Arrow Season 3 Episode 6 'Guilty' Review - The Show Tries To Make Roy Happen; Roy Is Never Going To Happen
I see what you're doing, Arrow. Right after a stellar, Felicity Smoak-centric episode, you attempt to pull the same stunt with Roy Harper, Arrow's sidekick. But there is a problem you have overlooked: Roy is not Felicity. Not by a long shot. We love love Felicity. We merely tolerate Roy.
This is the great shame of a show that is finding things for every character to do in its third season. Even Laurel has been showing some initiative as of late. Roy has been given almost next to nothing to do besides look incredibly goofy in his red suit getup, get knocked out and otherwise exist in the background. He's very much the kid of the foursome. Now stand aside, and let the adults do the work.
'Guilty' hopes to rectify the vastly undeveloped mentor/student relationship between Oliver and Roy, but despite the episode's earnest protestations at parallels, we are more engaged by the new characters introduced. It's not that Roy isn't a likable enough guy; it's that he's just so uninteresting at this point that he seems less like a student and more like a very well trained puppy Oliver keeps around. For god's sake, Roy was injected with Mirakuru! He was once a superstrong, super crazy warrior badass. The writers of Arrow simply couldn't convince us that it was worth their, or our, time.
Characters get reinvented and given new purpose all the time. They move forward. Roy, on the other hand, is stuck in the past. He's been experiencing some bad dreams of late; dreams so real they may actually be memories. The final shot of the last episode had Roy awaking, believing himself to have killed Sara and now he's all pouty about it. The big twist, of course, would be if he had actually done it. Now that would create some conflict and drama amongst the group, and even give Laurel a little more focus. Instead it's just a blip on the radar; a writerly notion I like to call 'treadmilling': the plot appears to move forward, but doesn't get anywhere.
Another problem with serialized television is the minor retconning that occurs. In 'Guilty' we learn that Ted Grant, Laurel's new boxing trainer, was once a vigilante long before Oliver came back to town. His past comes back to haunt him when bodies start dropping all around him. Anyone who has ever read a book can see that this sudden introduction is meant to highlight the differences in training styles between Oliver and Ted towards their sidekicks, and the loyalty contained therein.
Which does beg the question: why do we have to externalize the struggle between the two? Listen, I'm all for swashbuckling derring-do, but when Felicity has an opponent (like in last week) it's directly related to her own well-being and experience. Ted and Isaac are second-hand ciphers. They are ciphers who work, but ciphers. Hell, we get a better sense of the Oliver and Roy relationship by watching Ted and Isaac, and the latter are only ever on-screen for all of 10 minutes.
I generally like Oliver, but the writers have lost both his sense of morality and his sense of history. He constantly hounds Ted about one accidental murder from six years ago, yet can nobody remember Oliver killing any and everyone in sight during the first season? This is the argument against vigilantism as a whole: what makes it justifiable? Oliver is a stubborn bastard. He thinks he's right because he's been 'trained' and can therefore exercise good judgement. Rare are the times when he does. Ted was trained, Ted was trying to do good but it got to him in the end. Oliver just comes off looking like a hypocritical, whiny, jealous brat whose character changed because the plot demanded it.
The problem with 'Guilty' is that it is attempting to plow through what is easily a season's worth of character in 42 minutes. Roy and Oliver should, rightfully, be a central relationship on Arrow, but it hasn't been that way for a long while. The episode gets the two into the right place at the end, but only for the sake of convenience, as a way for the writers to check that off the list because one of them went 'Oh yeah! Roy. We should do something with Roy.'
In the end, the episode is about Roy playing catch-up to the rest of the team. Hopefully, with the truth out and the dreams gone, we can pretend that season 2 Roy just never happened.
But, Guilty does finally give us the Boxing Glove arrow. So I can't hate this episode too much. Though the ending did test my patience, and suspension of disbelief, with the introduction of ANOTHER GOD-DAMN ARCHER IN STARLING CITY.
Background Noise is GameNGuide's television column.