“Blind Spot” is the kind of episode that was needed after last week’s subpar outing. It’s not an all-time classic episode, but it’s a good, solid hour of TV that hinges on a strong central concept and then arranges the rest of the episode around it to great effect. Suitably, for a show about mask wearing heroes and villains, that concept ends up being hidden identities. “Blind Spot” extrapolates that concept out beyond people wearing literal masks though, touching on nearly every character on the show and the secrets they hide from everyone else.
What was missing from last week’s installment was a strong core, something to hang all of the disparate plots from, and without that core the episode spun apart, unable to connect all of the elements that made up the whole. “Blind Spot” has no such issue, hooking everything into this central theme, and then letting its stories and characters go. The hour picks up where we left Laurel, with her convinced, rightly, that Sebastian Blood is actually the hooded man the Arrow is seeking. Before long, Sebastian’s tying off his loose ends though, first in the form of his mother, and then, when Laurel and Oliver get too close, striking at Laurel herself, discrediting her by exposing her drug addiction and placing one of his lackeys in the Brother Blood mask and allowing him to be exposed. It’s neat, tight plotting and what’s best about it is that it manages to move in slightly unexpected ways. The end point isn’t particularly surprising for a mid-season episode, it’s far too early for Blood to be exposed so it’s no shock that he isn’t the one shot at the end of the hour, but the way that it weaves in Laurel’s ongoing pill abuse and abruptly brings the information out is a surprise. Laurel’s been having issues all season, but her substance abuse hasn’t undone her yet, and generally a plot like this doesn’t explode until a character’s all but torn apart by their addiction. Instead, Arrow effectively exposes Laurel’s secret at a time where even the audience didn’t anticipate it, undercutting expectations all while tying nicely into the episode’s focus on the secrets characters are attempting to keep, with varying degrees of success.
Roy’s feeling a similar pressure, and while he’s unable to talk to Thea or Oliver about the changes he’s undergoing, he can’t keep the worry to himself. That means he enlists Sin as a confidant, one who is surprisingly adamant that Roy tell Thea what he’s going through, even if she won’t actually force him to do so. All of which leads to Roy and Sin heading out to try and catch a serial killer, a wealthy lawyer who preys on prostitutes. Things get out of control once they do catch him as Roy nearly beats the man to death. Despite all this, Roy still can’t let Thea in; he admits that something is wrong to her, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. It’s a solid little plot that does much more to animate Roy’s fear’s than last week’s mostly inert installment. Roy’s worried about what will happen to Thea and their relationship should she find out what he’s going through, and that secret is driving him away from her, despite Thea’s attempts to connect.
Which in turn leads us back to the island, where Oliver and Sara are attempting to work out what their next step should be; Slade’s gone, Ivo’s offering a potential way off the island, and the two still have issues that need working out. Neither is quite sure where they stand, and neither are quite sure of anyone else on the island. Slade’s been changed by the Mirakuru, Sara claims that Ivo’s not simply a mad scientist but the man who saved her, and both are still dealing with the guilt and anger caused by their affair and the situation they’ve found themselves in. All of which is to say that they’re different people than they were before the island and they’re both struggling to relate to the new versions of one another. They have to decide both who they are, and who they believe those around them to be. Sara does just that when she sneaks off with a radio to speak with Ivo privately, finally deciding that he’s not her savior, but a man willing to do anything to get his way without regard for who he harms in the process. Sara believes she sees the truth of the situation and those in it, and with that she and Oliver set off to find Slade rather than take Ivo up on his offer to get them off the island.
What makes this episode work so well is that nearly everything ties back to this singular concept of hidden selves. Characters consistently underestimate, misunderstand, or hide from others in nearly every moment. Indeed, the sequence where Oliver and Laurel attempt to steal files about Blood’s childhood nicely illustrates this as the pair is nearly caught in the act because Felicity doesn’t think the security guards will be able to counteract her plan to knock out the cameras. She can’t conceive that a security guard would know what to do, and suddenly, a seven-minute window of safety disappears and Oliver has to fight to get Laurel and himself out safely.
Most of the episode has people getting things wrong. Laurel is ultimately convinced that Blood isn’t an evil mastermind, and Oliver ends up similarly convinced, sure that he only believed Laurel due to their history together. Characters keep getting caught up in their perceptions of others, unable to see the truth. That’s why it’s nice to have at least one moment of redemption near the end, where Roy and the Arrow lay their cards out on the table, the Arrow pledging to help Roy fight through what’s happening to him. It’s hard to get at the core of another person, but sometimes, it’s possible. Oliver may not be able to help Roy ultimately, but they’re on level footing at least, ready to deal with what’s before them without secrets clouding their eyes, or at least, not too many secrets – Oliver still has that mask on after all.