If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
After recieving information from Quentin, Team Arrow investigates a series of thefts from William Tockman, aka the Clock King. Tockman proves to be too much for the team, infiltrating and knocking out their computer systems. The failure to keep the security measures strong enough feeds Felicity’s feelings of inadequacy, which were already kicked into overdrive thanks to her jealousy of Sara’s talents. Meanwhile, Quentin tries to get his family reunited with a family dinner. Sara invites Oliver, though, and Laurel catches on that they’re back as a couple, causing a massive meltdown and falling out between she and Oliver. Struggling to be seen as an equal to Sara, Felicity goes out on the field to hack the bank the Clock King will hit next, and it’s up to Oliver and Sara to take him and his goons down. Felicity saves Sara from being shot by Tockman, and hacks his cell phone so it will explode like he did to her computers, taking him out without killing him. Laurel admits her problems and reconciles with Sara and goes to an AA meeting. Thea tricks Oliver into coming home, hoping she will make up with Moira, but instead he finds Moira meeting with a very alive Slade. In flashback, we learn that a plane crashed on the island, and the dying pilot asked Sara to take care of his daughter—Sin.
An in-depth recap with trivia will be posted shortly in our handy episode guide!
Nothing is simple, and nothing ever comes easy. That’s the most prominent and cohesive of the underlying themes of “Time of Death”, an episode that slows enough to spend more time with characters reassesing their relationships than we’ve ever seen. The Lances can’t expect their family to simply come back together like nothing ever changed. Tockman can’t simply use the “doing it for my family” excuse to absolve him of his sins. Sara doesn’t simply make Felicity irrelevant by being awesome. And Laurel’s life isn’t simply going to improve without effort.
Oliver manages to get in the center of all of these, unsurprisingly, further complicating the issues. Part of Arrow‘s brilliance is how Oliver is capable of making mistakes and bad judgement calls time and time again, but without betraying his character or angering the audience. With the Sara situation, we’ve seen the backstory behind Sara and Oliver’s struggles. Their hook-up makes sense, given their shared history. Sara being nervous and wanting a buffer makes plenty of sense, too, and Oliver’s decision to go along is mostly forced by Felicity pushing them together out of jealousy. His initial reluctance is what keeps this from being a total dick move on his part, but the fact still remains that his show up at the Lance dinner unannounced could never have gone well. The Lances haven’t seen Sara and Oliver’s sides of things like we have, and it’s even worse when they lie about Oliver’s invite and then do a terrible job at hiding the truth. Like Thea points out, Oliver is really bad at lying, ironic as that may be, and Sara isn’t all that great either.
It leads into the best scene of the episode, and the culmination of myriad bad decisions from both Oliver and Laurel throughout the series. There’s a lot of reasons Laurel and Oliver’s hallway scene excels—Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy both bringing their A-game, smart use of the oft-misused and maligned shaky cam, and some of the most pointed and painful pieces of dialogue we’ve ever seen on this show. Oliver lays out everything wrong with Laurel as a person and, frankly, Laurel as a character in general. Oliver tearing down Laurel’s self-sabotage and self-pity is an inspired deconstruction of the love interest archetype that’s attributed to her character’s failure, actually. Laurel spins out of control when she doesn’t have a man to latch onto or pine for her, and when she crashes and burns she blames the world. Frustrating as Laurel’s actions have been as of late, season 2’s unveiling of just how weak of a character she is has become very insightful, at least as commentary on the “superhero’s girlfriend” trope Laurel has totally exposed as broken and destructive.
