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Arrow 2.19 "The Man Under the Hood" Review: The Choices We Make

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    Arrow, “The Man Under the Hood,” has a fairly complicated writing team. The story came from the team of Greg Berlanti and Geoff Johns with the teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg and Keto Shimizu. Luckily that many cooks didn’t spoil the broth – as the saying goes, and this was another exciting, well-paced episode that drew a bit on comic lore, teased past episodes, and advanced the plot to the showdown we know is coming. The episode was directed by Jesse Warn who is new to Arrow, but whose credits include The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, and Spartacus: War of the Damned, on which he would have also directed Manu Bennett. I thought Warn did an excellent job getting a number of terrific reaction shots from the actors, but I found his direction of the fight scenes a bit choppy for my taste at times – with a few really notable exceptions.

    This episode is really about the ramifications of the choices made by the characters, including those choices and decisions that Oliver (Stephen Amell) has had to make in becoming the Arrow. Quentin’s (Paul Blackthorne) comments to Laurel (Katie Cassidy) about the difference between the Arrow and the man under the hood are telling. It’s a terrific scene as he stops Laurel from telling him the Arrow’s identity. He doesn’t want to humanize the man under the hood because if he did, he wouldn’t be able to expose him to the danger he needs to in order to help keep the city safe – and to keep Sara (Caity Lotz) safe.

    Laurel is faced with perhaps the most difficult choice in the episode. Does she expose Oliver and save her father? To her credit, she doesn’t simply believe Slade (Bennett), and we see her gathering evidence. In fact, we get to see Laurel pull out her own legal super powers a few times in this episode. Laurel is not stupid, so when Sara’s doctor asks if Sara served in the military and then Laurel sees the scars on Sara’s back, she is able to recognize them as very similar to Oliver’s. She almost immediately draws the conclusion that Sara is the Black Canary. I had to wonder if she was also able to use her legal prowess to pick up on Quentin telling the truth about not knowing the identity of Arrow but lying about not knowing the identity of the Black Canary.

    Laurel does confront the Arrow and tells him that “A year ago you thought you were a murderer, and me, I was drawn to you. I felt connected to you. You were always there. For me. For my family. And I never asked why.” The Arrow asks if she’s asking now, and she drops the bombshell that she doesn’t have to, she already knows the answer. This was a great reaction shot of Amell as we see only part of his face under the hood, but he’s clearly scared she’s about to tell him she knows. She is, of course, interrupted by Sara’s call from the prison hospital. I suspect if the Arrow ever picks the thread of the conversation up again, Laurel will say something generic like he’s there to save all of Starling City because he’s a hero.

    Laurel runs into the DA on the way in to see her father, dismissing the claims of protective custody. However, once Quentin convinces her that they can’t reveal the true identity of the Arrow, that he’d rather do the 18 months and take a beating, Laurel once again turns the screws on the DA. She caves – really much too easily – to releasing Quentin and dropping all charges. However, it’s Sara’s turn to be impressed by her sister’s legal prowess. The final shot of Laurel is looking in at her father and sister. I believe her choice is clear. She’s going to support their work in the field by being their support in the legal system. The final scene is Laurel going to Oliver. She hugs him and lets him know that he’s important to her. She’s clearly accepted the role he has to play, but she also clearly understands the toll it takes on the man under the hood.

    Oliver manages to avoid having to deal with the bomb Slade set off with Laurel, but he still has to deal with the threat of Isobel (Summer Glau) and Thea (Willa Holland). The scene between Moira (Susanna Thompson) and Oliver in which she tells him about Isobel having the affair with Robert was priceless. I felt for Oliver and Amell beautifully shows his shock and disgust. It was also nice to see Moira absolve Oliver of losing Queen Consolidated. She tells him that he always sees the best in people even when he shouldn’t – which is a little ironic and perhaps a bit naive on Moira’s part. However, it is nice to see that they have managed to settle the differences between them.

    I have to say that I wanted to slap Thea in pretty much every scene! Her selfish choice is going to cost herself, Moira, and Oliver their entire fortune. In point of fact, Oliver owns the club she is running – too bad he’s not likely to take it back. While I can feel some sympathy about almost kissing her half brother, she didn’t and she didn’t know he was her half brother so let it go. Also? Now she has two mass murderers for fathers? Having Merlyn kept a secret from her really shelters her from any culpability there and there is no evidence that there is any genetic link between super villains!

    The fact that Robert knew about Thea’s real father and still loved her and choose her ends up not making any difference to her, even though that was her whole argument at the beginning of the episode – by the end, she is only focused on having been lied to. All she really does is prove that she can’t cope with the truth. Holland does to a wonderful job showing Thea reacting to the truth and then being a bratty child anyways. I’m looking forward to Thea having to live with the choices she makes here.

    The flashbacks in this episode set the stage for the choice that Oliver made that he states caused everything else to happen. Anatoly (David Nykl) wants to torture Ivo (Dylan Neal) as payback for everything Ivo did. Ivo, however, bargains that there is a cure for the Mirakuru which he’ll trade for a swift death. He is already close to death anyway. Oliver shoots Ivo as he tells Sara that he was once a good man and a good doctor who was driven mad by the Mirakuru. Oliver spares Sara having to kill Ivo because he tells her that “Once you take a life, it changes you forever. I don’t want that for you.” Of course, Oliver doesn’t spare her from this for long, and the lives Sara has taken have taken their own toll on her as we’ve already seen.

