Entertainment Magazine

TV Review: Arrow, “Seeing Red” (S2/EP20) – Secrets Will Kill Ya

Posted on the 24 April 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Seeing Red

  • Airdate: 4/23/2014
  • Director: Doug Aarniokoski (Criminal Minds, Arrow directorial debut)
  • Writer(s): Wendy Mericle & Beth Schwartz (previously wrote this season’s “Time of Death” and “Blind Spot together”)

Roy became the Terminator?  Oliver has a 6-7-year-old kid out there he knows nothing about?  Sara would seriously just leave town like that without checking in with her family, temporarily abandoning not just them but Team Arrow despite everything going down with Slade?  Moira knew Oliver’s secret for at least a year?  Slade Wilson delivered the death stroke to Moira Queen?  

It was another clunky episode of Arrow, but boy did they ever stick the landing.  Let’s break down “Seeing Red”:


Bye-Bye, Moira -

Seeing Red

Moira’s mayor campaign figuratively features her as the fierce mama bear looking to protect Starling City just as she protected her own children in assisting Malcolm Merlyn in the partial destruction of Starling City (yay?).  It’s working.  She’s ahead in the polls, thanks in no small part to the sympathy vote as the mother of the high-profile daughter so recently kidnapped.  

Speaking of which, Thea drops by Queen Manor to interrupt Moira in the middle of the press interview to let her know she can no longer use Verdant for a fundraiser as previously planned.  But, wait, you signed an actual contract with Moira’s campaign, and backing out of it now for personal reasons would not be legally wise!  Daaaaamn, well played Moira.  However, observing all of this is Moira’s campaign adviser, who argues she can either be a candidate or a good mother, not both.

So, forced to choose between Starling City and her daughter Moira picks her daughter, informing Sebastian Blood in person that her upcoming fundraiser will be used to announce her intention to drop pout of the race.  He has the tact to not do a happy dance right in front of her, and is pretty cool with “For my daughter” being the reason she’s handing the election to him.   

Not so fast, Brother Blood.  Once Oliver gets wind of this, he urges his mom to win back her daughter by being a good person and good mayor.  She gives him your standard, “You’re right.  Oh, btw, I’ve known about you being the Arrow since the Undertaking last year.”  Okay.  That last part wasn’t so much standard as random.

Halfway through Moira’s speech, she takes Oliver’s advice, and pledges that no longer does she think she can save the city; she now knows she can.  Too bad she doesn’t survive to see that through.  She, Thea, and Oliver take a limo ride home after the rally, and right as Moira is about to spill the beans about Malcolm Merlyn being alive a car jackhammers them out of nowhere.  They wake up somewhere in the woods where Slade has taken them, forcing Oliver to choose which one dies much as he did when he picked Sara over Shado.  This time, though, Oliver flat out refuses to choose.  So, Moira stands up, and offers her own life if it means her children will be spared.  Slade’s touched.  That took courage.  Gosh, someone who did that doesn’t deserve a bullet through the head.  They get the honor of a sword through the heart.   R.I.P. Moira Queen, may you continue guarding major but sympathetic secrets in the after-life.

Roy’s Not Here Right Now -

Seeing Red

After waking up from the metal slab in the Arrow Cave, Roy escapes through Verdant into Starling City, and while he may look Roy Harper and walk like Roy Harper boy howdy is he not really Roy Harper anymore.  He doesn’t speak or even appear to recognize anyone.  He just goes around beating people up, even punching poor Sin outside of a nightclub (maybe he just really hated her always calling him “Abercrombie”).  

Not cool, Roy Harper.  No one hurts Sin on Sara Lance’s watch, even though Sin was already punched once by Roy earlier this season.  Sara plays it Oliver’s way, tracking Roy to the old clock tower to talk him down.  All bets are off after Roy effortlessly tosses Sara across a room, fractures one of Oliver’s legs, and kills a random cop outside the clock tower building.  Shoot to kill now, right?  Sara says yes, Oliver says no, let’s call the whole thing off.  Sara leaves a hobbled Oliver behind in the Arrow Cave to hunt Roy down and shoot him between the eyes, an apparently fatal shot for even mirakuru-enhanced monsters.  That was all fairly pointless, though.  Roy is fixated on Thea, hallucinating a version of her (like Slade does with Shado) which begs for him to kill Thea.  So, of course he just shows up at Verdant, but before he has a chance to choke Thea to death – and in the middle of Moira’s fund rally, no less – Sara almost puts him down for good until Sin stops her.  

