Arrow: “Blind Spot” (Episode 1.11)

TV Reviews
Arrow: “Blind Spot” (Episode 1.11)

I feel like I don’t give the Arrow directors as much credit as they deserve. While, as a writer myself, I’m more inclined to focus on story structure and dialogue, I unfortunately have not given the proper kudos to the show’s visual style. Arrow is not a high-budget show and, as a result, it’s the job of the director and his team to smooth over the budget limitations and help the audience forgot that they’re seeing the same factory/warehouse settings over and over again.

I say this because there are several sequences in “Blind Spot” that are quite visually arresting. Of particular note is the episode’s opening scene, which finds secret villain Sebastian Blood visiting his traumatized “aunt” (read: mother) in the mental institution. Sebastian knows she told Laurel the truth about his father’s murder. While mother Blood babbles in Spanish about how deeply sorry she is, Sebastian gives her a kiss on the head and proclaims forgiveness. This gesture turns out to be the kiss of death, however, as Sebastian reappears in his skull mask and—as we later learn—scares her to death. From the use of offbeat angles and composition to the amber glow that highlights the windows, episode director Glen Winter turns this into one of the most atmospheric, chilling scenes in the show’s history.

The Arrow team couldn’t have planned this better since, the very next scene, we get one of the funnier moments of the show. Oliver-as-Arrow is in the midst of interrogating a suspect about the Man with the Skull Mask. The frightened criminal says he knows nothing. Meanwhile, via Bluetooth, Felicity requests that Oliver asks a simple question to establish a baseline and determine whether or not the man is lying. She offers up, “What color are your shoes?” A bit caught off guard, Oliver nevertheless repeats the question to the man in his gravelly, “tough guy” voice. The result is nothing short of hilarious. Oliver-as-Arrow rarely gets the chance to do or say anything ridiculous, so this was a welcome surprise (even if, to my knowledge, lie detectors only work with “yes/no” questions).

But enough about individual moments, on with the rest of the episode…

In a contrast to the more convoluted, subplot-crazy installments as of late, “Blind Spot” ventures into more streamlined territory. The main thrust of the story has Laurel, now moving deeper and deeper into pill addiction, trying to prove that Blood is a threat to the city. She enlists the help of The Arrow who, despite protest from Diggle (Felicity, playing TV critic, does point out, “his last name’s Blood, that can’t be a good sign”), decides to aid his former girlfriend in the investigation.

Calling in some favors from his contact in the police force, Sebastian has Laurel arrested for possession of illegal drugs in an attempt to discredit her. It certainly does the trick for her dear old police dad, Quentin Lance. In yet another attempt to keep Laurel and The Arrow off his trail, however, Sebastian arranges for his police ally to then dress in the skull mask and kidnap Laurel. When The Arrow inevitably comes for her, they unmask the decoy Brother Blood and assume that it was merely a corrupt policeman the whole time.

Though the writers fall into a few old habits with Laurel this episode (she’s abducted for the umpteenth time), they actually give Katie Cassidy some legit good material to work with. When the show indicated earlier this season that Laurel was spiraling into drug addiction, I’d hoped it would provide a good plotline for the often-static character. And while I’m a bit disappointed that her stint as “the lone character who knows the truth” was so short-lived, it was a welcome change of pace. Also, that Laurel actually saves Oliver by shooting the bad guy in the back is a nice subversion of her typical “helpless damsel” role.

With the Skull Mask villain (he believes) vanquished, Oliver turns his attention to Roy Harper. Trying to keep his newly acquired super skills a secret from Thea but needing someone to talk to, Roy demonstrates his newfound powers to street friend, Sin. He further claims that he wants to use his powers for good and become a hero just like The Arrow. The two subsequently hatch a plan to catch “The Starling Slasher,” a high-profile lawyer who moonlights as a prostitute butcher. With Sin acting as decoy, the two are able to lure the Slasher to a private location where Roy begins beating him after the man pulls a knife. It quickly becomes clear, however, that Roy cannot control his rage, as he begins beating the Slasher to death. Sin tries to stop him and, in retaliation, he pushes her to the ground. Only then does Roy come to his senses and realize what he’s done.

I’m glad the writers have decided to hold Roy to the serum’s adverse side effects rather than making him the heroic “exception” to the rule. And with Oliver-as-Arrow now looking to take Roy under his wing, this could develop into quite the interesting hero-sidekick interplay now that Roy is actually stronger than our hero.

After last week’s somewhat underwhelming “Blast Radius,” “Blind Spot” signals the show getting back into the swing of things. It’s a very solid episode, in spite of the occasional hiccup. (The Island flashbacks consisted of little more than Sara attempting to contact Ivo and then realizing, yes, he’s actually very evil.) What’s more, Oliver’s faux discovery of the Man in the Skull Mask’s identity now allows the writers to throttle down a bit regarding the overarching Brother Blood arc, which has been propelling forward at a rapid pace for the past few weeks. Now, the Arrow crew can take a breather and proceed to build up to their next big crescendo.

Most notably, the episode marks an attempt by the writers to fix Laurel, by far the show’s most underdeveloped and problematic character. In that regard, “Blind Spot” is a good start. While I still think, in her current incarnation, she could never be a Sara-like Black Canary (assuming the writers are even considering that), I am now a bit more convinced that she has the capacity to be, at the very least, a much richer character.

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