Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Arrow 3x10 "Left Behind" (It Hurts Hardest For the Ones Who Remain)

"Left Behind"
Original Airdate: January 21, 2015

"A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning yearning for the fool it called a home. [...] And it whistles through the ghosts still left behind." - Spring Awakening

Are you the connecting thread in your group of friends?

There's a moment in New Girl'second season where two characters named Winston and Schmidt realize that their friend Nick is their connecting thread. Whenever the three men are together, everything is natural and easy -- they joke and laugh and enjoy each others' company. Winston is Nick's friend from childhood and Schmidt his friend from college. But in one particular episode ("First Date"), the two men vocalize the fact that as soon as Nick leaves the room, awkwardness ensues between the two of them. They don't have anything to talk about except Nick and he provides a kind of buffer for them during conversations and activities. That's because Nick is Schmidt and Winston's connecting thread -- their glue -- and without him... they really have no friendship with one another. He truly is their only common ground.

Oliver Queen is the connecting thread of Arrow. Without him, Laurel would have no reason to interact with Diggle or Roy or Felicity and vice versa. Without Oliver, there is no "them." He is the reason Felicity and Diggle are friends; he is the reason Roy has a purpose; he is the reason for it all -- for the lair and the heroism and all of the fights and victories. Felicity says it best "Left Behind" when she tells Diggle and Roy that "there is no this [foundry] without him." When connecting threads leave friendships either momentarily or permanently, awkwardness can ensue... if you happen to be in a sitcom. But Arrow isn't a sitcom. When Nick left the apartment in the episode "First Date," shenanigans and hijinks occurred between Schmidt and Winston. When Oliver left, there was only stillness, sadness, pain, and genuine confusion over how to proceed. A loss hurts the hardest for those who remain, after all.

In "Left Behind," Oliver Queen is dead and Diggle, Roy, Felicity, and Laurel don't quite know how to proceed. How do you go on when the person who gave you purpose -- the one whose life drew you all together and made you a team -- is gone? 

How do you move forward when you are left behind? 

That's the question that the team struggles with during this episode and it's a question that isn't meant to have an easy or quick answer. It's also not a question that has the same answer for everyone. Grief does things to people. Remember what I said in my review of "Sara"? Grief does not change you. Grief reveals you. And in "Left Behind," a lot is revealed not just about these characters themselves but of the impact Oliver Queen had on their lives.

Team Arrow (Diggle/Felicity/Roy; Oliver/Felicity)

It's a bold move to kill off the main character of your series. But it's an even bolder move to kill off the main character of your series with your audience knowing he or she will eventually return from the dead. That's the thing though about "Left Behind" -- the audience is in on the secret that Oliver Queen will return, but the characters are not. That, too, is a bold move to take. In some ways, letting an audience in on a secret that the characters within the show's universe are not privy to is dangerous when it's on a scale of this magnitude. Why, you may ask? Simply because it's very easy under these circumstances for audience members to emotionally disconnect from characters. This is something that could very easily be a stumbling block -- we distance ourselves unconsciously from a character's grief or their pain because WE know the truth. We know that Oliver isn't dead and we aren't grieving like they are. And so, it's slippery to create this kind of construct because the only way to bridge the gap between this disconnect is if you provide the audience with such a compelling story and equally compelling characters that your audience doesn't notice the gap in the first place. Once you give the audience a reason to care about a character's grief, regardless of the fact that the audience member him or herself isn't grieving with that character, you create a solid storytelling construct. You create a bridge.

"Left Behind" is that bridge.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm genuinely interested in seeing how Arrow boosts its supporting characters and their stories in the wake of Oliver Queen's death. When you cut the tie that binds you all together, what, exactly, happens? As we see in this episode, clearly, what happens is everyone deals with the loss of Oliver in their own way. Felicity's automatic reflex is denial. And, of course, we would expect this from the blonde. She's consistently hopeful. She's consistently optimistic. And even when Malcolm questions her, even when Diggle tries to gently tell her that he believes Oliver to be dead, the young woman still clings to the idea that he's not. And she does this, of course, because she cannot bear to lose someone she loves. Not again. I can guarantee that the conversation echoing in her memory is the one she had with Oliver in "Heir to the Demon." You know the one: where he gently grasped her shoulders, looked her in the eye and said: "Hey. You're not gonna lose me."

