Warning: This contains spoilers.
It may have its fair share of problems – two, in particular, spring to mind – but generally speaking, Lost in the Flood is an excellent episode of Arrow that could almost stand as the season’s finale, if it weren’t for the fact that Damien Darhk is still posing a threat come the cliff-hanger. The episode does a superb job of balancing all the elements that Arrow does best: family soap opera, high-stakes peril, laugh-out-loud humour and exciting action. The only problem with an episode this good (and this eventful) is that it seems extremely unlikely that they’ll be able to top it for the finale, but that’s an issue for next time.
As has happened a few times this season, to varying degrees of success, the story is effectively split into two different camps. Back at the temporary Arrow Cave (i.e. what’s apparently now Felicity’s apartment, although doesn’t Thea live there too?), Felicity and Papa Smoak (with Mama Smoak hovering over their shoulders) use their combined hacking skills to stop HIVE from activating any more nuclear weapons. Fortunately, this week someone remembers to let Curtis out of the plot cupboard, so he’s there too, offering witty commentary. His line to Felicity when he meets Noah (personality trait: hacking skills) and Donna (personality trait: ditzy wisecracks) is priceless: “Oh, you suddenly make SO much more sense now…” He also points out that seeing Noah and Donna bicker is like watching the two different sides of Felicity face off, which is the sort of inspired observation the show likes to throw in from time to time.
Despite Damien Darhk bringing in his own super-hacker from Felicity’s past (ex-boyfriend Cooper Seldon – not to be confused with The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper – remember him?), Team Smoak still manage to disable all the nukes, at least temporarily, which leads to happy faces all around. Shame about that nuke that destroyed that town last week and killed tens of thousands of people that was totally Felicity’s fault, right? Right? I mean, you’d expect Felicity to be pretty cut up about that, wouldn’t you, given that it only happened a few hours ago and is still on the news? But no, she is, to all intents and purposes back to her usual chipper, wise-cracking self this week, which is one of the episode’s aforementioned problems.
What makes the whole thing with the nuke worse is that for all the talk of gaining unimaginable power from the souls of the dead, Damien Darhk doesn’t seem significantly more powerful in any discernible way. So what was the point of it, if it’s not going to be used as a source of intense guilt for Felicity or for an actual purpose in the plot? The nuke going off already seemed like a bad idea last week and tonight’s episode just confirms it, with the writers seemingly unsure of how to handle the literal fall-out and choosing to ignore it instead.
The Family Smoak drama takes another turn when Donna reveals to Felicity that actually, Noah didn’t leave them – she left him, taking Felicity with her for her own safety. Felicity reacts remarkably well to this news, considering her issues with lying to loved ones, and she largely forgives her mother, which is sweet. There are some great lines in this sequence too, such as this exchange between Donna and Felicity: “When I get stressed, I like to fold my clothes.” “Yeah, when you guys were getting divorced, it was like living at the GAP.”
Donna’s difficult to read during the scenes where Noah and Felicity are effectively bonding. Sometimes, it looks like she’s falling back in love with him, because of seeing his obvious love for their daughter (and her guilt over taking her away from him), and sometimes, it seems like she’s genuinely worried by their increased closeness. At any rate, once the world is (temporarily) saved, she asks Noah to leave, for Felicity’s sake, and he does. All this is handled with an air of mystery, as if there’s something quite big that they haven’t told her. I don’t trust the writers to know what that is at this point, but no doubt we’ll see more of the Family Smoak next season.
Meanwhile, everyone else is down in the Theadome. (Darhk’s Arhk – okay, dome – is actually called Tevat Noah, but as there’s already a character called Noah who apparently has nothing to do with the dome – OR DOES HE?, etc. – I’m going to stick with calling it the Theadome.) Anarky is still at large and he targets Darhk Wife and Darhk Daughter (who, unless I’m mistaken, hasn’t actually spoken all season) with deadly results. At the same time, Oliver and Diggle penetrate the dome and come looking for Thea, but she’s been brainwashed by Malcolm (again – seriously, Malcolm badly needs to get some new material). Malcolm even forces brainwashed Thea to kill someone she loves (Oliver) again, which may well be a deliberate echo of when Brainwashed Thea killed Sara, but it feels like the show lacking imagination and re-hashing old plots instead.
Speaking of Malcolm, he has an absolutely terrible haircut this week. What on earth is up with that?
Anyway, Thea and Oliver have a pretty great fight on the lawn before Oliver manages to, um, talk Thea out of being brainwashed, even though Andy’s self-same brainwashing seemed more or less permanent. Maybe Thea only took one yellow brain-washing pill, whereas Andy was hoovering them up like Skittles? Yeah, that’s probably it. At any rate, Thea effectively neutralises Malcolm and Oliver admits that, yes, he should probably have killed Malcolm back when he had the chance, but now that he’s here, he might as well make himself useful, and would he mind leading a load of dome-dwellers to safety, once everything goes boom?
