Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Arrow, click here.
Your enjoyment of this episode of Arrow will largely depend on how much you like hallucination-based redemption stories. It’s a tried and tested narrative trope dating right back to A Christmas Carol, and it’s a frequent staple of superhero and fantasy TV shows. In fact, it’s not even a new gimmick for Arrow, as Season 2 episode “Three Ghosts” did a very similar thing. “Fundamentals” adds a couple of neat twists to the idea and benefits from a guest appearance by Adrian Chase (spoiled by both the credits and the ‘Previously on Arrow’ bit), but it’s a little unfocused in its overall execution and the end result is… well, let’s just say it’s open for debate.
The cold open for this episode is actually a flash forward. The job of any flash forward is to make you go ‘woah, how did we get here?’ and, as such, this is a pretty decent one. We see Oliver, in his Season 1 suit (complete with eye shadow), mounting a one-man assault on SCPD HQ, taking out dirty cops left, right and centre. However, it’s a trap, as Diaz is waiting behind closed doors, flanked by an army of heavily armed cops. As Oliver approaches their hiding place (like a surprise party, but with bullets), Diaz says “This is going to be fun” and we cut to the title page.
After the title page, a caption flashes up: 10 hours earlier. In the Arrow Cave, Felicity tells Oliver she’s figured out that Diaz visits SCPD HQ every night at the same time, as the CCTV cameras are always switched off at the oddly specific time of 10.13pm. Oliver decides he’s going to ambush Diaz and put an end to this whole thing. Felicity, quite rightly, thinks Oliver going up against an entire police department on his own is what one might charitably refer to as a bonehead play and she tries to fix it by parent-trapping Oliver and Diggle (i.e. calling them both and arranging a meeting without either of them knowing the other will be there), so they’re in the same room again. Needless to say, after Diggle quitting Team Arrow last week, it doesn’t go well. Oliver refuses Diggle’s help or advice. Diggle: “You keep that attitude up and you’re going to end up all alone.” Felicity: sad face.
Over at City Hall, Oliver is catching hell from Councilman Collins for firing the DA and Captain Hill. There’s going to be a city council meeting and Oliver realises he’ll need evidence that Hill and the DA were both compromised by Diaz. He heads home to his apartment (hereafter referred to as Queen Towers) to hang out with Felicity, William and Raisa. It turns out that it’s science fair day and William has cloned a cabbage. Is that a thing kids do these days? Clone cabbages? (Felicity: “For my science fair project, all I did was hack Napster.” William: “What’s Napster?”) Anyway, he’s got a cloned cabbage and he’s evidently very proud of it and hopes it will beat Sarah Epstein’s solar hot dog cooker. When Oliver arrives, Felicity has good news and bad news. The good news? She’s found the evidence that he was looking for. The bad news? Said evidence pretty much directly links Oliver to being the Green Arrow. (It’s not really clear how.) William picks a spectacularly bad moment to interrupt and Oliver angrily turns round to shout at him and accidentally smashes his cloned cabbage. William is understandably devastated – cloned cabbages don’t grow on trees, after all – and Felicity is mad as hell, so she kicks him out.
Oliver’s clearly not having a very good day. He heads to the Arrow Cave for a brooding session. Then Felicity shows up and tells Oliver they need time apart. What? Just because he smashed William’s cloned cabbage? But it was an accident! He’s got a lot on his plate right now! Doesn’t matter: Felicity’s made her mind up and says that angry man is not the man that she married. (It kind of is, but okay.)
Oliver’s still reeling from Felicity wanting a separation when Quentin stops by the Arrow Cave for a chat. The pair have a touching heart-to-heart conversation and Quentin sympathises, pointing out that by becoming a better person, he’s also becoming a different person and some people can’t handle that. Basically, he tells him to f**k the haters and concentrate on the upcoming city council meeting. He also suggests that FBI agent Samanda Watson (who we haven’t seen in ages) might be interested in the evidence too. This is actually a pretty great scene, cementing the father-son bond between Quentin and Oliver. It’s a pleasure to see how far these two have come over the course of six seasons and Paul Blackthorne (comfortably the show’s best actor) knocks it out of the park once again.
