Arrow – Season 7 Episode 4
Arrow moves Oliver to another level of the prison which presents new problems for him as Dinah and Rene’s disagreement over what to do with the new Green Arrow comes to a head.
The prison storyline has gone on for longer than I thought it would have and it shows no signs of ending at this point. Each episode brings new challenges for Oliver and this week may prove to be the most intense. So far his suffering has been largely physical with most of the emotional turmoil coming from his family being in danger. Naturally the emotional side acts as the motivation for everything that goes on but up until now Oliver has been faced with problems that he can punch.
Dr Jarrett Parker (Jason E. Kelly) is a really interesting addition to the show because it’s unclear what he’s doing exactly. On one hand it’s possible to believe that he is genuinely trying to help Oliver deal with the multitude of psychological issues that have added up and escalated over the years but on the other he can be seen as a sadist toying with Oliver to finish pushing him over the edge. This ambiguity makes him all the more fascinating and create tension in the scenes he shares with Oliver.
The best examples of exploring a damaged psyche on television are where the right buttons are pushed. Dr. Parker takes Oliver right back to the beginning of the journey that brought him to this point. His last moments with his father are the specific focus as they prove to be more definitive than previously thought. This particular moment takes on extra significance now that Oliver is a father himself who sees the world differently to the naive spoiled rich kid of that time. It’s more than likely Oliver hasn’t given much thought to that time in his life in a while because he has grown so much since then and managed to process the experience to some degree. He has certainly accepted that his father made a lot of mistakes in his life and was involved in some devastatingly bad stuff.
Dr. Parker makes the point that Robert asking Oliver to right his wrongs wasn’t a fair thing to expect of his son because it guilts Oliver into keeping a promise that really wasn’t his responsibility. His father’s legacy didn’t have to be his legacy but Oliver wasn’t able to think along those lines at that time. His early vigilante days were motivated entirely by crossing names off a list to restore some sort of balance to Star -then Starling- City after his father and his business partners used their wealth and influence to make a complete mess. Along the way Oliver became a murderous single minded vigilante so arguably the words “right my wrongs” are the root cause for a lot of Oliver’s inner turmoil.
What isn’t really addressed is that Oliver has learned from his mistakes, established his own moral compass and changed his vigilante mission accordingly. He stopped killing, moved away from crossing names off the list and created a team who would challenge him if he was ever about to cross the line. Depending on your reading of Dr. Parker’s motivation this approach could mean a couple of things. If he truly wants to help Oliver then it makes sense to spend a great deal of time dealing with what he feels is the root of the problem to use that as a baseline to build on. On the other hand if torturing Oliver is his intention then forcing him to focus on the negative is a really effective way to break him.
My thinking is that Dr. Parker is trying to break Oliver and it seems that he’s succeeding considering Oliver stops identifying as himself when he introduces himself as “Inmate 4587”. Arguably this shouldn’t be possible considering he wasn’t broken by his experiences on Lian Yu, torture at the hands of the Bratva or a complete deconstruction at the hands of Ra’s Al Ghul. I don’t accept that Oliver is unbreakable as these experiences will have cumulative effects that weaken his resolve as time goes on. This is why Adrian Chase was able to break him for a period of time back in season 5 so Oliver could simply be approaching the point where he can’t take any more. The constant stress of his family being in danger while he is stuck behind bars unable to help them. When coupled with an attempt to remind him of a particular low point in his life it’s more than acceptable that there would be a massive impact.
The induced hallucination where Oliver takes the place of his father in the life raft and William taking his place is excellent. It reinforces how much Oliver has grown over the years and how fatherhood has changed him. It confirms that Oliver would act differently in that situation and encourage William to live his life rather than take up a vendetta that has nothing to do with him. This isn’t new to the audience but it’s a strong realisation for Oliver as he now knows without a doubt that he’s a far better man than his father ever was. I’m fascinated to see how this story will continue and what Dr. Parker’s true intentions will turn out to be.
Felicity is dealing with her own darkness when faced with the prospect of torturing Silencer. She is completely willing to do this and continues her trend of surrounding herself with people who support her current objectives. In this case she enlists Evil Laurel which makes for a great dynamic. Felicity’s point of view is that she doesn’t want anyone to question her or remind her of the right thing to do so Evil Laurel is the best partner for this. It doesn’t play out exactly as she planned as Evil Laurel doesn’t see torture as a reliable way of extracting information as evidenced by her trying to force Silencer to talk with no success. Surprisingly Evil Laurel becomes the voice of reason by trying to encourage Felicity to be patient and prevent her from crossing the line. Even though she has it within her to torture and kill it doesn’t mean that she likes doing it. Evil Laurel talks about regretting first getting blood on her hands and that it’s impossible to come back from that.
Evil Laurel sees Felicity’s torture plan as a waste of time as well has her talents and encourages her to think her way around the problem because it’s what she’s best at and far more likely to yield results without compromising her principles too much. Her -as yet unseen- Earth-2 counterpart is used as an example of what she could be if she puts her mind to it. Apparently on Earth-2 Felicity is ruthless and Evil Laurel sees that as the best way to progress.
