TV Recap: Arrow, ‘Guilty’

Written by Marisa Carpico

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Plot: Disturbed by his dreams of killing Sara (Caity Lotz), Roy (Colton Haynes) enlists Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) help in determining whether he might really have been responsible for killing their friend. Meanwhile, Oliver (Stephen Amell) learns that Laurel (Katie Cassidy) has been taking fight training with Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) when Grant becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders.

Well…that was an episode of Arrow. Not terrible, but not great either, mostly because there wasn’t any forward movement in any of the storylines. We still don’t know who killed Sara. We also learned that Ted Grant was Starling City’s first vigilante five years ago, although it didn’t really change the relationship between him and Laurel — they just know a little bit more each other now. I like that seems Laurel has a really specific type: brooding vigilantes with guilt complexes.

Still, there were things to like in this episode.

Chief among them was the boxing glove arrow. I’ve waited for this day so long and it was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Slightly less awesome, but still interesting was Roy’s storyline. I can’t say I ever really believed the show would let him be Sara’s killer, but I hoped. Though, technically speaking, he wasn’t totally ruled out by the end of the episode. All forensic evidence still points squarely in his direction, but I’m sure the show will write its way out of that somehow. Even so, the brief time we were allowed to believe Roy was our murderer was the most interesting the character has ever been.

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Roy has always seemed a little superfluous to Team Arrow. Never as important as Felicity or formidable as Diggle (David Ramsey), he spent most of last year acting like a brat and this year he’s a red version of The Arrow with parkour skills. A lot of that has to do with the writing, but within the show, his difficulty in integrating into the group is due to Oliver’s unwillingness to train him. This week, the show forced Oliver to see how damaging his attitude has been through Ted Grant’s backstory.

As it turned out, Grant quit the vigilante business because he expelled his apprentice from Starling City after the apprentice killed a man. Likewise, Oliver is confronted with the choice to dismiss Roy if he really did kill Sara. Grant’s former apprentice was a representation of the worst outcome of that choice: he was tortured by the gang he and Grant had targeted and he came back to punish his former mentor. This has already (sorta) happened with Roy. Oliver’s neglect of Roy led to Roy going off on his own, being captured by Slade and pumped full of so much Mirakuru that he murdered a cop. So, this time, Oliver made the right choice when Roy begged him never to abandon him by promising that he never would. It’s not the kind of choice Oliver would have made a year ago and it was a really gratifying moment of growth for the character — which is why it’s so frustrating that he’s making the same mistake again with Laurel.

In Arrow world, you can’t just tell someone not to be a vigilante; they have to learn it for themselves or to protect themselves if they refuse to stop. Oliver finally seemed to understand that, yet he continues to do it with Laurel, one condescending speech at a time. Listen, I’m the last person pushing to see Laurel take up the Black Canary mantle. Sara’s only been dead for five episodes for Christ’s sake! But that wouldn’t be such an issue if the show had done enough to convince me that Laurel becoming a full-blown, badass vigilante makes any sense.

This character spent two whole seasons believing the law was the way to achieve change. She risked her life to save client files during the Undertaking and led the police task force hunting the Arrow at the beginning of Season Two. Sure, she’s gotten proof that Starling City needs a few vigilantes, but she must still believe in the law considering she hasn’t quit her acting DA job. The show has had Laurel tell us, repeatedly and with emotion, that this is her way of working out her anger and sadness over Sara’s death. However, the show has never bothered to delve deeper into her thinking. How is she reconciling her day and night jobs? Will she stop after Sara is avenged? Is she really ready to kill? Oliver has been challenged on the moral implications of his work by his team and even Laurel herself and his outlook changed because of it. With Laurel, the only person telling her to stop is Oliver and they just keep having the same fight with the same conclusion.

As I said a few weeks ago, Laurel’s desire to become a vigilante might be more understandable if she seemed to have any understanding of how damaging killing was to Sara and Oliver. Maybe she realizes that this isn’t just a “game” as Oliver puts it, but the show certainly hasn’t shown us that. All it’s given us so far is the same justifications and numerous scenes where Laurel nearly gets seriously injured because she doesn’t understand the gravity of what she’s doing. It doesn’t inspire much hope.

Though I will admit that her training with Grant is more promising than it once was. It was sort of silly and boring when he was just some cocky boxer and Laurel was lying to him about why she wanted to train to fight. Now that we know he may actually have the right skills to train her as a vigilante, I’m at least intrigued to see how that turns out—even if it does feel like the writers are just playing out the Oliver/Laurel vigilante romance with another guy.

Rating: 5/10

Arrow airs every Wednesday night on The CW Network.

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By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.