Oliver’s next visitor to the Arrow Cave is none other than Adrian Chase. Given that the ‘Previously on Arrow’ bit (hereafter referred to as “the previously” or “the previouslies”) showed Adrian blowing his own brains out, Oliver is understandably a bit taken aback. Adrian-slash-Prometheus launches straight into his familiar routine, goading Oliver into trying to kill him and so on and so forth. They have a knock-down, drag-out fight all over the Arrow Cave, which apparently ends when Oliver breaks Adrian’s back (cool moment – where was that move when we needed it last season?) and leaves him for dead (again) on the floor of the Arrow Cave. Except Adrian gets up and starts in on the taunting again. “You know Oliver,” he says, “You might just have to start considering the possibility that I’m just not killable.” But Oliver knows better. He sort of sighs to himself and concludes he’s hallucinating. (That’s not really how hallucinations work, but never mind.) He does a drug test on himself and discovers that he’s all hopped up on Vertigo, meaning Councilman Collins must have dosed him back at City Hall. Ergo: Councilman Collins is also working for Diaz. (For someone who’s tripping on Vertigo, Oliver is remarkably clear-headed.)
Anyway, Quentin calls, saying the super important city council meeting is about to start and where the hell is the Mayor. Oliver’s hilariously matter-of-fact reply: “Well, Collins dosed me with Vertigo and I’m dealing with it.” He practically shrugs as he says it, like it’s no big deal, just another day in the Hood, etc.. Then the drugs really kick in and when the lift doors open, Oliver finds himself in Queen Mansion (from Season 1), where he’s confronted by Season One Laurel. Adrian Chase is there too, basically acting as Oliver’s conscience, reminding him that Oliver eventually gets her killed. The hallucinations continue as Oliver turns around (now dressed in the Green Arrow costume) and sees Season 4 Laurel lying in the hospital bed where she died and complaining that she had to pay for Oliver’s mistake. Adrian keeps up the taunting (“Why did you let her become Black Canary in the first place? What, after a couple of self-defence classes and a few sparring sessions, you think she’s able to handle thugs and killers?”) and then Laurel turns into Rene (although still with his mask on, which suggests Rick Gonzalez wasn’t available to shoot the scene) and the argument between them flares up again. Once again, Rene attacked Oliver with – which is even shown in the brief flashback – and no-one even mentions the axe! Oliver’s repeated line is “I told you to stand down”, when it ought to be: “Dude! You attacked me WITH AN AXE!” Then, Hallucination Dinah and Hallucination Curtis show up to pile on the guilt about him not even visiting Rene in the hospital and Oliver leaves, only to find himself in his civilian clothes again and back in Queen Towers, where he comes face-to-face with a stabbed Raisa. Then Diaz shows up and stabs Oliver, at which point he passes out and wakes up back on the floor of the Arrow Cave, in a very cool overhead shot of his body that’s lifted from the poster for Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
He’s still tripping. though. His next hallucination is himself, in the Season 1 Green Arrow costume (from when he was still calling himself The Hood, hence that really rather good “just another day in the Hood” joke earlier that you might have missed). Season 1 Oliver chastises Season 6 Oliver for losing sight of “the mission” and thereby failing his city. Oliver takes this on board, and Season 1 Oliver says now, he knows what he has to do to get it back.
Apparently feeling much better, Oliver makes it to the oh-so-important meeting, over an hour late. Quentin says it’s a no from Samanda Watson, which means we won’t be seeing her this episode, either. (To be fair, a new season of GLOW is starting soon, so Sydelle Noel has probably been off shooting that.) Anyway, Oliver hands over the evidence and starts name-dropping Diaz as being behind everything but they want to know where he got the evidence and Oliver says it came from the Green Arrow. Everyone goes “Is that because you are the Green Arrow?” and Oliver starts getting a bit flustered, at which point Quentin pulls him out of the meeting for his own good. In a nice bit of direction, Adrian Chase is sitting behind Quentin in longshot in the background as they have this conversation, which means Oliver is still tripping on Vertigo. Although it seems like the council meeting really did happen. It’s a bit confusing, this Vertigo-induced hallucination stuff.
