Arrow – Season 4 Episode 17
“Beacon of Hope”
Arrow decides to cut loose and have some fun for a change as the Brie Larvin aka the Bug-Eyed Bandit (Emily Kinney) puts Palmer Tech under siege looking for the same device that restored Felicity’s ability to walk.
Brie Larvin was a less than memorable villain when she appeared on The Flash last season and she hasn’t really gotten any better here. I do appreciate the over the top comic book performance that Emily Kinney delivers as it adds to the more light hearted tone that this episode adopts but there isn’t much more to her than really awful bee related puns and general insanity.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when she is supposed to carry an episode as a credible threat there really should be a lot more to her. All of the characters take her seriously as her robotic bees are a force to be reckoned with but there’s something about her performance that fails to make her as menacing as she needs to be.
An attempt was made to give her some depth when she talks about having a tumour that can be operated on but will rob her of her ability to walk. That’s why she needs the chip that Felicity has so that she can have the tumour removed and still be able to walk. It’s a clear and understandable motivation that could have been established as the root of her actions much earlier in the episode. It comes out too late to really be effective which is a shame as it somewhat justifies her insanity. There was the suggestion of a rivalry between her and Felicity once she figured out that Felicity was the one who brought her down before but, again, it comes too late in the episode to be interesting. This episode could have built on the conflict between Brie and Felicity specifically and developed along those lines but it misses a trick by not taking advantage of that potential.
Some of the imagery associated with the synthetic swarm was pretty cool but I didn’t like them combining to form the shape of a man who looked a bit too much like Yellowjacket from Ant-Man. It was a clear attempt to give Oliver something to punch and create an action climax but it was just unnecessary. Just how do a swarm of robotic bees create a costume that looks part Kevlar and part leather anyway?
This was an important episode for Felicity as it served as an opportunity to redefine her role on the show. I’ve said everything I need to on my opinion of her contrived breakup with Oliver but now that it has happened the show needs to move on from it otherwise it’ll get lost in dwelling on something that was irritating to begin with. It’s a good move to have Felicity tested by confronting a problem she would normally deal with as a part of Team Arrow and have that not give her a reason to return. She confesses to Thea that she was never on the team because she got a thrill from danger or heroics. All she ever wanted to do was help people and she did in her role on the team but that is no longer a fit for her. Instead she gets the idea to use the resources available to her as the CEO of Palmer Tech as a way to help people. This ties her to the episode title “Beacon of Hope” as she finds her own way to go about being that for people.
Oliver is having something of an existential crisis about being the Green Arrow and the work he does to save the city. Following his breakup with Felicity he does what he knows that throws himself fully into the mission but the trouble is that the streets are quiet. A rare occurrence in Star City to be sure and it comes at the wrong time for Oliver as he now has time to take stock of his life and his choices which leads him to pretty uncomfortable conclusions. When he gave up on his mission to save the city at the end of season 3 and went to live the simple life with Felicity free of the stresses of constantly being in mortal danger he was happy. He recalls to Laurel that he was content and his life made sense. He came back to Star City because Felicity convinced him that it was possible for them to protect people and have each other but now that he doesn’t have Felicity there are significant doubts in his head as to what his purpose really is.
Laurel is on hand to give him the figurative slap in the face that he needs. He lost Felicity because of the choices he made as Oliver Queen. It was Oliver Queen who lied to her and his life as Green Arrow had absolutely nothing to do with it. Arguably the truth was coming at some point whether they returned to Star City or not so he can’t really blame his current predicament on his mission to protect his city. This causes Oliver to rethink the way he treats Curtis and deliver a sincere apology for yelling at him. Personal growth for Oliver is a good thing and Laurel enabling that is even better.
It is debatable how well Laurel works on this show as her characterisation has been pretty uneven over the course of the series but as a member of Team Arrow who offers Oliver emotional support she usually works really well. Their former relationship gives her a level of insight that no other character has and she isn’t shy to tell him when he’s made a mess of things. I’m not sure how that role can be expanded but for now this is what makes her character work best.
