Ollie descends into the next level of prison hell.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
As far as problems go on Arrow, having too much of a good thing isn’t such a bad one. It’s certainly preferable to Season 6’s chronic inability to do anything interesting with the post-Prometheus status quo. That said, the series seems to have a major issue with prioritizing storylines. There are too many characters and parallel storylines playing out right now, and that clash is holding the new season back from its full potential.
Case in point, “Level Two” marks the first appearance of the new Green Arrow impostor in several weeks. I had all but forgotten this character even existed with everything else going on lately. That begs the question – why is this character even a focus of the new season? Why is a new Green Arrow necessary right now? Obviously his rise plays into the growing tension between Star City’s residents and the overworked, underfunded police force, but does he really bring anything to the series that couldn’t be accomplished with the other members of Team Arrow? It honestly seems like the writers could get the same end result with much less fuss by simply having Rene take over as Green Arrow and focus on the rift between he and Dinah.
A lot will depend on the payoff to this character and the reveal of their identity. If this is just some rando with a Green Arrow fetish, the writers may have a hard time justifying their inclusion. But if they turn out to be someone with integral ties to the Team Arrow family, maybe this will all turn out to be worth it. Heck, I’m not 100% willing to discount the idea that it’s actually Ollie under that hood.
The end result of the overstuffed nature of this episode is that while the individual pieces tend to satisfy, the sum isn’t greater than the parts. There’s a lot in this episode that would have benefited from a slightly more in-depth approach. That’s true above all for the standoff between Felicity and Silencer. I was really looking forward to seeing the series dig in with one of the Longbow Hunters for the first time, but Honor barely had any screen time this week before vanishing into the night again. The upside is that we did at least get a surprisingly effective team-up between Felicity and Laurel. This is the first Season 7 episode to really justify Laurel’s continued presence, drawing clear parallels between her original fall from grace on Earth-2 and the precarious position Felicity finds herself in.
Honor wasn’t the only character to get the short end of the stick this week. Diggle’s relative absence was easy enough to tolerate given how prominent a role he’s played in recent weeks, but less so with Curtis. Perhaps more than any other character, Curtis seems adrift in Season 7 now that he’s all but given up on the superhero lifestyle. Sure, his pro-Beebo message is exactly what we need in these troubled times, but the show either needs to find a more integral role for Curtis or just write him out for the time being. Again, there are too many characters vying for space as it is.
Once again, Ollie’s prison ordeal proved to be the highlight of the week. That storyline underwent a drastically different tonal shift this week as Ollie learned firsthand what’s down on the Level 2. Not an army of even bigger, badder inmates waiting to take their revenge, but a mysterious psychiatrist named Dr. Jarrett Parker (Jason E. Kelly). Parker is an intriguing addition to Ollie’s ongoing struggle this season. Kelly plays him with just the right amount of ambiguity. He’s a threatening figure, but it’s not clear if he legitimately believes he’s helping Ollie or simply playing with his new toy.
The real thrill here was seeing Ollie flash back to those earliest days after the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit. That early Season 1-era flashback material takes on poignant new significance now that Ollie himself has become a father. And that’s something the writers played to maximum effect by recreating that scene with an older Ollie and William in place of Robert and a younger Ollie. Emotionally, that’s easily one of the strongest scenes this series has delivered since Season 5.
What’s more, that flashback offers probably the best justification so far for why the flash-forward storyline needs to unfold concurrently with the rest of the series rather than being spun off into a separate project. Ollie bidding farewell to William via a drug-induced hallucination wouldn’t carry the same weight if we hadn’t already learned that William never reunites with his parents. This is apparently all the closure Ollie is ever going to get to this chapter of his life. And if Dr. Parker has his way, Ollie may not even remember his son by the time he inevitably leaves prison. I definitely still have my concerns about the thin connective tissue between past and present, but this episode proves it can be done, and done well.