Arrow – Season 7 Episode 21
Arrow deals with the fallout of the previous episode while exploring Oliver’s tendency to fall back on his darkest impulses.
This amounts to the second time that Team Arrow have survived an explosion that reasonably should have killed them. Blowing up a building that they all happen to be in should be fatal considering they are all normal Humans with the associated weaknesses. There are injuries here and there but on the whole they come out of this pretty well. This resolution makes it a bit more difficult to invest in the jeopardy of the situation while also making the cliffhanger ending feel manipulative.
That aside it does set up a compelling scenario where the team are trapped in a deteriorating situation and have to find their way out of it. The way the threat builds by having them separated at first before finding each other and having to deal with life threatening problems as they make their way out works well. Having Oliver separated from them without them knowing if he’s alive and eventually losing contact with Felicity enhances the sense of danger. This episode at its core is about isolation and the impact that can have. It’s an idea that props up the different plots.
It isn’t immediately obvious how it links to Diggle, Dinah, Roy and Rene since they are the least isolated but they are still cut off from their usual resources and trapped in a situation they aren’t completely sure how to escape. It doesn’t impact them too heavily other than the uncertainty around what happened to Oliver and the overwhelming fear that the building will collapse on them. There are some confusing choices in these scenes such as Roy being the one to risk his life in the cloud of poisonous gas to turn off the powers so that the gas doesn’t ignite. His prominence in the future set scenes confirms his survival so there is no tension associated with the extended period of time where the other characters believe he might be dead. Granted none of these characters can die at this point as three of them are featured in the future and Diggle hasn’t adopted a child yet so there’s no way this moment could have worked.
There is a great deal of uncertainty as they consider what will happen to them if they do make it out of this situation. The fact that they colluded to cover up what Roy did has come to light which effectively severs the relationship the team have with the SCPD. Dinah realise that it’s the end of her legitimate career so there’s a palpable sense of loss associated with the situation. The team losing the legitimate foothold that they had ends up informing Roy’s decision to risk his life as he wants to do something for them after they put their reputations and freedom on the line for him. Essentially survival amounts to escaping to a fate that may be just as bad as death for them because it tears apart everything they tried to build in their efforts to clean up the city and make it safe.
Felicity is isolated when the SCPD raid her office after being issued a warrant for her arrest. They go about siezing her assets and are about to put her under arrest when she activates a defence measure and is able to escape. The setup of this scene is very problematic as it spends so much time on exposition in order to put across the information that Felicity needs to know to move the plot forward. That isn’t a bad thing on its own but it’s clumsily handled with dialogue designed to make it clear exactly what is going on rather than letting the audience join the obvious dots. Being allowed to give Alena a hug makes the police look painfully stupid as it is such an obvious trick especially since they will definitely be aware of the hidden resources that Team Arrow have access to. Their assumption that Felicity’s request was innocent does nothing for the competence of the SCPD and devalues the partnership a great deal.
Once she and Alena escape they retreat to the bunker and are able to offer assistance to the rest of the team until Emiko attacks and disables the tech which severs the contact. Emiko’s attack on Felicity and Alena is really tense as it makes great use of how skilled Emiko is along with how vulnerable Felicity is when it comes to physical confrontation. It also raises the stakes significantly as Felicity tries to save herself by admitting that she’s pregnant and hoping to appeal to Emiko’s better nature. She hopes that Emiko won’t be sadistic enough to kill Felicity’s unborn child because she’s completely innocent while also being part of her family. For now this works though it gives Emiko potential leverage to use against Oliver in the season finale.
With this being the possible penultimate appearance of Felicity in this show it’s now pretty clear what causes her to depart. There’s a lot of discussion of living off the grid to keep her safe from Emiko, the Ninth Circle and any other dangers that happen to come her way. Felicity is reluctant at first because she has a company to run but Alena offers to be the public face that acts as Felicity’s surrogate out in the world. I wonder if this means that Alena will take Felicity’s place on Team Arrow next season or if the team will just have to manage without a tech expert. This seems unlikely considering she is the one responsible for ARCHER being used the way it currently is as revealed in the future scenes. Her briefly explained motivation for doing so makes enough sense but it still makes Alena less than trustworthy. Either way it does explain why Felicity goes into hiding to protect Mia though the mechanics of what happens to Oliver during this time are unclear. One thing’s for sure; life is about to get very difficult for vigilantes because of what Emiko did.
Isolation also creeps into the future story through William who has his feelings of abandonment resurface after Felicity tries to bench him during that crisis. From Felicity’s point of view she’s simply trying to protect William but he sees it as her pushing him away just as she and Oliver did when he was younger. A part of him feels that he wasn’t part of the family and was cast aside because he was unwanted. William’s point seems to be proven when Felicity turns her attention to her computer without making sure that William’s concerns have been put to rest. It’s a representation of that same choice she and Oliver made all those years ago and it only contributes to William’s abandonment issues.