Felicity has to believe that Oliver would never break a promise to her because he never has before. And here's the kicker: the "I love you" was also a promise, I think, in her mind. It was an unfinished conversation. It was Oliver getting his affairs in order. I talked in my review of "The Climb" and debated (friendly debating because you guys are really, really smart) whether or not that confession was Oliver believing he wouldn't return/Felicity knowing he wouldn't return. I still hold fast to the belief that he knew he probably wasn't coming back and that would be the only time he could utter those words to her because they were very likely the LAST time he would be able to. And I noted that Felicity hearing the "I love you" was the realization for her that Oliver believed there was a chance he wouldn't return.

And still... the "I love you" was a promise spanning past, present, and future. For Oliver, this was everything and it was final. It was "I have loved you." It was "I love you." And it was "I will love you." But the most painful thing is that Felicity never had the opportunity to respond to the promise. Think about all of the times Olive has made promises in her company. She's always gotten a say in them, or at least a response. She makes him promise things to her face. But the moment he makes his promise in "The Calm," he's gone the next and Felicity doesn't have a chance to respond. Part of the grieving process is denial -- denial because you're not ready to let go; denial because you simply didn't have enough time. For Felicity, the denial exists because she never got to return that promise.

Felicity spends a vast majority of her time in "Left Behind" living in denial that Oliver is actually dead. And when the evidence is presented to her -- indisputably so by Malcolm -- the young woman finally processes her grief. And she becomes angry. And protective. And slightly irrational. Dig and Roy have been tracking criminals in the Glades and their ringleader. When the team discovers that Danny "Brick" Brickwell is stealing evidence files of those convicted of more violent crimes, they also decide to follow him and put an end to his plan. Things go awry, however, when Diggle comes face to face with Brick in combat and Roy is threatened as well. That is when Felicity makes the executive decision to open a door and let the criminals escape. Back at the lair, Diggle and Roy are irate when they discover what she did.

But it's true to her character and utterly painful to listen to her justification: she couldn't stop Oliver from leaving. And she couldn't save him. She was not about to watch Dig and Roy die -- two more people she cared about -- and sit by idly while it happened. I think that it's going to be interesting to watch Team Arrow's grief continue to unfold over the next few weeks. I don't think I ever would have anticipated Dig and Felicity's grief to be paralleled, and yet it was in this episode. Roy's grief is internalized, much like Laurel's, at this point. Both Arsenal and Canary are hurting, no doubt, but both are more emotionally closed-off than Dig and Felicity. And interestingly enough, Dig and Felicity both blame themselves for not being able to keep Oliver safe in the end. (The most heartbreaking Diggle moment comes when he confesses to Laurel that he still thinks of himself as Oliver's bodyguard and in the end, he couldn't protect his best friend. It's such a raw and painful moment and one that is so beautiful for David Ramsey whose acting is top-notch.)

That's what Team Arrow was all about: they were in the vigilante business because of Oliver. They always protected each other because Oliver brought them together. Without him... it's not right. But it's more than just not feeling right. For Felicity, she realizes that the thing they're doing is dangerous. When Oliver was around (as Laurel asserts earlier in the episode), the team almost felt... invincible. Like Oliver had beaten death so many times and that made them stronger as a team because of it and because of HIM. But now? Now with Oliver actually and truly gone, Felicity realizes that nothing about their job is safe and that she's been lying to herself when Oliver was there trying to believe that it was. That's where we pick up her conversation with Ray Palmer in this episode.

(Momentary derail: Ray may be terrible, but Felicity wasn't right to tell him what Anna would have wanted. It's a pet peeve of mine, really, when people talk about your loved ones as if they knew them. The truth is that you shouldn't tell me, for example, what my grandfather would have wanted -- you didn't know him and it's not within your right as a person to pretend you were close to him and knew the nuances of his personality. Obviously I don't place huge fault on Felicity for two reasons: 1) Ray has done much worse and been much more invasive to her and 2) The woman is grieving and she says a lot of things in this conversation that are out of anger.)

