‘Arrow’ 7×04 Review: ‘Level Two’

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Is the Arrowverse better for its vigilantes?

That’s a question that Arrow seems to be exploring this season as we continue to explore this debate between the need for vigilantes and how vigilantes are hurting the system. Vigilantes are vigilantes because they do what law enforcement cannot: They take risks, they go around the law when they need to, and they recognize that if they don’t do it, the law certainly won’t.

The important point that also seems to go unnoticed by some is that vigilantes sacrifice just as if not more than law enforcement. Their families. Their lives. Even their morals at times. Vigilantes skirt the line between what’s right and what’s wrong and sometimes they have to cross that line because it’s the only option.

It’s been four episodes and we’re still without any vigilantes that aren’t our mystery new Green Arrow. Oliver? In prison. Felicity? Fighting Diaz. Diggle? Working for ARGUS. Rene? Waiting for the vigilantes to rise again. Dinah? Police captain. Curtis? ARGUS. Black Siren? Playing nice and pretending to be Laurel. Diaz? The worthless waste of oxygen is still on the loose.

In this vigilante-less (almost) world, Star City is far from better off. Diaz still roams the streets and if not for help from this new Green Arrow, this week’s baddies of the week would go unpunished and uncaught. It’s almost as if, wait for it, this universe needs vigilantes to balance out law enforcement. Sometimes the law — especially when proven corrupt — isn’t enough.

Let’s break down Arrow’s fourth episode, where Oliver Queen continues to be the most tortured character in this universe, Felicity travels down a dark path, and let’s talk about the future!


Bend But Don’t Break

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Is there a more tortured character in the Arrowverse than Oliver Queen? Seriously, the amount of pain and suffering that this show has put Oliver through in seven seasons (which amounts to 12 years) is remarkable. It goes to show you the incredible strength and resiliency that this character has. You can bend him until you believe he’ll break. But he never breaks.

Oliver’s strength was certainly tested in this episode as Level 2 presented some psychological challenges. But everything that Oliver has faced in these past 12 years has prepared him in some way. Even when this Dr. Parker hit him where it hurt on the William front.

Oliver was psychologically tortured and forced to relive one of the worst traumas of his life: His father’s suicide and the moment everything changed for him. This was the moment that his destiny had set its course. That Oliver would grow to become a hero that would protect his city. The evolution is what made it all so satisfying. He wasn’t born a hero. He became a hero.

Instead, we have Dr. Parker trying to convince him that this wasn’t the moment that set his destiny to becoming a “hero” rather than becoming a “murderer.” Tell me a story I haven’t heard before. People calling Oliver, a self-sacrificial hero, a murderer because his methods are/were certainly questionable.

Watching these doctors trying to strip Oliver of what he is — a hero, a man that loves his family, someone that has sacrificed everything — was difficult to watch. You saw old wounds reopened as Oliver’s mind went back to the whole “my darkness will taint those I love” bit. But I don’t believe for a second that it worked. Because Oliver isn’t that same man he once was.

Never forget that Oliver is fighting for his family. He’s fighting for William. He’s fighting for Felicity. He’s fighting for them all. You think some drugs and poking around in his head is going to make him forget that? Lest we forget that Oliver is a master when it comes to this kind of stuff. The closest he’s coming to breaking was Prometheus, and even then it was a different nerve that he hit. The threat of harming his family is unlike any pain he can ever experience. We’ve seen it this season.


The Cost of Humanity

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With each passing day that Diaz has not been caught (which is about 365 too many because this guy is the biggest joke this show has ever seen, and that includes multiple Canaries), Felicity slips further into the rabbit hole of darkness.

This is a woman who has dedicated herself to do whatever it takes — including teaming up with some ruthless like Black Siren — to get revenge against Diaz as a way to get justice for what he’s taken from her: Her family, her safety, and her life. No doubt losing your family and everything you hold dear is enough to drive anyone to the extremes Felicity has gone. And if anything, that makes her more dangerous than Diaz ever expected.

At one point Felicity tells Laurel this: “I’ve already accepted that my old life is gone.”

That’s the sound of a woman with nothing to lose (as her family has been ripped away from her) and every reason to go all-in on bringing this lizard down. Felicity believes that Oliver is never coming back to her. Felicity is convinced she and William won’t be safe until Diaz is dead. And she’s not going to stop fighting for her family until they’re safe.

Also, Felicity can make me like pretty much anyone. Because, honestly, I really liked the scenes between Felicity and Laurel in this episode. It flowed well from a chemistry standpoint but also from a storyline point. You have someone like Laurel, who has already bathed in the darkness for an extended amount of time, and you have someone like Felicity, who has long been the light in the darkness of everything. But now, the light is gone. But hopefully and most likely, not forever.

