Engaging Arrow (S2E11)


As an exercise in discernment, continuing what we started in the Engaging Culture class in 2014, I decided to check out an episode of Arrow and see what its worldview is and what it espouses either on purpose or by accident. I’m going to write as the show happens:

The creepy alderman Sebastian Blood visits his mother,  who is in stuck in a hospital by Blood under his aunt’s name, and finds out that she spoke to Laurel. He says he forgives her then dons his Blood mask and kills her. Using forgiveness as a sort of morality in bad guys is tried and true. The idea that the bad guy follows a set of rules is supposed to give them a level of depth. Kinda shallow though. Nothing moral about this.

Sarah and Oliver are on the island via flashback. He tells her that you can’t trust anyone. So dramatic.

Laurel is notified that Sebastian Blood’s mother in the hospital died. She tries to enlist help but the ADA says she is on her own. Everyone in this show is on their own.

Oliver visits Roy who won’t tell anything about Blood. He is on his own.

Oliver and team discuss the need to stop Blood. Duh.

Arrow is requested by Laurel for a meeting. She spills the beans on Blood. She tells him that Blood killed his mother to cover up the fact that he killed his father. Arrow agrees to look into it.

Felicity illegally hacked Blood’s mobile phone. I guess that’s cool. The ends justify the means right? The team agrees to look into Blood.

Roy has super tough skin. He can punch through stuff without damaging himself. Super strength and super tough thanks to the injection from Blood when he was captured. He decides to fight crime with his new powers. Vigilante life chosen. At least he wants to help people.

Felicity hacked the justice department and the “bad news” is that she can’t hack the old file on Blood’s dad’s death. Another means justified I guess.

Laurel is going to help Arrow. She is still doping pain pills. She hasn’t learned from any consequences but the drug use is portrayed as wrong.

Oliver and Sarah are back on the island. Oliver jokes about always being drunk at parties. Never anything negative to say about drunkenness. “Not everyone is what they seem,” she opines. Once Oliver falls asleep she steals his radio apparently proving that.

Laurel helps Arrow break in to the records office to steal the sealed file. The illegal activity is once again justified by the ends. Oliver then holds off innocent police with force. They jump out of a window. A window?! Why the huge drama about breaking in if you could just go through a window? Mission Impossible bubble popped.

Oliver and team debrief. Dramatic language and posturing.

Roy has a target – the Slasher who attacks prostitutes. Cyn needs a dress. Thea offers the prefect dress. “Guy… or girl” won’t know what hit them. Casual homosexual reference. “Whatever you’re in to.”

Oliver confronts Blood about Laurel. Nothing revealed. Laurel is just acting weird.

Cyn pretends to be a prostitute to find the Slasher. Her first trick? Him, of course. In the whole city, the Slasher picks her up. Way too lucky.


Blood is confronted by Slade. It’s confirmed that Blood is the murderer of his father. Blood has to kill Laurel or he will be killed.

Laurel’s house is tossed. She is arrested for illegal pain pills. When her father visits her in the interview room she tries to tell him about Sebastian Blood. Her father doesn’t believe her. Consequences finally show up for her drug use! Finally!

Sarah is back on the island. She is trying to contact Anthony, the guy who captured her the year prior. She is concerned about Anthony killing Shadow. He will have to live with her death for the rest of his life, he says. So it’s harder to be the killer than the killed? He needs her to save him. She can be his savior.

Roy is checking on the Slasher in the hospital. Cyn called Thea. She just wants to help him but Roy rejects her help. Always alone: the theme of this show.

Oliver confronts Laurel about how she needs help to kick the drug habit but she says she doesn’t need anyone’s help. Seriously, this whole show is about trying to do everything on your own. Blood and his goons knock out Oliver and take her. Could have ended the show by killing him. So close but Blood doesn’t know Oliver is the Arrow and for no reason decides that survivors are acceptable.

Blood says that masks historically give people authority like a god. Arrow and Blood fight. Blood should be no match but suddenly he knows Kung Fu. Blood gets the jump on Arrow but Laurel saves him by shooting him. She removes the mask and it’s not Blood.

The dirty cop that was killed has tons of evidence that wraps up a bunch of cases tightly. But since we know that Blood is the one who wears the mask it’s not convincing the viewer. The ADA asks her substance abuse problem and then fires her.

Oliver is mad because Laurel “fooled” him into believing Blood is the bad guy. He had a Blind Spot (the name of the episode) with her but no more.

Oliver finds out that Roy put someone in the hospital.

Sarah on the island calls Anthony and thanks him for saving her. She then calls him out for torturing people. He turns from his “save me” attitude to promising to hunt her down and killing her.

Slade kills a bunch of Blood’s men and promises to kill more of he fails again. He is super fast for an old, one eyed, and previously thought to be dead guy.


Arrow confronts Roy. The serum twists men, he says. Arrow offers to teach Roy to control his ability and his mind. Roy accepts help! Hallelujah! Someone won’t do it alone!

What did we learn?

-The ends justify the means. Killing people, hacking or breaking into government computers or buildings, attacking innocents, whatever. This is a particularly dangerous philosophy because for Christians the whole point is that the ends do NOT justify the means. The means, our journey is everything.

