By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim (story)
The Story: Past-Ollie steps on a mine; Present-Ollie gets shot by his mom. Rough day.
The Review: I’ve been pretty tough on the most recent episodes of Arrow, occasionally to the consternation of the WCBR readers, but believe me when I say I’m not tearing down the show out of pure malice. Mostly, my frustration has been with the show’s refusal to capitalize on its own potential. It really can be so many things, yet it shirks on nearly all fronts, and nearly every time it tries a game-changer move, it winds up sticking with the same game in the end.
Nowhere does that appear more obvious than in Ollie’s fretful position on how to deal with his mom. His adamant refusal to even consider Moira a threat last episode already reflected poorly on his integrity. He had a huge opportunity to redeem himself here when he crashes through her office and convincingly scares the bejeezus out of her. And then, in a moment that begs you to throw your popcorn at the television, he lets her go.
Granted, Moira uses a highly effective emotional ploy (one whose potency even she doesn’t quite realize) to get Ollie to stand down. But the moment that she took the opportunity to drop her kids’ picture, grab a gun, and shoot him point-blank after he spared her life—that should be the biggest red flag of all, and the fact that he returns to his earlier blindness towards Moira feels like an irritating reset of the status quo and another knock against his commitment to his mission.
Despite these disappointments, the show does a lot of other things right in this issue. I promised Arrow fan katmore9 that I’d pay more attention to the island flashbacks, but even if I didn’t, I’d have no choice but to talk about them today since they actually make an integral part of the episode. Before, their contributions to the episode were usually minimal and unconnected to the main storyline. Here, with present-Ollie on the verge of death, it makes sense, to use a cliché, his past life would flash before our eyes. Even better, we actually get long, extended scenes of life on the island, making them more important and substantial than previous offerings.
It helps, too, that the island sequences provide the closest thing to a stable overarching plot for the show, given the developing, complex conflicts between Ollie, Slade, Fyers, Yao-Fei, and Billy Wintergreen (a pretty nice surprise reveal as then-Deathstroke). In these sequences, Ollie’s personality feels a lot more centered, less given to sudden and dramatic changes mid-episode. His wiseass attitude slowly gets subsumed by his inner nobility as the physical tests of the island force him to explore the deeper parts of his humanity.
While the action and drama of the island offer the bulk of the episode’s interest, we also get solid development for life in the present day as Felicity joins the Arrow team. This move was inevitable, given how much they relied on her, but the show also comes up with a credible motivation for her to join as well: to help find Walter because he was always “nice” to her. Besides my own bias for Felicity,* I appreciate her entrance into the inner circle because she adds fresh life into the monotonously grim interactions between Ollie and Diggle. Consider her an interruption of the real world in their otherwise tunnel-visioned life: “…is there a bathroom? ‘Cause I’ve had to pee since I got here.”
Conclusion: A lot of respectable developments for all fronts of the show, albeit with something of a big step backward towards the end.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - Undoubtedly, it has much to do with the fact that she’s a gorgeous nerd, but I just love half the things that come out of her mouth: “Your system looked like it was from the eighties, and not the good part of the eighties—like Madonna. Or leg warmers… Seeing a network that poorly set up hurts me, in my soul.” I’m ecstatic she’ll be a regular cast member starting next season. That pretty much ensures my return to the show.