Felicity and Laurel complimented each other in a weird, unique way. Like it worked somehow. It was interesting to watch these two characters interact and work together to fight a common enemy: Diaz. I’m actually looking forward to seeing these two moving forward?


The Future Becomes More Clear?

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If there’s anything that’s clear from this week’s flash forward it’s that the children of our present heroes are taking over. Or, at least this will be the start. William is assuming the role of Felicity — the techie that’s here to save all of their asses — and we’ve just met the new Black Canary, which just happens to be Rene’s daughter Zoe. Which means we’re still waiting for a new Green Arrow and perhaps a new Spartan. J.J. is out there. And there’s a possibility of a certain couple’s daughter coming into play.

There’s a certain darkness to future Star City, which is quite reminiscent of the 2046 Star City we saw in Legends of Tomorrow, which Beth Schwartz said is not the future they’re exploring on Arrow. It’s certainly not as apocalyptic as on Legends, but there’s a certain darkness that it holds that makes you wonder what the hell happened for things to escalate so quickly.

It also makes you wonder why Arrow would show a future so grim. Isn’t this supposed to be a show that, inevitably, we’re left with some closure in knowing that our favorite characters get to live out their lives in semi-happiness? But at the same time, this is Arrow. It’s always been dark. It’ll always be dark. Why should we expect anything else?

But this flash forward thing — one that’s not a one-episode thing — does present so much possibility to not only explore this future but also see where our favorite new and old characters have gone.

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Things that I liked in the future:

  1. Roy Harper is still sexy as hell
  2. Older William is also a looker
  3. William is a techie like his step-mama
  4. The amount of times Felicity Smoak’s name was uttered
  5. Zoe is a badass — and the new Black Canary
  6. SMOAK TECHNOLOGIES IS CANON Y’ALL
  7. The important question: Why?
  8. Vigilante Resistance? Tell me more…
  9. Oliver and Felicity are intent on making everyone believe they’re dead

Arrow is so cute for trying to make us believe that Felicity Smoak is dead in the future. Number 1: They’d never do it; Number 2: They know we know they’d never do it; Number 3: They know we know they know we know they’d never do it.

I’ve gotta say, these flash forwards are the most intrigued I’ve been by a time jump (either past or future) that Arrow has done since probably season 2. And I can’t help but feel like Arrow’s setting up some kind of spinoff involving the kids once the show takes its final bow in the seemingly near future.


A Father’s Love

I’m not a fan of Rene Ramirez nor have I ever been a fan of Rene Ramirez. But if there’s one thing that’s brought me extremely close to caring or even feeling something towards this guy it’s the relationship he has with his daughter Zoe.

I interviewed Rick Gonzalez at Comic-Con this summer and when asked about a “love interest” for Rene, Rick gave the best answer: “The love of Rene’s life is his daughter.” And that cemented it for me.

I’m a sucker for any father/daughter relationship, and the purity with which Gonzalez plays Rene’s intense love and desire to protect his daughter has always been some hard-hitting emotional stuff. Even when I don’t always agree with Rene. I do respect what he does to protect his daughter — as long as it doesn’t involve throwing Oliver Queen under the bus and into prison.

You can easily say a theme of this season is family. Whether that’s Oliver’s doing anything and everything to get back to his family or Felicity going to extremes because she’s lost her family or Rene fighting to protect his family (Zoe). I’ve always enjoyed Rene’s scenes with his daughter and how he’s fighting for her. And I see the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, as Zoe grows up to be a vigilante following in her father’s footsteps.


Who Is The New Green Arrow?

The obvious answer is Roy Harper. I mean, I want it to be Roy Harper. If only that means that Thea is coming back and we send the newbies away and reunite the original Team Arrow. I have to admit, this new Green Arrow is parkouring the hell out of everything, and it’s very classic Roy Harper. But Roy is too obvious. I feel like this show is trying to get another shocker out of us. Unless it’s all a misdirect.

But who else could it be? Future William? That was something I’d thought before this episode — like Roy introduced William to the Legends and they brought William to the past to save his dad and stepmom somehow. But the more I watched this episode, the more I’m convinced William is the Felicity of this new crop of superheroes, which is sure to introduce J.J. and (if the rumors are true) a certain someone’s daughter.

So it’s not William and it’s not Roy, then who the hell else could it be? Future J.J.? It has to be someone with some kind of connection to these characters and that suit. Unless we haven’t met them yet, I’m drawing a blank.


Arrow airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.

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