Seeing Red

Ultimately, Sara goes all Terminator 2, and takes out Roy’s kneecap.  Oliver pumps him full of fancy snake venom, and they keep him sedated in the Arrow Cave…for now.  Before all of this went down, Oliver and Sara were making sweet, sweet love in a hotel, and he was talking about moving in together, which totally threw her.  However, the whole thing forces her to realize she’s no good for Oliver because she’s a soulless killing machine while he’s still holding onto hope.  So, she breaks up with him, says goodbye to Sin (though not to her sister or father), and heads off to destinations unknown to “see an old friend.”  Translation: hello, Nyssa Al-Guh.

Meanwhile, Oliver Has a Kid He Sill Doesn’t Know About… -

7 years ago, Oliver knocked up a girl who was not Laurel or Sara.  He was all mopey about it (poor little rich boy).  So, Moira bought the seemingly genuinely nice girl off with $2 million, $1 million to go back to her family in Central City and another $1 million to tell Oliver she’d lost the pregnancy in a miscarriage.  As a result, one of Moira’s lasting legacies for her own son is that she’d do anything to protect him, but as a result somewhere out there he has a 6-7-year-old kid he knows nothing about.  


I have dealbreakers with certain shows whereby if they kill a specific character no matter how dramatically satisfying the story I will forever be done with the show.  For example, if Bates Motel offs the girl with the oxygen tank, or Vampire Diaries ever dares to kill Caroline Forbes (the wickedly talented Candace Acola) they’ll have lost themselves a customer.  It’s a matter of knowing why it is exactly I tune in to certain shows, and realizing how diminished my interest would be in the event of a major change to the formula.  Plus, it’s a bit of a defense mechanism in the post-Game of Thrones character death-heavy TV landscape, but GoT is a prime example of where something like a “dealbreaker” idea is probably a bit silly.  What if I’d stopped watching GoT just because they killed [spoiler] Ned Stark?  I would have missed out on so much.

Moira Queen is not a deal-breaker character for me with Arrow.  In fact, around halfway through “Seeing Red” I began suspecting she was as good as dead, and was generally fine with it.  You don’t have her just randomly reveal in the middle of an episode that she’d known Oliver’s secret for around a year unless you’re scrambling to provide some closure to her before her death.  Plus, Arrow’s creatives increasingly subscribe to the Joss Whedon Buffy/Angel school of story telling whereby as soon as the characters achieve any kind of happiness bordering on complacency you tear their world asunder.  So, just as the second Oliver suggested getting a place with Sara you could guess they’d be broken up by episode’s end you could assume Moira’s clear path to electoral victory and triumphant speech/reconciliation with her family (partial at best with Thea, though) was all a precursor to tragedy.  By the end, things in that limo were calm, but just a tad too calm.  Plus, though awesome when The Bourne Supremacy (2004) did it we’re all now accustomed to the convention of the camera placed in the interior of the car not seeing the car about to run into them until the literal last second.  Heck, a “Don’t Drive and Text” ad running in the US right now uses that convention quite effectively.  

Seeing Red

But holy hell did I not see it playing out like it did with Slade re-creating Ivo’s execution of Shado via Oliver’s “choice.”  That was a devastating sequence, or at least as devastating as Arrow gets.  It was entirely fitting for Moira to go out literally sacrificing herself to protect her children.  Plus, they even used the moment to really call Slade out for pinning all of his on the memory of a girl he barely knew, revealing to Oliver for the first time that Slade is so far gone he’s hallucinating some kind of ghost.  

But why kill Moira?  An odd quirk of the teen-centric CW shows is that the longer they go on the less need they have for any parents or surrogate parents, emphasizing the show’s own nuclear family much as the Harry Potter series was largely an exercise in continually stripping Harry of any and all father figures to force him into self-reliance and even leadership.  For example, every major Vampire Diaries parent or surrogate parent has eventually died (except for Sheriff Forbes), and the same pretty much goes for Supernatural.  Going back to the WB days, Smallville couldn’t bring itself to kill Martha Kent so they eventually wrote her out of the show, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s most notable parent died in an emotionally brutal yet realistic manner.

Oliver Queen is fair deal older than most of those show’s central characters were when they started, but shows of this type tend to resort to killing off the parents to force the star of the show to grow up and into maturity.  It usually happens when the parent character no longer serves a clear purpose, and by that criteria Moira has been heading out the door most of the season.  

One of the great reveals of Arrow’s stellar pilot was that Moira was somehow involved in the accident which resulted in her son being shipwrecked for 5 years.  Though they ultimately were just using it as a misdirection, for all the world Moira seemed like she’d be one of the show’s villains.  Instead, she turned out to be a woman with a dark secret whose actions were dictated not by selfish self-preservation but motherly devotion to protecting her children.  However, once that was revealed at the end of the first season the writers struggled with using her in season 2, rushing her through the world’s quickest trial of a clearly guilty accomplice to mass murder, revealing she was again harboring a huge secret, and nonsensically placing her in the middle of a mayoral election.  It was clear that in their conception of the character a Moira who was not guarding a secret of some kind was not Moira at all, and that gets old fast.  

