Arrow Re-Nocked: Unchained (4×12)
“First Sara, Ray, then John’s brother. Who’s shocking return can we look forward to next?” quips Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). Arrow, episode 12 is a well constructed wind-up, chock full of old faces and final third act turns. Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) returns to Star City, bringing with him both The Calculator (Tom Amandes), to face off against Felicity, and more guilt for Oliver (Stephen Amell) to shoulder. In both the present day and the flashback story arcs, Oliver attempts to work through his guilt. Really, “Unchained” begins and ends with Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) making moves to remove Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) from The League of Assassins once and for all. I really enjoyed the drive found throughout this story, it’s an even mixture of filler and character progression. The Arrow writers continue to move the central plot forward, even in an plot that contains more than one ghost from Team Arrow’s past.
“You need to forgive yourself for what you’ve done,” explains Shado (Celine Jade) to Ollie during a flashback vision sequence. Finally, the flashbacks were both surprising and engaging… for about one scene. Baron Reiter (Jimmy Akingbola) is shot dead with an arrow to the heart, by a hooded, Shado. What the heck is happening? “You’re having a vision, the results of your injuries,” well that exposition kills my interest in the flashbacks, yet again. Granted, I appreciate the foreshadowing done in this episode as Shado convinces Oliver to tell Tiana (Elysia Rotaru) the truth about her brother’s death. I wonder if Shado will need to appear in another vision, set in present day, for Oliver to tell Felicity about the real reason he’s traveling back and forth from Central City. Not to spoil anything, but I predict that Ruve Adams (Janet Kidder) will reveal his secret during the mayoral debate in episode 14.
“We took out the contact, made it look like we killed you. You’re safe,” explains Oliver to Roy, after he shoots him with a tranquilizer arrow. Interesting choice of words, considering Roy’s in hiding after posing as The Arrow and faking his own death “Broken Arrow” (3×19). I remember learning about Colton Haynes return to the show, back in the fall, and feeling uncertain about what purpose his character’s return could potentially serve; guilt, specifically Oliver’s for past decisions. This is truly the first Oliver-centric episode we’ve had since the hiatus. The midseason premiere, “Blood Debts,” focused more on his relationship with Felicity; then they focused on Diggle (David Ramsey) in “A.W.O.L.”. Oliver still blames himself for both Felicity and Thea’s present conditions, so the writers cleverly bring back Roy Harper, to really stir up our Green Arrow’s guilty conscience. “I’m the one who brought this maniac into your lives,” states Arsenal after stepping up to stay behind and manually set off The Calculator’s “web nuke.” Roy outruns the blast and Felicity systematically enables him to go back into hiding. Roy shares a tearful goodbye with Thea and leaves town, while the “maniac” he brought with him stays behind for small family reunion.
The Calculator is Felicity Smoak’s absentee father! A reveal that’s been subtly hinted at for seasons, considering who his daughter is in the comics. To learn more, read my “Smoak Theory” article! “There’s two Felicitys, Felicity… the one in the boardroom whose wheelchair makes her doubt herself, and this Felicity… a brilliant force of nature,” says Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum); yes he’s in this episode too. After that speech, I speak on behalf of #TeamSmoak to say it’s been too long. I really appreciate the writers subtly in identifying Felicity as an unmasked hero; fully equipped with both a superpower and duel identity. There have been a lot of theories about how Curtis’ technological innovations could be the cure for Felicity’s paralysis; “Unchained” disproves this theory. Basically, since “The Candidate” (4×02) he’s been working on building a recyclable battery. A power source substantial enough for The Calculator’s “web nuke.” Anyone else notice Curtis’ moves while fighting Roy? Yep, he could definitely be a future Star City hero too; he just needs to get rid of the bugs in those T-Sphere prototypes. I hope that writers have written down my order for more Curtis Holt and Papa Smoak; note Guest Star Tom Amandes will be appearing in next week’s episode “Sins of the Father.”
Last week, I reported on some speculation regarding Malcolm Merlyn’s upcoming rematch fight with Oliver Queen (Arrow 4B Merlyn Spoiler). Well, “Unchained” certainly triggers this upcoming duel. Throughout the episode the writers insert key scenes featuring Nyssa al Ghul, The League of Assassins, and even Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana (Rila Fukushima). After Nyssa escapes from Nada Parbat, she cross-paths with Tatsu, now associated with The Crescent Order. After engaging in an evenly matched sword fight, Nyssa convinces Tatsu to help her secure “The Lotus,” because her mission concerns Oliver Queen. The same Oliver Queen who contemplates working through his guilt by making a deal with Damien Darhk… but this season is all about “doing things differently”(4×02). He decides not to make a deal with Darhk in an attempt to help relieve Thea’s now life threatening bloodlust, instead he listens to Malcolm Merylyn’s advice, “it’s her life, her choice.” She didn’t have a say when Oliver used The Lazarus Pit to save Thea’s life; a choice that forced him to join the league and marry Nyssa. Thea falls into a coma and once again Oliver finds himself at her bedside in the hospital. “My father told me of an elixir known as The Lotus, capable of countering the effects of The Lazarus Pit,” explains Nyssa after stepping out of the shadows during the final scene. Well, Nyssa apparently did learn from Malcolm about how to make an entrance, or maybe it’s a skill all League of Assassin members are taught. Oliver chose not to make a deal with Darhk to save Thea’s life, but can he really pass up Nyssa’s deal? “I want you to kill Malcolm Merlyn.” Okay… well there is some fine print attached to her offer. Based on the “Sins of the Father” trailer it looks as though we’ll finally see the rematch three seasons in the making take place next episode… “Let’s finish this.”
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Editors Note: Thanks to Sarah for guest authoring Arrow Re-Nocked this week. Sarah’s also guest authoring The Flash Zoom-In: Fast Lane (2×12) as well and she gave the point in the weekly The Flash vs Arrow competition to Arrow! With The Calculator and Roy Harper making an appearance, this week’s Arrow just barely nudged out The Flash and it’s West Family-centric episode. – Everett