‘Arrow’ Season 2 Recap, Episode 23: ‘Unthinkable’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.
This week, everything gets wrapped up in a nice little bow in the season finale, but a few new cliffhangers emerge. Also: A guy makes a very weird noise.
Before we get going, let me make one correction, since this is the recap of record. The extra-long previouslies of this episode reminded me that it was A.R.G.U.S., not the media, that named Slade “Deathstroke.” (I think I missed it because Amanda Waller’s sleepy talk made me nod off.) Luckily, it still doesn’t make all that much sense beyond “that’s what he’s called in the comics,” so my initial commentary stands.
With that out of the way, the episode gets going in the clock tower, where Team Arrow is openly worrying about Slade, whether the cure they tested on Roy worked, and the Deathstroke Army, which has arrived to end them.
As soon as the goons reach the top of the structure, Roy pops up like The Undertaker and tries to punch out one of the dudes. The guy’s head doesn’t go flying off, so we can be pretty well assured the mirakuru cure worked. Team Arrow runs away to fight another day using a pretty sweet zip line Arrow sets up. Then, the craziest thing happens. Lyla Michaels, a.k.a. Harbinger, shows up in a helicopter and shoots an RPG into the clock tower, blowing it up with everyone inside (as has been previously established, the Deathstroke Army’s weakness is explosions). Dig looks up lovingly.
It’s a flat-out bonkers deus ex machina. I thought it was great.
After a quick reminder that the city is in total chaos, Team Arrow and Harbinger head back to the now-trashed Arrowcave, where Harbinger explains that she came to Starling to help ward off Amanda Waller’s planned drone strike on the city. (Dig makes a “’til death do us part” joke, even though they’re not married anymore. Get a room, you two.)
Ollie instructs the team to scrounge around for supplies, particularly “injection arrows” that can be used to dose the Deathstroke Army with mirakuru cure. I like that he doesn’t have to explain what those are. His trick arrows are just a thing now. People get it.
Ollie takes a second to remember that Slade killed his mom (he must have missed the “previously on” segment at the top of the episode) and then we head over to the train station, where Thea’s still busy shooting her dad, Malcolm Merlyn.
As soon as Thea turns around to leave, Malcolm pops right back up and says he’s OK because he’s wearing kevlar. I don’t think that’s how that stuff works, Malcolm. It isn’t invincibility armor. But it’s narratively expedient, so I’ll accept it. He tells Thea he’s happy she shot him, because it means she’s tough and is truly his daughter. She says “augh!” like a Peanuts character and storms off.
Police HQ. Detective Lance is gearing up the ragtag group of cops still at the station when what sounds like a radio drama about a platoon going down in ‘Nam comes over the scanner. Honestly, why would someone radio that in? Anyway, Lance tells everyone there that they’re heroes and they’re brave even though they all just heard their colleagues dying all over the place.
In another room, Sara talks to someone just offscreen, saying that she doesn’t want anyone getting hurt. Just then, Laurel comes sauntering in and takes a knockout dart to the neck. Wonder who would do a thing like that.
We don’t have to wonder for long, because in the blink of an eye, Nyssa al-Ghul (sadly, not wearing her Alicia Keys hat) and her army of assassins show up at the Arrowcave to offer some assistance.
Ollie immediately jumps down Sara’s throat, telling her that calling up the League of Assassins was reckless, because they might not hold up their end of the deal. Sara says she has agreed to go back to them in exchange for protecting the people she cares about; Ollie doesn’t seem to torn up about it. He does seem upset that the assassins might kill some people, though.
Hey, remember a few minutes ago when Harbinger killed all those dudes with an RPG? I think we’ve already crested that hill, bud.
Sara offers this up in response: “To fight the unthinkable, you have to be willing to do the unthinkable.” She’s a Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo Fantastic Four fan, I see.
Things get moving pretty quickly after that. Ollie says Team Arrow needs to find Slade’s base of operations, and Nyssa just knows that it’s Queen Consolidated somehow (again, narrative expediency). Then Ollie heads over to Roy and gives him a red mask because he survived a crucible. Weird gift, but OK. Next, Ollie insists that the League of Assassins not kill anyone, which seems pretty futile. It’s right there in the name, dude.