    We are definitely getting closer to bringing the two ends of this story together as in flashback, they are on the verge of going back to the freighter to get the cure out of Ivo’s safe. This is, no doubt, where Slade and Oliver will have their showdown. Oliver tells the team that he had kept the secret of the cure because he was ashamed. He had the cure five years ago and chose to try to kill Slade rather than cure him – his choice has lead to all of the events of this season and helped to create the man he is. One who was shaped by murder and, as Laurel reminds us, still thought of himself as a murderer up until this season when he was able to see beyond that because of his team.

    It was nice to see the team really working together in this episode. The episode opens with them infiltrating the Applied Sciences Division. It’s actually Felicity’s plan. In what may be the best reaction shot ever on the show, Oliver is left open mouthed when Felicity says her own plan isn’t a great idea. We see a reference back to Tockman as Felicity uses his skeleton key to break in. She then mentions that this was where they’d first met Barry (soon to be the Flash). Oliver is very concerned that none of his former employees are hurt and hesitates before blowing the building – destroying a part of what is still really his own company and bears his father’s name. Diggle (David Ramsey) reassures him that it’s “just a building.”

    They manage to set the explosives and get everyone out, though not before one guard sees Felicity’s face. I have to wonder if this is going to come back to haunt them – particularly in light of Isobel vowing to make an example of the culprit in the next scene and Felicity commenting that “For the record? I hated her before I knew she was a super villain.” Diggle is happy they are taking the fight to Slade, but Oliver points out that destroying the centrifuge (their reason for blowing up the ASD) is just a setback to Slade and they don’t know where his next attack will come from. The episode, of course, is full of them. Laurel is one and Thea is another and Roy (Colton Haynes) is another.

    The next face to face attack happens unexpectedly in their own lair. Slade is waiting for them. Olicity fans were no doubt pretty pleased by Oliver going into overdrive to keep Felicity safe. Sara and Diggle immediately go on the offensive. This fight had some terrific coverage. I loved watching Sara go airborne as she attacks Slade only to have him pluck her out of the air by the throat – fantastic shot! I also loved the hand to hand combat between Slade and Oliver though it got in a bit too close and a bit choppy at the end. Great work once again by the fantastic stunt/fight team on the show.

    Felicity and Diggle check up on Roy while Oliver is busy with his own family issues and discover that he’s missing. The team also determines that S.T.A.R. Labs is Slade’s next most likely target. S.T.A.R. Labs provides a great way for us to catch up on what’s happening with Barry and meet two of the people who will be seen in The Flash: Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). We learn that Caitlin feels guilty about the particle accelerator and is also privy to all the secrets of S.T.A.R. Lab director Harrison Wells. Wells will also feature in the series, played by Tom Cavanaugh. Caitlin manages to hold off Slade by using a weapon developed by Arthur Light who was fired by Wells for being psycho. In the comics, Light is a super villain who joins the Suicide Squad.

    When Felicity and Diggle show up at S.T.A.R. Labs after Arrow and Black Canary are too late to stop Slade, we learn that Felicity knows Caitlin and Cisco because of Barry. She tells Diggle that Barry’s condition had worsened and that he was now being cared for at S.T.A.R. Labs. Caitlin won’t tell them what was stolen because it’s a secret.

     We find out later that the reason it’s a secret is because it has a patent pending on it. We also learn that Barry is being visited by Iris. This would be Iris West (Candice Patton), Barry’s great love in the comics. Felicity’s “Iris?” is yet another of the great reaction shots in this episode. She laments to Diggle that even in a coma, Barry has moved on. Anyone who was worried we’d lose Felicity to The Flash, should now be able to breathe easier.

    Felicity learns that Slade has stolen a bio transfuser which will let him make more super-soldiers without the risk of simply giving them Mirakuru. While waiting for the power spike that will give them the location, Oliver goes to visit Isobel. He gives her the opportunity to make the right choice and give him Slade’s location. However, she made her choice a long time ago. She endured Slade’s torturous training in order to get payback on the Queen’s because of Robert’s choice. He chose his family over her and set Isobel on the path to destroy them.

    Once the power spikes, Oliver and Diggle go after Slade, thinking he’ll be weakened by blood loss. Unfortunately, Oliver finds that Roy is the one hooked up to the machine. Slade and Isobel both show up and taunt Oliver with the fact that his choices have resulted in Roy being where he is. Slade tells Oliver “You were the one person who he looked up to and you crushed his soul.” Isobel tells him that Roy didn’t even put up a fight. A great fight scene follows. I will say that the use of trick arrows – to stun Slade and to whisk Oliver and Roy to safety were great. Slade deflecting the arrows with the katana was also fantastic. The cuts to the hand to hand combat were disappointing. We see Isobel shot by Diggle – but too low to be lethal. However, the final scene is even more shocking when we see that Slade has now given the Mirakuru to her too! This cannot end well!

    Felicity returns to S.T.A.R. labs. This time she wants to share another secret with Caitlin and Cisco – but this time it will be their secret. She has the vial of Mirakuru and wants their help in making the cure. One final moment that I very much enjoyed was when Oliver first reveals he stole a vial of the Mirakuru, and Felicity was immediately worried he planned to take it himself.

    Another great episode! It would seem that Slade holds all the cards. I’m excited to see how team Arrow is going to turn this around and whether all of the team will make it through. I’m also wondering if we’re going to see the team grow before the end of the season. What did you think of the episode? Do you think they’ll be able to make the cure before Slade kills anyone else? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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