The best scene of the episode happens in the medical cell at the Starling City Penitentiary, where Quentin’s healing from an assault by one of the many criminals he and the Arrow put behind bars. Quentin’s in jail because he helped the Arrow and wouldn’t give the police information about him. Laurel visits her father, bothered and upset by Slade’s truth bomb in the last episode about Oliver’s after-work activity. Quentin’s freedom depends on him offering any useful information about the man under the hood. Laurel approaches her father with the information that’ll free him from the cell, free him from danger, and restore his name. Laurel reminds him that a year ago he thought of him as a killer that the city needed off the streets. Quentin acknowledges he wanted to know the Arrow’s identity and would have given over his livelihood for the information. The passage of time sometimes makes one wiser, more clear-headed about what before was a blur. Quentin doesn’t want to take the Arrow off the street, for a myriad of reasons including the thought of his sacrifice and what the man under the hood takes to bed with him every night. The symbology of the Arrow means more than whoever fights under the hood.
Laurel listens to her father with tears coming to her eyes because she had spent the better part of the episode piecing together Oliver’s time-line with the Arrow’s. Slade told her the truth for the sake of distraction. Hurting Oliver through the people he loved was phase one of the plan. Before her father told her why the Arrow mattered she thought about betrayal and couldn’t look at her sister for her additional duplicitousness. She saw the scars on her sister’s break and then remembered the scars on Oliver’s chest. The doctor told her about Sara’s deep scar tissue when she went to visit her sister after that unexpected fight with Slade. Pieces once scattered in a cardboard box waiting to fit into a patterned picture began to move about her mind in an epiphanic dance, and those scars symbolized survival to her. Oliver and Sara were scarred fighting to survive on the island and beyond until their respective returns to Starling City. So, Laurel decides not to use what she knows to hurt Oliver any more than he’s been hurt.
Slade’s layered plan to destroy Oliver continues to terrific success. By episode’s end Oliver sits alone, defeated, near tears, until Laurel hugs him. In between the start of the episode, when he and his team blow up the applied science division building of Queen Consolidated, and the end of the episode, when Oliver’s accomplished little but taking a vial of mirakura with which to develop a cure, he endures fits and starts. Important conversations are interrupted by convenient-yet-inconvenient phone calls. His attempt to repair the news that broke Thea fails because he needs to stop Slade from injecting dangerous convicts with the mirakura. Slade surprises him twice. Oliver never gains confidence against his opponent. Blowing up the applied sciences building means he needs to beat Slade to the next top science company’s campus, which he doesn’t. The flashback showed Ivo revealing a way to stop Slade that involved another dangerous mission on board the freighter that didn’t work five years ago but may work in the present. Oliver loses another fight to Slade. He’s in that bleak stage before the inevitable triumph.
Quentin’s perception of Oliver is one Oliver cannot see because one rarely realizes what’s looking back at him or her through the looking glass. Oliver acknowledges that everything happening is his fault. Slade/Deathstroke is as much a symbol as Oliver—that’s the point of a nemesis. A nemesis is the other side of a coin, dirtier and uglier, the side one groans when losing a coin toss. Slade’s not a unique character in comics or genre television. The symbol of power corrupting good that the hero sees and vows to defeat so that he or she can save whatever good is left after corrosion. Slade’s power dwarfs Oliver’s. Oliver will find in the love and support of others the strength to defeat Slade. Okay, that’s an overly sentimental idea, but the soapy Arrow writers probably tossed that idea around. When Felicity, Caitlin, and Cisco, develop the cure to stop Slsde Wilson, the personal relationship between Slade and Oliver will matter more when he’s—Slade---ultimately stopped.
Slade’s goal in “The Man Under The Hood” is to halt attempts to stop him, and so the episode halting. Thea halts efforts by her brother and mother to reconcile, to avoid losing all the money Robert earned. Quentin halts his own freedom (before Laurel sets him free using politics). Arrow’s rarely overtly soapy, but “The Man Under The Hood’ lathered the audience in soap. Among the lower lights of the episode was Thea’s horror when telling her brother that she almost kissed her half-brother and that her biological mother and father are mass murderers (and responsible for Robert’s death—which Thea and Oliver may not know yet). Oliver had to choose between stopping Slade’s super convicts and Ray’s life. The aforementioned conversation between Quentin and Laurel elevated the story above the soap-opera tropes, as well as the lovely memory Oliver shares with Isabel that explained why Robert, whose mistress was Isabel, didn’t run away with her (another soap opera element that is unnecessary).
- The Arrow fight scenes continue to amaze. Bravo.
- Isabel was shot dead by Diggle, but Slade resurrected her. Summer Glau can kick more ass than she has.