It feels like it's been much longer than just a few weeks since Arrow went on hiatus for the Olympics, so it was nice that the show returned from that wintry exile with its strongest all-around episode in a while. Sure, there was plenty of computer-hacking wizardry going on, and while that's never really my bag, at least the crypto-skelton key cylinder thingy provided something of a justification for all of it. Even if that device hadn't existed to enhance things, all the other threads in the episode would've made up for it.
And, you know, I don't think you can go wrong with Felicity on the recommended dose of painkillers.
"Time of Death" worked in no small part because all but one of its plots addressed the new status quo of Sara being alive and around, and what that means for the people near her. It also—rather nicely, I think—dealt with some of the niggling questions/criticisms that've been floating around about the show. And since I've already mentioned the hacking and Felicity, let's tackle the costumed side of things.
With two new additions to Team Arrow (okay one and a half, since Roy isn't a full-timer yet), the Arrow Cave was getting sort of crowded, much to my consternation. I've been worried about Sara and Roy making Diggle irrelevant, and while this episode didn't really settle that concern (Dig seems fine with the way things are), we saw that Felicity was feeling decidedly left out of things, what with her lack of combat scars and Sara having a skill set that overlaps with her own. And even though it went unmentioned, Felicity's insecurities were a nice callback to her conflict with Oliver back in "Blast Radius" and his accusations that she'd lost focus because of Barry. So Sara's arrival had an impact on Felicity that was unforeseen, but really worthwhile for a couple of reasons.
The first and biggest reason was that Felicity's feelings weren't driven by Sara and Oliver being an item. Just as Arrow is doing with Thea and Sin being friends, the show is nicely side-stepping that hoary old scenario where women dislike each other on the grounds of a romantic rivalry. That Felicity's anxieties were compounded by her status as the only member of Team Arrow without a lot of combat and field experience made her decision to go to the bank to trap William Tockman/Clock King (Robert Knepper, in very fine form) feel a little fresher than it would have if her motivation had simply been, "I want to prove to Oliver that he should love me!" Yes, the plan was poorly thought-out, but she wanted to prove her value not only as the team's go-to computer whiz, but as someone who can handle herself out there against the bad guys, just like the rest of the gang. And sure, she clearly had no idea what she was going to do once Tockman arrived at the bank, but that confluence of emotions didn't lend itself to much rational thought.
The other reason that Felicity's situation was worthwhile was that the Clock King plot itself complemented the interpersonal tension; Tockman kept undermining Felicity's computer prowess, giving her yet another reason to feel like her role on the team was under fire. I've long maintained that when the villain of the week can inform and/or complement some other aspect of an episode, the entire episode is better for it, and "Time of Death" successfully accomplished that sort of integration. It would've been ridiculous, really, if Felicity had charged in to take on the bad guy without something like this happening. As a result, not only did Felicity get to save Sara, get her scar, and hopefully become friends with Sara, but now she might also have herself a criminal rival—like Diggle with Deadshot—who can (thankfully) recur to haunt her again.
I wasn't expecting the Sara and Felicity conflict, but I was expecting—and looking forward to—the Sara and Laurel dust-up. In my review of "Heir to the Demon," I devoted some serious space to breaking down both Laurel and Sara's emotional states, with an emphasis on Laurel's actions and behavior. Frankly, Sara still has Lance family issues to work through, hence her desire to have Oliver tag along to the family dinner. It was a purely selfish desire, one I'm glad Oliver was hesitant to satisfy, even if he still ended up where he didn't belong. And since Oliver and Sara are crap liars, and because Laurel is still in a super-emotional state, Laurel picked up on Sara and Oliver being together double-quick and blew up at everyone.
Laurel's emotional explosion led to that very fine scene in the hallway between Oliver and Laurel, where Oliver gave voice to, well, what a number of you have been saying for a while now in the comments about Laurel and her focus on herself. The thing about that scene was that it wouldn't have worked without all the other Laurel incidents this season that came before it. Oliver's deep cuts about who and what Laurel blames for her life, his offer to pay for all the drinks she could want and his declaration that he's done caring and trying to help her—all that build-up was necessary to have the impact it had on Laurel and that motivated her reconciliation with Sara at the end of the episode. I don't think it rectifies the uneven way Laurel's plots have been handled, but it at least paid off on a lot of what Laurel's dealt with since we entered the back half of the season.
However, I do feel like that Laurel's turnaround happened a touch too quickly (maybe just one more episode?), and so I worry that the show may slap an emotional and character Band-Aid on the whole Lance family drama. But at the same time, I like being vindicated in my reading of Laurel's emotional state, as she acknowledged that she never actually dealt with the loss of Sara and Oliver, so since I'm getting a little gratification, I guess I'll live with Laurel being willing to start pulling herself together.
Was there anything else that happened... ?
Oh. Yeah. Slade was just sitting on a couch in Queen Mansion, chatting with Moira, happy as you please. I think the phrase you're looking for is: "OH CRAP."
– There've been a number of different incarnations of the Clock King character, from a goofball who wears a leotard covered in clocks to a goofball who wears a crown and has a clock face as a face to an old guy with a clock glued onto a top hat to a high-strung efficiency expert who could fight Batman to a draw to a technological genius who can see a few seconds into the future. Arrow's version seemed to blend the Batman: The Animated Series/Justice League Unlimited version (efficiency expert and planner) with the techie genius (and violent) comic book one, and as a fan of the character, I was pretty happy with it. There's a William Tockman in the current continuity operating as a crime boss in Seattle, but he doesn't seem to have the moniker or the clock-themed identity.
– Island stuff was comparatively super-low key, but I appreciated the Sara-Sin connection being established there.
– Related to the "Sara has an impact everywhere" thread: I liked Quentin's overly enthused desire to make everything whole again, including his relationship with Dinah, because Sara was back. Laurel was totally on-point when she called him on it, but Quentin is moving through the pain much easier than Laurel is, even down to apologizing to Oliver for his behavior last season. Good stuff for Quentin.
– Two quick DC references for you in this episode. On the side of the bus, there was some sort of advertisement for something called Blue Devil, a quick nod to the superhero of the same name. The crazier reference was Tockman's MacGregor's Syndrome, which was the terminal illness featured in Batman & Robin. Yes, that Batman & Robin, with the nippled Batsuit. A painful reminder of things best forgotten. Thanks, Arrow.
– "I have a scar. It's in my mouth. I had my wisdom teeth removed when I was 16."
– I just want Robert Knepper to say "hidey hole" all the time.
– "Mm-mm. You guys never go to the hospital. Besides: Dig gave me some of those aspirin. ... Are you spinning?" "Aspirin?" "Oxycodone."
– Here, have your .GIFs right now, Olicity 'shippers:
What did you think of "Time of Death"?