Arrow – Season 7 Episode 3
Arrow continues to have Oliver Queen compromise himself in prison as Felicity’s obsession with bringing Diaz to justice grows.
I mentioned last week that many TV shows achieve long term success by making minor changes to the formula while keeping things feeling familiar. The previous episode had a fairly standard Team Arrow sequence with the background differences of the characters involved being in different situations. This episode continues this with a familiar enough sequence made different by virtue of it being an FBI operation. Dinah and Rene are still in the field with Felicity behind a keyboard as always but the setup is different and that’s where the drama is.
Felicity going to Agent Watson offering her help to bring down Diaz makes sense as the FBI have a vested interest in bringing him in which makes their objectives compatible with Felicity’s vendetta. She also has plenty to offer as she knows that her IT skills eclipse those of anyone the FBI has on their payroll She also knows Diaz better than anyone because Team Arrow spent a long period of time trying to bring him down. Felicity knows what she has to offer and makes it clear what she wants out of the bargain.
This creates an interesting dynamic between them. Agent Watson is torn between her desire to bring in a dangerous threat and her mistrust of Felicity. Ultimately she decides that her skills are worth the risk of her disobeying orders to take advantage of an opportunity to bring him in. Felicity brings her actionable intelligence which is more than the FBI have had for months, Another interesting thing is that the partnership is of greater benefit to Felicity because she knows that Agent Watson can be trusted since she is bound by rules and protocol so is unlikely to be hiding anything.
Their interactions make for compelling viewing as there are two differing opinions on what the law means. Felicity firmly believes that the law is a waste of time and needs to be ignored whenever she sees fit but Agent Watson believes that it’s important to respect the system however flawed it might be. Both sides of this argument have merit as Felicity can name several instances of when vigilante justice provided positive results but Agent Watson feels that ignoring the law makes the situation worse in the long run because a lawless society won’t have any real values that are worth fighting for. Agent Watson is sort of compromising her own values by engaging in a mission unsanctioned by her superiors because she feels that it’s the right thing to do but she finds middle ground by making sure the operation is by the book. It’s fun to see Dinah, Rene and Felicity in FBI uniforms.
The operation doesn’t go to plan because Silencer has tech that Felicity doesn’t anticipate which means that she can’t simply close the doors as she originally planned, This means that Dinah, Rene and Agent Watson become involved in some close quarters combat and it’s great to watch. Silencer is once again an interesting opponent thanks to her ability to cancel out sound. It makes a fairly standard hand to hand fight feel different enough and it helps that she is more than a match for Dinah who has repeatedly shown an ability to hold her own against really tough opponents.
Rene’s fight with Kodiak is less impressive but still works fairly well. So far the Longbow Hunters have demonstrated that they are a significant threat to the members of Team Arrow. Agent Watson’s involvement in the action sequences was a nice surprise as I hadn’t ever thought about her in the context of a physical altercation but she proves to be more than capable and possibly on par with Dinah and Rene. Superhero properties are often guilty of making the legitimate authorities look ineffective by comparison so the effort put into establishing Agent Watson and by extension the FBI as highly competent is very much appreciated.
Felicity’s obsession continues to be a problem as shown by decisions she makes throughout the episode. Her impatience with Agent Watson lets her justify bugging her office and later on she encourages Rene to capture Silencer while lying about it to the others because she feels that torturing her will be more effective than letting the FBI take her in. This is a clear indication of Felicity crossing a line and abandoning her morality in exchange for getting desired results. Whether her methods turn out to be effective or not is unknown at this time but it’s undeniable that they are extreme and sending her down a darker path that she won’t easily be able to come back from. Rene backs her all the way but also expresses concern over what she has become ok with. I really like Rene and Felicity as a pairing as they compliment each other nicely in terms of what they are willing to do. Rene also openly challenges her along the way which forces her to keep justifying her actions.
Diggle’s tenure at A.R.G.U.S. continues to create ample potential for fascinating character driven threads. Working with Lyla has changed their relationship though doesn’t appear to be straining it at the beginning of the episode. The opposite actually appears to be true as they are shown to look forward to working together because it reminds them of the beginnings of their relationship. They met while working and their relationship grew out of a professional connection so they feel comfortable in that situation. It’s mentioned that they see this as something of another honeymoon so it’s clear that they don’t see any problem with their current situation.
