Oliver’s time in prison is supposedly about to end as we deal with “The Slabside Redemption,” an obvious play on The Shawshank Redemption, a movie based on a Stephen King story. It opens with Oliver being told he’s being released in six hours. Somehow, with a specific deadline like that, you know something bad is coming.
There’s not a big wait to see what the problem is going to be, not that there was any doubt. The captured Diaz shows that his true superpower seems to be corrupting people, as he arrives at the Slab and is free almost at once. Stanley babbles excitedly about Oliver being released and asks a favor. Oliver not only doesn’t give the answer Stanley is expecting, but gives an assessment that sets Stanley back on his heels. As a sort of farewell tour, Oliver gets taunted by Brick and Sampson, then goes to see Turner. Oliver makes a promise that Turner doesn’t believe. Considering the comic book version of Turner, Bronze Tiger, is one of my obscure favorites, I’m hoping things get better for him.
On his bunk, Oliver reads The Count of Monte Cristo, and gets to the line about wait and hope. He’s surprised and confused when he gets told he has a visitor, who, of course, turns out to be a disguised Diaz. Oliver flips out, the guards attack him, and he gets tossed in a cell as Diaz works his way into the prison. Oliver tries to warn the guards, but like a small town mayor in a disaster movie, they’re so very wrongly convinced they have it under control. While Stanley keeps talking, Oliver stages an escape from his cell, although the precise mechanics of it I’m still not real clear on. Looked neat, though. Oliver turns down some help and wades through a surge of guards, since they’ve already proven they won’t listen. We do get a direct Shawshank mention out of the scene, at least.
Out in the yard, the prisoners are being forced to stay on their knees, which isn’t a long term solution for anything. It’s a foolish recipe for disaster, even before Diaz shows up to throw a grenade in the gears. Diaz sets another wave of chaos loose in the prison as Oliver stalks a group of guards hunting him. The bad part there is that it’s wasting time and weakening the good guys. Oliver’s hunting is interrupted when somehow, in the whole huge facility, Brick and Sampson find him. A brutal fight happens which ends when something very unexpected occurs. Oliver’s talks have had an effect, and Turner shows up, throwing in his lot with Oliver, to everyone’s surprise.
Oliver and Turner try and get a call out for help, but of course the omniscient Diaz has predicted that and taunts Oliver over the radio. Diaz shows that he has clearly lost it as he rages at Oliver, mixing in murder and mayhem. Oliver and Turner debate what to do and their motivations as they move through the prison. Oliver shows that he’s still a hero, a leader, and an inspiration. The unlikely pair save a guard, get some intel, and split up to help more guards and get some resources. Oliver takes a side trip that results in another encounter with Stanley (wow, Slabside must be a lot smaller than it looks in those exterior shots) where we see the extent of Stanley’s issues, or at least a lot more of them.
Turner and Oliver meet up again. They get very philosophical considering the circumstances, and Turner offers some insight into how his time inside might make Oliver a better hero. Guards are being tortured, there are bodies lying around, and Brick seems delighted as he makes his way to Diaz, lounging in the control room. Brick and Diaz’s discussion gets interrupted when Oliver turns up in the riot the mess hall has become and calls out Diaz. This is when Oliver finds out about Diaz’s recent strength enhancements. Too bad he doesn’t have his bow; Diaz at this point is best fought at range. Oliver and Turner get in some good teamwork, and they split up yet again. Turner is going to help the guards, while Oliver pursues Diaz. Turner offers a weapon and some advice. Which is really good advice that Oliver should absolutely follow at this point.
Oliver and Diaz stalk each other as extremely unlikely fires rage through parts of the prison. Diaz almost magically appears behind Oliver as their fight starts up again. It’s a brutal fight that Oliver is on the wrong end of through most of it. Diaz manages to press the wrong buttons and Oliver gets a final, if unsurprising, surge of strength to finish off the battle. I’m not entirely clear on exactly what happened at the end of it. Oliver retrieves his book, because of course this final fight was somehow in his cell, and hobbles off.
When Talia escaped, we saw there is one way out of the Slab. Two other characters know about it, too. They have a confrontation in the room that leads to freedom, and it doesn’t go as expected. I think we’re finally done with one of those two, and the other goes free to no doubt cause Oliver more problems in the future. Why this way out is still viable after Talia used it is anyone’s guess.
As the prison is being cleaned up, Turner gets two surprises: a gift and some thanks. The man is clearly not quite sure what to do with the second one. Hopefully, Turner will be getting out in the near future, since he and Oliver made such a great team. Maybe he’ll get some credit for saving so many guards’ lives.
In what has to be the least realistic scene of the episode, after all this chaos and mayhem and crimes (even if committed for a greater good), Oliver walks out through the wrecked yard. He’s still in his prison uniform, which isn’t right at all. The gate closes behind him, and he gets his longed-for reunion with Felicity as Diggle looks on. Original Team Arrow is reunited without glass and phones as the theme music swells. At least he’s out before the big crossover.
What I liked: Unusually for an Arrow episode, this one was focused on one character. No jumping around, no CGIsland, no flashes back, forward, or guest starring. It was a mostly action episode, and the fight choreographers and stuntmen earned their money. There were some great sequences, amazing action, and I am desperately hoping we’re finally done with Diaz. He’s gotten more screen time the last season and a half than some of the major cast members. As I said, I’m a fan of Bronze Tiger, so I’m hoping this is a turning point for Ben Turner. However unrealistic, it was nice to see Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle together again.
What I didn’t: Oliver’s first scene with Diaz featured something breaking in a way that just isn’t possible. Diaz’s effortless penetration of the prison didn’t play for me. The way out still being open is just wrong. Diaz’s plan for the prison’s destruction didn’t make much sense; an electrical overload doesn’t make a metal table suddenly burst into flame. There’s no way Oliver would have been walking out as planned after all that. For the prison being the apparent size it is, the characters crossed paths in the chaos way too often and too easily.
Despite the negatives above, I thought it was a good episode. It was almost more like a season finale, or at least a mid-season. Focusing just on Oliver really worked. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5, unlikely bits and all. Hopefully, this is the last we see of both the Slab and Diaz.