Warning: SPOILERS will follow!
Arrow season four begins with a flash-forward to a grim future. Then the writers press pause halfway through, with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) bleeding out in Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) arms. Arrow returns with anarchy, quiet literally, as Alexander Calvert returns to the fold as now masked villain, Lonnie Machin (AKA Anarky). After Damien Darhk’s (Neal McDonough) brutal attack on Felicity, it leaves her paralyzed from the waist down… yep, she’s not dead people! Oliver regresses back to a more “ The Hood” like persona; a very cold, self-justified assassin. Surprisingly, Oliver’s vendetta parallels further development between the Diggle sibling relationship and Thea (Willa Holand) wrestling with her bloodlust. Arrow episode ten, titled Blood Debts, is a fast-paced, action packed speed race against an impending dire future; whether our heroes realize that or not.
“I only burned his face off in a fiery pit of Lazarus rage,” says Thea after hearing about Lonnie Machin’s unsettling reappearance. Remove her on-again, off-again budding romance with Alex Davis (Parker Young) and I really like Thea’s story line throughout the episode. She endures a very guilt-ridden arc, blaming herself for not killing Damien back in episode seven, Brotherhood. In my previous post, Arrow 4B: Preview, Theories, & Spoilers, I speculate about Thea being used as the ultimate weapon against Darhk this season. Thea’s remarks about her bloodlust this episode only adds to my theory, “My bloodlust was better… almost completely gone.” Only an added bonus to having your sister kill (or neutralize) Damien Darhk on your behalf; sounds like a Malcolm Merlyn plan if you ask me. Thea becomes even more remorseful when Team Arrow cross-paths with escaped anarchist, Lonnie Machin. Back in episode two, The Candidate, the writers subtly create this hero-villian triangle, as Lonnie seeks vengeance against Darhk too, “He’s not responsible for what happened to my face, not directly, but incidentally.” Nope, only Thea is to blame for Lonnie’s disfigurement. The writers very discretely mirror Thea’s face off against Anarky, with Oliver and Damien’s brief duel; ultimately both Queen siblings allow their respective foe to escape. Apparently, Queens don’t always pay their debts.
“So you’re back to dropping bodies again,” asks Laurel (Katie Cassidy) as Oliver returns from another failed attempt at finding Darhk. Throughout this episode Laurel positions herself on the right side of the law; sadly staying on Team Smoak’s bad side. I believe the writers took this approach to her storyline in Blood Debts, to further depict Oliver’s return to his former self. The moments between Laurel and Oliver are very reminiscent to those they shared in season one. A little progress in Laurel’s overall arc is found, as she encounters her father’s current ladylove, Donna Smoak (Charlotte Ross) at the hospital. Now my question is, why does Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) continue to voice his concern about Laurel’s nighttime activities? I feel like Oliver needs to remind him about his other resurrected, deadly assassin daughter, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz).
“She needs you and right now I think you need her too,” explains the ever-insightful John Diggle (David Ramsey). The line that finally leads Oliver to Felicity’s bedside to a very bittersweet scene shared between the pair. Note, this is the first time he smiles in the episode. Now based on promos, I anticipated Dig’s desire to help Oliver pursue Darhk by any means necessary; including beating up his brother, Andy, for intel. His scene with Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) really hits home as an unexpected note regarding Dig’s current relationship with Andy (Eugene Bird). “Ever since you found out about what Andy did back in Afghanistan… you saw him as a traitor.” We also learn a little bit about Dig’s guilt about Andy’s present/past circumstance; considering he told him to enlist. Now the writers have my interest for next week’s Diggle-centric episode, AWOL, hopefully the soldier parallel is as poignant. Granted, these bickering siblings did provide us with this very significant comparison between two Team Arrow adversaries:
“You and him are talking, to burn the village down in order to save it. I get that Malcolm Merlyn was talking the same tune.”-John Diggle
The writers made this comparison, so that throughout the remaining episodes they can bring it to fruition, right? Last season, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) wanted Oliver to kill Darhk as part of a league tradition, wouldn’t Malcolm want the same? All I’m saying is there are multiple suspects in regards to the “he” Oliver bitterly refers to in the flash forward.
In the midseason premiere, Blood Debts, the writers truly flesh out a dynamic relationship contrast that has been nine episodes in the making. In the flashbacks we see Tiana (Elysia Rotaru) and Oliver get locked in an actual Chinese prison on Lian Yu, she tells him, “You’re a good man, my brother would have liked you”. Oh, the dramatic irony, considering Oliver killed her brother earlier in the season; an action that will cause they inevitable doom of this flickering relationship. Granted, everyone’s money should be placed on her being in the fourth grave on Lian Yu; shown back in The Return (3×14). Back in the present Oliver returns back to Felicity’s bedside as they joke about going back to Bali, a romantic escapade that seems to be threatened by Damien Darhk’s plan; or Oliver’s secret illegitimate son. The lightness in this moment is stark in comparison to Reva (Janet Kidder) berating her husband, Damien Darhk, for allowing the Green Arrow to live. The writers could have stopped the episode, relationship dichotomy drawn, now onto episode eleven. Nope, they want to reaffirm our understanding that episode ten is a turning point for #Olicity, redirecting them down a very dark path (pun intended).
“You know what you have to do, you have to kill this son of a bitch,” cries Felicity to Oliver, as he returns from paying his last respects at the grave. Pause, wait a second; she’s not wearing her engagement ring! Everyone calm down, they’re returning from a funeral, Felicity is Jewish remember? She’s setting shiva, or at least that’s what my #Olicity shipper heart wants me to believe, “for better, for worse.” Well the odds that it’s Donna Smoak’s grave just drastically went up, considering Felicity’s plea for Oliver to settle the score. These final two minuets in Blood Debts, really earn the writers a slow clap from me, because it provides us with both answers and questions; we still don’t know who “he” is in reference to Oliver’s grave speech. Ultimately the scene fleshes out a well-crafted relationship arc that stretches across the entire season.
Episode Rating: 8.5
Next week in AWOL, we’ll continue to see the physical repercussions form Darhk’s brutal attack, mentally unravel Felicity. The writers are slowly setting the stage for a father-daughter reunion to take place in episode twelve, Unchained; learn more in my Smoak theory article.
“In the wake of this injury, she’s going through a little bit of a dark time of her own; she’s questioning some of her earlier decisions and when she encounters that version of her old self, it’s going to be in a very emotional and grounded context about how she got where she got to with the team and working at Queen Consolidated and, like anybody would after going through a tragic event like that, really looking back at her life choices and doing some hard thinking and reevaluating.”-Wendy Mericle in an interview with Variety
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Editor’s Note: This week, the clear winner in my personal competition between Arrow and The Flash episode, was Arrow. The Flash ended its best romance to date while Arrow strengthened #Olicity. There’s no way watching The Flash slowly run towards The Turtle could come close to watching Green Arrow beat the hell out of a dozen ghosts trying to find Damien Darhk. Arrow was on a whole other level this week. The Flash will definitely compete next week though! Check out this week’s The Flash Zoom-In: Potential Energy for my column! - Everett