Television directing is rarely focused on in weekly review, mostly because the producing director and the “Pilot” director creates a series’ visual aesthetic. The job of a visiting director is to maintain what’s come before, i.e. to blend into the world rather than standout in it. Glen Winter, the director of tonight’s Arrow episode “Blind Spot,” didn’t standout in Arrow’s world. I incorrectly predicted the director of the episode after watching its open, because I’m a guy who likes to guess who directed an episode of television—so that if a ‘name’ director dropped by a series to direct an episode I wouldn’t act like I knew Big Name Director directed the episode when that Big Name would do what every other visiting director did. I digress. “Blind Spot” had a lot of interesting shots, though--the type of shots I don’t pay much attention to while watching a TV episode.
“Blind Spot” opens with a bird’s eye view of a staircase, which is the entrance to the psychiatric hospital where Sebastian’s mother is imprisoned. The rain falls from us, our perspective, and then follows Sebastian through the halls, bird’s eye view still, until he’s in the room. The angles change, the lighting changes, and standard Arrow mise-en-scene follows. The eye-popping stylistic choices return a little later. Whereas “Blind Spot” begins openly, the rest of the episode becomes more constricted and confined. Tight close-ups dominate scenes. Sneaky one-ers are staged, as seen when Roy walks away from the hospital room and around the corner. I noticed the focus on the face more and more as the episode progressed. The opening shot of the building as rain pours suggests anyone above is as blind as anyone below. The viewers’ blind spot is what’s not in the frame. Sebastian cannot leave any blind spots.
The face, though, the faces matter. The tight close-ups of many faces in this episode mean a great deal for what’s happening in the episode. Laurel goes through a downward spiral that’s mostly told through close-ups of Katie Cassidy’s face. I’ve never seen runny makeup tell a story like hers. Laurel continues to suspect Sebastian of bad things, especially after she receives news of his mother’s death two days after she left with information about what Sebastian did to his father. Laurel asks for the Arrow’s help, but winds up arrested for drugs. Her habit finally gets her. Quentin expresses disappointment. Oliver sort of lectures her. Laurel thinks Sebastian set her up, which he did, but her problem’s a problem regardless of set-up. Oliver listens to her because of his attachment to her. Sebastian sets her up again after kidnapping her and leading the Arrow to them, to throw off both off the scent.
Laurel’s initially determined, followed by fantatical and conspiratorial, and then she’s confused and doubtful. Laurel shoots the man in the skull mask dead and loses her job. What she thought she knew she doesn’t, even though she’s right, but villains excel at making sane people feel insane, in inducing doubt when one should not doubt. Laurel and Oliver right into a trope. Oliver’s face receives little close-ups. He’s rock-solid in his personas. He communicates his feelings through language, telling Diggle and Felicity why he followed Laurel’s lead to the Sebastian dead-end, that she’s his blind spot. Oliver discusses Laurel with Sara on the island in the flashbacks. Their conversation revolves around Laurel, how Sara said yes to the boat invite because of Laurel sort of stealing Oliver years earlier. The main takeaway is Oliver’s importance to her.