ARROW “THE SLABSIDE REDEMPTION” REVIEW
BY JUSTIN CARTER
Yeah, I really enjoyed this one.
After being on TV for nearly a decade, it’s hard to be surprised by Arrow. Often times it repeats storylines or character beats, allowing for it to become easy to connect the dots ahead of events; Oliver and Felicity broke up but will get back together, Team Arrow will fracture and get back together, and so on. So it goes with Oliver in prison (It was obvious he’d get out before the show went on hiatus).
However the show is clever when it wants to be, as we’ve seen with the flashforwards, and “Slabside Redemption” is proof of that.
I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t the part of the prison storyline I was looking forward to the most. This arc is something of an adaptation of a movie that would’ve seen the Emerald Archer go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit (sound familiar?) and go toe to toe with villains of the A through C-list variety. Now the show is working from a much more limited scope, so it’s is required to get creative in what constitutes as an A or C-list villain. The most high profile is arguably Bronze Tiger, finally giving Michael Jai White an extended chance to show that he’s still got those fighting chops as he and Stephen Amell banter back and forth.
A lot of what makes “Slabside” work comes down to the gradual escalation. Jill Blankenship and Rebecca Bellotto’s script lets the fuse light just long enough before everything explodes and the prison riot itself gets underway. The phone discussion between Diaz and Oliver actually manages to make the crime boss a legitimate and credible threat in a way last season did not, as it does with Diaz goading Oliver over the radios. Everything Diaz does is ridiculous without it seeming forced for plot reasons, relying on Kirk Acevado’s tough guy charisma to let him charm the convicts into raising hell and having the physical chops to not only kill a bunch of guards in seconds but beat Oliver to within an inch of his life. That said, I do feel like this would’ve been a fitting end to Diaz’s story; it’s a bit ridiculous that he’s allowed to live after all he’s done this season alone, and would’ve allowed for Acevado to go out on a high note with a story that actually did him justice.
The other thing that works? Finally paying off everything that’s gone on with Stanley. I’ve said before that I originally thought Stanley was just some sort of hallucination Oliver was having; no one up until last week had addressed him by name on the show, and he wasn’t really interacting with anyone else on screen besides Oliver. After last week it was a given that something was off about him, but the surprising part was just how off. I had my money on FBI plant, not serial killer, and it’s to the show’s credit (and Brendan Fletcher’s acting) that it can be surprising how dark he is when he starts simultaneously breaking down asking to be Oliver’s partner and viciously defending the murders he’s done in the past. Much like how Telltale Batman made Joker and Bruce Wayne friends before the Clown met Batman, that Stanley knows Oliver more as a person than the Green Arrow is going to be fascinating to see play out since in his own way, Oliver’s helped create another Slade for the city to fear. (Stanley killing Brick just for being mean to him does not bode well for his future victims.)
I don’t know if “Slabside Redemption” is in the Top 10 category for Arrow; the rematch between Oliver and Diaz can be argued as not feeling as climactic as it should, and leaving Diaz alive is going to feel like a cop out depending on what happens next. It’s certainly the best of the season thus far and a hell of a closer for this story.
There are some solid action beats in this episode that serve as a much better reminder of how strong Oliver is. That punch he gave to the guard to kick things off felt painful, as did it watching him knock people down with a sack of soda cans.
Well, Samson is dead, maybe? Like with Diaz the first time around, it’s unclear.
Those Slabside guards all got bloodied up ridiculously fast for a prison riot that got chaotic after maybe five minutes of anarchy.