Arrow #2.11: “Blind Spot” Recap & Review Arrow #2.11: “Blind Spot” Recap & Review
Summary: A pretty, Laurel-centric episode that seems a bit light, yet it’s strengths become more evident as you sit with it. If you have... Arrow #2.11: “Blind Spot” Recap & Review

Blind SpotSummary: A pretty, Laurel-centric episode that seems a bit light, yet it’s strengths become more evident as you sit with it.

If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!

Recap

After finding out about Laurel’s visit, Sebastian Blood visits his mother in the mental hospital to learn what she told Laurel. He then induces a heart attack to get her out of the way. Slade Wilson is unimpressed and wants Blood to throw Laurel off of his scent. Laurel tries to convince ADA Adam Donner to go after Blood for having killed his father and possible other corrupt activities, but Donner has no cause to go after someone so public. When Quentin Lance won’t aid her either, Laurel asks the Arrow to look into Blood. A digital dead end leads the Arrow to having to steal hard copy records of the victim report of Blood’s father’s murder from police archives. He recruits Laurel and they have to make a daring escape from the police upon finding the file. The file, though, is empty, having already been retrieved by Slade. Blood has his acolyte, Officer Daly, drum up a warrant to raid Laurel’s apartment and arrest her on illegal possession of prescription drugs. Now seen as an addict with a problem, Lance doesn’t believe his daughter’s claims about Blood. When released, Laurel is kidnapped. The Arrow pursues and confronts someone in the Brother Blood mask. Laurel uses one of the man’s guns and kills him. They lift the mask, revealing Daly. Charges against Laurel are dropped but the revelations about her drug abuse and seemingly crazed pursuit of Blood force Donner to fire her from the DA’s office. Team Arrow believes with Daly dead that the Mirakuru army concern is now over, and Oliver decides that he can’t blindly trust Laurel any longer. Slade dons a new costume similar to his old look as part of the ASIS and takes out a number of Blood’s men. Slade warns him he’s next if he fails again. On the island, Oliver and Sara search for the on-the-run Slade. At night, she contacts Ivo to tell him that she knows his plan is evil and can’t support him any longer.

For a full recap of this episode, visit our handy episode guide.

Review

There are some episodes that command immediate response. Then, there are others that require time to marinate, to really taste the full flavors of what they have to offer. With “Blind Spot,” it leans toward the latter. A pretty episode that seems a bit light, yet it’s strengths become more evident as you sit with it. We finally get a Laurel-centric episode. Even given some time with it, yes, the content is a bit on the thin side, but it’s an enjoyable hour that, frankly, might start giving us a Laurel about worth giving a damn.

Blind SpotThere has been some concern expressed by the creative team as to the audience’s less-than-warm response to Laurel. One thing is quite evident given this episode; when Katie Cassidy is given something meaty to work with she acquits herself quite well. Yes, there are still some concerns over the not-quite-as-undeniable chemistry between her and Stephen Amell as he has with others in the cast, something that doesn’t always land the Oliver-Laurel scenes with the punch and weight they could have. Contrary to an inexplicable issue with the actress herself by some of the viewership, the problems with Laurel seem to lie more in the use of the character, which has relatively sidelined her through the bulk of these first two seasons.

Some promise was shown earlier this year with a Laurel driven by guilt and grief to strike down the vigilante. It added a spicy dynamic to her relationship with Oliver, but more importantly, it gave her a sense of purpose and direction that was largely lost in the first year by having her be the plot device set between Oliver and Tommy. It was an exciting and welcome development that would’ve allowed us to see her in action as a lawyer, now with the DA’s office rather than the nebulous CNRI group. Yet, as brilliant as it came on, it just as quickly ended. While we’re certainly fans around here of the way they attack plot with gusto, it was surprising to see this aspect of Laurel wrapped up so fast and so succinctly that it once again appeared to undercut her character.

The thought was to kick her off down the path of self-destruction that would play into Sebastian Blood’s — and therefore, Slade Wilson’s — plans, eventually bringing her to this point, where she’s stripped of much of the life that she knows. While it kicked off with a dubious and somewhat forced start, including a still silly and headscratching DUI pull-over, the pay-off in this chapter foretells some great development for her. Everyone is champing at the bit for Laurel to assume the fishnets from her sister and take on the role for which she’s destined. Yet, one of the tenets of the series is the journey not the destination, and by tearing everything about Laurel down — her job, her relationships, the trust of her father, her credibility, even her own sanity — they’ve begun the trek that will lead to that very future.

In a way, this is a character reboot, and it proves to be not only the best thing for Cassidy but also for the audience. They won’t ignore what’s come before, and with good reason, but they are letting go the conceptions and the artifices to get at her core and rebuild her. Though there is the dastardly aspect of the manipulations by Blood and Slade to this all, in a way, this is like the island for her. At some point in life, we all experience a patch where we question everything we’ve built and either accept and reinforce or reassess and reinvent. It’s an exciting challenge for anyone, full of possibility, and it’s a wonderful development for Laurel. It won’t be pretty, tidy, or immediate, but it’s the opportunity to explore a character who really deserves to have more depth and growth. One hopes she won’t be shunted to the side again as they continue to unspool everything with the Mirakuru, particularly for Cassidy’s sake. There we still be those griping about any focus on Laurel, but hopefully they’ll be shown just how important this is to the series as a whole.