Back at the train station, Thea gets a phone call from Roy. He tells her to meet him at his apartment, Piano music. Malcolm says Roy’s a jerk, and if she goes to him, Roy will prove it.
Queen Consolidated. An elevator pops open and reveals a downed guard, so a Deathstroke Army patrolman takes a closer look. Canary drops down from the ceiling and stabs the guy in the leg, and the sound he lets out is this incredibly strange low moan, like somebody slowed down the sound of a lion yawning. It’s incredibly distracting, for a several reasons: 1) We’ve never heard these guys make this sound before, and they’ve been stabbed with arrows multiple times. 2) There are other, human-sounding yelps the guy makes, too. 3) It SOUNDS CRAZY.
Maybe the sound is supposed to be something other than the guy screaming, but I can’t for the life of me tell what it is.
Meanwhile, in the conference room, Arrow is similarly stabbing a bunch of dudes, who are not making those weird sounds. He and Canary quickly make their way to the CEO’s office, where they find Deathstroke and Ravager (back in her dumb mask again). Deathstroke says they were stupid to come there alone, which leads Arrow to cleverly quip, “We DIDN’T!” Good one, Errol Flynn.
The assassins come crashing through the windows and a big fight breaks out. Deathstroke escapes via a sweet zip line of his own. Arrow really should have prepared for a zip line.
Ravager’s still there, though. Canary quickly takes her down and prepares to kill her, but Arrow stops her. Everyone freezes for a second like they’re about to take a particularly odd vacation photo.
Rochev says it doesn’t matter if she dies, because she defeated the Queens. In the middle of her sentence, Nyssa kills her. Ollie kind of just goes, “Aw, shucks,” and gets mad that he can’t get close enough to Slade to hit him with the cure.
Flashback freighter. Slade is flipping out, testing mirakuru on his pirate goons while forcing Ollie and Sara to watch. His Head Shado is telling him how much he hates Ollie as Ollie tries to tell him that Shado wouldn’t want them to fight. Head Shado says it’s time for Ollie to die so Slade masks up in his classic Deathstroke mask. The argument is quickly rendered moot when Knyazev fires the last torpedo out of the submarine and it hits the Amazo.
In the present, Detective Lance, who has just been hanging out for the past few hours while the other cops go out into the streets and die, I suppose, finds Laurel knocked out in the hallway. He wakes her up, and Laurel says Sara’s with the assassins. No time to talk about it, though, because a Deathstroke soldier has come to police headquarters to make more weird roaring sounds and kidnap Laurel, which he does. I think we can add “Laurel gets kidnapped” to the Arrow bingo card, right between “hospital scene” and “club scene,” if it’s not there already.
Lance goes to Queen Consolidated to ask for help getting Laurel back. He’s initially freaked out to see Nyssa, but Canary calms him down with relative ease. I get that a bunch of masked guys are tearing up the city, but does that really make assassins this much less scary?
Smoak notices, via her tablet with Windows 8 Technology, that the Deathstroke Army is actually headed out of town. They’re amassing at the Giordano Tunnel (a nice nod to Dick Giordano, who inked a whole bunch of Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics in his long career at DC) to get away from Waller’s drone strike. It also quite handily puts them all in one narrow place so Team Arrow can shoot them with cure arrows. Thanks, plot contrivance!
The team prepares to head out, but first Lance asks about saving Laurel. Arrow says the city has to come first, which leads Lance to go into a diatribe about how Arrow has killed people before, so he might as well kill the Deathstroke Army now. He leaves, and Smoak approaches to tell Arrow that Lance was wrong about killing. Arrow says he does have to kill Slade for all this to end. Smoak stops short of smacking him on the head and saying, “Be smarter, dummy!” It’s one of her best moments.
Roy’s at home watching Starling’s One News Channel, which has seemingly been doing the same report over and over for the past day or so. That anchor must be exhausted.