It’s disappointing that the episode detaches the viewer from Felicity heading further down the path to darkness by talking about the attempted torture rather than actually showing it. I’m not one for seeing graphic depictions of torture on television but seeing the discussion in the aftermath also limits Silencer’s screen time and doesn’t allow us to fully understand how compromised Felicity is at this point. Setting a trap for Silencer to think she’s free and lead them right to Diaz is a clever resolution that acts as a satisfying pay-off to the discussions but it would have been interesting to see more of their differing approaches.
Rene and Dinah’s differing opinions on the rising crime rate as well as vigilante justice are brilliantly explored through the events of this episode. Dinah’s conversation with Diggle where she explains how she went from willing vigilante to staunch enforcer of the rules in a matter of months was really nicely done and made a lot of sense for Dinah as a character. The line “living in the shadows is when all the worst things happen” encapsulates her feelings perfectly and justifies the shift in her attitude.
As always Diggle is there to offer a counter argument worth considering. He encourages her to trying to get into the mindset of Quentin Lance back before he knew he could trust Oliver as the Hood. From her point of view she can’t risk trusting the new Green Arrow because she doesn’t know who he is so has no idea if his intentions are as noble as Rene thinks they are. Quentin Lance was in the same position in the beginning but eventually came round to the idea that Oliver’s actions were doing more good than harm so was eventually able to trust him. He also tugs on the family thread and encourages Dinah to remember who her family is.
This conversation is enough for Dinah to reconsider her position and extend an olive branch to Rene so that they can work together on the case. There is compromising on both sides as Dinah is bending the rules in exchange for Rene doing things her way. It’s a great team-up and bringing the new Green Arrow into it only makes the situation more complex as he is still very much a mystery though undoubtedly has the best interests of the city at heart.
The situation developing in Star City clearly escalates in order to create the future depicted in the flashforwards. William and Roy’s return to Star City delivers new information and starts to showcase older versions of some of the cast. Dinah’s appearance is most striking as her change from enforcer of the law back to vigilante is unexpected given her position in the present day even if this episode shows her commitment to that wavering slightly. Her shift seems to have been motivated by the Glades rising up, walling themselves off and declaring themselves independent from the rest of the city because of their lost faith in the system that is designed to protect them. The beginnings of that are shown in the clear unrest during the press conference so the seeds of this dark future have already been planted.
An older version of Zoe (Andrea Sixtos) is introduced and she name-drops the Vigilante Resistance as well as Rene who apparently wouldn’t be caught dead in Star City. This future seems more like Zari’s timeline the more that is learned about it which certainly spells a bleak future for the Arrowverse. This could render anything that goes on in the present day pointless since the heroes ultimately lose catastrophically in the space of a few years though it’s possible that something will be done to fix the present so that this timeline never occurs. Arrow has never done time travel outside of crossovers but the Arrowverse has grown to the point where it wouldn’t be out of place and could be done correctly. To my mind this makes future William the most likely candidate for the identity of the new Green Arrow as he would be best placed to find a way to fix this plus this scavenger hunt that future Felicity has sent him on definitely has an endgame that could easily be a way to travel into the past.
The flashforwards are brilliantly executed with a great sense of pace to them. Enough information is revealed to keep them interesting while the mystery endures in the background. Most of the dialogue feels natural enough rather than having characters talking about things they already know for the audience benefit though some of it is clumsy and on the nose. Having William and Roy be unaware of the full picture is a great idea as it means others aren’t out of place when explaining the situation to them. Being stingy with details adds to the atmosphere as the characters involved are clearly reluctant to dredge up painful memories. The continued difficulty will be in connecting the future timeline to the present day. Flashbacks were easier because the present could establish something that is then fully explored in the past but doing the reverse is a lot more difficult as it could turn the present day into nothing but foreshadowing. The connection was strong enough for this episode with the suggestion that Oliver never sees William again and Felicity clearly being as ruthless as Evil Laurel teased.
Another excellent episode that offers Oliver new challenges, continues Felicity’s journey down a dark path and explores Dinah’s motivation for her belief in legitimately enforcing the law. Dr. Parker is something of an enigma at this point as he could either be torturing Oliver or genuinely trying to help him. Either way he’s forcing Oliver to relive painful memories which ends up confirming how much he has grown and changed. The hallucination where Oliver is in his father’s position on the life raft with William in his place is excellent as it proves Oliver is a better man than his own father. Felicity continues the trend of surrounding herself with people who can enable her descent into darkness by enlisting Evil Laurel to help her torture Silencer. It’s a really engaging pairing because it defies expectations with Evil Laurel acting as the voice of reason though better use could have been made of Silencer as a hostage by exploring her as a character.
Dinah’s reason for abandoning the vigilante life completely justifies the rapid shift in her stance on the issue. Putting Rene on the other side of that discussion and adding the new Green Arrow to the plot works really well as it calls back to the early days of the show where Quentin Lance didn’t know whether Oliver could be trusted. The flashforwards continue to be fascinating if bleak. Dinah’s appearance adds extra weight to her role in the present day. Enough information is revealed to keep things moving while maintaining the mystery. The episode also does a good job connecting the two timelines though it’s unclear if this will continue to be sustainable.
- the ambiguity associated with Dr. Parker
- Oliver proving that he’s a better man than his father
- the Felicity and Evil Laurel pairing
- Dinah’s justification for abandoning the vigilante way of life
- well paced Flashforwards with the right release of information
- not taking advantage of the chance to explore Silencer as a character
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