Arrow: 7.07 The Slabside Redemption

Now that’s how to bring a story-arc to a close! Oliver’s prison ordeal has taken centre stage throughout this season, with each instalment bringing excitement, characterisation and a re-invigorated style not seen before. While it’s sad that it’s all come to an end, it did so in the best way possible, with superb action sequences and a long awaited faceoff between Oliver and Diaz. I especially enjoyed the open and closed narrative, not feeling as though you’d have to continue watching the series but equally leaving breadcrumbs for those that do.

Putting the flash-forward scenes and anything happening outside on hold was a smart decision. Taking place purely in the prison ironically allowed for more freedom, giving the ability to set up a scene as opposed to jumping into it. This worked exceptionally well with Diaz who, up until this point, hasn’t had much of an on screen presence. It brought back the ominous style we had become accustomed to last season.

Not everything was perfect though, it had its flaws. For starters, as fantastic and well shot as the action sequences were, in some instances the lighting was terrible, and was often hard to make individual characters out. The story around Diaz was slightly irritating as too much is dependent on assumption, like how did he go from paying one guard to escape prison, to entering a highly secure facility as a visitor, considering he is on every most wanted list? Then later, infiltrating the prison yard dressed as a guard?

Last week’s episode teased that Stanley may have more about him that at first meets the eye, and the continuation of that story was fantastic. Let’s face it, the man was in prison for a reason and here we see why; the creepy little weirdo is bat-shit crazy. His reaction when Oliver confronts him for framing Turner was excellent, the performance had the perfect balance between crazy and normal. What made this sub-section more enjoyable was the screen time allotted to it being so small, not bogging down the overall narrative.

Michael Jai White’s (Ben) performance was equally as excellent. Although he has been around for a while, he’s never had the opportunity to stand out and distinguish himself as a standalone character, away from Brick’s gang. Watching him distance himself from Brick, becoming more of a hero/anti-hero, fighting alongside Oliver, provided a refreshing change in the action as the two have differing styles. Oliver managed to show some growth after apologising for wrongly accusing Ben of murder, sparking the unusual team-up, feeling very natural. I hope the two meet again.

It’s nice to have the Slabside arc come to an end, so that Arrow can better focus on other stories like the flash-forwards and Longbow Hunters. Equally so, I hope the new elements of Oliver’s character remain. Oliver acting without the help of Felicity, the team or his armour and gadgets has cemented him as a well-rounded hero. Outside of prison you would never see him create a soap bomb, or use shivs to gain advantages in battle; the fighting too has been far more enjoyable because of this. I hope the show doesn’t fall back on bad habits as this season has proved it can be different, and I also hope that’s how the remainder of it plays out.

The final fight sequence between Oliver and Diaz was missing something. It was exciting to watch and had fantastic physical performances, but the end result of Diaz locked in the cell because a practically defeated Oliver got the upper hand, left me wanting something more. While the fascination of a hero is seeing them at their worst, fighting against their instincts to give up, I can’t help but remember the list of foes Oliver’s defeated in the past: Prometheus, Merlyn, Damien, Ra’s al Ghul, the list is endless, why was Diaz worse? Regardless, it was a high-octane ending and I very much doubt we have seen the last of Diaz.

The finale sequence with Oliver being greeted by Felicity and Diggle (the OG Team Arrow), was heart-warming, uplifting and complete with a The Shawshank Redemption style exit…without the rain and faeces of course. The kiss was cheesy but ended Oliver’s sub-plot beautifully. There’s plenty left to capitalise on, most of all Stanley’s escape; we know he is convincing and weasel-like so his continuation should be interesting. With Oliver finally out of prison it’s like a new season has begun, and I look forward to whatever comes next.

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