Speaking of the Theadome, while they’re hiding from gun-toting HIVE goons (before Thea’s rescue), Oliver and Diggle make a potentially interesting discovery, namely that not all the dome-dwellers have been brainwashed and some of them have actively chosen to be there because, basically, the world (and Star City) have gone to hell in a hand-basket. On the one hand, this serves an important purpose, because Oliver realises he needs to inspire hope in the people again, but on the other, it doesn’t really work, because it’s already been established that large numbers of dome-dwellers have been brainwashed. How were the ones that needed to be brainwashed chosen? Lottery? Random stabbing at names in the phone book? And how did HIVE recruit all the devotees to the dome cause in secret? Facebook page? Yeah, it doesn’t really bear thinking about all that closely, so let’s move on.
To be fair, the superlative action sequences this week more than make up for any flaws in the plot. As with last week’s episode, the decision to have the fights take place in daylight feels like a proper breath of fresh air (even if both that air and the “daylight” are generated by the Theadome). In particular, Oliver and Diggle’s running battle with HIVE goons through a series of suburban gardens allows for what is possibly my favourite action moment of the season (and possibly the entire series), when Oliver basically jumps, twists and fires an arrow mid-way through crashing through some bushes. It’s all the better for being an almost throw-away moment (we don’t see who the arrow hits, for example), but it’s utterly delightful. That shot is almost certainly a gif by now, so by all means go and trawl Arrow Tumblrs for it – it’s totally worth it.
As for Anarky (aka Lonnie Machin), he injects a much-needed note of unpredictability, effectively handing Darhk a much bigger defeat than anything Team Arrow have come up with all season. Despite Oliver and company’s best efforts, Anarky kidnaps and threatens the lives of both Darhk Wife and Dark Daughter (why Damien doesn’t immediately come to their rescue isn’t entirely clear – he has his hands full trying to get the nukes back online or something), before ultimately killing Darhk Wife (the same way Damien killed Laurel) and making good on his promise to blow the dome to smithereens. And all because Damien wouldn’t let him join HIVE? At least Anarky is upfront about his out-of-proportion revenge, telling Darhk Wife: “I’m sorry, did I leave you with the impression that I’m a rational guy?”
Alexander Calvert’s performance invests Anarky with an enjoyably manic, trickster-like energy – the character has effectively improved with every appearance – so it’s good that he escapes at the end, and no doubt we’ll be seeing more of him. However, that doesn’t alter the fact that the show basically fridges (Google it) Darhk Wife, just to give Damien Darhk an extra level of burn-the-world anger in time for the season finale. It’s particularly disappointing, because Darhk Wife was an intriguing character who was consistently under-used – if ever she had plans beyond Genesis, and it certainly seemed like she did, then we never found out what they were. Also, on a more personal note, I enjoyed Janet Kidder’s performance (fun fact: she’s Margot Kidder’s niece, which is a lovely little D.C. connection in and of itself) and I’m sorry to see her go.
So, with the dome going boom and everyone escaping (Malcolm does indeed make good on his promise to shepherd the dome-dwellers to safety and watching him do it is kind of amusing, because you sense he doesn’t really want to), Genesis is effectively in ruins (so yay for Team Arrow, I guess?) and there’s a big hole in the middle of Star City to prove it. What with the explosion and the dome collapse, this feels like a proper season finale moment, but no, Damien Darhk’s still alive, so the cliff-hanger has him barging in on Felicity, Curtis and Donna and threatening to kill them. Except, again, ‘help me kill everyone in the world or I’ll kill your loved ones… who are all going to die, if you help me anyway’ isn’t really much of a bargaining position. You get the feeling Damien Darhk hasn’t really thought this through.
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, Taiana gets more and more possessed by the idol and starts speaking in an accent that’s even weirder than her usual accent, as her eyes glow yellow. Still, she does get Oliver to promise to visit her family in Russia, if she doesn’t make it off the island alive. Presumably, that’s where we’ll be going for next season’s flashbacks. So there’s that to look forward to. (Remember way back in Season 1, where Oliver revealed he could speak Russian and had contacts in the Russian Mafia? At least it’s nice that they haven’t forgotten that).
All in all, this is a genuinely exciting, nicely paced episode of Arrow that delivers handsomely in terms of action, humour and character drama, even if some of the plotting is a bit wobbly. Join us next week for the season finale!
– A rather splendid bit of trivia from Alasdair Wilkins at The A.V. Club, who points out that the second-to-last episode of each season is always named after a Bruce Springsteen song. No idea why that is, but it’s a cute little tradition they’ve upheld for four seasons so far.
– Line of the show goes to an understandably exasperated Felicity, who exclaims “I am not pregnant! Is that the only news a woman can have?” when she says that she has something to tell Noah and Donna. It’s an excellent point. You go, girl, etc.
– A slow week for Quentin, who’s basically left guarding the Arrow Cave, where absolutely nothing is happening. He does get one of the show’s best self-aware lines though: “Starling City’s under attack? It must be May.”
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.