When I heard that Robert Knepper had been cast on Arrow, I was practically giddy. Prison Break certainly went through ups and downs throughout its 4 season run, but one could always count on Knepper to provide his particular brand of mischievous evil as T-Bag and it was a joy to behold. Whether intentional or not, Knepper has now been typecast in the villain role, and his work on Arrow is no different. The show has utilized quite a few DC Comics villains throughout its run, and what I always appreciate is the balance between paying respect to the original version of the character while also giving them a freshness that fits into the world this show has built. Arrow is building up quite the “rogues gallery,” and in many cases the show smartly leaves the villains alive so that perhaps they can make their grand return later on. In “Time of Death” Knepper plays William Tockman (The Clock King), a man who uses his intellect and sense of timing to plan and oversee various heists. Tockman is a far cry from some of the other Arrow villains we have seen thus far, and that is because he is utterly lacking in physicality. In fact, he prefers to remain in his lair, controlling hired thugs via microphone and watching it all unfold on camera. Tockman has a bittersweet backstory – he’s stealing the money to pay for his sick sister’s treatment – and that makes him a multidimensional and compelling villain in only a short matter of time.
Tockman’s greatest weapon is his intellect and his perfect sense of timing, which makes him the perfect foe for one Ms. Felicity Smoak. Since I started my weekly reviews of Arrow I have barely had the chance to talk about Felicity; she’s ever present and reliable, but with Sara now so heavily in the picture she was often overlooked. That subtle plot thread was all leading up to this episode, and without a doubt Felicity is the star of Time of Death. Making Felicity a main character for season 2 was a great decision because she balances Oliver and Diggle and has become a vital member of the team. Her technical savvy and wit have made her invaluable, but her feelings of insecurity are amplified by Sara’s new place in the team and in particular her physicality. A scene in which Sara, Oliver, and Diggle compares scars is great not only because of the homage to Jaws but because it serves to amplify the disconnect between Felicity and the rest of the team. When she cutely suggests that she has scars in her mouth from when her wisdom teeth were removed, the other three look on with bemusement. Later, Felicity attempts to train only to be interrupted by Sara.
Felicity’s unfortunate feelings of being left out or perhaps even unnecessary are hit home when Tockman is able to infect the hideout’s computers with a virus that essentially shuts everything down. Felicity decides that she has to take matters into her own hands, and she sets a trap for Tockman and basically uses herself as bait. The trio quickly discovers this and come to her rescue, but Felicity doesn’t need rescuing. She reasserts her vitality and strength by successfully trapping Tockman, utilizing his virus against him, and even taking a bullet for Sara in the process. Now Felicity has her own scar! I absolutely loved this plotline; it served the character beautifully, built on events from the past, and gave a fantastic showcase for Emily Bett Rickards who continues to be Arrow’s quiet MVP. A scene in the denouement between Felicity and Oliver, in which, under the influence of strong painkillers, she expresses the feeling that she thought she was Oliver’s girl (not romantically), is the perfect capper. Oliver and Felicity need each other, and Time of Death proves that once and for all through the brilliant use of a terrific villain.
The saga of the Lance family continues, and an awkward family dinner at which Oliver finds himself present is the centerpiece. Laurel continues to be a wreck of a character (intentionally, I hope) with her emotions causing chaos for everyone. Thankfully, Laurel makes two decisions that should put her back on the right track: (1) she finally admits to her sister that she shouldn’t blame her for everything and (2) she attends her first AA meeting. Both of these choices seem to come as a direct result of a heated, emotional, much needed conversation between Oliver and Laurel. Oliver finally puts all of his emotions and feelings toward’s Laurel’s state out on the table, and Stephen Amell emotes in a way he rarely gets to. It’s a terrific scene. I hope Laurel gets her act together not only because it is best for the character but it is best for the show. There is only so long that a character on a show can maintain a state of distress and Arrow is reaching the end of its limits in that regard. Quentin Lance remains a sad sack, but it works for his character. Upon discovering that his ex-wife is seeing another man any illusion he had about the potential rekindling of their marriage dissipates. I hope the Lance family is able to get their act together. For now, the only Lance who seems to be doing well is the one they all thought was dead. With her presence in Starling City now known to all, Sara continues her crime fighting alongside Arrow as Black Canary, is in a relationship with Oliver, and got a job as a bartender at Thea’s club. Not bad, Sara. Not bad.
Time of Death was another very good episode of Arrow, which continues to have a very strong second season. It is certainly avoiding the sophomore slump as it doubles down on the ambition, serialized storytelling, and depth of character. The episodes may have a formulaic structure, particularly with the reliance on the island flashbacks, but as I have noted before in this season those flashbacks are serving a distinct purpose by helping to craft a narrative that ties directly in to what’s occurring in present day. Everything now seems to be coming to a head, too, as in the episode’s final scene Oliver is introduced to his mother’s business meeting partner and it is none other than… Slade Wilson. Bum bum bum…
- “I guess it’s not real until the media comes up with a nickname.”
- The show continues to excel in the action/chase department. Watching Arrow chase after a city bus on his motorcycle only to position himself in between a bus and a coming train was thrilling and well executed.
- Thea is aware of the chilly water between Oliver and Moira and attempts to trick them into talking. Oliver will have none of this; he is done with his mother.
- Sara’s “You’re Alive!” party is a dud. Everyone of note quickly leaves because they are called to fight crime.
- On the island, Oliver, Slade, and Sara see a plane in the sky and chase after it. It explodes in midair. On the ground, Sara talks to the man in the plane and we later discover that he was Sin’s (Roy and Thea’s friend from the glades) father. Woah!
- Speaking of Roy, what is he up to? Other dangling threads: The League of Assassins, Malcolm Merlyn, Isabel Rochev, and especially Sebastian Blood. I can only assume all or most of these characters will come back into play as we enter the final 8 episodes of the season.
- Oliver, to Laurel: “I have loved you for half my life. But I’m done running after you.” It needed to be said.