Arrow – Season 7 Episode 20
Arrow has the team under police interrogation in order to piece together the confusing events of a mission gone wrong.
I can’t help but feel that this show is playing catch up with itself at this point. It has taken so long to reveal the main threat of the season because of the various mysteries that were being developed that now there isn’t a lot of time to develop that threat as much as it needs to be.
This episode comes across as if the writers needed to move through a large amount of plot very quickly in order to develop Emiko the antagonist more significantly. The reveal that she is working against Team Arrow happened very recently as was her affiliation with the Ninth Circle so there’s a lot of ground to cover in order to make that work while also make the personal angle work.
Most of this episode is structured around an interrogation of Team Arrow at the hands of Dinah and Sergeant Bingsley (Danny Wattley) following a mission that resulted in two innocent guards being killed under mysterious circumstances. The team are questioned to deliver their version of events in order to build a complete picture of what happened. This works really well as the audience perspective is that of the interrogators so the details are slowly revealed as the different experiences are pieced together. Structuring the episode like this heightens the mystery and frames what amounts to a fairly standard Team Arrow mission in a very different way. It’s a good example of how playing around with structure can breathe new life into standard plotting.
This also allows the plot to move more quickly as a standard Arrow episode would have various scenes setting up the crisis, some fun banter within the team, planning and other assorted scenes designed to fill up the episode. Under normal circumstances this is necessary because the plot has to flow naturally but the structure of this episode allows for some liberties to be taken in a way that benefits the wider narrative. It helps solve the problem of relatively slow plot development by accelerating things to a point that might otherwise be further away.
The central mystery revolves around the sound of gunshots. Everyone’s story builds up to hearing them before moving onto the next one without answering who is doing the shooting and there is at least implied reason to be suspicious in all cases whether that be Felicity dancing around the subject or Rene being deliberately combative in the way he answers the questions. Of course there’s no chance that any of the members of Team Arrow killed two innocent security guards but there is definitely more to the story than any of them are prepared to admit. Rene’s evasiveness is to keep his connection to Emiko to himself as he almost seems ashamed of it at this point in time. At first he holds out hope that at least some of what she said was genuine. Her desire to avenge her mother’s death seemed genuine enough judging by her killing Dante so he feels that family has some importance to her. A brief conversation with her points to the contrary but I get the impression Rene’s not willing to give up hope which may or may not prove pivotal at the end of the season.
As much as this structure works there are one too many recounts of the situation. Oliver’s account doesn’t add any extra information so having it feels superfluous. The need to have Oliver’s version of events is understood with him being the series lead but more work should have gone into making his perspective a worthwhile one rather than simply reinforcing what was already known. This stands out in particular as the real version of events comes shortly after so it’s unnecessary to recap the narrative that doesn’t add up at that point.
The return of Roy is welcomed and feeds into the overall narrative in really interesting ways. Oliver’s excuse for calling Roy and leaving Thea out of it is both flimsy and unjustified. A lot of this will be down to Willa Holland’s unwillingness to return but there had to be a better way to write around this that doesn’t have Oliver withholding information from his sister. In fairness Roy does call him out on this but he also backs down once Oliver delivers his excuse. Roy’s return is explained as being a tactic to gain an advantage against the Ninth Circle as the faces of Team Arrow are well known to both them and Emiko so there’s no way they can make use of the element of surprise. Bringing in Roy is meant to get around that disadvantage while having the notable benefit of being someone implicitly trusted by the team.
His involvement is a source of concern to the SCPD as Roy hasn’t been deputised along with the rest of the team so his presence is completely unsanctioned and against the law. The relationship between Team Arrow and the SCPD is a tenuous one so the unilateral decision to involve Roy in Team Arrow’s covert work only makes this worse as it starts to head down the route of vigilante justice again which is something that all parties are actively trying to avoid. The reasoning behind involving Roy is sound but the fact that it wasn’t authorised is a major sticking point and the fact that the mission ended on a problematic note doesn’t help Oliver’s case for bringing him in.
Roy participating in a present day set story is a great callback to the days of old. His interactions with Oliver and Felicity are a lot of fun while being just as natural as they ever were. It was a really nice touch having him bond with Rene over how much they both care about the Glades since that was what motivated Roy to risk his life in the first place. It doesn’t matter what the current dynamic within the show is Roy fits right in and offers a degree of unpredictability to proceedings. It’s also great to see his athletic approach to problems make a return as this made him a visually interesting combatant back in the day.
