Although the saga of the Merlyn family came to a close with the season 1 finale, the “ghosts” of the Merlyns permeate almost every aspect of both this show and Oliver Queen’s psyche. Time and time again Oliver finds himself faced with the fallout from the events that occurred in “Sacrifice,” and the show’s determination to tell this story in full speaks to its integrity. Around the 15 minute mark of the episode Oliver, alongside Roy (more on him later), finds himself back in Merlyn mansion. In the episode’s first scene Ben Turner aka Bronze Tiger (the always imposing Michael Jai White) is sprung from prison in spectacularly violent fashion and is hired to steal something from a familiar place. It is here, in the garage of Merlyn mansion, that Arrow and Bronze Tiger meet again, and their fight is certainly more impressive than what we got the last time they met. What was Bronze Tiger (a terrible name, Felicity notes, because tigers are not bronze) hired to steal? A prototype of the earthquake machine, of course. Although this prototype ultimately serves as a MacGuffin, it lends an emotional resonance to the heist and keeps Oliver’s head in the game.
Roy was not ready to accompany Arrow into the field. Like Slade on the island, the Mirakuru is enhancing Roy’s anger and pain and he is at his breaking point. Arrow is putting Roy through similar training to what he had on the island (including the classic slapping of the water), but Roy cannot focus and is not taking well these tactics. At Merlyn mansion, Roy’s anger over the destruction of the Glades causes him to almost beat a man to death, which causes Arrow to lose Bronze Tiger and the prototype machine in the process. I am loving the way the relationship between Roy and Arrow is unfolding. Roy has always been lost as a man and, despite Thea’s best efforts, he needs someone to show him the way. The hesitance that Oliver has shown Roy in the past has been in an effort to protect his sister, but he also knows that Roy is a good man that needs help finding the way. Plus, Oliver had the chance to save Slade from the Mirakuru rage and blew it and he sees Roy as an opportunity to fix his past mistakes. If Roy is on the track towards being Arrow’s sidekick, then the show is doing a phenomenal job of developing him in proper fashion and Colton Haynes is bringing just the right combination of angst and gravitas. Roy is quickly turning in to one of my favorite characters.
The conflict between Roy and Arrow comes to a head in a confrontation scene that tests the motivations of both men. Oliver’s creed has always been that secrets are the best way to protect those around you; Roy believes that the truth and (actual) protection are the best way. I question which of these two is ultimately right. There’s no doubt that Oliver/Arrow has done a fine job of protecting his family and the city thus far (despite “Sacrifice”), but when it came down to the wire Oliver ultimately revealed himself to those who needed him and who he needed the most – Felicity and Diggle, Oliver’s loyal team – in order to gain their trust and accept their help. Roy attempts to save Arrow from Bronze Tiger and finds himself once again almost beating a man to death. Then, like those who came before him, Roy finally learns Arrow’s identity. Oliver takes off his mask and speaks to Roy on an equal playing field. Oliver needs Roy’s help to stop the earthquake device. Is this the act of trust that will finally calm Roy down and let him see the way? I think so, and it is a beautiful and earned scene that has been a long time coming.
Arrow and Roy’s developing relationship/partnership/etc. makes for the crux of this episode, and it is not only the best material of the episode but some of the best of the season. I love that Oliver takes the time to discuss Roy with Felicity and Diggle, and despite their initial hesitance they welcome him aboard. Aww… “Team Arrow.” Two side plots take up the rest of the time, and they leave me with varying thoughts. The continued dissolution of Laurel’s well being is fitting after last week, and it is evident that she is an absolute mess and an alcoholic. Her father’s attempts to trick her into going to an AA meeting are misguided, but his heart is in the right place and it is clear that Laurel needs this help. She cannot get a job (the Bar is seeking disciplinary action against her) and her behavior and drinking are out of control. The episode ends with Laurel seeing her sister Sara standing over her couch. Is this a vision or is Sara who Oliver mysteriously called earlier in the episode, noting that Laurel needs help? Whatever the case, I hope she gets the help she needs.
The other side story threw me for a loop, and I’m really not sure how to process it. As we know, Sebastian Blood is running for Mayor and it becomes clear in this episode that many (particularly the wealthy elite) are not happy with his proposed tactics. Enter the return of Walter (Colin Salmon), who brings along Mark Francis, a man that believes Moira Queen should run for mayor. What? The same woman who was just on trial for over the murders of over 500 people? This issue is discussed in the text – Moira is as shocked by this as I am – but it is clear that Moira will decide to run. It does give Moira (and Thea, I would imagine) something to do in this second half of the season, but I hope the material is written properly so it doesn’t strain credibility.
Oh, and one last thing: Amanda Waller (last seen in episode 6 of this season) has a scene with Bronze Tiger in which she says she’s putting together a squad. A squad, you say? It must be the Suicide Squad! Oh boy…