This is picked up later in the episode when Mia tries to help him put his thoughts into some kind of perspective. William tells her that he doesn’t understand why Felicity didn’t want him in her life particularly when she sacrificed so much for the sake of Mia. She can relate to this in some way as she discovered that Felicity was lying to her but the difference between them is that Mia confronted her head on rather than William’s tactic of obsessining over it without actually asking the question. Mia needs to know the answer where William appears to be afraid of it. We don’t spend much time exploring the overall family dynamic but this is really compelling stuff as it offers strong insight into William and everything that was unanswered in his life. Mia also encourages William to see Felicity’s investment in his company as a clear sign that she was taking care of him in her own way but that’s not enough for him as he needed her as a mother more than he needed her mother. There is likely only one episode left to explore this conflict further which doesn’t feel like enough time but perhaps it will be more fitting for it to remain unresolved considering that has been what has defined William’s life up until this point.
Oliver spends the episode isolated with a surprise manifestation of Tommy Merlyn who acts as the conduit for his current inner conflict. As the episode begins he is fully committed to killing Emiko because he feels that she deserves nothing less after everything she has done up until this point. The role she played in the death of their father, all of the people she has killed and the chaos she been responsible for all merit her being killed as far as he’s concerned. Tommy -not really Tommy but will be referred to as such- represents his better nature fighting to break through the surface. He reminds Oliver how they were both caught up in the horrible things their families were responsible for and lived in the shadow of that for the longest time. Tommy’s inability to break free arguably resulted in his death and Oliver is heading down that very same path. There is talk of everything Oliver has tried to build and all he has done to be a better person. Resolving to kill Emiko is seen as a step back as far as Tommy is concerned and an easy solution to a problem that Oliver should have moved beyond.
The fact that Oliver’s imagination manifests a version of Tommy to help him work through this inner conflict shows that Oliver will always be at War with his darker impulses no matter how much he improves himself and there will always be trials that test the limits of his patience. Tommy’s words fall on deaf ears in the beginning because Oliver has convinced himself that he has no other choice. Finding out that Emiko knew about the Queen’s Gambit and kept it to herself appears to be the last straw for him and the thing that convinced him Emiko was beyond redemption.
It is later revealed that this entire scenario is in Oliver’s head and he never actually woke up to free himself from the rubble. In effect this is a prison of his own making and he is unable to escape it until he resolves these issues. Any attempt to escape it in his current frame of mind makes the situation worse which clearly symbolises Oliver being buried under his own darkness. When he flat out refuses to accept what Tommy is telling him he appears to break through but this is only in service of showing what he stands to lose from continuing down his current path. In his mind he kills Emiko but it also results in the death of the rest of the team as a clear sign of where this path will likely lead him.
Tommy points out that if he carries on like this then Oliver will become exactly like his father before encouraging him to lean into the best parts of himself and see himself as an example that people can change with enough, effort, motivation and opportunity. He has to see that within Emiko otherwise the cycle that both of their families perpetuated will never be broken. It’s really profound stuff and to have it delivered by a manifestation of Tommy is excellent as his death is one major regret Oliver has that he will never forgive himself for. Versions of him seem to turn up at profound moments of personal crisis for him and this is perhaps the strongest example of that.
An excellent episode that develops the theme of isolation in a consistently strong way across the different stories. Diggle, Rene, Dinah and Roy may be together but they grow more isolated from their resources as the episode continues and the prospect of losing the partnership with the SCPD upon escape now that the truth has been revealed about their recent deception to protect Roy. There are some confusing choices such as Roy being at risk of death despite being alive and well in the future. His willingness to sacrifice himself is inspired by all that has been lost in the pursuit of protecting him but there are no real stakes attached. Felicity becomes isolated when there is a raid on her office designed to deliver clunky exposition and make the SCPD look really stupid when they fall for Felicity’s obvious trick. Emiko showing up at the Bunker after this heightens the tension as Felicity and Alena are powerless against her. Arguably Felicity only survives after revealing her pregnancy which gives Emiko a great deal of leverage going into next week. This seems to answer the mystery of why Felicity goes into hiding while clearing up how ARCHER is weaponised in the future.
William’s feelings of isolation go right back to childhood and stem from the point Oliver and Felicity gave him away. Ever since then he has felt like an outcast from the family who was pushed aside. It isn’t something he has ever gotten over and he’s insulted by Felicity’s desire to protect him because she has never been there for him before. It’s very strong material and the differences in approach between William and Mia are really interesting to consider. There doesn’t seem like a lot of time to further explore this but what we get at this point is great and has lots of potential. Oliver is stuck in a mental prison of his own making haunted by a manifestation of Tommy Merlyn who represents the better parts of himself that have been suppressed following Oliver making up his mind that he is going to kill Emiko. Tommy talks about how their families have them stuck in a seemingly unbreakable cycle that can’t end anywhere but death and loneliness. Oliver gets a sense of that when killing Emiko in his mind costs him the team and ultimately accepts what Tommy has been trying to say. This is perhaps the best use of a version of Tommy the show has ever employed as it digs into Oliver’s lingering guilt as well as the inner conflict that will always exist for him.
- a strong and consistently developed theme of isolation
- raising the tension through Emiko attacking Felicity and Alena
- Emiko gaining leverage through Felicity’s fear of her daughter being lost
- William tackling the abandonment issues he has that connected to Felicity
- a manifestation of Tommy Merlyn encouraging Oliver to lean into the best parts of himself
- the clear sign that this conflict will always exist within Oliver
- the best use of a manifestation of Tommy Merlyn the show has delivered
- clunky exposition
- the bizarre choice to have Roy appear to die in the present day
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