Arrow – Season 4 Episode 6
Arrow finally gets around to bringing back Ray Palmer and forces Team Arrow into a direct confrontation with Damien Darhk to rescue him from his tiny prison.
It has been promised since before season 4 started that Arrow would adopt a lighter tone this season with far less emphasis on angst and emotional turmoil to make way for a more positive outlook in general. I don’t think that this has really been coming across before this point but this episode marks the first time I really felt that the show was lightening up a little bit.
The focus this week is on rescuing Ray Palmer who obviously isn’t dead. It turns out that he was rendered small in the explosion that supposedly killed him and is being held captive by Damien Darhk who wants his tech for some as yet undisclosed purpose. The particulars of how Ray contacts Felicity to engineer his rescue are pretty boring and techy but the important thing is that he is a genius and recruits another genius to help him out. He gives Felicity everything she needs to build a device that will restore him to his normal size so that he can resume his life.
Ray also gives Felicity something to obsess about. She reacts to Ray’s situation by stressing herself out and working herself into the ground trying to find a way to rescue him. It’s not abnormal behaviour for Felicity but it turns out that it’s symptomatic of a much larger issue for her. She feels guilty that it took Ray this long to reach her because she went away travelling the world with Oliver so wasn’t around to get his attempts at making contact. She mentions that being with Oliver has turned her into someone that she doesn’t want to be. Basically she feels that she has lost herself in Oliver due to the intensity of her relationship and she doesn’t like that apparent stripping of identity. Personally I think she is being too hard on herself as it is established that she was helping Team Arrow on the sly when travelling with Oliver so there doesn’t seem like a loss in identity for her as far as I am concerned.
I don’t have a problem with Felicity feeling that way as the whole basis for her emotional turmoil is that she feels guilty for not being around to help her friend. Guilt causes people to do and say irrational things so Felicity’s reaction to that is entirely realistic as is the problems it causes for her relationship with Oliver. Felicity doesn’t blame Oliver for what happened as she is too busy blaming herself for getting swept up in the romance of her relationship. It’s refreshing to have an emotional conflict on this show that isn’t an angst ridden love triangle. It actually feels like an adult relationship problem.
Oliver doesn’t help matters by inviting Felicity’s semi-estranged mother for an impromptu visit. Assuming he knows best and acting without consulting others is exactly what people frequently accuse Oliver of. At least when it comes to fighting villains or mystical problems he is generally right but this sort of decision is really not his to make. It does comes across that he genuinely means well rather than simply assuming everyone else is wrong but he really should have known better.
The temporary rift between Oliver and Felicity allowed for a really good scene between Oliver and Diggle where they discuss the problems of maintaining a relationship while dishing out vigilante justice. Oliver definitely seems a lot more at peace with himself and there’s genuine friendship going on in this scene. Oliver isn’t blaming himself for anything and is simply asking his friend for advice. It’s good to see them have a scene like this after all of the tension between them since the season began.
Despite being an incredibly well acted scene it never really gets to the root of what Oliver is feeling. It’s established that he isn’t jealous of Ray which is fine and I’m glad that the show isn’t going to go down that road but it is never established exactly what Oliver is if not jealous. It wouldn’t have taken much more to sharpen up this scene to that point but it doesn’t quite get there.
Having Donna Smoak back didn’t really add much to the episode other than a further irritation for Felicity who was already stressed out enough. She represents a bad decision made by Felicity and causes an amusing argument while Team Arrow are out on a mission but beyond that there is no character based reason for her being in the episode. She doesn’t do or say anything worthwhile beyond the standard Hallmark scene where Felicity comes to understand something about her parenting style that she didn’t before. It’s nothing that didn’t happen in her last two appearances so there’s no new ground being covered in their relationship.