Anyway, it’s Adrian who convinces Oliver that the only way to beat Diaz is to take him down, hard, tonight, at the police station, as agreed.
This is where it all gets a bit confusing, because it seems even Oliver’s hallucinations are working for Diaz. Seriously, just because Diaz dosed Oliver with Vertigo, how does he know that the ensuing hallucinations will eventually lead him into Diaz’s SCPD trap?
At this point, the episode finally cuts away from Oliver’s point of view (although it has been refreshing to have an episode this streamlined for once), as a tracker on Oliver’s bow alerts Felicity to what he’s up to. She gets hold of Quentin to help her stop him, at which point we learn that Oliver hallucinated the whole thing about her breaking up with him. Fair play, Arrow writers – you had us there, though not without a certain amount of trickery, given that the Quentin-in-the-Arrow-Cave scene apparently did happen and wasn’t a hallucination, despite occurring immediately after the Felicity break-up scene. Sneaky.
Anyway, Felicity arrives at the police station in time to talk Oliver down, just as he’s about to walk into the trap we saw in the cold open. It’s kind of ridiculous that Diaz just stays behind the door the whole time, but there you go. Felicity gets through to Oliver and they escape via a grappling hook arrow – “Less talking, more escaping!” – as Diaz unleashes his horde of dirty cops.
Back in the Arrow Cave, Oliver has achieved a degree of clarity, thanks to his flurry of hallucinations. For some reason, he decides that the takeaway message from all this is that Hallucinatory Adrian Chase and Season 1 Oliver were right and that he has spread himself too thin over the past six years and he needs to get back to basics (or rather, the fundamentals of the title) and go it alone again. This apparently means without Felicity as Overwatch, which is just flat-out insanity. And yet, here we are. We’ll see how that works out in the coming episodes. There’s no time for discussion now, though, because Quentin arrives and turns on the news, where it transpires that the Star City council have voted to impeach Oliver and remove him from office. That means that Quentin is now the Mayor of Star City! Let’s hope he lasts longer than the 50 or so other Mayors that have died in the office before him (one of Arrow’s better running jokes before Oliver was elected).
That’s pretty much it for the episode. Oliver apologises to both Felicity and William for the cloned cabbage incident and the cliffhanger has Black Siren strolling into SCPD to meet up with Diaz, where he tells her that Star City is open for business.
All in all, this is a pretty solid episode that serves a useful purpose in cementing Oliver’s decision to go it alone. The question is: are we, the audience, meant to think that that’s a good decision? Do the writers think it’s a good decision? On the one hand, it’s fun to see Oliver doing everything on his own again and it serves as a nice throwback to Season 1, plus, no one would dispute that the Arrow Cave has been severely overcrowded of late. But on the other hand, the show has spent the previous five seasons drumming home just how much Oliver needs his friends and family around him – hell, that was the crux of how he was able to defeat Prometheus in the first place. Still, it’s a strong storytelling decision, and provided the season doesn’t end in a massive reset, with everyone back together and everything back to normal, it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here. In the meantime, come back next time for an unusually Diaz-focused episode called The Dragon.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– There’s a very sweet moment between William and Felicity, where he hands her a pair of running shoes as she’s about to rush off and save Oliver. It’s the little scenes like this that make all the difference on this show.
– William’s Flash backpack. Still a great visual joke, even when nobody mentions it.
– Some terrific acting this episode, not just from Amell (who has several on-the-verge-of-tears scenes) and Blackthorne, but also from Josh Segarra, who’s flat-out brilliant as Adrian Chase, making you wish he really was still alive after all.
– It was fun to see Oliver in the Season 1 eye-shadow instead of the mask again. Here’s hoping the producers will eventually release a short DVD extra / YouTube clip of an in-character Oliver putting his eye make-up on.
Arrow Season 6 is available on Sky 1 every Thursday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.
Photo: 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.