Felicity is angry and she's hurt and she is trying so hard in "Left Behind" to fight off the reality that Oliver is gone because he can't be. He cannot leave her without letting her finish the promise. And she's mad at Diggle and Roy and Ray and life for being so cruel as to take the first great love of her life away from her (Cooper) and now to take the man she loves so deeply away from her as well. Felicity essentially tells Ray that nothing he ever does -- no machine he builds or amount of money he earns -- will ever bring Anna back. When people are gone, they're gone forever, she nearly spits at him. There's so much pain in this moment for her because her future has been ripped out of her hands again and the part of Felicity that was dark and hurt when she was in college resurfaces again. We've seen Felicity this season already have to deal with reality without an angle of hope when Sara died. I think that's the most painful part of this episode for me, really: extinguished is the hope that Felicity always held onto for Oliver to return safely to her. When you take away that hope from someone whose foundation is one of optimism, you see the rawness of pain and despair.

What I really did love though was Felicity's final conversation with Ray: she told him that someone she was with died and before that, a friend of hers did too. Felicity then notes that she doesn't have the power to stop people in life from doing what they want to do. They can make their own decisions... but she will not sit by and be forced to watch anymore. Essentially, she tells Dig and Roy the same thing earlier after learning of Oliver's death -- she tells them that the reason she made the call to save their lives and let the criminals escape was that she couldn't bear to watch the people she loved die without trying to save them. Felicity couldn't save Oliver, even though she desperately wanted to. And she will have to live with that until he returns.

I really and truly loved seeing all of the layers of grief present and so truly believable in Felicity this episode (denial, anger, sorrow, acceptance, bargaining) and also in Diggle as well. It's clear at this point that Team Arrow is struggling to figure out who or what they are without Oliver. Are they just a group of people who put their lives at risk to save others? Do they have a higher calling? What are the now willing to risk in Oliver's absence? Is Felicity right -- is there no "them" without him? Was she right in choosing to save her friends over catching the bad guys? Was Diggle right when he said that in order to survive in the business they were in, they needed to trust each other? And, ultimately, is that even possible with Oliver gone? Doesn't someone need to make a final call?

(Aside: The Hong Kong flashbacks didn't tie in as well this episode as they often do. Oliver and Maseo are given a task by Amanda Waller to break into a government facility and extract a vial called Alpha. Maseo is upset because Tatsu is abducted and Waller doesn't care about her -- she cares about the mission. We hear her talk about how to protect loved ones -- by being cautious and protecting yourself first. At the end of the episode, Oliver reveals to Maseo a way that they were going to get Tatsu back and the man expressed his gratitude by talking about how he is indebted to Oliver. Like I said above: the flashbacks this episode weren't extremely relevant except for this idea of being cautious in order to save the people you care about. It appears that since Oliver is alive in present day thanks to Maseo and Tatsu, he may have to put those words into practice.)

I'll let you ponder all of those questions and more while I sob into a pile of tissues over here.

Malcolm (+ Thea)

Malcolm is becoming such a delightfully evil and manipulative villain. He's a snake and he's not trustworthy but he's also not a liar when it matters. That last part is important because though Malcolm Merlyn may be a killer and he may be ruthless and he may be terrible, he also is truthful about important things like Oliver being dead. Less important things he is truthful about? Oliver being dead. Oh, right. To Thea.

Honestly there isn't a whole lot to say about this story. I've heard lots of enraged comments about Thea's agency being stripped from her and really I think Thea to be extremely interesting this season not because she has a lack of agency but because she thinks she doesn't. Thea is a puppet and a pawn to Malcolm, but the young woman truly believes that she is stronger because of her father's influence when in actuality, she is weaker because of it. Isn't that irony just so interesting to you? It is to me. I'm so compelled by this notion that characters can think that they are strong and independent and make decisions without others but when you step back and examine their story, you realize that they're being controlled and manipulated by outside forces or other individuals.