Thea arrives and he apologizes for being a roid monster. Thea says she knows he was out of his mind on a drug. She asks about his connection to Arrow, and he says he does’t care about Arrow anymore, he just cares about her. They kiss in the light of the red, neon cat in Roy’s window which is legitimately, subtly hilarious. Nice work, Arrow.
Just as the two of them are planning their new life together, Roy gets a text from Smoak calling him to the shootin’ party in the tunnel. Roy tells Thea he has to go do one more thing before they leave. He asks if she trusts him, and she says yes. (They’re both lying.)
Speaking of lying, Ollie and Smoak go to Casa Queen to perform a play for Slade in one act. They stand in the foyer while Ollie tells her she has to stay there to remain safe because he loves her, not Laurel.
On the one hand, this scene is kind of infuriating because if we’re going to go the full CW drama route here (and this episode really shovels it on here in the middle), what the heck are we doing taking Sara out of the equation completely? She’s the one Ollie has seemingly been in love with all season, isn’t she? It’s as if she was just completely dropped as a love interest off-screen. (And yeah, I know she broke up with him, but come on.)
On the other hand, this is a fantastic fake-out. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards fake-act just like the really act, so this scene is pretty much indistinguishable from any other. The piano music of the score adds to the sense of realness. And it’s weird that they went to Casa Queen, but it isn’t that weird from this show. Arrow knows its own tics well enough to make this setup seem real. It’s nicely pulled off.
Meanwhile, in what’s seemingly the city Amanda Waller is threatening to destroy, Dig and Harbinger go to A.R.G.U.S. HQ to find her. They have a CW romance moment before sneaking in and freeing the Suicide Squad. Well, really, it’s just Deadshot and two other guys we’ve never seen before, presumably because Michael Jai White had other work he had to take care of. Deadshot helpfully tells Dig something he already knows: That he’s got a bomb in his spine. Maybe characters telling each other stuff they already know goes on the bingo card, too.
In the tunnel, Team Arrow and the assassins shoot and stab the easily accessible Deathstroke Army with cure arrows. It’s a really brown scene. Like, REALLY brown. But it’s pretty well staged, too.
On the flashback freighter, which is quickly taking on water, Slade and Ollie fight it out. Ollie throws the remaining mirakuru into some convenient fire (on top of water?) and Slade responds by throwing Sara toward a hole in the hull. Just like she got sucked out of the Queen’s Gambit into the ocean, she gets pulled out of the Amazo.
I suspect Caity Lotz isn’t coming back for season 3.
At Roy’s, Thea packs a bag. While she’s snooping around, she finds a bag full of arrows and gets upset.
A.R.G.U.S. Dig, Harbinger and not-quite-Task Force X storm the command center and tell Waller to make the drone stand down. For no reason that I can figure, Waller sleepily reveals that Harbinger is pregnant with Dig’s baby. I guess she’s just mad about the drone so she’s stealing Harbinger’s opportunity to tell him?
Things wrap up in the tunnel, so Slade calls up Arrow and tells her he’s going to kill the woman he loves: Felicity Smoak.
Arrow goes to meet him at this week’s abandoned warehouse, which has some great acoustics, because Slade’s final lengthy monologue about revenge is crystal clear in every nook and corner of the place. Eventually, Arrow reaches Slade, who has Smoak in his clutches, and they face off.
Arrow puts down his bow and a goon brings out Laurel. It looks like he’s going to do the thing where he forces Ollie to choose again, but instead what happens is that Ollie makes a crazy logical leap, somehow deducing that Slade has a Head Shado he sees, and that Shado wouldn’t want him to do what Head Shado’s been telling him. That leads Slade to start emphatically whining about how he feels and how he’s going to make Ollie feel that way by killing Smoak. So no choosing, it seems.
After some more grandstanding, Arrow finally says the code phrase (well, it’s less code than just dramatically appropriate) that tells Smoak it’s time to pull the mirakuru cure out of her pocket and jab it into Slade’s neck. A quick flashback reveals that Ollie knew Slade put cameras in Casa Queen, so that’s why he staged that little scene earlier with Smoak. Again: Pretty clever.
