Inmate 4587, Oliver Queen, has gone down the rabbit hole into Slabside Prison’s infamous Level Two. The results of having done so are his coming face-to-face with Dr. Parker (Diet Hugo Strange), whose goal is to rewrite Ollie’s brain and turn him docile, no longer holding “violent tendencies.” This week’s episode, aptly titled “The Demon,” at least reveals just who exactly this “Demon” is – and, as should come as no surprise (well, maybe a little bit of a surprise), it was none other than Talia al Ghul. Now, the logic here lies in the fact that “the Demon” was the moniker of Talia’s father, R’as al Ghul; the surprise comes with most of us, myself included, having assumed her deceased when Lian Yu was set ablaze. How she survived is a mystery all its own; however, that is one for another day, as now Oliver knows just who had sent those other prisoners to attack him a few episodes back. Additionally, Oliver is given the difficult choice of whether or not to assist in Talia al Ghul’s planned Escape From Alcatraz reenactment.
On the outside, Felicity, Laurel, and Dinah catch wind of something nefarious happening at Slabside Prison, after Felicity attempts to see her husband during regular visiting hours but is turned away and told that his visitation privileges had been revoked due to misconduct. Ollie’s Slabside “sidekick” tells the frantic wife that Oliver has been taken down to Level Two, which begins her search for truth – a truth that the show’s three front-running ladies discover to be that there isn’t suppose to be a Level Two to the prison and, furthermore, that there’s no psychiatric rehabilitation program on the books there either. On the A.R.G.U.S. front, Digs and Curtis must trace and set up a buy with an illegal, black market arms dealer attempting to obtain a bio-weapon (Do people not realize that’s how you get zombies? Because that’s how you get zombies!), much to Curtis’ chagrin, as he’s the one having to disguise himself as the seller.
“The Demon” held some of the best pacing of the season yet, and between Oliver and Talia’s encounter in Slibeside and the trio of Felicity and her compatriots, there’s no shortage of things to maintain intrigue throughout the episode. Speaking of Ollie’s genius IQ, feisty, blonde wife, Felicity’s temperament this week showed a marked decrease in the amount of her seeming on the verge of tears with every scene. Additionally, her team-up with Laurel continues to entertain; the two actresses definitely bring out the best in each other with the current script. There’s a great balance of sincerity and awkwardness between them when Felicity is visibly and audibly hurting, and Laurel shows an expression of empathy, that she wants to say something to make Felicity feel better. Another such moment is when Laurel asks Felicity if she wants to grab a pizza after they’d successfully taken down Dr. Parker, the resulting information gathered by this victory potentially allowing them to absolve Ollie. There’s good chemistry between all three women when on screen together, as each has a different working relationship with the other and, therefore, takes a different tone and demeanor with the other as well.
Oliver’s journey in Level Two showed wear on the character from the experimental treatment Dr. Parker had subjected him to; still, he remained himself throughout all of it. His encounter with Talia is perhaps not as much of a shock as I’d have expected, but maybe Ollie had much more faith in his former mentor’s survival skills than the rest of us did. One of my favorite moments in “The Demon” is when, upon Oliver asking how she ended up in Slabside Prison after escaping Lian Yu, Talia answers with, “Ran into an old foe in Gotham.” I’m not certain if this is supposed to be a Batman reference, as I’m almost positive that the CW has already said that there isn’t a Batman in Arrowverse, but it’s a fun Easter egg nonetheless, and one that this longtime comic book fanatic immediately noted. Oliver and Talia share an interesting chemistry on screen; it’s difficult to fully believe that it is that of a former master and pupil, but even Talia mentions at one point that there comes a time in every successful master’s life when their student surpasses them. “The Demon” brings with it what is easily the best action of the season to date (although we aren’t exactly in the weeds yet) during the sequence in which Oliver and Talia are escaping Slabside. (Ollie stays behind in the end, however.) The sight of Oliver and Talia teaming up and brutally taking down each of the guards and the riot crew sent in after them is absolutely awesome, with a brilliantly choreographed hallway fight scene in which the two temporary allies trade practice dummies (that’s how they make those guards look, even with the riot gear) and use a combination of chains and nightsticks to make for an impressively violent display.
John and Curtis’ side story in “The Demon” holds a minor level of interest for me, as, truthfully, I’m far more interested in Dinah, Felicity and Laurel working together to get Oliver out of prison. That said, seeing Diggle once again in a mentoring, leadership role is great for the character, as that’s always seemed to be where he is best suited. His attempts to help Curtis realize that he’s meant for more than just being a desk jockey are admirable, but I didn’t feel sold on the latter’s receptivity towards his former Team Arrow trainer. Even given that, seeing Mr. Terrific come around by the end of the episode had a level of satisfaction to it that wasn’t entirely negligible. Roy and William’s Flash Forward journey is absent this week – due, no doubt, to time constraints – but I’m more interested in the here and now for the moment, and would still like to see who the copycat Green Arrow running around Star City is. Who’s your money on? I want to say that it’s Roy, based on his movements, but I’m sure anyone else’s guess is as good as mine until it is revealed down the line!