Blind SpotWhile Cassidy does standout work, accolades should also be tossed Kevin Alejandro’s way. He has quietly and steadily built Sebastian Blood into a complex character. To be honest, there aren’t a glaring number of layers to him on display, which might confuse some. While it’s not flashy, the work is internal, which makes for a more satisfying and ultimately more creepy presence on the series. For all intents and purposes, Blood is a lacky whose power and effectiveness were somewhat declawed by the reveal of Slade as his benefactor. Then, we get one of the darker exchanges of the entire series when he goes to speak with and then execute his own mother. There is a soft, quiet intensity to Alejandro’s work that really helps to sell the dangerous quality of this man beyond the fright mask. His power to woo and manipulate people also makes for a more compelling villain. I wasn’t thoroughly sold on Blood in the beginning of the season, but he’s become an essential element.

Another essential element to the series this season is the use of Roy to viscerally demonstrate the effects of the Mirakuru. In a sense, Roy has become the proxy of Slade Wilson. We get slight snippits of what Slade is going through on the island, but by having Roy experience it in the present, it not only lends an immediacy to everything but also allows us to see how it plays out on a grander stage with more players. At the moment, Slade’s experience is limited to just the three left of Team Lian Yu. It’s very conceivable that we’ll see much more of his descent and the impact of that when they eventually collide with Ivo and the remaining people on the Amazo, but until then, unless Slade snaps and kills his two companions, which we already know doesn’t happen, we don’t get to see the full physical effects.

Blind SpotIt truly was quite disturbing to see Roy pummel the lawyer john that he and Sin set up. The use of anger and uncontrollable, irrational rage as a substitute for the heroin addiction of Roy’s most [in]famous storyline from the comics is an insightful one. Not only do we already have the drug storyline being played out with Laurel, but it sets up a true struggle of willpower, as well as offers Oliver an outside reflection of his own hero’s journey as he will attempt to help Roy train and deal with his new abilities. What’s more important is that the struggle is particularly character-specific as we know Roy has been a hothead and dealt with his own anger issues in the past. It’s part of what drove his own vigilante-like actions in the Glades prior to his first run-in with the Arrow, and I’m sure it will fuel his own struggle with wanting to get out there and be a hero with the dark aspects of his new abilities. Oliver has his hands full, and more importantly, the threat to Thea finding out the truth, which could snowball to other truths, grows higher.

With Slade MIA on the island this episode, it offers the chance to explore Oliver and Sara more, and we are treated to a terrific exchange filling in more history between them. Seemingly trivial, Sara revealing that she had, essentially, “seen” Oliver before Laurel adds interesting brushstrokes to the sisters’ relationship. The obvious intention of this reveal is to give more color to the present-day developments of Laurel that will lead to Oliver questioning his own blind devotion to his former flame, something that Diggle has called him on for the last two seasons. It really gives more definition as to why Sara would’ve betrayed her sister to get on-board the Queen’s Gambit in the first place, something that always seemed a bit too duplicitous on her part, as we were privy to Oliver’s motivations behind the action. That, coupled with the involving exchange between Sara and Ivo as she formally chooses to side against him, has finally solidified the strength of having her on the island. It’s a development we weren’t exactly behind initially, but it’s proving to be quite fruitful. With the League of Assassins storyline still hanging out there, it’ll be nice to get Caity Lotz back in the present timeline to play off of her earned placement on the series.

Blind SpotWhat really stood out about this episode in first viewing and continues to hold true is the masterful work of director Glen Winter. As we’ve talked about in the past, his regular work as one of the main DP’s on the series gives him a strong place to experiment from when he takes over main directing duties. He knows very well the world he’s working in, so it never feels of a different piece, but he adds a look and energy to the proceedings that enhances everything. With what’s said above taking the further dive to really appreciate about the episode, Winter’s direction is the immediate standout and the episode benefits greatly from it. Many graphs could be spent on delving into his choices in composition and angles, use of closeups, and of course, the particular plays on lighting and color he employs. Of distinct note is the scene between Blood and his mother in the mental hospital, including the tight shot of Blood kissing his mother’s forehead just before tossing on the mask, and everything about the heist sequence when Laurel and the Arrow break into the police archives and have to escape. Then, there is the introduction of Slade as the modern Deathstroke. The speed and viciousness of the scene made for a spectacular introduction and did a wonderful job to show off the new costume.

S030A-122-ARW-110-43Winter’s direction does a lot to smooth over the fact that for main content, “Blind Spot” is a bit light. That direction makes it enjoyable to rewatch the episode and discover the character intricacies that make this a more interesting episode upon further review. Laurel comes to the fore and Katie Cassidy gives a good performance, giving currency to make Laurel one character to watch as the rest of the season unfolds.

