I adore a fantastic stunt or gimmick; if that’s putting an installation in Flashtime, staging an epic 11-minute fight scene with no cuts, or creating an entire episode look like it had been shot in 1 take, I’m a sucker for it. Director James Bamford’s enthusiasm was palpable the entire time, also Stephen Amell was a direct force as Oliver endured his most recent crucible.
As far as I enjoyed the breathless and suspenseful incident — that sees Ricardo Diaz split into Slabside to kill Oliver before he is published — it did leave me feeling a little cold since it was only so tightly focused on Oliver (and the fights!) . While I understand why the narrative couldn’t and did not include Felicity or Diggle (Oliver is not only fighting Diaz, but he is fighting to return to them), it still felt like the episode lacked that extra emotional gut punch that a number of the series’s greatest, operatic, and equally action-packed installments have accomplished.
However, do not get me wrong, there are several great scenes involving Oliver and other personalities that dig into the season’s theme of redemption and hint at how prison has changed Oliver. In fact, we get several those of those right on peak of the hour. As Oliver begins his final day in Slabside, we see him check in with everyone he’s spent behind bars. He tells a clearly crazy Stanley that he’s going to pay for murdering that protector, and promises Turner that he’ll make sure he gets from this hole and a second chance to be the hero he was when he rescued Lyla’s life all those years back.
Obviously, Oliver’s last day travels sideways once Diaz escapes from his prison transportation and infiltrates Slabside together with the intent of killing the former Green Arrow. He lets Oliver understand his plan upfront when he meets him in the visiting room, and Oliver points out how stupid it is, which is a very clear sign the writers are at least partially aware that this is a hilariously silly setup but in the easiest way possible.
After their heated exchange in which both transaction the same dangers they have since last season, Oliver tries to warn the other guards about Diaz’s strategy, but they do not listen . So he’s got no other option but to break from his cell, which leads the hour’s earliest one-shot scene because he fights his way up the primary prison room so as to call for help. We’ve seen Slabside’s multiple levels throughout the entire year, but Bamford takes advantage of them here as a camera on a crane follows Oliver scaling the three floors and trying to prevent hurting the guards. Bamford will take advantage of the set’s three floors throughout the episode, which makes the action scenes even more energetic.
After Oliver escapes from his cell, all hell breaks loose as Diaz gets the remaining inmates riled up and sets them loose on the guards. Brick and Derek Sampson make a bee-line to get Oliver and nearly get the best of him, but Turner manages to break out of the hole and lends Oliver a hand. For the rest of the incident, it’s Oliver and Turner versus, well, everyone else. For one, Turner is among the series’s oldest villains, which provides his scenes with Oliver a bit more weight because there’s a feeling of history that is lacking between Oliver and pretty much every other character on the interior. That history results in among the episode’s finest scenes where Turner points out prison has started to change Oliver. Whereas the old Green Arrow saw the world in black and white, Oliver’s experience in Slabside has revealed him that (which is the series’s cliché, not ours ) there are shades of grey. And this shift is even visible in the way in which Oliver works with Turner. Here, it’s still out of necessity, but he’s not being, for lack of a better word, a dick to Turner in the procedure.
And the other reason this pairing works so well is that Amell and Michael Jai White just look so cool fighting alongside each other. The episode’s moment (and my favourite ) one-shot scene sees men struggle their way through and up the cell block while trying to save as many guards from the rioting prisoners as you can, and it’s really a sight. Their entire team-up reminded me of if Batman and Joker combined forces at the conclusion of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s mad comic crossover series Black Nights: Metal.
At one stage, Stanley knocks Oliver out using a sedative and ties him up because he needs them to escape together. Oliver points out that they can not leave because Diaz is still too large, but Stanley doesn’t care about this, which is yet another clear indication that he misunderstands what the Green Arrow did. Then, Stanley admits to committing the murders that he had been incarcerated for but maintains he is not a monster because his victims deserved it. In reality, he thinks that he’s just like the Green Arrow. Part of me wants to read Stanley as the writer’s critique of poor and toxic lovers, but I’m wary of doing this since we still don’t have any details about Stanley’s murders.
After Oliver overpowers Stanley, it is time for him and Turner to go after Diaz once and for all. In the brawl, Diaz starts a flame. Thus Oliver tasks Turner will helping the guards and inmates escape out of there while he goes following Diaz, who is stronger than ever due to the serum he made a few episodes back. He comes very close to killing Oliver, but of course, that the Green Arrow prevails and subdues Diaz before he delivers the last blow. But before he finishes the struggle, Diaz shows that Felicity nearly murdered him last week.
Total,”The Slabside Redemption” was a fairly raucous episode that showcased how nicely Bamford can shoot an action scene. If anything, he had been the star of this episode more so than Amell, who produces a powerful performance here. Now that we’ve reached the end of Oliver’s incarceration, I’m interested in seeing how this impacts the way he operates as Green Arrow. I believe that will decide whether or not the prison arc has been powerful and value it.