Arrow – Season 4 Episode 12
Arrow brings back a number of bygone characters and furthers development of Thea’s supernatural ailment as Felicity continues to accept her new reality.
The most significant return in this episode was Roy. Naturally he was given the most attention since he was a series regular so deserves to have a bit of a fanfare surrounding him being back. I like how his return was set up by having him be controlled by an outside influence who could see and hear everything he did. Roy had no real choice but to go along with it as the Calculator (Tom Amandes) had a lot of information on him that could be used against those he cares about. Thankfully the Calculator doesn’t seem to know the true identities of Team Arrow quite yet but he must have seen that Oliver was the one to chase down Roy and wonder a few things based on that.
I’ll come back to the Calculator and focus on Roy for now. His return reminded me how good his presence in the show was due to Colton Haynes likable portrayal. I was also reminded that his function within Team Arrow was never fully defined. He couldn’t quite become the trusted sidekick to Oliver since that role had already been filled by Diggle who had forged a much stronger connection with Oliver. There was some attempt made at Oliver being an unsuitable mentor who couldn’t quite figure out how to be a good teacher but that also fizzled out due to the development of other stories so Roy just hung around in the background acting as backup on Oliver’s missions. His most prominent arc was in the first season where he and Thea slowly got closer but that mainly enhanced her character rather than his. What I’m basically saying is that Roy’s absence hasn’t cost the show anything fundamental. That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad character, only that things can progress without him and they very much have.
His function in this episode is mostly to give him some proper closure after an abrupt exit last season and do some really cool parkour while he’s back. How can Roy come back and not leap all over the place? The biggest shock for me is that Team Arrow were surprised that their parkour using adversary was anyone but Roy.
Roy definitely deserved a definitive ending for his character and he got that here. His choice to put his life at risk to ensure that Calculator is stopped and nobody on Team Arrow is hurt worked really well and gave him a suitably heroic moment. He survives the blast which crosses him off the list for potential deaths but the importance of his decision isn’t ruined by his survival.
The fact that Oliver agrees to let him make this choice with minimal resistance continues a major theme for the season. Oliver is learning that not everything is his fault and that he can let other people shoulder burdens. He’s not quite there yet as Roy points out but he is slowly getting used to the idea of trusting his team to take action. Interestingly Roy pointing out Oliver’s tendency to blame himself sort of proves that the show isn’t missing anything essential by him not being there as Felicity and Diggle have been telling him this.
Roy’s goodbye to Thea was a really touching scene that gave their relationship the finality that it lacked before. Thea fully understands why Roy has to leave and wishes him all the best while declaring her love for him. Their relationship was always very believable so seeing it end this way was very bittersweet.
Thea was handled really well this week. Her uncontrollable rage story has been far too reminiscent of Roy having similar issues in season 2 but this episode finally takes that in a different direction. The revelation that if she doesn’t kill to keep the balance that was interrupted by her resurrection then she will die again raises the stakes for her and the other around her. Willa Holland manages to successfully convey the life draining from her body really well and her performance when Thea said goodbye to Roy was excellent. She so rarely has strong material to work with so it’s good to see that she is more than capable when given this kind of focus.
Oliver and Malcolm are both affected by Thea’s situation in different yet similar ways. Both are desperate to take action but Malcolm becomes the voice of reason when saying that they have to respect Thea’s wishes even though he wants nothing more than to force her to kill someone so that she can live. She refuses to kill so that she can stay alive and Oliver does understand that it’s no way for her to live but he is still desperate to do something. He was responsible for forcing this situation on her and now Thea has to deal with the consequences of that decision. It all comes back to Oliver blaming himself and thinking it is his responsibility to fix it. He almost attempts to make a deal with Damien Darhk to help out with the situation but thankfully is talked out of it since making a deal with the proverbial Devil is what got him into this mess in the first place. One thing that I find questionable is that John Constantine was directly mentioned as being responsible for making sure that Sara didn’t have to suffer this so why not fix Thea while he was at it? If there was a reason that he couldn’t then it should really be addressed as it is a lingering question.
Nyssa’s return ties into this as she wants to use Thea’s situation as leverage to get Oliver to kill Malcolm Merlyn. Her hatred of him is no secret and she has been shown to be ruthless in the past so it makes sense that she would dangle a solution in front of Oliver in exchange for what she wants. It will be interesting to see how Oliver reacts to this ultimatum but I wouldn’t be surprised if Malcolm offered to sacrifice himself to ensure that Thea survives. It’s also possible that the cure will restore the balance by leaving Thea dead so it’s impossible for Oliver to win in this case. It could go either way at this point.
It has been a while since we have seen Nyssa but she proves to be as engaging a presence as ever. Her escape from Nanda Parbat was great and her brief battle with Katana was really impressive. Arrow is still able to impress with excellent fight choreography. Nyssa’s objective is kept mysterious until the last possible moment which was really effective as well.
The writers seem to have found new focus in regards to Felicity now that she is in a wheelchair. Her early attempt to rehearse her presentation of the new Palmertech battery shows that her confidence has taken a knock and that she is struggling to regain it but, as Curtis rightly says, it is still there and she needs to embrace it as shown by how excited she is when looking for the piece of technology that can help save people. He road to emotional recovery will be a slow one but she made significant progress when realising that her enthusiasm and intelligence are her most important assets.
She almost met her match when dealing with the Calculator. His hacking skills were almost on a par with hers and the sequence where they matched wits by typing on their keyboards while quipping was surprisingly exciting. It’s rare that Felicity actually gets an antagonist of her own and this one was particularly well done. The Calculator may have a really stupid name but so far he is making a good impression as a worthwhile villain for Team Arrow as well as Felicity.
The revelation that the Calculator is actually Felicity’s father was a little bit obvious considering the strong hints throughout the episode such as their similar attitude and almost identical workplace setup. I look forward to seeing how this develops especially when Felicity has to deal with her personal connection to a villian. Hopefully this is a story arc that can carry on for a while.
As usual the flashbacks are the weakest part. Having Shado return as a hallucination who helps Oliver move past his darkness makes absolutely no sense. We know that Oliver is a pretty dark person in the first season of the show and he pretty much got to that point during season 2 when Sara and Slade Wilson was with him on the island so there’s nowhere he can really go from here. Unless he reclaims some humanity to then lose it but that wouldn’t really make sense either. The whole vision thing is fine as it shows that there is some weird supernatural stuff happening on the island but having Oliver’s emotional issues be helped by a hallucination makes no sense at that point in his development.
An excellent episode that makes really good use of Roy’s return to give him the closure that his character deserved. The introduction of the Calculator made for a really engaging villain that give Felicity her own antagonist to deal with as she regains her confidence. As always the island story remains weaker than the rest of the show but it doesn’t detract from the experience too much.