-There seems to be some kind of moral superiority given to those who try to do things on their own. On the one hand we learn that Laurel was wrong to try to kick her drug habit on her own, but Arrow doing things on his own is seen as a plus. This message is confounded by the relative answers to whether or not people should work together to solve problems it’s never answered completely or concretely.

-The drug use does finally have consequences but they are minor so long as the plot moves forward. Laurel losses her job (for now) but has the charges dropped for no reason. The others do doubt her about Blood but only because she kills someone else wearing the mask. The drugs really are secondary. I would prefer a much stronger message about the dangers of drugs via stronger consequences.

-This show is a soap opera. Seriously. So melodramatic!

What do you think?


Engaging Gotham (S1E16)


As an exercise in discernment, continuing what we started in the Engaging Culture class in 2014, I decided to check out an episode of Gotham and see what its worldview is and what it espouses either on purpose or by accident. I’m going to write as the show happens:

It’s not a great surprise that the Penguin kills someone who heckled his mother. And since he is evil that seems appropriate. As a Christian I’m not against violence in a story. I just want to be careful about what the violence tells us and how it’s handled. This act of violence confirms Penguin’s character.

Aside: we meet Robin’s parents, the Graysons! Woot!

Fish Mooney offers to lead a rebellion of slaves against organ harvesters. Yeah that sounds crazy. She is evil so there is undoubtedly some plan to save herself rather than anyone else.


The murdered snake handler’s son says, “sex is a healthy human activity” when asked about his mother’s numerous no-commitment sex partners. After all, he continues, without her sex life he wouldn’t be there. What does this tell us about sex? Gordon seems surprised by how blase the teenager is about sex but Gordon has no problem with sex outside of marriage himself. He does have a sort of rule where commitment is required for him. He slept and lived with Barbara. He’s almost gone over for sex with Lee after a date. He doesn’t sleep around. But the morality of sexual relationships on Gotham is definitely more open than a Biblical paradigm.

Mooney kills one of her fellow prisoners instead of giving him up. Knowing that the captors need them alive she uses the threat of violence against themselves to negotiate better living conditions. This confirms again her evil pragmatism. In that situation it’s hard not to see how this new negotiation may work. It was surprisingly selfless of the man to volunteer to die for everyone.

A psychic! Lila sent him a message from the “other side.” It’s a rhyme, of course. Gordon says, “if you were gonna send a message from beyond the grave wouldn’t priority one be a name?” Exactly. This episode is named after the Blind Fortune Teller so the idea that he may have a power is acceptable in this mythology. But the idea that psychics are real or that the dead communicate with the living is myth.

Is Bruce Wayne the rudest, most entitled kid ever? Yeah, very disrespectful to Alfred. But Batman is kinda a Jerk.

Barbara, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman (the two future bad girls are still kids) are eating and drinking and living it up. Barbara is trying to get Gordon back by wearing very short shorts.

Gordon has no issue with saying, “Oh my God” about how good the food is without concern for blasphemy. That used to matter but maybe not so much anymore. I think the Oscars beeped out one of these last week.

They find the murder weapon – a hatchet. It’s tied to a Satanist cult. So God and Satan exist in this world. The questions are where is God and where is/are the church/believers? He doesn’t have to be there, of course. But if he is then how he is depicted matters.

Gordon tells Lee that he wanted to have sex with her instead of pursuing the case that night. This is acceptable in the show but not in life.


Gerome killed his own mother? His father is the fortune teller? Ouch. “Your mother was a cruel person…” Nope. “A cold hearted whore.” Red hair, crazy, joking about his parents. Joker? Yeah, this kid is crazy and evil. The logical consequences of the mother’s sin is not murder but the relationship issues with her son did start and end with her sin. In that way her sin did find her out. But did anyone learn the lesson of free sex equaling trouble? Nope. Gordon and Lee go home to sleep with each other.

PS: the psychic is found out to be a fraud. I foresaw that.

Barbara walked in while they were kissing and storms out. She is so clueless. She left him for a woman (!) and is a drug addict but she expected Jim would just jump back into her arms. Again a lack of learning from mistakes and clear expectations of consequences.

Butch shows up with Zzaz at Penguin’s club. He’s gonna help Penguin make money with the club.

Bruce finally gets his shot at speaking to the board of Wayne Enterprises. Surprise! He’s figured out their secrets.

The carnival kids are getting married. Mr. and Mrs. Grayson!

Gordon got laid. Everyone blushes. Fist bump. Nothing unethical about it according to the show.

Bruce would make sure that the company was run ethically. Good for him!

Fish has a deal. Thomas stays with the prisoners while she is escorted out. Double cross all the prisoners? Probably.

What did we learn? Here’s what I think we learn:

-There are clear good and bad guys based on actions. Bad guys act bad. Good guys do good or at least struggle with trying to do good.

-Origin stories of bad guys have messed up family relations at the root. Could be they are insane as well, but the way the snake handler ignored her son for her own sexual gratification played a big part in his act of murder.

-Open sexuality without committed marriage relationships insidiously depicted as not just acceptable but as a worthy goal. We could have learned a lesson from the snake handler but we didn’t. What we learned was that the uncommitted sex wasn’t the issue, it was who had the sex.

What do you think?