What I really want this season is for Thea to break free of those puppet strings and kick some butt. We know she's capable of it.

Team Lance (Quentin, Laurel)

Laurel is also in denial when confronted with the notion that Oliver could be dead. But her denial isn't based on the fact that she's in love with Oliver still or that she has unfinished business with him. Her denial is in the fact that she has been around long enough to lose Oliver and then have him return to her again. She knows it's possible. She's seen it happen. Sometimes I think people -- in their hatred of Laurel and her characterization -- forget that she's an actual important part of this whole story. Every person in Oliver's life spans a portion of his timeline, but Laurel is the only one left (besides Thea) who spans the largest part of his life. Laurel remembers what it felt like to lose Oliver the first time and she's holding onto hope that it will happen again simply because he has returned before. If nothing else, remember that Laurel is stubborn. It's why she's a good attorney. She holds fast to ideas and does not let them go. (Conversely, that's also why she's such a rocky character -- she held onto Tommy until it nearly destroyed her; she's holding fast to the idea of vengeance for Sara's murder.)

Laurel Lance is very rarely my favorite character on Arrow. She's more prickly than Thea or Felicity, certainly, and being someone who is very nurturing and emotional and kind of sappy, I don't often relate to the razor sharp personalities like Laurel. But what irks me is when people dismiss characters because they don't understand them. You can hate Laurel Lance all you want. And you can say that she's your least favorite character on television ever. But that doesn't negate her importance on the series. Characters who are unlikable are still important characters. There's a quote I found on Twitter recently that says this:

"Let's be clear: fictional women do not need to be likable, relatable, or acceptable. They simply need to be many and varied."

If I could give a standing ovation to a tweet, it would be that one. I may not love Laurel and I may not understand her, and I may think that she's brash and reckless and angry. But that doesn't mean she's of lesser importance on this series than anyone else. And if Arrow does one thing well, it's provide characters who make you FEEL (whether good or bad). The worst thing that a show can do is provide mediocre characters or stories that cause you to feel apathy. So whether you love Laurel or you hate her or you just have strong feelings that swing like a pendulum either way depending on the week... just know that the show you're watching is doing something right so long as you're feeling.

Here's the thing about Laurel Lance: she's all about justice, whatever the price. And unfortunately for her, she's spent the last few years working in the justice system and watching it fail the people in her life and her family. And after her conversation with Diggle in the foundry, the young woman begins to realize that it doesn't have to be that way forever. That she can go to bed at night knowing she made an impact on the city rather than just feeling like she might have. I actually really liked Laurel in this episode. For the first time since Sara's death, I didn't feel like Laurel was going after criminals because she wanted a punching bag. I felt like she was going after them because it was a way to never let go of Sara -- to be a kind of person that her sister would have been proud of. That's the thing, really. Do you remember the last conversation that Laurel and Sara had? Laurel always saw her sister as a hero even; she was so proud of the woman Sara had become, in spite of all the pain and turmoil it took to bring her there. I think that when Diggle left the foundry, Laurel began to wonder what she could do to preserve the memory of Oliver. To preserve the memory of her sister. And I think that she realized what Canary fought for -- Canary never fought because she was full of rage or hatred; she fought because she believed in a world worth fighting for; she believed in people worth fighting for.

And I do believe that Laurel wants justice for Sara's death too, don't get me wrong. But I think that in this moment, Laurel realized she needed to put aside that anger and embrace that light of her heroic sister if she was ever going to do ANY good in the world.

The characters in Arrow this week are left wondering if there's anything good left in the world after Oliver is gone. They're struggling not just with the weight of his absence and death but with the hollow burden of who they are without him. How do you move forward when you're left behind?

