I’m coming to the conclusion that this is just not my show any more. Lots of good writing decisions in this episode, including sticking to only two plots that are tightly related, so excellent, focused structure. I love the Russian, hope he comes back more often. I don’t trust the reverend, but that’s just me and he’s a great character. Slade is fantastic, and Slade with his hand on Moira’s shoulder is better than fantastic. Loved watching Oliver’s head explode (because he knows what that hand on Moira’s shoulder means, having put his hand on many shoulders in the past). So what’s my problem?
The actual storytelling has slowed to a crawl because the back story is sucking the life from the main story. If you look at how the story actually moved in this episode it comes down to “Oliver knows Slade is in town and is making a move on Moira.” That’s a great scene right there, but it’s not a story. All of the stuff in the present was fun (except, dear god, they’re turning Felicity into Laurel, the Bitch in Impractical Shoes), loved the stuff in the Queen house except for Sara, who ran the gamut of emotions from A to B (thank you, Dorothy Parker). But the back story . . .
Okay, here’s the problem. With the exception of how the Russian got off the boat, we knew all of that. We knew Slade was gunning for Oliver because of Shado (although trying to sell the idea that Oliver chose Sara over Shado when he didn’t is just ANNOYING), we knew that Oliver was separated from Sara. We’ve talked about As You Know Chat on here; the island story was As You Know Action. I realize that a lot of people like that, which is why I’m not saying the stuff on the island is bad, I’m saying it left me cold, while taking away screen time from the things I love about this show, the Arrow team working together and Moira being the Hot Iron Lady. Oliver, Roy, and Sara boxing in Slade was excellent; give me a whole episode of moving the story forward with the Arrow team like that, and I’m there. Instead I got As You Know and explosions in the dark. No, thank you.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t just watched Person of Interest‘s massive back story episode from this week, “RAM.” The entire episode except for the coda at the end was played in the past, and we knew nothing about any of it, so it was all new information played out in a plot that had a beginning and an end. It was, in short, story.
“Ram” began with a number coming up as usual, but this episode was set in 2010 so it’s pre-Reese. Finch is working with an ex-mercenary who is Finch’s compromise: he needs somebody tough enough to take out the bad guys, but that gives him Dillinger who walks the line between good and evil like a drunk on a bender. There are three different groups–Control, the CIA, and Decima–trying to kill the number this week, including Reese as half of the CIA hit team. As Finch sorts through the groups, Dillinger brings the number back to the library and steals the briefcase, and then the plot becomes a Chinese box, opening up with answer after answer to all the mysteries from three seasons–How did Finch find Reese? Who ordered the hit on Nathan? Why was Reese targeted for death in China?–while moving the story of how the hell Finch is going to save the number by himself (for one thing, he gets out of his wheelchair and limps into the real world again). Instead of back story showing stuff we already know, “RAM” is an origin story, showing how Finch, Reese, and Shaw all entered the same story space, tying off pretty much every mystery the series has been spinning since the beginning, and ending with a coda in the present that has Root bringing the number back into the game for the Machine, telling him, “She needs you.” It was magnificent storytelling, and I couldn’t look away for a moment, every second on that screen was new and moved story, which it gave both an ending–the number was saved–and pushed into the next episode–what the hell is Root doing?
Meanwhile on Arrow, I found out that Slade has the mirakuru, that he wants vengeance on Oliver for Shado’s death, and that the Russian escaped. Oh, wait, I knew all of that. What did I learn? Uh, there’s a character who’s a preacher? And the back story ends in another cliffhanger. Okay, but what about the now of the story. Oliver finds out Slade is town and is hitting on his mother. LOVE it. What else? Uh, that’s it. The big climax is Slade repeating the threat he’s already made several times. So no real story there, either. Sum up the entire episode: Slade is working to make Oliver pay. Wait, we knew that. By possibly making a move on Moira. Okay, that’s fun, but most of us saw that coming. What’s new? Nothing.
I really need story. I need a story that starts in the first scene and gives me closure at the end, I need new stuff happening all the time, I need to be surprised and delighted, and Arrow used to do all of that for me. But now their story pace has slowed to a crawl, there’s nothing new on the screen, and they’re not ending their weekly stories. So I’ll come back for the Suicide Squad (that’s next, right?), but if they do the same meaningless stuff with that that they’re doing here, I’m done. I’ll wait until the end of the season and watch the rest of the episodes together, fast forwarding through the back story and watching for the characters I love: Diggle, Moira, the Russian, Deadshot, Slade, Felicity if they put her character back together (why was she wearing all of her mother’s jewelry?). But weekly viewing? No. I need story.
I will, however, be glued to the screen every week to find out what happens next with the Machine gang, especially this chick:
She could take Slade without batting an eye because she does new things that nobody expects. And then she finishes the job and moves on. Root knows story.