Warning: This contains spoilers.
We’re halfway through the season now, which is typically where things slow down a bit before the show begins gathering momentum for the finale. Hell, main villain Damien Darhk openly gave Oliver a couple of weeks off last week, so this week’s episode is mostly filler, wrapping up a few loose ends and spending quality time with two of the show’s key supporting characters.
Effectively, this is a Diggle episode, or rather a double Diggle episode, since Andy is finally let out of his cage, when he offers Diggle information about Shadowspire, yet another sinister paramilitary organisation who have surfaced in Star City and started torturing and killing Argus agents. It soon transpires that their leader is Lieutenant Joyner, someone Andy knows from their time in Afghanistan, which, in a welcome break from Flashback Island, becomes the focus of the flashback episodes this week.
When Joyner and his soldiers attack Argus HQ while Lyla is there, Diggle and the rest of Team Arrow spring into action, although they’re too late to save Amanda Waller, who gets perfunctorily killed off for no good reason, shot by Joyner in much the same way as one would shoot a hostage played by an extra to make a point. (Well, there is a reason – the character is set to feature heavily in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and the powers that be apparently decreed that she couldn’t co-exist in both properties at once, so out she went.)
Either way, it’s a frustrating ending for a frustrating character – we still have no idea what last season’s flashbacks were supposed to be about – who had a lot of untapped potential and deserved a better exit, at the very least. Still, we do enjoy Oliver and Lyla’s attempt to toast her memory, which gets interrupted by Felicity. “Remember that time she tried to take down the city with a drone strike? Good times.”
Meanwhile, in Flashback Afghanistan, not a lot happens beyond the Diggles bonding over blowing stuff up and Andy starting to get a little shady when he meets Joyner, although it is nice to see the Diggles in happier times, since their present day relationship mostly involves frowning, shouting and punching. Also, the flashbacks need to go out on a surprise ending of sorts, so we get Baron Reiter showing up on his way to Lian Yu (Flashback Island), thereby linking him with Shadowspire and presumably setting up either Reiter-related Season 5 shenanigans or him showing up in the present day towards the end of this season.
As for the Diggles, despite some double-bluff side-switching, it seems Andy is once again in the Diggle good books and he even gets introduced to his baby niece, Sarah, in a cute moment at the end. Whether that means the HIVE subplot is about to kick things up a notch is unclear, but, hey, at least he’s out of his cage.
The other main storyline this week revolves around Felicity dealing with her recent trauma after her (so far) life-changing injury. This involves her having hallucinations in which she is taunted by Goth Felicity, her black-haired, badass hacker self that we previously glimpsed in last season’s The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak. A nice idea, in theory, and a good way for Felicity to work through her mental anguish, but in practice, it doesn’t really come off, partly because we don’t know Felicity’s former self well enough to know what she really represents or what she’s trying to achieve. Still, it’s always nice to see Emily Bett Rickards given some fun stuff to do and she makes the most of it, with the highlight coming when she snaps at Goth Felicity while a confused Oliver is in the room.
If you’re a comics fan, the best moment in this episode comes when Oliver gives Felicity the codename “Overwatch”, adding, “I considered Oracle, but it was taken”. This is a reference to Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl), who performs much the same function in D.C. comics (for a variety of superheroes) as Felicity does on Arrow (i.e. hacking skills and wisecracks) after being crippled by the Joker in Killing Joke. So, this is either a) Oliver acknowledging that Batgirl exists in the Arrowverse, b) a cheeky in-joke, given the similarities between the characters, the fact that we’re obviously never going to see a Batgirl crossover and potential legal issues over using the name, or c) a set-up for a character with the same name that we might meet later. Either way, it’s a nice nod.
As for Oliver, he’s largely relegated to support this episode, along with Thea and Laurel, although he does have a nice scene with Laurel where he talks about how Barry time-travelled the other week to save them all from dying and how he fears Felicity’s injury is the timeline re-asserting itself. (It’s okay, Laurel, there’s no real way to react to that convincingly and you do the best you can under the circumstances.)
However, the scene is also interesting because it acknowledges that, in stark contrast to the more realistic first season, they now live in a comic book universe where multiple realities, time-travel, resurrection and meta-humans are all possible, which leads to Oliver giving Felicity (who has by now worked out her issues, thank you, and is firmly back on board Team Arrow, having banished Goth Felicity by burning her photo) the mother of all speeches, telling her that he’ll leave no fantastical avenue unexplored in his efforts to have her walk again. All of which means she’ll probably be up and about again sooner than we think, despite the hints in the flash-forward.
All in all, this is a watchable filler episode that doesn’t advance the main plot, but spends worthwhile time with its supporting cast and allows for some effective emotional moments. Shame about Amanda Waller, though.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.