Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
What’s a bottle episode, you say? It’s an episode of a show that takes place predominantly on a single set, usually as a cost-cutting measure. Admittedly, this episode of Arrow Season 5 doesn’t take place entirely in the Arrow Cave, but it’s probably as close as the show is going to get. More importantly, the set-up allows for some necessary course correction and tying up of loose ends, as Arrow heads into its final three episodes of the season.
The plot is simplicity itself. Prometheus (who, yet again, does not appear in the episode until the cliffhanger) sets off an EMP in the Arrow Cave, which takes out the electronic implant that allows Felicity to walk. Realising that they’re trapped, Oliver and Felicity work together to try and find a way out, getting in some much needed unburdening while they’re at it.
The episode’s first major bit of course correction revolves around Felicity. Last episode felt frustrating because Felicity’s obsession with catching Chase had never really been explored. Here, having been rejected by Helix, she confesses to Oliver that she has some sympathy for his situation, because her desire for revenge for Billy’s death took her to a dark place, which lead to her involvement with Helix. On the surface, this seems like a rather hasty wrapping up of the Dark Felicity storyline, but on reflection, that’s probably a good thing. Clearly, the writers have something special in mind for the final three episodes, because this is by no means the only dangling subplot to get elbowed off-stage.
Next up is Oliver and Felicity’s trust issues, which are nicely illustrated when she warns him that the shaft is probably booby-trapped, he doesn’t listen and climbs up the shaft anyway, only to set off a booby trap and fall back down, injuring himself quite badly in the process. After that, he learns his lesson and listens to Felicity. Later, when Oliver is about to pass out from inhaling gas fumes, he confesses to Felicity about Prometheus messing with his head and getting him to confess that he likes killing people, and she makes him see that that’s not who he is. Basically, they both learn to back each other’s plays and trust each other in the future and it’s all nicely reinforced visually, by having Oliver literally carry Felicity to safety and so on.
It’s kind of a shame the episode couldn’t pull off a proper two-hander (it would have been a good excuse for a real-time episode too), but the stuff with Team Arrow is fun. There’s a nice contrast set up with the flashbacks (which we’ll get to later) that stresses the importance of working together as a team. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens: Rene, Curtis and Dinah quickly figure out that Oliver and Felicity are trapped in the Arrow Cave and they enlist Lyla and Diggle to help get them out. Pretty much everyone plays an equal part in the rescue (which is fun, but not quite as exciting or tense as it should have been), because, well, because teamwork, yeah?
That brings us to the episode’s other main bit of course correction. Last episode saw the worrying beginnings of a ruption between Diggle and Lyla that looked set to continue through the rest of the season. Quite apart from anything else (really, no Arrow fan wants to sit through Diggle and Lyla arguing every week), this was additionally egregious because Diggle was being a Massive Hypocrite, basically criticising Lyla for doing something he’d happily been doing himself (i.e. keeping someone in a black site prison) less than a season ago. Happily, it’s like someone in the writer’s room for this episode goes ‘Hang on…no…actually, that’s a terrible idea, let’s not do that…’ and Diggle actually apologises for being an arse (that’s not quite what he says, but that’s what he means), so everything’s fine again. Lyla points out that she’s only asking him to do what he unquestioningly does with Oliver (i.e. back her plays, as they keep on saying), and Diggle concedes. Basically, Lyla wins the argument, which makes a nice change, seeing as Diggle is usually positioned as the moral centre of the show. Oh, there’s also a bit where it turns out ARGUS have given Curtis’ balls a few tweaks without his consent, which Diggle is momentarily annoyed about, before thinking better of it and shutting up.
Speaking of Curtis’ balls, the T-spheres are deployed to magnificent effect once again this episode, playing a big part in the rescue, once Lyla gives Curtis his new balls (his old ones are in the Arrow Cave and have been knocked out by the EMP). It even turns out he’s named them, although that’s a video game reference that’s lost on us. Anyway, the main T-sphere highlight is when Curtis sends one of his balls down the shaft with an adrenaline shot for Oliver and Felicity just straight-up plunges it into his chest – before Curtis had finished his sentence – like she’d seen Pulp Fiction a million times. Amell’s comedy acting once he receives the shot is pretty great too, and a welcome bit of comic relief in an otherwise fairly gloomy episode.
Once again, there’s no Flashback City, but the flashbacks do make a return: we flash back to the Arrow Cave (if this happens again, we’re calling it Flashback Cave), 11 months previously, so just after the end of Season 4 and just before Oliver decides to recruit Team Arrow 2.0. The flashbacks involve Oliver and Felicity just hanging out, with Curtis commenting on the way they look at each other. Eventually, he brings them takeaway food and they end up doing some major league flirting that leads to full-blown Cave Sex. It’s not entirely clear whether the writers intend to resurrect the Oliver-Felicity relationship (hold off on those celebrations, Ollicity fans), because this could easily represent a sort of closure for the whole thing, but either way, it’s a rather lovely interlude that proves the pair of them still have chemistry to burn. It also ties in nicely to the main action, because their conversation is once again about trust, specifically Oliver not trusting Felicity with the truth about his son, William. All of which also plays neatly into the cliff-hanger, in which Prometheus approaches William (now called Matthew) as he gets off the school bus. Ruh-roh!
All in all, this isn’t the most exciting episode, action-wise (no fights, for one thing), but it does a great job of clearing the decks of some lingering emotional baggage in time for the run-up to the season finale. Tune in next time for – yes! – the long-awaited return of Thea Queen. And some other stuff.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune:
– The flashbacks also see the long-awaited return of the Salmon Ladder, including a rather saucy bit where Oliver helps Felicity do a chin-up. The flashbacks are pretty damn sexy all round this week, actually. Someone must have sent round a memo.
– Crushing disappointment of the week: Willa Holland’s name appeared in the credits, but Thea isn’t in the episode. We’ll just have to wait.
– No spoilers, but we’ve read the episode synopses for the final three episodes on the Internets and let’s just say we’re very excited.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.