Why now, though?  Why have Slade strike now?  Was this directly related to her decision to NOT pull out of the mayoral election since Slade is backing Sebastian Blood?  Was it always in his plans, but the timetable was pushed up after Oliver interrupted the transufion with the super soldiers last week and even left a dead Isabel Rochev behind?  It does seem a tad on the sudden side, but that, of course, is also part of its effectiveness.  You’re not supposed to see it coming, and unlike simply leaving Sara with a quickly discarded wrist brand in the last episode Slade’s actions this week have very permanent and severe consequences.  The dramatic stakes have been raised.  That crazy sonofabitch killed Oliver’s mom!

It’s so unfortunate, though, that to hammer home Moira’s long-lasting love for her son they introduced a pregnancy scare in the past meaning not only did Oliver cheat on Laurel with someone other than Sara but he now has a kid out there he knows nothing about.  We’ve been warned.  If they go Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Ally McBeal with this, and turn the kid into a major character (please God, no, do not let it be as bad as Connor on Angel) next season at least now they’ve given us the heads-up.  The track record in this department is pretty much completely negative.  So, I’m very negative for what will happen with this story should they pick it back up next season.

Plus, it is a nice sentiment that Moira knows all about Oliver being the Arrow, and she couldn’t be prouder, providing an endorsement before her death.  Moira’s the queen of secrets; of course she’d know Oliver’s. But does it actually track?  Aren’t there practical questions she’d want to know, such as who exactly it was she saw dressed up and beating the heck out of Oliver last season?  Recently, when Thea was kidnapped wouldn’t she turn to Oliver to employ his Arrow persona to find her baby girl?  Plus, when he was being so sanctimonious against her for keeping secrets for the better good wouldn’t she want to put all their cards on the table, call a spade a spade?  Or, to her, would she relate to Oliver’s need for secrecy, and choose to honor and protect that?

Seeing Red

As for everything with Team Arrow, I gather that Roy is basically overdosed with mirakuru right now thus explaining why he’s behaving in a way neither he nor Slade did upon their first mirakuru exposure.  There are certain practical questions, such as how did Roy in his robot-like state actually see any kind of TV coverage of Moira’s fund rally to see that Thea was there?  That’s probably less glaring than Sara breaking up with Oliver and leaving the city by episode’s end.  We are most likely to take it that she has left to retrieve help from the League of Assassins, setting her up as leading the calvary in the charge against Slade and his super soldiers.  If she’d asked for permission Oliver wouldn’t have likely granted it, but as far as we see Sara leaves without saying goodbye to either her father or sister.  Is that just how she’ll always be with her family, like the character from the Pearl Jam song, “Off He Goes,” consistently leaving his friends behind to head off again?    


This is an episode which, over time, will likely not be remembered for anything other than its ending – “Oh, that’s the episode where Oliver’s mom died.”  The manner in which she died was “Geeze, I need a hug”-depressing, and has certainly elevated the stakes for the remainder of the season.  Of course, the rest of the episode contained some surprising twists which beg for charitable readings based upon the good will earned from a well-executed (albeit devastating) climactic death scene.  The notion that Moira’s known about Oliver’s secret this entire season is workable, but the idea of Oliver having a love-child he knows nothing about simply serves to re-inforce Moira’s love for her son here but quite regrettably likely sets up some unfortunate story lines during the upcoming season. 


1. I’ve noticed in reading other reviews that I tend to nitpick Arrow a bit more than some others.  So, I’m, I guess, disappointed in myself that I’d never actually wondered where Sara had been living this whole time until Oliver mentioned she was living with Laurel.

2. I really like Bex Taylor-Klaus as Sin, and was delighted to see her back.  However, am I the only one who thought maybe poor Taylor-Klaus must have been suffering through a cold the day they filmed her first scene of the episode when she sees Abercrombie Roy in the street?

3. It’s adorable how little Oliver and Sara looked around the clocktower before confidently concluding Roy wasn’t there.

4. “Like comic book strong” – That’s one of those tricky lines to throw in there because when you’re show is already so comic book-y actually pointing that out can be a bit jarring.

5. Thea was scrappier than normal this week, and generally very strong.  I like this Thea.

6. That was a tough scene for Stephen Amell to play – the last flashback when he finds out the girl has lost the baby.  On some level, a potential child of his has died.  There’s an inherent tragedy there, but it’s also understandably human to be relieved.  I thought that while the dialog made Oliver out to be simply rich kid got lucky again the facial expressions and little pauses done by Amell were his way of showing Oliver working through all of it, not 100% with having lost a potential child.  Then again, I could just be way too kind.  I’m sure that scene in particular will have a wide range of reactions.  

Well, I’ve said enough.  What did you think of this episode?  Let us know in the comments section.

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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