrow but maybe she’s in Bermuda with Helena the Huntress too].
Needless to say, we can chew on that fat for a week because this episode was nearly all about the flashbacks. But before we can get to those, the bleeding and injured Arrow/Oliver flops into the car of company superwoman/IT specialist Felicity Smoak, pulls off the hoodie and reveals the poor sweaty makeup job that reminds every kid of Halloween after about 10 blocks of trick-or-treating. Oliver instructs Felicity to take him to the Arrow lair instead of the hospital where, in turns out, he has planned ahead and proactively stored several bags of his own blood in case of just such an emergency. Diggle and Felicity then proceed to do their best “M*A*S*H episode re-enactment with Diggle portraying a BJ Hunnicutt-style persona and Felicity taking on a definite Hot Lips persona [but with less smoldering anger].
With Oliver stabilized at Arrow Lair Hospital, we then begin the flashback scene parade, beginning with the re-introduction of Slade Wilson [Manu Bennett] starring as a pure ball of raging testosterone and also as Oliver’s force-fed partner in attempting to get off the prison island resort spa. But before they can begin their escape attempt, Oliver first must pass the much-ballyhooed Slade Wilson’s How Not To Die Boot Camp [as seen on TV]. With Oliver successfully not dying, Slade then reveals The Escape Plan – which is, essentially, Slade doing all the work and killing everybody except for one guy in the airport control tower and then taking the only plane to come in three months off the island.
Oliver has to sleep before the pair go on the attack and he has a dream where he’s in bed with Laurel, and in an incredible display of poor timing, says he’s sorry for sleeping with her sister, Sarah – and she responds by killing him with her mind [at least that’s what it looked like from here] – Happy Valentine’s Day!
Back to the flashbacks, clumsy Oliver steps on an old Japanese World War II land mine and – oh great – now here come three soldiers. No problem says Slade as the soldiers surround Oliver, who pretends he is lost, points out the mine and then Slade rips in and does a double half gainer with a twist to kill all three – then pushes Oliver’s foot off the mine and replaces it with the weight of one of the soldier’s dead body in a classic “indian Jones” sack of gold maneuver.
Slade and Oliver then have a bonding session – alas, without hot cocoa and s’mores – whereupon Slade reveals that DeathStroke is his former partner [stunned awe] and worse yet, his real name is Billy Wintergreen [named for the flavor of gum]. Oliver should have fallen off his chair at the revelation of that name but keeps his composure long enough to help begin their assault on the airstrip.
A brief trip back to the Diggle/Felicity M*A*S*H unit shows Diggle catching Felicity up on some of the Arrow/Oliver backstory before we return to flashback mode as one-man army Slade tells Oliver what the plan is – basically that Slade kills 37 people and Ollie kills one – the airport control tower officer. Slade does his job, picking off all the guards to allow Ollie to enter the control tower – only to have him screw it up and force Slade to come in and save his ass by killing the guy.
Another brief excursion back to the Diggle/Felicity M*A*S*H unit has Oliver’s heart stopping, but Felicity fixes the heart monitor machine – because medical equipment is almost exactly the same as computer equipment when you’ve been building computers since age seven – and it’s all cool.
Returning to the flashbacks, while waiting for Slade to return from clearing the perimeter of any remaining human life, Ollie sees a phone in the control tower and thinks it might be a good idea to call Laurel and wish her a Happy Valentine’s Day, but Slade returns and expresses his dismay with this decision just as the incoming plane is requesting a clearance to land at the airport and a code response that happens to be a phrase from the famous Homeric poem, “The Odyssey” which – as luck would have it – was the only book Oliver has ever read but doesn’t explain how he can act smart and stupid at the same time. Perhaps it is time for Oliver to buy a lottery ticket.
The only problem now is that Oliver would like to buy his lottery ticket and use the three hours he has until the plane leaves the prison island resort spa by going to rescue Benedict Arnold Caveman [Yao Fei, technically] from the clutches of Fyers the Island Mercenary Madman.
A meaningless return to the Diggle/Felicity M*A*S*H unit only serves to get in the way as Diggle recounts a painful Afghanistan mission for Felicity before we get back to flashback mode where Ollie locates Yao Fei and tells him the escape plan only to have Fyers interrupt their meeting and forcing Yao Fei to one-punch Ollie [no Thrilla in Manila here] to prove his allegiance to Fyers, who determines that DeathStroke Billy must now execute Oliver. With DeathStroke Billy circling Oliver in a ring created by Fyers’ men, Oliver fights back with words but this tactic doesn’t seem to be working and only annoys DeathStroke Billy who continually pummels Oliver until Slade shows up to rescue the day and give DeathStroke Billy an eyeful of knife while Fyers and Yao Fei run away. Fyers takes a shot at Slade and gives him a flesh wound before Oliver drags him off and fends off a guard along the way.
Fyers shows up later in a night flashback scene talking to his boss on the phone and his boss sounds suspiciously like Eddie Haskell, Sr. – aka Malcolm Merlyn, aka Dark Archer – before granting Yao Fei five minutes with his daughter, who seems to be held captive in a tent and bearing a tattoo on her shoulder that matches the tattoo on Oliver’s shoulder – ooo, spooky.
Meanwhile, back at the Diggle/Felicity M*A*S*H unit, Oliver wakes up and tells Felicity where the Arrow Lair bathroom [it’s upstairs and to the left] and Oliver informs Diggle that his mother is being put on the official Arrow Do-Not-Call list – officially ending the episode.
The Poop and Skinny: Any Thea-free episode is a good Arrow episode.
The DeathStroke Halloween mask market took a big merchandising hit with the offing of DeathStroke in the first season.
Arrow has officially been renewed for a second season by CW and Emily Bett Rickards [Felicity] has been awarded series regular cast status.
Burning question for the next episode of “Arrow” – will Oliver continue to pull off the impressive ability of envisioning himself sleeping and dreaming in a flashback – so, therefore, a dream of a dream?
Burning question bonus – will classical literature references continue to play major parts of episodes and maybe foster accidental learning amongst the masses?