This plot is used to set up conflicts between the two of them when it becomes apparent that Lyla has her own agenda underneath the mission that Diggle knows about. At first he’s livid that Lyla has lied to him and confronts her about keeping secrets from him. He does come to the realisation that she probably did what she did for a really good reason and resolves to trust her in future though asks that they face any future problems together rather than have him in the dark. After so many years working with Oliver, Diggle believes that crossing the line is sometimes necessary in order to get the best outcome. Once again this is entirely up for debate but Diggle feels that way as does Lyla so they can eventually see eye to eye on why Lyla did what she did. She also alludes to a larger threat that is most likely connected to what Oliver is investigating in prison.
After lightly compromising his principles last week Oliver finds himself tested even further. In order to gain the information he needs he has to get close to an inmate only known as the Demon. In order to do this he has to get himself sent to Level 2; a section of the prison reserved for the worst of the worst. Before even getting to this point earning Brick’s trust is a priority which means he has to compromise himself further. As good as it is it sometimes feels like an excuse to manufacture a fight scene such as the Fight Club style brawl between Oliver and Sampson. It’s really entertaining to watch but also feels a bit contrived even if it does get the job done.
The best thing about the prison scenes in this episode was the added depth given to Ben Turner. Up until this season he has been a serviceable recurring henchman type character who fits the needs of a given situation without really having much of a character on his own. This is fine when Oliver just needs an opponent with a gimmick to match his but now that he’s more of a presence in the prison there needs to be more and the writers absolutely deliver on this. Ben makes it clear that he has a code of conduct that he sticks to and it can’t be denied that he has consistently done that even if it often doesn’t mesh with Oliver’s sense of morality. The point of the conversation is for Ben to show Oliver that he has been misjudged and to urge him not to make that mistake again especially considering their choices have brought them to the same place.
Oliver stabbing the guard to secure his entry to Level 2 isn’t really all that surprising because the episode builds up to it organically. Oliver is becoming more compromised the longer he spends in the prison because he doesn’t see that keeping to himself is an option any more if he wants to protect his family. Every morally questionable action he takes is in service of that goal which means he can justify just about anything. This arguably makes him no different than those he shares the space with which is what Ben is getting at when he calls him out over certain assumptions made. It’s unclear if Oliver’s move to Level is the end of Brick, Ben and Sampson’s contributions to this plot though I really hope that it isn’t as these characters are really engaging. Similarly I hope to see more of Stanley as the snippets of this growing friendship are intriguing though I do wonder if he will turn out to be the Demon considering how out of place he seems in this environment.
A strong episode that explores the theme of compromised principles really well. Felicity’s obsession with bringing down Diaz is taking her down a really dark path to the point that she is willing to capture and torture a member of the Longbow Hunters in order to gain the necessary information to find Diaz. She does try using legitimate means to bring Diaz in which doesn’t work out as planned though allows for an intriguing contrast between her views on the law and Agent Watson’s. The Diggle and Lyla plot also allows for some morality questions to be posed when Diggle learns that Lyla had a hidden agenda buried under their mission. Diggle eventually understands Lyla’s point of view when bearing in mind all of the compromising he did when working with Oliver. This also hints at a larger threat on the horizon.
The prison scenes continue to be compelling as Oliver slips further down into moral uncertainty. His interactions with Ben Turner help him to realise that there is a deeper motivation buried under his actions while helping him see that his choices have wound him up in exactly the same position. In some ways this plot appears to be manufacturing contrived reasons for action sequences though they are really entertaining to watch and there is further progression with the tease of the Demon and Oliver moving himself to Level 2 in order to confront him. Hopefully this isn’t the end of the supporting cast of Brick, Sampson and Ben Turner as they have been great additions so far.
- Felicity and Agent Watson’s views on the law
- the gradual development of Felicity’s obsession and the dark path it’s taking her down
- Diggle and Lyla’s discussion about compromising for the greater good
- Oliver descending further into his own darkness
- added depth to Ben Turner
- the prison fights feeling a little manufactured
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