Odds & Ends

  • An interesting bit of misdirection implicating Daly as the man behind the mask. While that works toward the end to discredit Laurel, one kind of wishes that Team Arrow wouldn’t be so quick to think everything is wrapped up, given past experience.
  • Dylan Neal should also get some props for working to inhabit Ivo and give him more color than a simple mad scientist.
  • Playing on the idea of consequence, it was good to get Donner’s callback to his incident with Count Vertigo.
  • Oliver: “Roy isn’t the kind of guy to open up about his feelings.” Diggle: “Not like you and me.”
  • How many times can the word “Mirakuru” be used in one minute? Let’s look to the opening recap of the episode to find out.
  • “His last name’s Blood. That can’t be a good sign.”
  • Always nice to get and celebrate a terrific scene between Paul Blackthorne and Katie Cassidy, and the one between Papa and Daughter Lance in the interrogation room is a good’un.
  • We don’t mention it enough, but the frequently on-point Blake Neely’s music is fantastic throughout here.
  • Have to really dig the present-day Deathstroke costume, but count me as one who prefers the original mask to the new face shield version.

A SECOND OPINION

by Derek B. Gayle

As strong as Arrow season 2’s first half was, one downside was how disparate many of the plot threads often felt. From Roy’s vigilantism, to Canary, to Mirakuru, to Laurel’s addiction, not to mention the many potential villainous roles of Brother Blood, Malcolm Merlyn and Slade, this season has thrown out numerous story points that were often barely connected. “Blind Spot” certainly doesn’t tie together everything, and much legwork had been done to cross over these threads already, but it’s the best effort so far to do it.

Finally intertwining Laurel’s addiction problem into the main story is the episode’s biggest achievement. Laurel is allowed to be relevant to the story, obviously, but she’s also being driven by her own decisions. She’s not being defined by the acts of others–like, say, being kidnapped to hurt her father in “Broken Dolls”, or just generally being used by every other character all the time. She stumbled into this mystery with Blood, and has been dead-set on unravelling it. She has the best intentions, she’s totally in the right, and she’s the only one who figures out the answer. Laurel solves a mystery even the Arrow couldn’t solve, and if not for everyone’s underestimation of Blood’s capabilities, she would have saved the day.

What’s even better is that, at what could have been Laurel’s highest point and redemption, the show turns things around and pushes her straight to rock bottom. Not only has she lost respect in her father’s eyes, but Oliver–who’s spent his time pining over her since the start of the show–has finally pushed her off the pedestal he put her on. After all the mistakes she’s made (and how annoying she’s often been to we, as viewers) it’s ironic to let us see her fall so hard when she finally gets on the road to being the character we’ve wanted her to be. What’s even more brilliant is that, with all her near-successes this week, it’s still her own fault that she falls. The troublesome drug addiction has paid off in the long run, starting the domino effect in a way that wasn’t quite expected. Was it fair that she was outed and incarcerated right as she was on the verge of saving Starling City? It’s a conflicted answer, but there’s no doubt that her mistakes will cost her.

And then there’s Roy, whose story has continued to go the predictable, yet still entertaining route with his superpowers.The standard “losing control” story unfolds like usual, but it works thanks to the great chemistry and charisma Colton Hayes, Willa Holland and Bex-Taylor Klaus bring to the screen as Roy, Thea and Sin, respectively. The Proto-Titans play well together, especially considering Sin’s clear care for the other two as she tries to get Roy to tell Thea his secret. It’s a little frustrating that the exciting development from last week–which had Thea witness Roy use his super strength and invulnerability–is sort of brushed off as her being vaguely mad about his secrets. She doesn’t just know Roy has a secret, she saw what his secret was! There’s a number of ways to rationalize it, I suppose, but it still feels like backtracking.

The island is getting more intriguing, too, as we get more of a peek into Sara and Ivo’s relationship. This week plays Ivo much more as a mad genius than we’d seen, someone profoundly broken rather than simply sadistic. It’s an interesting turn of events, made more interesting that this reveal–which arguably makes him more sympathetic–happens as Sara also decides to side against him, in spite of having seen his good side. Ivo makes a very fun Big Bad for the island this time around, in part because of his conflicting morality.

As per usual, “Blind Spot” ends on a few big notes, the most intriguing of which is the Arrow officially taking in Roy as his teacher. But the most fun to watch is definitely Slade’s true debut as Deathstroke in the present, as he dawns the mask and takes out Blood’s henchmen. As fun as Manu Bennett was as the snarky Slade last year, his take on Slade’s hardened villainous side is a total thrill.

“Blind Spot” still suffers from some predictability in its storytelling, though–the Roy stuff and even the Blood bait-and-switch, honestly–so we’ve yet to achieve the near-perfection of the season’s first half since the hiatus. But it’s still consistently entertaining thanks to the stellar cast, and remains as fun as usual.

Matt Tucker Editor/Senior Writer/Reviewer

Matt Tucker is a stage and film actor, writer, Seattleite, comics nerd, sports fan, and aspiring person. Someday, he’ll be a real boy. He's an editor and senior writer for KSiteTV network (GreenArrowTV, DaredevilTV) and the sports blog Sonics Rising. He's also Movies/TV editor at SmarksOn. Follow him on Twitter at @MattBCTucker.

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