Arrow: Underneath

"Neither one of us has a job that fits the conventional definition of morality."

This was probably one of the most romantic episodes of the series. Even though a good chunk of it featured Die Hard-esque action, it also featured some serious drama involving the show's primary couples.

For a long while now, Arrow has been an interesting case study in the whole will-they-won't-they dynamic. For years, it was one-sided, with Oliver not seeing Felicity that way — and then he did. But he still had the power in the relationship since he instigated it, and she was already receptive to it. By breaking up with him, she took that power away. And now, things have finally been, not exactly resolved, but brought full circle. Neither of them have the power role in the couple now. They're kind of on even footing.

So it now comes back to, will they or won't they? They both want to, but I don't think either of them are there yet. And that was the point of the episode.

This episode was also an evaluation of Oliver's belief that he's a monster. Is his inclination towards violence something internal, something broken inside of him, like he's a serial killer? Or is what Felicity said absolutely true, that he's gone through literally a decade of things no one could ever have imagined that would've taken a tremendous toll on anyone's psyche? Five years of hell, where he was tortured, brutalized, almost killed, betrayed, and saw all the darkness humanity had to offer (not to mention the bad hair). And then five years of trying to define that darkness and turn it into something good.

Now he's facing a mirror in Prometheus. The villain is a reflection of Oliver's sins personified in the worst kind of evil. Prometheus doesn't care about money or power. He's the kind of villain that just wants to watch the world burn (not to borrow from The Dark Knight or anything). Who tortured Oliver for a week. A week! So maybe Oliver did get a little brainwashed and messed up. Prometheus has been screwing with his head since practically the beginning of the season. Combined with Oliver's own questions about the choices he's made in the 'hood, it's logical to go to the worst possible answer about himself.

The whole structure of the episode was based around answering those questions, with both the present storyline focusing on Oliver and Felicity's survival after Prometheus's attack, and a moment that happened off-screen between seasons where they had that final night of post-breakup sex, which just reinforced the reasons why they broke up. It also gave us that important moment that we never got after the breakup, before the two of them moved on to different relationships. Which in retrospect was a bit jarring at the beginning of the season, but there would've been no practical way to squeeze in this particular story and have them start new relationships in the next episode if this plot was at the beginning of the season.

The other part of the present plot was Team Arrow doing their damnedest to rescue the pair, while Diggle dealt with his own marital troubles, in a transparently parallel storyline to Oliver and Felicity. Although Lyla's actions are morally murky, the same can be said for Diggle and Team Arrow, et al. I hope this episode resolves that particular plot line, but for some reason I don't think Diggle's marital woes are quite over.

Besides the obvious goodness of the Oliver/Felicity storyline throughout the episode, once again, Curtis, Rene and Dinah stole the show. Particularly Curtis, who is quickly becoming my favorite character. And they don't seem to have a limit to the T-Sphere jokes, although it does look like the tech got an upgrade, thanks to Argus, which is one step closer to Curtis becoming the Mr. Terrific of the comics.

Bits:

I absolutely loved Oliver's reaction after he was injected with adrenaline.  That, and Felicity not even hesitating for a second to inject Oliver with it.

After a very long time Felicity finally feels like Felicity again, and that's in large part to her finally apologizing for walking out on Oliver.

Werner Zytle got a small call back in this episode after his brief turn as the new Count Vertigo.

Quotes:

Felicity: "It seems like Cisco did such a good job of turning this place into an impenetrable fortress, he turned it into an impenetrable death trap."

Felicity: "My math is probably right, but what if it's wrong?"
Oliver: "Are you still Felicity Smoak?"
Felicity: "Yeah."
Oliver: "Your math is always right."

Felicity: "You know, under different circumstances, these chem lights might seem festive."

Rene: "I'm sensing a lot of marital tension."

Rene: "What's EDM?"
Curtis: "Something you might hear at a nightclub.  This was an EMP, actually fun fact the previous lair used to be underneath a nightclub."

Curtis: "Oliver and Felicity might suffocate. How can you be so glib?"
Rene: "You've met me, right?"

Rene: "How come your toy balls can't float down here and do this for us?"
Curtis: "For the thousandth time Rene, they're called T-Spheres. But if you want, you can call them by their proper name."
Rene: "You named them?"
Curtis: "Kodo and Podo.  You know, Dar's thieving little ferrets on The Beastmaster.  Let's just say a young Mark Singer was quite helpful in me discovering my homosexuality."
Dinah: "And my heterosexuality. You're on an open channel, by the way."

Diggle: "What happened, did the acid work?"
Curtis: "Yeah, it's just going to take ten seasons of The Bachelor before it melts those hinges." (Rene gives him a look) "What? I don't judge your DVR."

Oliver: "I'm so sorry."
Felicity: "Normally I would relish an Oliver Queen apology, but this sudden admission is making me nervous."

Felicity: "Chase tortured you for a week.  You're the toughest person I know but anyone — anyone would've admitted to being a tap-dancing flamingo after what he put you through."
Oliver: "Adrian Chase didn't make me a killer."
Felicity: "No, five years in hell did that. Five years of dealing with this city's worst did that. You've spent a decade dealing with horrors most people don't even realize exist, and the fact that that didn't turn you into a monster proves exactly the kind of person that you are."

Felicity: "This looks like the Death Star interrogation droid."

Felicity: "I've always appreciated you doing the salmon ladder, but never as much as in this moment."

Fun, exciting, well written and acted, plus it finally moved our central couple forward after nearly a season and a half.

4 out of 4 Toy balls, T-Spheres, or Kodo and Podo, take your pick.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

2 comments:

Mallena said...

I think this episode went to the top of my favorite Arrow episode list. It was exciting, fun, and romantic...yay! I don't ship Olicity as much as I just like seeing Oliver smiling and talking and opening up to someone instead of closing down. I do like a broody hero, I love Jessica Jones just the way she is, but I don't need Oliver to be dark and violent to enjoy this show. I also like The Flash when it is more lighthearted and fun. Some dark drama and intense plotlines are great, but not all the time. It doesn't matter to me if Oliver and Felicity stay together or not, I just don't like either of them frowning and being unhappy all the time. That's not enjoyable for me. They can decide to remain friends and care about each other and meet new partners, that would be fine. Just as long as their partners are not as boring as Felicity's late boyfriend and Susan.

Patryk said...

A very enjoyable episode especially the clearing of air (from methane :P) between Oliver and Felicity. Of course I'm sure the writers will find a way to split them up again in the future.

Another episode without Thea and I don't seem to miss her. Wonder what are the writers' plans for the character. Also no flashbacks, I for one can't wait to see Lian Yu one last time and the connection of the flashbacks to present day in the Pilot episode.

Evelyn was mentioned but noone is considering she might still be helping Prometheus? I hope we get closure on her soon.