Have you wanted Felicity to be in on Oliver’s vigilante activities?! Then tonight you got your wish!
Have you wanted an episode set mostly on the island?! Then tonight you got your wish!
Have you wanted Arrow to be more of a full-blown action show?! Then tonight you got your wish!
I’ve wanted that first one for a while because I enjoy Felicity and Emily Bett Rickards’ portrayal of the character. The nervous energy and stream-of-consciousness chattering give her scenes a whole different vibe from the rest of the show while still feeling like they actually belong. And now that she’s aware of Oliver’s double life, and willing to help out—at least in locating Walter—it means we’ll get more of her this season, and that’s hardly a bad thing... unless all the Windows product placement that often surrounds Felicity annoys you.
Plus, if Felicity is going to be around more, it means that there’ll be someone else for both Diggle and Oliver to talk to. This won't make as much of a difference to Oliver, as he gets to interact with lots of other characters, but I’m excited by the notion of Diggle having someone new to converse with. The dynamics of Oliver and Diggle’s relationship don't really involve telling personal stories, especially since Oliver isn’t much of a sharer. And that’s fine for them since their relationship is still developing, and Oliver’s still learning to let his guard down, to trust people who aren’t his family or friends from before he was stranded on Lian Yu.
But Felicity is a talker, and she prompted Diggle to provide a new perspective on Oliver’s actions, and whether or not Oliver’s activities are “worth all the collateral damage” they incur. It was a big moment, because even though Diggle isn’t shy about volunteering his opinion, he often frames them around Oliver’s conscience, to keep Oliver’s soul from being scrapped away. His opinions may tell us what Diggle values, but they don’t tell us what Diggle thinks about this "crusade," as Felicity called it.
And so he told this story about protecting a warlord in Afghanistan and how it resulted in a number of deaths, including that of a kid 18 years old or younger who Diggle shot through the throat. Diggle, understandably, didn’t feel good about that. He killed to protect a scummy warlord, after all, and no one should feel good about that. But with Oliver’s “war,” there is, it would appear, a sense of clarity, of well-defined lines in the battle. The goons that get killed in the process knew what they were getting into, Diggle seemed to say, with his acceptance of there being so many casualties.
It’s the sort of pragmatic approach to the mission that Diggle has come to showcase. Even when he doubted Ted Gaynor’s involvement with the armored truck robberies in “Trust but Verify,” he still investigated the possibility of Blackhawk being involved, and that process is again playing out with his suspicions of Moira. It’s something that even though we can see through his actions, Felicity’s presence in this episode offered an opportunity to fill in some character motivation, and that’s the sort of inner world Diggle has been missing.
Of course, this episode also showed that Felicity isn’t prepared for the toll that the mission would take on her, directly or by association. This could be a good thing for both Felicity and Diggle, a reminder that perhaps the pragmatic approach to war isn’t the only option. Diggle may want Oliver to make larger differentiations between those on the list, but Felicity may be able to provide a non-lethal, less violent approach in the future. Like in the form of a boxing-glove arrow. (I really hope not. But maybe some stun arrows?)
As you may have guessed from reading all this, I had more thoughts to share about the brief scenes that took place between all the stuff happening in flashbacks on Lian Yu, and if you did, you’d be right. This isn’t to say that the Lian Yu developments weren’t interesting or thrilling—they were—but there’s less to engage with in them than there is in the interplay of characters in the present day.
Manu Bennett as Slade had an easy, delightful chemistry with Stephen Amell, veering between condescension and gruding respect without any of it feeling forced. And Amell continued to mine new depths for Island Oliver, between his excitement at recognizing challenge code—“They picked the one book I read in college!”—and the relieved sigh as Fyers’ men passed right by him as he attempted to infiltrate the camp to leave with Yao Fei.
If Present-Day Oliver is compact and laser-like, then Island Oliver is a frantic man who's very nearly running on empty after being the island’s butt monkey, and Amell makes them feel so wonderfully distinct but connected. That connection will be important moving forward, of course; with Slade and Oliver now having to work together to survive, Oliver’s training to obtain the skills he uses in Starling City is about to begin. The determination and intensity aren’t there yet, but they’re coming, and I’m eager to see how the show and Amell create the throughline between these stages in Oliver’s life.
The episode also introduced new mysteries for the flashbacks as well. Fyers’ employer is now a voice at the very least, and Yao Fei’s daughter, Shado, provides a new complication in the conflicts on Lian Yu. Obviously Fyers would have a boss, but now Arrow can start unfurling reasons as to why Fyers and his team are on the island, beyond keeping some prisoners contained. But how, oh how, did Shado end up there?
I will say that I missed the larger thematic parallels to the present-day action that normally accompany the flashbacks. While the connection was still there to a degree—means to justify the ends and doing what must be done to survive—it was also less pronounced, favoring the fighting, gunshots, and explosions. It’s good that the episode played this particular aspect out through the whole episode, but it may've also highlighted that I’m more interested in how the flashbacks complement the present day than the other way around.
NOTES & QUOTES
– In case you didn’t see the news, on Monday The CW renewed Arrow for a second season. And then on Tuesday, the network announced a casting upgrade for Season 2. Be as excited, dismayed, indifferent, or cautiously optimistic as your opinion of the show dictates.
– Billy Wintergreen, Slade’s traitorous partner on the show, is named for William Randolph Wintergreen. In the comics, Wintergreen is much older, but more experienced, than Slade, and essentially functions as Slade’s mentor, confidant, and nurse. Basically, Wintergreen was to Deathstroke what Alfred was to Batman.
– I’m not going to talk about Shado in relation to her comic book analog. She’s an important character in the Green Arrow mythology, particularly during Mike Grell’s tenure with the character, but that’s all I’m going to say.
– “You’re bleeding.” “I don’t need to be told that.”
– “You need a doctor, not a steel worker.”
– “I’m kind of having a bad day, you know.”
– Diggle’s exasperated response to the electrodes coming loose was just the best.
– “I’m impressed. You didn’t puke.” “I swallowed it.”
– “I’m trapped on an island and my only friend is named Wilson.”
– Action, while fun and exciting—especially when it’s well-staged, as it generally was here—isn’t my primary interest with Arrow... or any show, for that matter. So please understand that my response to the Lian Yu sequences, especially with regard to a lack of discussion, was very much grounded in personal taste, and not a larger criticism of the episode. It’s also what comment sections are for, so have at it!