Arrow Re-Nocked: A.W.O.L. (4×11)
“Hey, I’ve seen that symbol before,” says Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), after Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) debriefs the team on Shadowspire, an elite criminal organization with ties to the U.S. army; and the Diggle family. Arrow, episode eleven “A.W.O.L.”, finally connects the past to the present; literally for our wheelchair bound hero, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). The writers are able to smoothly transition from the Diggle sibling reconciliation, to Felicity’s battle with herself. There are no island flashbacks this episode; instead we observe the fragile relationship between John (David Ramsey) and Andy (Eugene Byrd) beginning to fracture under the appeal of dirty war profiteers (Shadowspire). Again this is almost an island-free Arrow episode, until Lieutenant Joiner (Erik Palladino) sells Baron Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) the map “to a place with immeasurable power… a place known only by one name, Purgatory”. I can’t help but wonder about what Baron Reiter is searching for on the island? Theoretically he could be trying to find the very mother box that Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) had in “Brotherhood”(4×7); suddenly the flashbacks become vital to the second half of the season.
“So exactly how many evil organizations are you associated with? I’m beginning to lose count,” yells Diggle as he confronts Andy in his holding cell. Well, technically if we learn that Baron Reiter is in league with Damien Darhk, then it’s all one big HIVE. Again, following “Blood Debts”(4×10), the writers continue to flesh out Diggle’s relationship with his brother in the best possible way; through progression. Two episodes gradually showing them begin to trust one another again. Andy led them to Darhk, now Diggle begrudgingly fights alongside him to save Lyla. Now I’m not entirely convinced that Andy should be let out of his cell. In this episode he says, “You saw the world as something to be fixed, I only saw it as broken”, basically Darhk’s worldly perspective “So I made sure, I had enough to survive in it”. I keep giving praise to the writers for cleverly repairing this relationship to kick off the second half, but they also could be setting up Diggle’s demise. Both Oliver and Felicity’s reactions in the flash-forward support Diggle’s death, but I am not sold on Andy’s part in this theory. There’s a bigger payoff for viewers if Oliver resolves to kill either Damien Darhk, or Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), or even Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett); after the team suffers a major loss.
“The rail guns were a distraction then. ARGUS is the endgame.” says Andy to his brother; unfortunately Dig can be just as stubborn as Oliver sometimes. He ultimately doesn’t trust his brother’s information and sends the others to intercept the rail guns shipment. Perfectly setting up Lieutenant Joiner to infiltrate ARGUS and order Amanda Waller to give him the codes to “Rubicon”. During the third act with Lyla and Amanda being held hostage, the writers feature another distrustful relationship between these two ancillary characters. Last season they had a falling out, but begrudgingly they still share an understanding; similar to the one Lyla shares with Oliver. “Amanda Waller doesn’t make decisions based on the value of human life.” says Lyla, prompting Lt. Joiner to kill Waller. Well, I certainly did not expect to see Amanda Waller die in this episode; maybe it’s because Viola Davis will take on the role in the upcoming film, Suicide Squad? Last season Deadshot (Michael Rowe) gave his final bow in “Suicidal Tendencies” (3×17), another character heading towards DC’s cinematic universe.
“Overwatch… I was going to go with Oracle but it’s already taken.” says Oliver to Felicity over the comm. Felicity has a code name, but more importantly she’s not going to wallow in self-pity on the sidelines anymore. The writers do a good job pulling story threads forward from “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” (3×5), as she struggles to find her superhero-strength. The story line begins with Oliver carrying her down the stairs in their apartment. Then he literally points to her “super power” (her brain), the very thing that she’s losing throughout the episode as she begins to hallucinate her past self. The inability to trust oneself connects Felicity’s small arc to the larger plot lines in this episode. Emily Bett Rickards was superb acting against herself, alone in the loft. Her standout moment comes, while trying to pay attention to Oliver’s pep talk, as goth Felicity continues to taunt her. I also appreciate how the writers continue to stress Felicity’s importance to the team, even though she’s not the typical masked vigilante found within this genre. More importantly, Felicity Smoak’s character illustrates to young female viewers that you can be both intelligent (even nerdy) and still get the guy.
Amell and Rickards continue to shine in their scenes together, balancing light humor while hitting strong emotional beats to emphasize their partnership. Last week, we saw them be distant in the flash-forward clip and Felicity is no longer wearing her wedding ring, but they’re still by each others side in the limo. I especially adore the finale scene with Felicity burning an old picture of herself “I just want my past to stay in the past.”. Well if my Arrow 4B Smoak Theory is correct, then she’ll find herself confronting the past once again in “Unchained” (4×12). “We watched a friend of ours come back from the dead. That is the world that we live in now and I will not stop searching it until we find a way to make you walk again”, explains Oliver in the closing bedroom scene. I wonder if Laurel (Katie Cassidy) told Oliver about Nyssa destroying the Lazarus pit during her last trip to Nada Parbat? Either way he’s definitely going to need an assist in trying to find a cure for Felicity’s spinal injury. One Lazarus pit may be gone, but there’s bound to be a few others in this expanding universe; or some sort of anti-life equation… just a theory. Oliver may even have to return to Purgatory for a cure, because remember it’s a place with “immeasurable power”.
Tweet me your Arrow 4B theories @sjbelmont
Editor’s Note: In my weekly competition between The Flash and Arrow, both shows tied again this week. With the poetic end to #PattyBarry and the return of The Reverse-Flash going up against intense Diggle drama and Felicity becoming a hero in her own right, both shows get a full point. Check out my review of this week’s The Flash in my The Flash Zoom-In: The Reverse-Flash Returns (2×11) article! – Everett