Arrow Season 3, Episode 6 “Guilty”
Written by Erik Oleson & Keto Shimizu
Directed by Peter Leto
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
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Not every episode can be a home run; after a relatively strong half-dozen episodes to start the season, “Guilty” is the first dud of Arrow’s third season, a story undone by its simplistic parallels and relying on the show’s two most inconsistent charcters (Roy and Laurel) to deliver them. Sure, it gives us some background on Wildcat, and appears to raise the stakes in the season’s tepid flashbacks… but it’s not enough to reconcile the shortcomings of the rest of the hour, even with the devilishly fun ending tacked on the end.
Ok, there is one good reason to watch “Guilty”: it gives us the boxing glove arrow, a nifty homage thrown in to one of Green Arrow’s goofiest comic book weapons. It makes for a fun center piece in an otherwise by-the-books series of action pieces for Arrow in “Guilty”, which is mostly weighed down by it’s attention to Laurel, who remains the most poorly written character on the show (and in a show full of well-written female characters, remains a strange anamoly). Admittedly, she’s mostly used in this episode as a conduit to explore Ted’s character, who draws Oliver’s displeasure when it’s revealed he was once a vigilante with a violent side (well, not him: his uber-violent former protege who comes out of nowhere to start murdering people in disturbing ways) – but their attempts to make Laurel’s new journey from lawyer to lawyer/vigilante-in-leather more than annoying Laurel + more punching hasn’t really gone anywhere.
She remains a weight on the story of “Guilty”, which feels like it should be paying more attention to the larger story in play: Oliver and Roy’s partnership, which is arguably the most underdeveloped component of the entire show to this point. We never saw how Roy turned into the parkour fighting machine he’s become, so it’s up to the script to show us how Arrow’s become a guide to Roy over the last few months; as much as it builds their relationship by having Oliver remain faithful to Roy when it’s believed he killed Sara, there hasn’t been enough groundwork done with the two to even understand their relationship as leader and partner; everything between the two of them has been assumed, and along with pointing out a major gap in the show’s series of (mostly well-developed) relationships, it makes the parallels between Oliver and Ted much weaker than they should be in this episode.
It doesn’t help that everything we learn about Ted and his former partner is delivered through exposition; it doesn’t give the script any room to explore the differences between Oliver the vigilante and Arrow the hero, which makes Oliver’s logic for wanting Laurel away from a murderer all the more head-scratching (… didn’t Oliver also murder a bunch of people before he discovered his path?). And when an episode puts everything else to the side to focus on this story, logic becomes a key component: the more attention a single story is given in an episode, the more exposed any plot holes or unexplained bits of character becomes, and both leader-and-protege relationships suffer from this.
There are still pockets of “Guilty” that are enjoyable – Ted and Arrow throwing down, Laurel showing off some new boxing skills in the ring: but they’re all weighed down by the central story, which feels like a lot of chasing around without a lot of great reasons to do it. Spreading this episode over two episodes might’ve been the best way to develop Ted and Roy a little more, and allow the conflict between teacher and student to build a bit more: in the end, “Guilty” is just a hallucination solved by some vaguely Eastern meditation mumbo jumbo, overlapped with a lot of people chasing bad guys around to learn the same lesson about leadership: it’s a pain in the ass. At least it finishes with a tease of Cupid (the girl we see poking around in the background a few times earlier in the hour), who is one of Green Arrow’s craziest, fun nemeses – hopefully things will be back to normal next week in Star City.