In many ways this episode forces Oliver to redefine his role on the show as well. He needs to find another reason to commit to this mission other than Felicity encouraging him to make a go of it. Throughout the course of this episode he is working to deal with a problem without Felicity’s help and it reminds him that it’s possible to continue on without her. Hopefully this will allow him to move on with renewed determination to make a difference in the city.
Curtis makes his way onto Team Arrow for the first time. In the absence of Felicity they need someone technically minded to be their keyboard warrior and this is a natural fit for Curtis who appears to be every bit the genius that Felicity is. His constant one liners and overexcitement reminded me of season 1 Felicity in a good way and his dynamic with the rest of the team worked really well. At times his attitude was a little grating but I didn’t find it too insufferable. I wonder if Curtis will be on the team more regularly now that Felicity has found a new direction. It would certainly give him a reason to develop into his comic identity of Mr. Terrific.
Damien Darhk may be in prison but he hasn’t been defeated yet. Other inmates try to intimidate him but even without his magical powers he is a force to be reckoned with. I like that he manages to proves the level of control he has achieved before he gets the chance to monologue about it. It clearly disappoints him as he loves to monologue about how great he is. It looks like the show is setting up some kind of turf war between Darhk and Malcolm over who gets to be in charge of H.I.V.E. and that is a prospect that greatly interests me. It’s also interesting that H.I.V.E. abandon Darhk at the first opportunity. I’d like to see the structure of H.I.V.E. as an organisation be explored and what the repercussions of them abandoning him are. Maybe H.I.V.E. could be an organisation that regroup and continue to pose a threat in future seasons. The stage certainly seems to be set for Malcolm to take over.
The ending tease of Andy Diggle still being loyal to H.I.V.E. and acting as Malcolm’s “ace in the hole” is something that I’ll need to wait and see on before passing judgement. If done right it could be really powerful to have Diggle betrayed by his brother after finding a way to trust him again but it could also be another one of those empty shock reveals we see so often. It’s also possible that he is actually a double agent. Time will tell.
Tonally, this episode was very different to what we are used to. This season came with the promise of the show being lighter but there has been little evidence of that beyond some suggestion of that earlier in the season. The last few episodes have certainly been very grim so it was refreshing to take a break from that and actually deliver some fun for a change. Not all of the comedy landed such as most of Donna Smoak’s lines but the attempt was appreciated. Donna’s line about wearing flats to prepare for these weekly assaults was great though and I found it amusing to have Quentin and other characters comment on how this sort of thing is their life now. Things certainly have changed since the even grimmer days of season 1 and it is largely a change for the better.
The highlight of the episode for me was the training sequence at the beginning showing Oliver’s commitment to keep Team Arrow in shape as a well oiled unit. It also allowed for some rare levity among the group as they became aware that Oliver knows about Harry Potter. I was also amused that he has no idea that there are movies. He’s not completely pop culture inept but definitely has some notable knowledge gaps.
As always the flashbacks are just ticking along without being hugely interesting. Baron Reiter gaining magical powers should be a great story and it should tie nicely in with Team Arrow taking on a villain who uses magic against them but there is a complete disconnect between the past and the present that can’t be recovered at this point. There definitely isn’t enough story to carry an entire season of flashbacks shown clearly by how brief they are. It’s too late to fix it this season but some serious work has to be done to make them relevant again next season.
A fun episode that manages to redefine the roles of Oliver and Felicity in ways that make sense. The lighter tone felt really refreshing despite the hammy humour and over the top villainy from Brie Larvin. Curtis being on Team Arrow is a good fit and the background work on Damien Darhk’s growing rivalry with Malcolm Merlyn is moving along nicely.
- a more light-hearted tone than usual
- redefining the roles of Oliver and Felicity in the show
- Curtis being on Team Arrow
- Damien Darhk’s growing rivalry with Malcolm Merlyn
- Comedy that doesn’t always land
- an unengaging villain with wasted potential to build a proper rivalry with Felicity