“Guilty” is a thematic examination of the idea of a sidekick, or apprentice, as the show calls it, in the more grounded world of Arrow.
Last week left us with a major cliffhanger -- the possibility that Roy Harper murdered Sara Lance. So far this season, Roy hasn’t done much: He mooned over Thea Queen, got his old job back at Verdant, did some strange flips before being taken down by Nyssa al Ghul, and complained he’s having trouble sleeping. He’s been more or less a background character, at least until last, week when it was revealed his sleep issues stemmed from troubling dreams that he killed Sara. “Guilty” answered the question of whether he actually did commit murder, and also explored the pitfalls of vigilante apprenticeship.
The latter was done through the lens of Ted Grant. We’ve been waiting since his television debut to see Ted become the classic DC Comics hero Wildcat, but little did we know that he’d already been a crime-fighter, before Oliver Queen ever picked up the bow. Self-appointed protector of the Glades, Ted hung up his brass knuckles after his apprentice committed murder. Just as his sidekick fell from grace, so too – if Felicity Smoak is to be believed – had Roy Harper.
But did Roy actually do it? Under the influence of residual Mirakuru, did Oliver’s trusted partner kill Sara Lance? I’ll answer that in a minute, but first, Ted Grant, whose history as a vigilante establishes him as a veteran crime-fighter, a role the character has long played in the DC Universe. Television’s Wildcat should have more experience than Arrow, but I can’t help but wonder: If Grant is to play the role of elder statesman, why not make him an older man? I get it that this is The CW, which skews young, but it would have been fresh to have an older crime fighter, a hero with the wisdom to impart on the heroes of Starling City, particularly Laurel Lance. I guess producers want a potential love interest for Laurel to create some romantic drama throughout the season, but -- and maybe this is the old-school fan in me -- I can’t help but feel an older Wildcat would’ve brought a new dynamic to the proceedings, a second father figure to Laurel who could also teach Oliver a thing or two.
Whatever the case, Wildcat’s old partner frames him for multiple murders this week, and Oliver has to help the pugilist take down his former apprentice. Grant’s failures with his sidekick provide a harsh lesson to Ollie not to abandon Roy, even if it turns out he did kill Sara.
The answer to the mystery is found in the episode’s flashback, as we get to witness the future Katana, Tatsu Yamashiro, help Oliver master his subconscious. Oliver uses this technique to help Roy retrieve his memory, revealing that he didn’t murder Sara, but he did kill an innocent police officer while under the influence of Mirakuru. It turns out that Roy’s dream was his confused subconscious trying to piece together the incident. Now Roy has to deal with the fact that he’s a murderer, even if it’s not Sara’s blood on his hands.
So who did kill Sara Lance? Felicity discovers the arrows were indeed thrown, so it has to be someone with great strength -- plus, it has to be someone whom Sara knew, because she’d allowed the murderer to get close. The mystery is driving the action of this season, and creating an undercurrent of distrust.
The mystery is also driving Laurel closer to her destiny as Black Canary. This week, she got a taste of action, helping Wildcat and Arrow to take down Ted’s former partner. I just wish Laurel’s transformation into one of the icons DC Universe didn’t feel as if it were simply a replacement the high of the pills and alcohol Laurel gave up. It seems as if she’s in it for the thrill and vengeance rather than for altruism and justice. Maybe this is Laurel’s character arc for the season, to go from confused thrill-seeker to true hero, but so far it doesn’t have that “hero’s journey” feel.
Just a few things to wrap up: The fight between Ted and Oliver was awesome, two classic heroes going at in comic book team-up fashion. Bob Haney would be proud. And of course, the confrontation takes place in a boxing gym, which leads to the debut of the Boxing Glove Arrow! It doesn’t get more old-school than that. Oliver also refers to Roy as Arsenal for the first time; perhaps the name will stick … if Roy is able to forgive himself for killing that cop.
And of course, we end with the debut of a new player in Starling City, a woman sure to be fan favorite -- Oliver’s version of Harley Quinn and one of the most dangerous women in his life. Who am I talking about? Why, “It’s Cupid, stupid.” It’s not quite “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” but here intro was still pretty memorable.