But despite all this, what’s really ingenious is that it’s not one-sided. In fact, this is the first time in a long while that Laurel is very much in the right, too. Oliver spells out what we’ve been waiting for him to say for about two years, yes, but the circumstances also expose his total failure when it comes to the situation. While Laurel is solely responsible for much of her misery, she isn’t wrong for ripping Oliver apart, too. Frankly, Oliver has been an enabler, plain and simple. In this particular situation, yeah, just his presence at an already unsteady situation was totally moronic on his part. But even beyond that, Oliver claims to have been there throughout Laurel’s dark times, but looking back, he’s never shied away from being judgmental or giving speeches strikingly similar to her father. He had the best intentions, but in the then-humorous “Please don’t ask me if I’m okay/I won’t. …Are you okay?” exchange, for example, it’s evident that Oliver totally disregards what Laurel needs. All Oliver has done this season is reinforce her own self-hate by telling her she has a problem, rather than being a friend and helping her come to her own realization that she can fix herself. Oliver’s issues further the deconstruction of the “superhero’s girlfriend,” as his admiration for her prevents him from simply being a friend in her life. His weakness for Laurel was wonderfully addressed in “Blind Spot”, but it’s even clearer now that he’s only capable of seeing her either as the woman he “loved for half his life” or a screwed up person he’s done with, nothing in between. They’re both toxic to each other at this stage in their lives, and will need to come to places where they can disregard their baggage and be comfortable in each other’s company.
Laurel made the first step tonight by apologizing to her sister, though it’s clear from the even more overt self-hate in her (admittedly clunky) closing monologue that she’s got a long way to go. Her appearance at the AA meeting, however, is evidence that she understands this; it’s one thing to acknowledge that you have a problem, but it’s another entirely to actively start the long journey back. Oliver, on the other hand, still has loads of pent-up rage about his family and life to sort through, but at least for the time being he and Sara seem surprisingly comfortable in their relationship.
Felicity isn’t comfortable, though her feelings are certainly the least complex of the bunch here. Emily Bett Rickards presents Felicity’s jealousy of Sara as something immature, but self-aware enough to keep from feeling whiny. In fact, by the episode’s midpoint Felicity’s anger stops being targeted at Sara and starts turning into self-hate, though thankfully nowhere close to Laurel-levels. Felicity is simply insecure and lacking confidence, probably her most defining character beat. The material isn’t quite new here—she’s gone in the field and gotten into trouble to prove herself before—but it’s more pronounced thanks to the Clock King wrecking the Arrowcave’s systems, something no other villain has managed to do. The meltdown turns out to be not much more than an inconvenience rather than anything particularly debilitating or frightening, but it’s functional as another reason for Felicity to feel inadequate. Perhaps having her literally take a bullet for Sara is a bit melodramatic, but this is a superhero action show, lest we forget. It’s also nice that Felicity’s jealousy doesn’t completely come from unrequited romance, but being replaced as the team’s “chick,” for lack of a better word. Inequality implications aside, there’s something special about being the only female on a team of hunky male superhero heavies, so even if Oliver and Sara were totally platonic Felicity would still feel bumped off as his Girl Friday. The romantic aspect is definitely still there, but it’s refreshing to see the more relevant sides explored.
Quentin has the saddest subplot of the episode, as he mistakes friendliness with his ex-wife as a move for reconciliation. Quentin has gotten the most obvious character development over the course of the show, and it’s highlighted more than ever this time around. He’s not high-strung or short-tempered, for one, despite Oliver crashing the party or his daughter totally tearing him down. In fact, his schoolboy giddiness over the possibility of getting back with Dinah—adeptly performed by Paul Blackthorne—demonstrates just how much lighter his character has gotten this season. It makes him all-the-more sympathetic when Laurel and Dinah shut down his pipe dream—something we don’t get to see the aftermath of, sadly. There’s also the curious scene of Quentin apologizing to Oliver for treating him like a “killer” last year, word choice that implies he knows Oliver’s identity. Blackthorne doesn’t play it with a wink if that’s the case, thankfully, and it’s probably an example of the writers playing coy rather than dropping a hint. Then again, you’d think Arrow’s identity would be obvious to Lance by now.
