Arrow – Season 4 Episode 16
Arrow deals with the fallout of the Oliver and Felicity break-up while Damien Darhk has his day in court following his arrest.
I’m sure frequent readers of this site will be able to guess what problems I had with this episode and you would probably be absolutely spot on. I’m not a fan of relationship angst as I think it is overplayed in fiction. This is a particular sin of shows on the CW network which happens to be a lot of what I want but it is often handled well enough that it doesn’t bother me. The Flash on the whole manages to not come across as insufferable when it handles romantic relationships and The 100 does a great job of building up these connections between people but for some reason Arrow has just never managed to get it right.
The last episode saw the bomb of Oliver’s secret son finally go off and the result being the end of Oliver and Felicity’s relationship. She leaves him because she doesn’t feel that she can fully trust him which is a valid reason to call off an engagement as far as I’m concerned. You shouldn’t enter into a lifelong commitment with someone unless you are absolutely sure that they can be trusted so from that point of view Felicity’s reasons are entirely valid.
Of course with this being a relationship between two of the main characters on this show then it’s impossible for either of them to be “right” as the show can’t really survive if any of the main cast become unlikable. Oliver’s reasons for lying to Felicity are arguably valid as he was faced with an ultimatum and no way to win. His dishonesty has always been notable character flaw so Oliver gets to lie about something while feeling conflicted about it with some justifiable reasons behind doing it.
The issue I have is that the show falls on old habits with the relationship being over. Oliver sits and broods about it while refusing to confront the issue directly which puts him across as a character incapable of learning anything from past experience. This has never worked out well for him so why does he persistently fall back on old habits? We’ve seen him pledge to try to overcome his bad instincts but there doesn’t seem to be any momentum on him following through with that. He’s good at talking about what he should have done but not good at learning how to do it.
Felicity is living in denial as well which makes sense given the massive life choice she has recently made. I appreciated that she isn’t doing the avoidance thing as she still feels that her work on Team Arrow is important and she wants to be a part of it. Essentially the mission is more important than any emotional issues she might be having with anyone on her team. This is all fine and I like that she is overcompensating by trying to act “normal” and failing miserably. Her resolve slowly cracks throughout the episode which is a testament to the performance of Emily Bett Rickards in her scenes. The passive aggressive digs at Oliver and the notion of relationships show that she is close to meltdown on this issue. As a side note I enjoyed that she barely sits down in this episode after regaining the use of her legs.
Since this is superhero fiction there has to be a dramatically convenient way for characters to work through their issues in a way that blends in with the storytelling style. This is achieved by the reemergence of Cupid -more on her later- who is still reeling from the loss of the most recent love of her life when Deadshot died. She thinks the original Arrow is dead and doesn’t see the resemblance with Green Arrow so every man she has ever loved has died tragically and she has given up on the whole idea. In true insane fashion she decides to take this out on happy couples by kidnapping celebrity pairs and killing them so they won’t be happy.
As plans go it’s fairly ridiculous but Cupid is insane so I guess anything goes. The problem with Cupid is that the boundaries of her insanity have never been properly established so her actions feel completely random. Also, the character just really bugs me from her line delivery to the way she interacts with the rest of the cast. Her only function is to propel the Felicity/Oliver angst which she definitely does but there has to be better ways to do that.
Oliver’s idea to hold a fake wedding with Felicity as bait for Cupid is quite possibly the most insensitive thing he could do given the present circumstances. Dramatically it allows him to confront the issue head on by telling Felicity exactly how he feels about her and that he doesn’t want their relationship to end but as the scene was playing I couldn’t help but think how silly the whole thing is. Felicity going along with it made the whole thing even worse but I’m glad it didn’t end with them realising they are better off together.
Oliver’s promise that he will never lie to her about anything again is all well and good and I really believe that he sincerely means it at that moment but he is unable to overcome that character flaw and Felicity realises that. She wonders when the next time he will choose to be dishonest will be and can’t enter into a marriage with those kinds of doubts. Ultimately being on Team Arrow isn’t something that will work for her any more so she decides to leave and do whatever she is going to do. Of course she isn’t going far as she has been seen in the future scenes but I wonder if she will get to go on her own adventure for a little while.
I can’t help but feel that this would be the perfect opportunity for Felicity to change shows and join Team Flash considering being around Oliver is too difficult and she really like to be able to make a difference. The benefits of a continuity driven shared universe mean that she should be able to do that. Maybe this will happen in season 3 of The Flash and it’d be an interesting change to that show having her around helping them out. It doesn’t really affect what goes on here but it was just a thought.
The more interesting story was relegated to the position of subplot. Damien Darhk’s appearance in court to decide if there was going to be a trial or not was a rare opportunity for Laurel to use her legal skills and actually show how difficult it might be to bring down someone who has that much influence. Malcolm and Slade were both villains who were torn down in the eyes of the public due to overwhelming evidence but Damien Darhk has covered his bases too well. There is absolutely no evidence that he is even Damien Darhk as he has worked so well from the shadows while building more influence as the years go on.
Having almost no case despite knowing that he’s guilty is a source of frustration for Laurel as she knows the truth but can’t really do anything about it. Darhk has managed to scare any witnesses that come forward and his lawyer manages to discredit Diggle as a witness in the kidnapping by uncovering him helping Thea get drugs for an earlier Team Arrow case.
It all changes when Quentin takes the stand and confesses to everything he did to help Darhk and his reasons for doing so. Laurel is reluctant to let him do this as it will probably signal the end of his career but Quentin is fine with that as long as he can help bring Darhk down. Quentin again shows himself to be morally upright and a firm believer of the system he represents. As far as he is concerned the consequences are deserved and he doesn’t run away from them. His acceptance of having his badge and gun taken from him with absolutely no resistance shows that he is sure he is doing the right thing and feels that this might go some way towards redeeming him for what he did.
I’m not a lawyer but I wonder if Laurel questioning Quentin on the decisions he made in order to protect her could be construed as a conflict of interest. It doesn’t come up but it was going through my mind as the process went on. At least Quentin doesn’t let her represent him on the investigation into his actions as I’m pretty sure having his daughter defending him wouldn’t help his case.
Thea’s contribution to the episode is worth mentioning as well. Her recent stories have been so emotionally intense that it was great to see some levity from her for a change. Her knowledge of the victims through reading gossip sites was a nice reminder of the fact that she is young and was established from early on as the type of person who enjoys celebrity gossip. It factored into the plot so it wasn’t a random addition and this version of Thea is something I’d like to say more of. It’s also worth noting that the relationship abbreviation “Olicity” has been adopted in universe by the media.
Last but by all means least we have the flashbacks. Baron Reiter is getting closer to the thing that he is looking for but it’s the same quick scenes with no character depth and very slight progression. I am so thoroughly uninvested in this story that I’m not even sure what Baron Reiter wants any more nor do I really care. Would this episode have been better if they cut Cupid out entirely and spent some time trying to build the flashbacks into something worth watching? Probably not but it’s a thought.
A frustrating episode that was far too heavy on the relationship angst and relegated the most interesting story to the subplot. Seeing Damien Darhk in court was great as it allowed Laurel to use her legal skills for a change and brought in some excellent material for Quentin. The fallout from Felicity and Oliver’s breakup didn’t interest me all that much and Cupid is an infuriating villain.
- Damien Darhk in court and Laurel using her legal skills
- Quentin’s show of moral strength
- a more fun and less intense Thea
- great acting from Emily Bett Rickards
- overblown relationship angst
- boring flashbacks