On my podcast, I mentioned how watching Arrow for the past 4+ years is like dating a great woman. The first two years were amazing because the show was put together so well and frankly, you couldn't get enough week to week. This is also the point where you discovered that your girlfriend has a hot younger sister called The Flash.
Sure, your girlfriend's sister is fun to watch but really, you're devoted to Arrow. By the third year with Arrow, the first half started out good but things started to go downhill. This is when you start to say to yourself, "That Flash, Bro!" Arrow knows that you're watching The Flash; she's not stupid. This is when she suggests that she wants to bring back more of the magic from season two again and breaks out that sexy Deathstroke teddy. Sure you like the teddy but you've been down this road before. Are you done with Arrow?
Alright, enough of the girlfriend analogy but seriously, Arrow does not need to bring back Deathstroke in order to be good again. The show needs to do more shows like A.W.O.L.. For those who are not up to speed or haven't seen Arrow Season 4, Episode 11, "A.W.O.L." will be discussed so here is your...
Here are some high notes about this episode: Here are some high notes about this episode:
- Felicity (Overwatch, really?!?) is dealing with her paralysis by confronting her past
- Diggle and his brother Andy are working together
- There's a mention of Damien Darhk but no actual appearance
- Oliver is not taking center stage
- No flashback of the island (sort of)
Felicity is dealing with the new reality of being wheelchair bound. Ollie feels guilty over this but they both come to an understanding the Darhk is the one who is responsible. Still, Felicity has to overcome her has past with her Goth-look demon. (On a side note, Goth Felicity is much hotter than the blonde Felicity; I have issues.)
Looking over the episode, seeing both Felicity(s) just reminds us of how incredible talented she and generally underused. The Goth Felicity does show up to antagonize her present self but really serves to remind her of who she is and what she means to the Team Arrow. Finally, when 'Felicity Gets Her Groove Back', she directs the team's efforts. What was especially noteworthy was to hear Oliver/Arrow say "Where do you want me?" Felicity is the true brains of the operation. This episode to re-enforce why we love Felicity on the show.
Diggle for the most part has played back up to Oliver since Day One. One the rare occasions when Diggle gets to the shine, not only can he hold his own in combat but shows his leadership skills when leading the Suicide Squad on several missions. Lately, the big hangup lately for Diggle is the return of his brother for the past several episodes. In A.W.O.L., we see the backstory of the Diggle brothers serving overseas together and helps to solidify their relationship. Despite the fact that he was thought to be dead and later to be with HIVE, Andy was able to help save his big brother and his wife. Sadly, were many members of A.R.G.U.S. ended up dead including Director Waller; but is she really? Still, it was the wonderful moment toward the end of the episode where John presented his daughter to Andy as his niece. You can easily read the emotions on Andy's face as being very genuine.
Every year we get the big bad and this year, we get Damien Darhk. Neal McDonough has been one of my favorite character actors but I think that the less we see Damien the better. This is not to say anything negative towards the character but when we see Damien getting the upper hand in most meetings with Arrow, the lesser I see Damien as a villain for this season. We don't need to see him week to week to know that he is out there plotting against Team Arrow.
While Oliver is the main hero of the show, he knows that he can not do it alone. Team Arrow has been building over the years and this is where we find the strength of the show and its downfall. In season three, there were many episodes where Roy was just backing up Oliver and not having much else to do or say. Now that Thea (Speedy) has taken over the role, there's not much going on with her character. The brother and sister conflict between Oliver and Thea that was seen in the first couple of seasons have dried up. Laurel is another character that was out on the fringes of Team Arrow and was eventually brought in and took over the Black Canary role that belonged to her sister. Laurel had been in a love affair on and off between her Tommy and Oliver and continued a bit in Season Two.
In AWOL, Laurel was training with Oliver but it was apparent that he was still troubled with Felicity's situation. Since Laurel and Oliver had a past relationship, one would think this would be an opportunity for them to re-ignite their past. Thankfully, the writers were smart enough to not re-tread this area. Both Laurel and Oliver had both moved on to the point in their relationship where they are trusted colleagues. Laurel give Oliver some solid advice which he takes to heart which is refreshing and unexpected. Could this lead to further development between these two that is not of a romantic nature?
One of the committed storylines that has been placed throughout the series is Oliver’s time on the mysterious island called Lian Yu. Since the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit, this island became more than just a home for Oliver but transformed him into the person and hero we know today. The first two years of island storytelling helped to flesh out the storyline for Arrow and Deathstroke throughout the season and setup to have some substance. Many times, the villain or freak of the week story line gives the viewers an empty feeling when the protagonist is disposed of by the end of the episode. The island flashback kept building on the tension between till the end of Season Two and even then Deathstroke still lived. With Year 3 island storyline was another problem.
In Year 3, we had Oliver get away from the island for and work for Director Waller. For most of the season, there was very little to tie the island flashback to the events of Season 3. Frankly, it was getting in the way of an interesting first half in present day events with Ra's al Ghul. Sadly, with a lackluster season ender and Oliver ending up back on Lian Yu, I think we are done with this storyline, right? Wrong. We are in Year 4 and we still have another year to go of island storytelling next season.
What made this episode work was less island backstory. We do get to see Pike in this episode but only for the briefest of moment and his is talking with Andy. Just this moment alone worked on so many levels that if you had done more, it would have bogged down the episode. So, my advice to the writers of Arrow, less island backstory. Stop flashing back to the island during parallel action scenes. Less is more.
So, yeah. I love watching Arrow and this episode reminds me that there is still some great moments this show could have in the future. We love these characters because its not all about Arrow. Everyone needs to grow and relationship dynamics have to change as well to make the team more interesting. Bringing back a great big bad will only hamper the show in the long run. Remember how the Borg first appeared and terrified everyone at first. After the 'Best of Both Worlds' episode, the Borg were over used and became less threatening. So please, don't be bring back Deathstroke just work more on Team Arrow.