NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
Even when he’s in handcuffs, it seems that Ricardo Diaz just never stops being in control. “The Slabside Redemption” gave Diaz a very memorable first day in prison on Arrow this week, after the deal goes through that would see Diaz turned over into custody in exchange for Oliver’s freedom. Of course, things inevitably wouldn’t be so simple, and after Diaz quickly breaks free of his metaphorical and literal shackles, he takes over Slabside and turns all of the inmates loose, forcing Oliver to make a desperate last stand against his stubborn enemy, right before earning his freedom! This is such a big development in fact that the entire episode squarely focuses on Diaz’s climactic duel against Oliver and and nothing else, with the flash-forwards once again disappearing this week, while almost the entire supporting cast also sits out the entire episode, with only Oliver in the hot seat.
This sounds like an incredibly dramatic and action-packed episode of Arrow, and that’s definitely accurate in its final product! “The Slabside Redemption” is violent, destructive and one straight hour of prison anarchy, as Diaz’s plan to take down Oliver just keeps escalating, eventually incorporating practically all of Slabside against the incarcerated Green Arrow! The action is certainly top-notch throughout as well, and it certainly doesn’t let up until the final minutes, once Oliver eventually manages to prevail. It was inevitable that Oliver would have to survive an attack even this huge by Diaz, so perhaps Diaz’s ultimate downfall is equally inevitable, but at least the journey there is one to remember!
As fantastic as the action is though, it’s also true that this episode’s story can’t quite keep pace in every respect. There’s several big contrivances that have to unfold to once again get Diaz in the power position, when he logically should have been defeated last week. Chief among these contrivances is the fact that the SCPD somehow saw fit to leave one inept guard, Austin Powers-style, in charge of Diaz, and no one else. Uh, yeah, if someone in the real world had caused even half as much trouble as Ricardo Diaz, they would be brought into prison surrounded by an entire SWAT team, wearing a shock collar, and probably hooked up to several extra layers of chains! What did the SCPD think was going to happen when they left Diaz so under-guarded?! The fact that Diaz gets free simply by saying he’ll pay off the guard is equally laughable. I get that the SCPD has a long history of corruption in the Arrowverse, but again, given the weirdly devil-may-care attitude about transporting Diaz to Slabside, the prison was frankly begging to have Diaz get loose and take over!
The second big contrivance isn’t quite as bad, but it does still feel a little questionable. After Oliver tells Stanley that he now knows his true nature, he then goes on to solitary after everything goes South, and tells Bronze Tiger that he made a mistake and that he’s sorry… And this by itself somehow motivates Bronze Tiger to team up with Oliver, so the two men can fight through the prison together. Yeah, somehow, I think Bronze Tiger would need a lot more convincing than that to take on an entire prison’s worth of rioters, including Brick, Sampson and Diaz, alongside the Green Arrow of all people! Granted, the idea of Oliver taking on an entire prison of criminals with nothing but a few highly injured guards at his side is equally ridiculous, but it doesn’t totally feel like Bronze Tiger fully earned his brush with heroism here. It’s not completely out of left field, since Oliver and Bronze Tiger did at least have that, “You don’t know me” conversation a few episodes ago, in relation to Bronze Tiger’s time with the Suicide Squad, but this moral quandary for Bronze Tiger really needed more time to cook for it to fully work.
Still, you can’t argue with the sheer level of entertaining carnage in this episode. The big decisive confrontation between Oliver and Diaz at Slabside is certainly given the appropriate amount of grand ceremony as well, culminating in a mess hall duel that has Oliver trying and failing to call for help, before Diaz causes a massive electrical fire that shorts out all of the electronics in the prison. Well, that’s inconvenient. Slabside is a pretty shoddily-designed prison if it’s that easy to disable all of the electronics and means to call for help! Still, we get a pretty good final duel with Diaz that Oliver eventually manages to win after he initially seems like he’s going down at last, shutting a battered Diaz inside his prison cell before going outside to reunite with Felicity and Diggle in the closing moments of the episode. Yes, Oliver is finally free, and his last day in prison was certainly his most challenging! Diaz is almost becoming a more worthy arch-nemesis to the Green Arrow than Malcolm Merlyn or Prometheus ever were at this point, if I’m being honest! Perhaps it’s fitting then that Diaz yet still survives to menace another day, albeit barely.
Amid all of this chaotic prison rioting, we also get a foreshadowing for our next major threat to Star City, which apparently doesn’t stop at the Longbow Hunters still being at large. Instead, Stanley interrupts Oliver during his attempts to get to Diaz, in what’s frankly a pretty clunky and unsatisfying reveal that Stanley is a serial killer, which, if you’re an avid DC fan, you may already have guessed. Oliver manages to quickly get away from Stanley after his confession, making this entire scene pretty pointless, but it later leads into Stanley somehow discovering the secret way out of Slabside through the morgue, the one that Talia used after her escape from Level Two a few episodes back. Brick thinks he’s going to sneak away and return to Star City through this secret passage, but Stanley surprisingly stabs him in the side, saying that Brick shouldn’t have been so mean to him. This would have been more effectively dramatic if Brick didn’t go down from a shiv in the side though, which logically shouldn’t kill him, and yet, the show is acting as if Brick just died. If Brick really is dead, this is a very lame way to kill him. Sampson went down in a much more effective fashion, after Bronze Tiger kicks him into some fire and drops him off a balcony. It’s never really spelled out that either character is dead, as if the showrunners still want to leave just enough wiggle room in case they ever want to revisit these villains again, but they don’t get up, and they quite visibly expire. Brick should have lived, like I said, but I think it would be pretty tough to justify Sampson somehow surviving being set on fire and dropped over a ledge, so he’s pretty much definitely toast, literally.
Whatever the case, Stanley being unleashed on Star City, likely to adopt his ‘Star City Slayer’ moniker from DC Comics lore, paves the way for an interesting new chapter in the Green Arrow’s career, especially with the question still hanging as to when, not if, Oliver will re-assume his identity as the Green Arrow. There is still a phony Green Arrow running around Star City, after all, so either the vigilante legislation is going to be overturned, or the city will somehow just stop caring that Oliver is back to protecting them as the genuine Green Arrow. Personally, I hope for the former, because the whole idea of the city just refusing to prosecute its vigilante protector didn’t work that well with Guardian on Supergirl, and it would make even less sense on a more gritty and grounded show like Arrow. I do wish that these kinds of blatant story contrivances didn’t distract from what’s otherwise an intense and exciting final stand at Slabside for Oliver this week, but, “The Slabside Redemption” was definitely a lot of fun, even if its storytelling was far from airtight. I’m hoping that the show doesn’t suffer now that the surprisingly strong prison arc for Oliver has concluded, but at least we know that he still has quite a few enemies to chase, since, like I said, it’s probably not long before he puts that hood back on.
- Exciting, action-packed fun throughout
- Ceremonious, hard-hitting final duel between Oliver and Diaz
- Stanley escaping as a new threat to Oliver is promising
- Bronze Tiger's instant reformation is pretty unbelievable
- Diaz being unrealistically under-guarded is massively contrived
- Stanley's serial killer reveal is clunky and intrusive