Arrow LOVES to tease us with Deathstroke. Sure, he's the big bad this season and they need to build him up, but for every episode where he gets the spotlight, it seems like there's at least 3 or 4 that save him just for the cliffhanger. Luckily for us, "The Man Under the Hood" brings him and his grand plan front and center. This episode isn't purely about Slade Wilson, though. It also offers some pretty large developments and well-executed drama.
The return of the Terminator of course means there's going to be at least one good action scene. While it's a bummer the big brawl was officially released online before the episode aired, it was still pretty fun to watch in context. I love the wire work with Sara's assault and the short parry between Oliver and Slade was enjoyable, even if Slade's final sword attack lacked any oomph. However, we are later treated to yet another skirmish. It's fairly short, but it packs a lot of energy and gives us a nice reminder of Slade's strength.
The real treat in this episode is the drama. Okay, maybe I'm not the biggest fan of what's going on with Thea -- I'll get to that later -- but what occurred with Sara, Laurel, Quentin and Oliver was solid. It initially had me fearing they were about to take an unfortunate direction, but by the time the credits rolled, I was very pleased with how it was all handled. Let's just say it properly closes the door on one plot point instead of totally dragging it out. Isabel Rochev gets another opportunity to make her presence known and this ends up bringing a little more depth to the character -- something she most certainly needed. But hey, better late than never! I'm also happy to see the show's reeling Roy back into the big picture. There's a lot of potential with his situation and it's great to see they're building him up for something significant in next week's episode.
I'm left with mixed feelings on Quentin Lance's big speech. On one hand, it's an absolutely critical development and something a certain character really needed to hear... otherwise they could have gone down a potentially aggravating path. But on the other hand, it felt a little too The Dark Knight-esque. More than a person? What the city needs? I mean, his performance has been good throughout this show and he nails the delivery, but I really wish they did a little more to make it feel like its own thing instead of immediately drawing parallels to Batman's famous trilogy. That said, the drama surrounding Oliver's identity and his father's history was handled pretty well and it was satisfying that the writers were able to effectively deliver quite a few developments in just this one episode. Plus, major credit for a couple of clever transitions between scenes.
Holy fan service, Arrow! To further his plot, Deathstroke needs to snag a device from S.T.A.R. Labs. This gives the writers an organic way to tease the upcoming Flash pilot and include two new characters. I have to admit, it was a really creative and fun way to promote what's coming up in this universe without hindering what's currently going on.
Unfortunately, I have some minor gripes about "The Man Under the Hood." While they delivered a cool (albeit short) action sequence at the HQ, did anyone else think messing with the lights was pointless and didn't hinder the visibility at all? I know some of you will say it gave them the ability to hide better and what not, but that really wasn't shown in the scene, and it didn't even seem remotely dark as the fight unfolded. It's not a huge deal, but I thought it was unnecessary. Also, there's a few other scenes that I thought were a little awkwardly handled. That guard in the beginning having a super delayed reaction as a man within his line of sight was choked out? The other security guy saying absolutely nothing and just staring oddly at the two employees before it's revealed there's a knife in his back? And that final reveal was pretty obvious, so despite Slade's plan taking the next step, it didn't feel like that gripping of a finish. None of these are enough to ruin the episode or anything along those lines, but they began to add up for me.
For me, Thea is becoming the new Laurel. Remember how Laurel was painful frustrating and many of us just couldn't feel empathy for her? Yup, that's apparently how Thea's being developed. Yes, she's been rocked by a huge reveal, Roy broke her heart, and it's obviously a key part of Slade's plan, but I couldn't help but groan when she says a totally unlikable and crude response to Oliver telling her something rather huge about their father. Hopefully her road isn't as long and as frustrating as the one Laurel took!
I can't be the only one wondering what's up with Oliver's "team-up" with Amanda Waller and potentially her squad, right? Considering the dilemma he's facing, he could most definitely benefit from reaching out to her and utilizing her resources. Maybe they're just saving them for the big finale? It feels a little odd to tease it and wait so long before following-up at all, though.
"The Man Under the Hood" is a big episode. It's able to successfully juggle Deathstroke's plan, strong family drama, and the situation surrounding Arrow's identity. On top of all that, the episode's able to work in some major fan service by teasing the upcoming Flash pilot. All in all, this is guaranteed to be an episode that many viewers will really, really enjoy.