Arrow: 7.04 Level Two
Season seven so far has demonstrated a new and improved Arrow. This season’s greatest strength has been the Oliver Queen imprisoned storyline which hasn’t failed to deliver. Level Two somehow elevated this story, stripping the character down to the bare bones. If there’s a bad thing to say about this episode it’s that there’s too much going on…but that’s hardly the worst problem to have.
Episode one (and two…I think) teased a new hooded vigilante who has been absent for the last few episodes. His return here to help the SCPD and protect the Glades did very little in terms of tension building. His presence helped bring together Rene and Dinah, who have been bickering on how best to protect the city, which was nice but could’ve been accomplished without the inclusion of this new masked figure. Whether the character is worthwhile or not relies heavily on identity payoff: do we know the person or will it be someone new?
There were plots this episode that weren’t fully explored, most notable was the standoff between Felicity and Silencer, who was captured by Rene last week. While I’m not a big fan of this new hard-ass Felicity, who has ditched her morals for a determination to catch Diaz, I was looking forward to an in-depth look into one of the longbow hunters who, up until now, has had no dialogue but generated a menacing presence. Instead, we get an off screen torture by Laurel, whose inclusion up till now has been redundant, and poor dialogue throughout. Laurel explaining that Felicity, on her Earth, had an empire got me thinking about the flash-forwards and whether they’re actually on another Earth.
The flash-forward scenes in Star City saw Roy and William attempt to solve an age old puzzle left by Felicity. When the two run into trouble in the Smoketech building (perhaps the empire Laurel spoke of), it was disappointing that, rather than Roy stepping into gear to show his skills, a grittier Dinah came to the rescue. The future scenes are walking a really thin line with story reveal and mystery; while I am still invested, the pace needs to take a dramatic turn to keep it that way.
Due to Oliver’s continued fighting, he has been placed in a kind of solitary confinement torture room. It was nice to have a change of pace, to see Oliver stripped of not only his physical armour, but also his mental armour. His foe this time around is Dr. Jarrett Parker, a mysterious psychiatrist whose intentions are thus far unclear. It appears as though he wants to help Oliver overcome suppressed fears but this could easily be an ulterior motive. He’s an intriguing character and excellent addition to Oliver’s ongoing struggle.
Not only were the flash-forwards this episode effective, but thanks to the doctor putting Oliver in a drug induced state, we also got flash-backs of him on the Gambit with his father. While a powerful scene by itself, the writers amped up the effect by recreating that scene with Oliver and William, depicting a different perspective now as Oliver too is a father. Bringing up old season one era discussions and visuals of what Oliver’s father did was easily one of the greatest emotional scenes to date.
While supporting characters like Rene, Dinah and Laurel got significantly more screen time this episode, poor Curtis, continues to be pushed to the side-lines, each episode having less of a presence. He only turned up briefly to hand Rene’s daughter a comfort teddy which, while a nice sentiment, was pretty pointless. Diggle too played a very mediocre role, serving only to mediate the feud between Curtis and Dinah. I fear it may be time to say goodbye to Curtis, especially when you consider the plethora of characters fighting for attention.
The main issue with Arrow currently is the shear amount of characters and plot threads. While it remains entertaining; I can’t help but feel it’s overcrowded, with some not getting the attention they deserve. Thankfully we’re only four episodes in and no doubt plenty will be trimmed. Regardless, so long as Oliver’s ordeal continues on the same path, whatever surrounds it becomes secondary. Level Two was a fantastic addition to season seven and while silly nit-picks are plentiful, so far it’s a great season.