The reveal that Roy was the one who killed the guards was both shocking and effective. His behaviour in that moment is reminiscent of the blood lust exhibited by both Thea and Sara following their resurrection in the Lazarus Pit so Oliver immediately realises that Roy must have died and been brought back. The potion used on Thea to cure her of her bloodlust is proven to be ineffective in Roy’s case possibly because of the Mirakuru affecting it in some way. Now Roy has a fresh batch of guilt to live with along with the knowledge that he’s very unstable in critical situations. Since what he did has a mystical cause he is directly absolved of what he did in a narrative sense even though this will weigh on him for the rest of his life. It’s really strong plotting though it remains to be seen if this problem still exists in the future time period.
Team Arrow have a very different problem following this. As I’ve mentioned their relationship with the SCPD is tenuous but it would be ripped apart if the truth became known so the team agree that they will come together to protect Roy by lying during the investigation. For the sake of appearances Dinah will seem to come down hard on them and their methods but she is playing her part in constructing a narrative that will ultimately have Emiko be blamed for the murders and leave Roy out of the firing line. This is one of those situations that could be considered wrong on the surface but is arguably justified because there is a greater good to consider. Team Arrow are a benefit to the city when they are allowed to take action as agreed by everyone on the team so the Roy situation is written off as a huge miscalculation on Oliver’s part that needs to be covered up so that they can continue to operate in the interests of the safety of the city. It’s also a noble showcase of how close knit a unit Team Arrow are and the kind of loyalty that exists within that group. If the truth comes out then all of Oliver’s work to legitimise the Green Arrow as a force for good will be undone and that’s unthinkable as far as he’s concerned. It basically paves the way for Emiko and the Ninth Circle to do whatever they want without sufficient resistance.
Everyone plays their part to perfection and the investigation is dropped but the relative safety is short lived as Emiko sets a trap for Oliver for the sole purpose of dropping a few home truths before blowing up the building and leaving him for dead. The first thing she mentions is that she has access to security camera footage of Roy killing the guards and is turning it over to the right people so that Team Arrow’s collective lie will be exposed therefore rendering them powerless once the SCPD cuts ties with them and brands them as criminals once again. She also mentions that she knew about the Queen’s Gambit being rigged to explode and did nothing about it because she wanted to punish Robert for the way he treated her. Now she wants to finish the job by putting an end to Oliver’s life and destroying his legacy so that the Queen name is forever tarnished. Emiko as a villain has been somewhat problematic but focusing on the angle of her being relentlessly driven by hatred of everything associated with her father creates something compelling to latch onto. If possible it would be great to see Thea come up against her. With only 2 episodes left this season and 12 overall it’s easy to see how this could be the beginning of the downfall of trust in vigilantes. If Team Arrow are seen to be a self serving group who think themselves above the law then faith could be lost very quickly.
A strong episode that makes good use of a structure that differs from the norm to accelerate plotting in a natural way. The investigation of a Team Arrow mission gone wrong through interviews with different members of the team to flesh out the events works really well as it allows the episode to skip over the normal setup in favour of telling story far more quickly. Slowly revealing what happened over the course of the episode with each line of questioning dropping in more details is a great way to develop a mystery infused plot line. The gunshots being the commonality that all of them are building to adds an easy to follow conclusion point and question that needs to be answered. Oliver’s account feels somewhat superfluous as it doesn’t provide anything new to the narrative but other than that the story builds itself well and the constant undercurrent of suspicion around the events provides intrigue.
The return of Roy into a present day storyline is welcomed as he fits naturally into whatever Team Arrow dynamic exists at a given point. His presence is a problem for the Team in general when the situation escalates to the point that it does because his inclusion isn’t sanctioned in any way because he hasn’t been formally deputised. Oliver’s reasoning behind bring him in makes sense but there’s no getting around the fact that it isn’t legal to do so. The reveal that he killed the guards is both shocking and effective as it sets up a very complicated problem for Team Arrow. Roy is somewhat directly absolved of responsibility due to the overwhelming blood lust associated with a Lazarus Pit resurrection though it’s clear that it’s something he will always have trouble living with. Team Arrow mutually agree to cover this up because admitting the truth would destroy the team and unravel everything that they have tried to build through their tenuous relationship with the SCPD. It’s a difficult problem and can be argued from a few angles but the team are in full agreement that the city is in better hands if they are able to take action so they formulate a narrative to protect Roy. This is immediately threatened when Emiko gets a hold of security footage of Roy killing the guards and gloats about releasing it to the relevant authorities. She also talks about letting the Queen’s Gambit be blown up as punishment for the way Robert treated her. Leaving Oliver for dead completes her vengeance driven vision and sets up a scenario where the Queen legacy is forever tarnished. It’s easy to see how her actions could lead to people losing faith in vigilantes.
- using an unconventional structure to accelerate plot in a natural way
- individual character accounts building a strong mystery
- Roy naturally fitting back into the team
- the complexity around dealing with what Roy did
- Emiko’s carefully crafted vengeance
- Oliver’s account providing no new information
- Oliver’s flimsy justification for not telling Thea the truth
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