At the beginning of the season, both star Stephen Amell and showrunner Beth Schwartz teased that Oliver would encounter another familiar face behind bars. Of course, once the show introduced the Demon — a mysterious figure who is imprisoned in Slabside Prison with Oliver and works with Diaz — it was clear that he would be someone we’d met before. And Arrow finally unmasked the Demon in tonight’s episode, and I’ll be honest, I did not see this coming (even though, in hindsight, it should’ve been obvious).
“The Demon” begins with Oliver being freed from solitary confinement and joining the rest of Level Two’s general population, all of whom are forced to wear some bling: a silver bracelet that the guards can use to shock the inmates whenever they step out of line or relapse. On Level Two, relapse is Dr. Parker’s term for when his test subjects fall back into their violent old ways, and the only way to treat that is to carry them through an ominous blue door that definitely violates the hypocritic oath. Oliver learns works how Level Two after the man who attacked him in the shower is carted away through the aforementioned door. But, of course, that’s not all that awaits him here.
Now that Oliver has left solitary, he can set about finding the Demon. But Oliver learns that in Slabside Prison, like in Soviet Russia, Demon find you. And by that I mean, the Demon shows up in Oliver’s cell that night and is revealed to be none other than Talia al Ghul. Yes, she managed to survive the Lian-Yu explosion at the end of season 5, and without the help of Lazarus Pit (which is for the best since her sister Nyssa is destroying the last ones). Did any of you call that? I definitely didn’t. At first, I found the reveal annoying because it was another reminder of how no one of any consequence actually died in the explosion, but as the episode continues, it soon becomes rather fitting that Oliver would run into his former mentor right as his identity is in under attack. As we’ll soon learn, Dr. Parker believes the way to rid people of their violent habits is to wipe them of their sense of identity.
Unfortunately, Talia didn’t make it off Lian-Yu unscathed, which is clear from the scars on her face. To deal with her injuries, she depends on a drug supplied by Diaz, which is why she was more than willing to organize an attack on the man that killed her father and then lure him to Level Two. After giving him grief for allowing his two sides — the normal one and the monster — to become one, she appeals to their past mentor-mentee relationship because she needs his help escaping from Level Two and Wannabe Hugo Strange’s torturous experiments. But Oliver, believing that WHS has a point about his cycle of violence, refuses. “There’s no Oliver in here. I’m inmate 4587.”
Next: “My name is Oliver Queen”
Oliver’s denial barely lasts a day once he learns that some of the prisoners are dying from Dr. Parker’s questionable treatment. Talia doesn’t care about helping them because they’re criminals, but Oliver’s time in prison has changed him. Now, he understands that criminals are, well, people, too, and deserve some consideration. Not only that, but he admits to Talia that he should’ve thought about Ra’s al Ghul’s family when they fought in the season 3 finale. That’s enough to sway Talia into in agreeing to help him stop Dr. Parker if he helps her escape.
So, the two stage a commotion in the Level Two mess hall, which of course results in them being carried through the blue door and strapped to Dr. Parker’s fun chairs. This time around, however, Oliver isn’t going to fall for Dr. Parker’s manipulation and says that he’s going to end his cycle of violence on his terms, not through some lobotomizing treatment. As was the case with Adrian Chase in season 5, there’s some nuance in the current situation. Yes, Oliver realizes that the life he led the past six years wasn’t a healthy one and hurt his family, but he knows that redemption lies in using all that he’s learned and all of that growth to fix his mistakes. “My name is Oliver Queen,” he defiantly declares in an awesome callback to the season 3 finale, which saw him do the same thing as he rejected Al Sah-Him, the name Ra’s al Ghul gave him when he “joined” the League. Remember what I said about it being fitting that Talia be here for this?
From there, the two allies load all of the evidence against Dr. Parker onto a flash drive and fight their way many prison guards. Talia escapes the prison, but Oliver decides to stay behind because he doesn’t want to be fugitive on the run. So, Talia thanks Oliver for his assistance by promising to deliver the flash drive to Felicity, who actually spent the entire episode investigating Dr. Parker and Level Two once she found Oliver had been taken there. And Talia remains true to her words. As the episode ends, Level Two is shut down and Oliver is reunited with his sidekick Stanley on Level One. Not only that, but Dinah, Felicity, and Laurel believe they can use Slabside’s current PR nightmare to free Oliver. Yay!
“The Demon” wasn’t without other interesting developments. Watching Felicity and Laurel work together continues to be enjoyable, especially once Laurel awkwardly asks Felicity out on a friend date for pizza. Furthermore, the episode also dug into how traumatized Curtis was from everything that went down last season. Although it felt like his undercover storyline was competing for space with the Slabside set storyline, I appreciated the fact that the show tried to take the time to dig into how Curtis has actually been adjusting to post Team Arrow life. Sure, he was struggling and scared of going back into the field, but once the mission is over, it seems as Mr. Terrific is back.
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