Robert Knepper, meanwhile, is probably the best “esteemed actor cast as a thankless villain” we’ve seen this season as the Clock King. It’s not surprising to see Knepper knock it out of the park—among having complex roles in shows like Prison Break, he was also the one of the only enjoyable aspects of late-season Heroes (which is on its way back!), quite a feat in itself. But this incarnation not only has particularly flowery and precise dialogue from Tockman, dialogue being one of the only things about Sean Maher’s Shrapnel that worked, he’s also the first one-off villain to be given ample depth. Well, “ample” is all relative here; Tockman’s Breaking Bad-esque terminal illness and motivation for getting money to his family is fairly straightforward, but it’s much more complex than the likes of Shrapel, Cyrus Vanch, or even China White.
The missed opportunity is the inferred connection between his obsession with time and his own body ticking down to zero. The dramatic weight is meant to be that Tockman cares for his family, but that’s been done countless times on this show alone. Tockman’s psychosis, driven by his obsession with every limited second ticking closer to his impending death, could have made for a disturbing, even more sympathetic villain. “Time of Death” is much more focused on our heroes, which is just fine, but the Clock King might have been better saved for an episode where more time could be spent exploring his psyche. The major downside to Arrow’s rapid pace and dense storytelling is that even the most interesting characters can get lost in the shuffle while juggling the main cast of thousands. But luckily Tockman’s not dead yet, so perhaps his time in the limelight is yet to come.
“Time of Death” is a much smaller episode of Arrow than we’re used to, still dense with material but lacking the numerous plot beats we often get. What results is an episode that won’t blow minds, especially not when compared to its near-perfect predecessor, but one that provides sufficient character-based material to delve into. No struggles are cut and dry, nor are any of them over, but we have a clearer picture of why these people are doing what they’re doing. And if plot really is what you crave, the doozy of a cliffhanger should suffice. Slade making an appearance promises that the pace will pick up next week, so we might want to consider this week a breather.
Odds & Ends
- The island flashback leans a little more on the Lost side, with a direct character moment and connection revealed rather than plot momentum. Showing the origin of Sara and Sin’s very sweet sisterly relationship isn’t vital, but it both provides a solid character backdrop and adds relevance to the flashback even if it doesn’t tie in thematically. Also, nothing is ever wrong with more Bex Taylor-Klaus.
- “Heir to the Demon” had an excuse for not using Roy since his intended scene was cut from the final episode. But given that Hayes even appears this week, albeit briefly, why not even a mention of Roy’s membership on Team Arrow? Perhaps “Tremors” should have aired later in the season, or at least had an episode between it and the return to the big Sara arc. Either way, it’s a big hanging thread that desperately needs to be revisited.
- The bus the Arrow saves in that very cool sequence has a banner for a Blue Devil film. You can find more information on that lesser-known hero here on GATV. Also, we’d better see an incarnation of Blue Devil on the potentially less-grounded Flash TV series if that comes to pass, because he’s awesome, and his original run in the comics was way ahead of its time in terms of meta comedy and Hollywood satire. Totally worth checking out.
- I like that Thea isn’t taking any BS from Oliver or her mom and is actively getting them to stop being lunkheads. You’d think Oliver would make up some reason why he and Moira were fighting just to get Thea off his back, but alas, he’s a pathetic liar.
- Oliver’s plan involves Walter liquidating and transferring millions of dollars and has Felicity just…ask him? Walter’s not going to ask any questions about that?
- The bit with Felicity wearing the leather jacket to match the coolness of her comrades is funny, but why does she keep insisting on doing these dangerous missions in extremely tight dresses and heels? Why the insistence on looking totally glamorous when working in the dank, underground Arrowcave, anyway? She can’t change out of her work clothes like Oliver and Diggle do? It doesn’t really fit Felicity’s character, and is one of the stranger things season 2 has consistently done.
- Alex Kingston continues to be sorely underused as Dinah Lance.
- The death glare Felicity gives Diggle when he tells her she’s “irreplaceable” is gold.
- “I love when people come back from the dead. It…fuels my zombie fetish.”
- “I guess it’s not real unless the media makes up a nickname.”