There comes a time –actually a few times- in every 22-26 episode season that a show must give the audience the dreaded filler episode. This episode is less about moving the action forward and treading water a little as we do a side story that has little to do with the main overarching seasonal arc or some character studying. If TPTB are good, they’ll try to use this filler episode as a means to explore a dilemma related to the hero’s current big dilemma even if they want to stall actual movement in the main story. Or focus it on a beloved/new character that the audience is eager to learn more about.
Last week’s The Secret Origins of Felicity Smoak is an excellent example of this. In fact it was such a well-crafted character centric episode that it really didn’t feel like filler. Felicity’s popularity is such that rather than being eyed as a filler episode, the audience ate it up as long overdue character development.
If a filler episode is bad you shrug off the waste of an hour of your TV life and make note of the title only so you know to skip it during a later rewatch of the season.
And then there’s Guilty, Arrow’s sixth episode of the season, that straddles the line between being a decent relevant microcosm story centering on a new character (Ted ‘Wildcat’ Grant’s previous life as a vigilante) paired with a story beat (Roy’s nightmare of being Sarah’s killer; the reveal of his Mirakuru murder of a cop in S2) stretched way too thin in an attempt to be an actual ‘B’ story. While we finally revisited a pivotal moment in Roy’s story from S2, the backdoor means of getting there (having him believe he killed Sara) coupled with the execution of Roy learning who he did in fact kill involved several characters acting, well, out of character, and ultimately wasn’t worth the gotcha moment of the ‘WTF?!’ cliffhanger of the previous episode.
So let’s start with the (surprisingly) good. Laurel’s determination to train herself to take over the Canary mantle has introduced us to Ted Grant, former boxer, and current trainer for troubled youths and other assorted riff raff. In DC lore, Ted Grant is an older grizzled veteran fighter who is the vigilante Wildcat and trained both Black Canary and Batman in their hand-to-hand prowess. On Arrow he’s hot young stud who is obviously a potential love interest for Laurel, but still serves as her mentor and trainer. When Oliver is led to a dead body at Ted’s gym (after finding a warehouse full of dead bodies dispatched with a similar M.O.) the Arrow begins investigating Ted and uncovers that 1) he’s training Laurel and 2) he was once a vigilante, Wildcat, that operated in The Glades to try to curb the gang activity and protect the people. Ted gave it up when he went too far and beat a drug dealer to death. Which, given Oliver’s lengthy kill list in S1 seems a bit laughable for him to wrinkle his nose at Ted over but we know it’s really about being irked that Laurel is training behind his back to put herself in harm’s way as a very green vigilante. Laurel stands her ground in defending Ted and her choice to take up boxing and encourages Ted to trust the Arrow to help. Oliver only ends up inadvertently leaving Ted to be arrested which leaves him open to being kidnapped by- GASP- his onetime protégé, Issac! Who is the actual killer of the drug dealer from years ago. Ted took the rap for the accidental death and decided to cut his sidekick lose which resulted in the poor kid being kidnapped and tortured by their enemies. Issac wanted payback and came gunning for Ted while taking our a few drug gangs along the way. In a dovetailing of storylines, it’s Roy, not Ted or Oliver, who takes out the now deranged sidekick as a way of facing his demons. Ted thanks the Arrow for his help and tries to warn him about the perils of having a sidekick; the Arrow politely counters that having a sidekick isn’t a problem; not having faith in them is at which Ted gives a hangdog look at being scolded and shown up to be a lame mentor by a dude wearing guyliner. Things do look up for Ted when Laurel arrives later to reaffirm her mission and that she wants him to be a part of it and in the closing moments of this storyline I find myself kind of digging the dynamic duo of Laurel and Ted as street level vigilantes and even as a potential romantic couple. Whodathunk?
Now as for Roy: I never thought the follow up to Roy’s nightmare cliffhanger would be earth shattering in any way, but good grief, I at least thought it’d make a little sense. Roy worries that he has Mirakuru in his system and secretly asks Felicity to check his blood because he’s been having trouble sleeping. When he gets the all clear, Felicity senses he’s still worried and gets out of him that he dreamed he killed Sara. News at which Felicity gets a big ‘Uh oh’ face and tries to play down to little success. Not that Roy really notices. Later, to try to appease Roy (and confirm her own suspicions) Felicity compares Roy’s description to her virtual autopsy of Sara and discovers- GASP- that it is consistent with Roy’s story. Which…okay there is circumstantial evidence to support this but Felicity doesn’t really believe it, right?
Well apparently she does because she doesn’t try to talk Roy down or offer any alternatives. The quick acceptance of maybe Roy DID kill Sara by not just Felicity but Laurel and Diggle when Roy stupidly blurts out his confession was really odd. Even odder was that upon learning of Roy being the murderer Laurel could only gape at Roy in disbelief instead of knocking his block off and stomping him with her stilettos for good measure. I mean isn’t part of the point of her training to be physically strong enough to crack the head of her sister’s murderer? Instead we have Laurel teary and Oliver sending her away and her actually leaving. Then we have Diggle pushing for Oliver to cut Roy lose and see that he gets justice for Sara’s death when, uh, he didn’t suggest that for when he killed a cop back in S2. He was complicit in covering it up and looking for ways to help Roy rather than drop him. Now all of a sudden Sara’s ‘murder’ is the tipping point of no return for Roy? Please. Diggle go change some diapers.
In any case Oliver ain’t about to drop his boy and this is reaffirmed when Roy shows up to assist in Ted and Laurel’s rescue. He shrugs off the psychological bait of ‘He’ll abandon you!’ to do some unnecessary parkour flips before decking the lunatic and then turning to Oliver to beg ‘Don’t abandon me’ to which Oliver replies ‘Never’. It’s a bromantic moment saved from a strained eyeroll by myself due to Stephen Amell making that one line answer work. Unfortunately, later as Oliver helps Roy remember the truth during a candlelight meditation session (the ONLY worthwhile thing from the Hong Kong flashback storyline) the bond is severely strained as Roy takes off in tears to absorb that while he didn’t kill Sara in a Mirakuru fueled rage, he did (last season) kill an innocent cop in a Mirakuru fueled rage.
It was definitely time for this bit of info to come up and it ended up working nicely with the Wildcat gets stalked by his protégée ‘A’. Speaking of Ted’s awesome if unhinged ex-sidekick, we see Issac in handcuffs at episode’s end escorted by two cops into the alley behind the police precinct when before you can say ‘I’d be interested in seeing him again’ poor Issac is dispatched by an arrow to the chest by none other than…a rather fetching if kooky and lethal archer-ess who watchful viewers realize at that moment has been in background shots throughout this entire episode and who is obviously more important than we initially thought she’d be and is the cliffhanger for this episode.
Nicely played, show. Nicely played.