Arrow Review: Red Herring

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Arrow does know how to toss around the red herrings, right?

Everyone went into Arrow Season 2 Episode 20 expecting the big story to surround dealing with Roy and his destruction of Starling City after being infused with a new strain of Mirakuru (I think he even managed to kill a cop)... but that was hardly a blip on the Arrow radar by the time the installment ended.

As the focus shifted throughout from a sweet scene between Oliver and Laurel when they were a couple, to Moira acting as mama bear, to Sara's desire to kill and back to Moira and her desire to be a mother instead of a mayor, it became apparent things were on an unstoppable trajectory.

Before we get to that moment let's talk around it and before it. I don't think it was a coincidence that we were shown a scene between Oliver and Laurel seven years ago, and one in which Laurel was a sweet girlfriend very much in love with Oliver Queen. 

The wrongs done to her were driven home by his mopey behavior in that scene when he shared with his mom that he got someone pregnant. Oliver was never a good boyfriend to Laurel even before he started dallying with Sara. Moira did her due diligence and took to the grave yet another untold secret -- Oliver has a child out there somewhere. 

To protect Oliver's future she paid the neat sum of $2 million to the pregnant girl to ensure the happiness of her first grandchild as well as her son. Learning that secret  in conjunction with the sweet Laurel scene? Certainly not a coincidence. How soon we'll learn of Oliver's offspring? Who knows.

Tied into the Laurel line came the admission of Sara that she hasn't bought what Oliver's been selling.

Sara: That's not true. I wanted to kill Roy because that's what I do. That's who I am. I spent six years in the darkness and I looked into the eyes of the devil and I gave him my soul.
Oliver: I can help you get it back.
Sara: No. You deserve someone better. You can harness that light that's still inside of you, but I'm not that person and I never will be.

Not only did she break up with him, but it seems like she took her bike and rode out of Starling City. When Sara learns what happened to Moira will she come back? I guess we'll find out next week. Saying goodbye to Sin with a flippant, "I'm going to see an old friend," sure seemed like she was headed back to Nyssa al Ghul. What other old friends does she have to visit? If it is to Nyssa she's heading, to what end is she going?

As much as it pains me to bring this up on this sorrowful night, do her actions and the coincidental flashback between Laurel and Oliver mean anything? Carrying on.

It's never a good sign for a character on Arrow to suddenly become the focus of flashback scenes while they're actively working on setting their relationships straight. Moira started her path to redemption in Arrow Season 2 Episode 19 when Oliver started to give a little with his mother in light of the truths Slade had shared with his friends and family. It's sort of difficult to hold mom to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

This week we saw Oliver encourage his mother to stand up and do the right thing for her daughter and her city by remaining in the mayoral race. 

Oliver: Mom, I know a little something about sacrificing myself for the good of this city. It's what you need to do now.
Moira: I know.
Oliver Good.
Moira: Oliver. I know. I know. I've known since last year, I suppose. The night of the undertaking everything became so clear. It's pretty much the night I stopped sleeping.
Oliver: Before you say anything else...
Moira: There's nothing else to say. Nothing I need to say. Except I could not be more proud.

Moira's knowledge of her son's secret identity begs the question of just how many other people are holding back on revealing what they know and losing sleep to give the heroes the latitude they need to fight evil in Starling City. The expression was beautifully played by Susanna Thompson in an episode in which she was given the opportunity to show her more sensitive side.

Of course, having everyone live and all secrets revealed wouldn't play well for Arrow going forward. There has to be mystery and misery to drive the characters to and beyond their breaking points, so they rise up better and stronger than they are at the moment they think they can't possibly take another step forward.

Oliver has now been a central player at two executions wherein people he loved have been placed before him and the choice as to whether they lived or died was his to make. Moira didn't have to understand the full breadth of the history between her son and Slade to realize she couldn't let him bear that burden again. It's her job as his mother to bear that weight herself, for as long as she can.

Moira: There's only one way this night can end and we both know that, don't we, Mr. Wilson?
Oliver: Mom!
Moira: Please tell me both my children will live.
Thea: Mom! What are you doing?! Mom!
Moira: Thea, I love you. Close your eyes baby!
Oliver: NO!
Slade: You possess true courage. I am truly sorry you did not pass that on to your son.

When Susanna Thompson delivered that line to Thea not to look, that was the crusher of the episode. There was so much feeling in Moira's plea to her daughter not to watch what was coming.

Now Oliver can truly blame Slade for Moira's death. It was Slade and Slade alone who plunged the sword into her chest, not a decision Slade was forced to make, like Oliver did with Sara and Shado. Slade placed himself directly into the executioner's shoes and skipped the difficult decision. He'll still never know what Oliver went through until he has the capacity to love. From what we know in the comics, that never comes.

Where there was once a chance that the relationship between the two island brothers could be repaired, it's beyond that now. Thea being left in the dark again might not bode well for her relationship with Oliver, either, even without their mother present. While they could have turned to one another in their grief, Thea will likely seek solace elsewhere, with someone she can trust.

When will Malcolm come back? He knows he's Thea's last living parent. Moira almost shared his status with her kids, but that was cut short. I just hope Thea remembers that phrase about Malcolm so she knows Moira was making an attempt to make things right. 

Finally, Slade said one more person had to die for everything to come to an end. Is that person Sara? Laurel? Oliver himself? Can one surmise what a psychopath with Mirakuru visions could possibly be thinking about?

Share your thoughts about the episode and everything that went down in the comments. We'll be sure to have a hearty Arrow Round Table as soon as we can and we'll try to answer some of the questions posed in this review there. If you have questions you'd like us to tackle, toss them in the comments. If you missed the installment, you can watch Arrow online.

Did Moira's death take you by surprise?

Seeing Red Review

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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Arrow Season 2 Episode 20 Quotes

Mom, it doesn't seem fair to me. One mistake and it feels like my entire life is over.


Laurel: You're really cute when you're mopey.
Oliver: I'm not mopey.
Laurel: Mopey's your default Ollie. It's part of your smoldering charm.
Oliver: I do have smoldering charm.