As good as it is to see Ray Palmer back he is completely wasted. He is very much the object for the episode as in Team Arrow have the goal of saving him but he is never the subject of anything. Nothing in this episode develops Ray Palmer in any way and his return to being normal sized only results in a quick scene where he points out how scientifically fascinated he was by the whole ordeal before deciding to leave. None of it is really meaningful so it makes it impossible to disguise the fact that this is all setting up Legends of Tomorrow. Now that Sara and Ray are back in the land of the living I think most of the spinoff set-up is done so both The Flash and Arrow shouldn’t be too bogged down by devoting time to setting up another show.
A similar problem exists with Sara who really isn’t used well in this episode. She has a really awkward phone call with her mother that gives absolutely no indication of an emotional reaction to her resurrection. The last episode glossed over Quentin and Laurel dealing with her having her soul back so it’s a shame that it’s not a prominent theme here. There is a half baked attempt to show that she has the same blood lust as Thea but there’s nothing new about any of it. All Sara does is hang around on the sidelines before deciding that she needs to leave. There’s a real missed opportunity around showing the impact that her resurrection has on the lives of those around her. Laurel and Sara could have been the emotional core of the next couple of episodes instead of sweeping her off to Legends of Tomorrow so quickly.
One thing that Sara’s return does allow for is really well executed action scenes. Seeing the two Canaries and Thea fighting against Darhks henchmen was a really cool moment that really makes me excited for the potential for similar things in Legends of Tomorrow when that starts. It’s clear that Team Arrow aren’t quite a match for Darhk but they are getting there and Darhk is as entertaining as ever. It’s unclear what his endgame is at this point but there is plenty of time for that.
There was very little progression in the flashbacks but it was good to see Baron Reiter again and the commitment to the mystical elements is on full display. I wonder if the mention of the ancients has something to do with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. It would certainly make sense and it seems that they are due for an appearance so this would be a good way to bring them in.
An uneven episode that does some things really well but drops the ball on others as it feels like it is setting up the upcoming spinoff.
Tonally this felt like the first episode to have that lighter tone that had been promised since before this season began. I like that the show is lightening up a bit.
The focus of the episode is the rescue of Ray Palmer who was rendered small by the explosion that supposedly killed him and is being held captive by Damien Darhk who wants his tech. He contacts Felicity so that she can help him resume his normal life and size.
This gives Felicity something to obsess about as she feels guilty for travelling the world with Oliver when Ray needed her help. She tells Oliver that their relationship has made her become swept up in the romance of it all and lose herself. This is something that she never wanted to be and it causes her to feel guilty for neglecting her responsibilities. I think she is being too hard on herself as it has been established that she was still helping Team Arrow on the sly. Guilt causes people to do irrational things so it makes perfect sense for her to feel this way.
Oliver doesn’t help matters by inviting Felicity’s semi-estranged mother for a visit without consulting her. This is exactly what people have accused Oliver of in the past. When dealing with tactics and mystical issues Oliver is generally right but this is a bad decision on his part. He definitely means well here rather than assuming he is right but it’s still not his decision to make.
This temporary rift results in a really good scene between Oliver and Diggle that feels like a lighter version of their interactions in previous seasons. It’s good to see them being friends again but this scene doesn’t really dig into the root of how Oliver is feeling. It nearly gets there but never quite reaches it.
Felicity’s mother being around doesn’t really add much to her character or Felicity’s relationship with her. She represents a mistake that Oliver makes in inviting her for a visit but the scene with Felicity where she understands what her mother went through in a different way doesn’t add anything to what had been established in her previous appearances.
Ray Palmer is completely wasted as he is more the object that Team Arrow need to save rather than the subject of any meaningful development. He has a quick wrap up scene where he decides to leave and not much else. It feels that good moments are being cast aside simply to set up the upcoming spinoff.
Sara is similarly wasted with nothing made of the return of her soul and how she relates to others. Her and Laurel should have been the emotional core of the episode but nothing is really done with the characters. Sara does have the same blood lust as Thea but there’s nothing new added to it. At least her presence creates some really cool action scenes and allows Team Arrow to face off against Darhk and his henchmen again.
The flashbacks don’t progress very much but I like the language of the ancients tease and I wonder if this relates to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in some way. They are due for an appearance so it’s very possible.