'Arrow' Review: Season 2 Episode 20 'Seeing Red'
Another genre series produced an episode titled “Seeing Red” that ended with an unexpected and devastating death. The aftermath wasn’t pretty. A good witch turned bad, started to burn people’s skins off, and needed a yellow crayon to save her life before she destroyed the world. The thematic continuity from her lover’s death to that touching scene as the world nearly rips apart is that the world already ended for she who wants to end the world. Slade’s not dissimilar from Roy. Both men act badly because of the mirakura. A stark difference is seen between the two men late in the episode. Roy, having already killed police officers and other innocents, asks Sara to kill him. Slade, with years to think about what he’s become and what has happened, chose to end Oliver’s world—one truth, one death, at a time. Slade, seconds before putting a sword through Moira’s heart, tells Oliver that he’s already dying very slowly. And Oliver collapses to the ground after watching Slade murder his mother. That’s what we outside the business learned is a major plot turn.
Oliver insisted to Sara, to Felicity, and to Diggle, that Roy needed saving—not a bullet to his head. Oliver insisted to Thea that his mother was not beyond loving however mad Thea was at her for concealing the truth about her biological father. Oliver Queen in the second season has learned from his violent past and learned to observe what’s salvageable and what’s worth hoping for after he killed a lot in season one and watched his best friend die and so on and so forth. Oliver swore to cut his mother out of his life following the Malcolm Merlyn reveal, but he didn’t. Season 2 Oliver believes in people, believes that they can be saved no matter the gravity of their sin. Slade’s the antithesis of Oliver—that’s why he’s his nemesis. Oliver’s investment in his mother’s mayoral pursuit, in Thea forgiving her, adds to the devastating execution scene. Oliver tried and tried and tried. Moira prepared to tell her children the bigger truth about Malcolm until Slade interrupted.
Moira reached an apotheosis by her end in “Seeing Red.” The script stealthily drew the last arc of the circle that completed her arc. Moira originally thought of dropping out of the race to focus on fixing her relationship with Thea after a press interview went awry due to Thea’s anger. Oliver swooped in to encourage his mother to stick with the mayoral race. Moira told Sebastian about her decision to drop out of the race. A woman driven and determined by power, ulterior motives, and driven to control the lives of those she love, learned the importance of sacrifice for reasons of unconditional love. She’d have given it all up for reconciliation with her daughter. She told Oliver she knew why he understood the important value of sacrifice, because she knew he didn’t crash his motorcycle in consecutive weeks. Before Slade killed her, she made peace with her daughter, her daughter spoke kind words about her (though the message was meant to draw Roy), and Oliver heard his mother tell him she’s proud of his work as the Arrow. Amidst the suddeneness of Moira’s murder was tremendous closure for the characters—the very closure a hero needs to defeat the arch villain responsible.
“Seeing Red” takes strength away from Oliver bit by bit, concluding with the death of his mother. Roy injures Oliver’s knee. Oliver depends on his knees to carry him through buildings, to support him when he jumps from steep heights to the concrete street below. He limply walks from scene to scene or rushes into action. He relies on strong venom to sedate Roy because Roy has lost control of himself. He’s physically and emotionally handicapped. Slade stands tall. Of course, Oliver’s steely resolve aids him after Roy hurts his leg, and will aid him during his continued fight against Slade. Sara, meanwhile, wants to kill Roy before he hurts or kills more people. Oliver draws a parallel between him and Sara that’s been obvious since her introduction. Sara realizes, with horror, her own coldness that forces her to depart Starling City for a likely brief period of time to meet an old friend, who will likely help her and Oliver in their fight against Slade. Sara’s ability to see the threat instead of the person overwhelms her to the point of CW break-up with Oliver. She tells Oliver she cares too much for him to be with him.
The flashbacks strayed from the Island fun five years ago to two years before Oliver’s unexpected exile, specifically the time he impregnated a girl. The girl delivers his son off-screen but lies to him about having a miscarriage after Moira protects her son once more from the burden of fatherhood by buying off the mother-to-be. The ‘Oliver has a kid’ storyline continues bring overt elements of soap opera into the story. A viewer could ignore the soapish elements last season, but not anymore, especially not after Ephram/Madison Superhero Version played out in “Seeing Red.” The story shows the areas of his life Oliver could not control, about what’s out there undiscovered by him, to be discovered later. In “Seeing Red,” the story showed the essence of Oliver and Moira’s relationship: fundamentally loving but with truth far out to sea.
Fans will remember “Seeing Red” for the final act—the same way Buffy fans remember “Seeing Red.” Both episodes were elevated by a truly surprising death.