What follows is two intercut, underlit fight scenes between Slade and Ollie, one in the past, one in the present. The intercutting is cool, and the fights are not badly staged, though we already know how one of them ends. In the past, an aftershock dumps a bunch of debris on top of Slade, and Ollie takes the opportunity to jab him in the eye with an arrow. (Why he didn’t also inject Slade with the cure, which he had in the other hand, you know, just in case, is beyond me.)
That must mean Ollie took Slade’s mask and set up that little tableau on the beach representing how he died, and man, that’s sick, Ollie.
In the present, Slade says he’s going to prove that Ollie is a killer, like there isn’t poof enough of that already. He also cackles that he wins whether he dies or not, but then Ollie beats the tar out of him and ties him up with what you might call bolo arrows. Slade, it looks like ya lost.
Ollie calls up Waller and tells her Slade has been defeated, so she should call back the drones. She takes him at his word and does. Come on, Waller. Trust but verify!
Out at the docks, Sara prepares to go back to Nanda Parbat with the assassins. Hey, didn’t they just plain want to kill her at the beginning of the season? They have really softened up. Laurel and Detective Lance head down to see her off, and seem surprisingly cool with her going. Detective Lance protests a little, but it’s more like “Don’t go out with that boy” than “They’re going to kill you! Are you nuts?” Why did everyone suddenly stop caring about Sara this episode? Anyway, Sara gives Laurel her Canary jacket and Detective Lance does a hilarious take in response.
(Thanks to @FrancisFenton for the GIF.)
He is just confused as hell about that jacket.
It’s perhaps the last thing he’ll ever experience. As he and Laurel walk away from the ship, he starts coughing up blood. There’s a flashback to one of the Deathstroke Army goons beating him up, so I guess this is a delayed reaction to that? It’s not super clear.
At Roy’s, he finds a letter from Thea about how she doesn’t trust anyone anymore and she’s running off with her dad to go… somewhere. He cries and pulls out his red mask.
Slade wakes up in a prison cell and finds Ollie sitting outside. They continue the debate about whether Ollie’s a killer or not (he is), but Ollie says he needs to be more now, and he proved it by beating Slade without killing. Slade made him a hero. (Techincally people working for on his side, namely, Harbinger and Nyssa, did kill people, but I suppose if he doesn’t do it, it doesn’t count.)
Slade reacts to that badly, yelling that he’ll come back and keep his promise to get revenge. Ollie says he won’t, because he’s in purgatory. That’s literal. He’s actually in an A.R.G.U.S. prison on the island of Purgatory.
There was an A.R.G.U.S facility with electricity and stuff there THE WHOLE TIME?
Team Arrow walks along the beach and Ollie says he needs to get his company back (what actually happens with that now that the new CEO is dead)? There are some jokes about him having to get a job first, then he and Smoak talk piano-music style about how they outsmarted Slade. She doth protest too much about how a relationship wouldn’t work, and he just kind of grins like a doof.
Ollie asks Dig what his big news was, and he says it can wait. For what? You’ve got like a 15-hour plane ride you’ve got to get through, and you’re going to avoid conversation?
Ollie says he can fly the plane home, which prompts Smoak to ask how he can fly a plane. That kicks off a flashback in which a still-ripped, but not-tattooed Ollie wakes up in the opening moments of Apocalypse Now. But instead of him going to the window and saying, “Saigon. S**t. I’m still in Saigon.” Some A.R.G.U.S. dudes come in and take him outside to Amanda Waller, who welcomes him to Hong Kong.
Aside from a few issues--the softening of the assassins, that guy's super-weird groan, Amanda Waller's immediate capitulation, the fact that this entire season was based on men trying to get revenge on other men by threatening women (that's a big one)--this was pretty good. Story threads tied together. Things culminated. It worked.
Now season 3 better have a Jackie Chan or Chow Yun-Fat cameo.