The truth: you just have to keep moving at all costs.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP of this episode is Emily Bett Rickards. Honestly, I've always been impressed with her work on this show. I think she knows Felicity so intimately that she understands why the young woman says what she does and acts the way that she does. Everything about her portrayal of Felicity in this episode was completely true to her character: her anger over losing Oliver before she got the chance to say goodbye; her utter devastation over him being lost to her forever; her frustration with Dig and Roy and Ray. Emily understands everything that makes Felicity tick and conveyed it in such a way in this episode that it was heartbreaking and raw and vulnerable and believable. Truly, this was the most stunning work I have seen from her all season and probably all series. Brava, lady. Brava.
  • VINNIE JONES. So weird to go from seeing him as the loyal henchmen in Galavant on Sunday to the ruthless criminal/villain on Wednesday. He's awesome in both roles, by the way.
  • There was no "My name is Oliver Queen" voiceover so the episode was already weird from the get-go.
  • "It's him!" "I thought he was green."
  • "You have that look in your eyes that you get right before you're about to tell Oliver something... sagely."
  • The love fern makes a reappearance!
  • Oh... one thing: REMEMBER HOW QUENTIN DOES NOT KNOW THAT SARA IS DEAD? I will remind everyone until eventually he knows.
  • "You don't scare me so much as annoy me." BARROWMAN.
  • The moment that Laurel looked at Felicity and told her essentially that there was still hope was a beautiful and subtle little moment of friendship there. I need more of those interactions, please.
  • "I am truly sorry. I can see how much you loved him."
  • "His death means my own." "Good."
  • "I guess arrows work a little better on this guy than bullets."
  • The stunt work on this show is always so utterly impressive. The shot of Roy running through the tunnel was so cool, too.
  • Felicity and I are the same age (well, for another five days anyway). I'm comparing my life to that of a fictional character and realize how little I've accomplished.
  • Oliver is alive! I actually thought they were going to drag out that revelation a lot longer than they did but we all knew it was coming didn't we?
Welcome back my dear readers! How did you enjoy this episode? What do you think of the new Team Arrow? And how much do you loathe Merlyn? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then. :)


  1. Okay, so you know this is going to be long right? I have so many thoughts in reponse to the episode and in response to what you wrote.

    I love what you had to say about dramatic irony, the device of having the audience know something that the characters don't, and its possible drawbacks. By putting the audience in a position of superior knowledge it can separate them from the emotional journey of the characters. But you are right, this episode did not fall into that trap. And I could write an essay on how this show uses dramatic irony but I'll just name a few other instances from the series:
    We knew long before any main characters that Malcolm was the Dark Archer and that Slade Wilson was still alive and orchestrating Oliver's downfall
    We know Oliver has a kid out there
    We knew long before anyone else that Moira (and Robert) were part of the Undertaking
    We knew about Malcolm's involvement in training and protecting Thea as of the end of season 2
    Every flashback sequence involves us knowing more about the future than Ollie from the past
    And I would argue that any “origin story” like Arrow (or Smallville or any story that takes an established comic book character back to their roots) is soaked in the dramatic irony of the audience knowing where they will get to eventually while the future hero has to figure it all out and we watch them evolve.

    But what does the device do in this episode? It colours everything. All the hopefulness we see in Felicity and all the ways they are trying to keep things going while Oliver is gone are tinged with pain because we know the blow that is coming their way. It gives a different feeling when Laurel says he'll come back (because ironically we know she is right even though they will all think she is wrong). And the performances draw us into their grief which I think is extra painful because we know that it is unnecessary or unfounded; we have to watch them suffer without being able to do anything about it.

    1. BECCA. You know your comments and Connie's are always my favorite. And never apologize for comments being too long -- you know I love them. Dramatic irony at its finest, as you've proven through your examples, is found in Arrow. I like that this show doesn't tend to drag out most revelations (like Oliver being alive still or any evildoings, etc.) and instead decides to let the viewer have an edge of knowledge over the characters. It's really interesting to know more about what's happening than the residents of Starling City do, isn't it?

      You're right -- the performances in this episode draw us into their grief (an excellent way of putting it, by the way). And again, you're totally correct: it's more painful for us because we're watching and we want to tell them that their grief is unfounded because Oliver is alive, but we cannot.

  2. Okay on to Felicity. Boy did Emily Bett Rickards send me on an emotional journey. She hit so many points of grief spot on. Her hope and faith in Oliver was so bittersweet to watch. When she lays out all the things that he has survived you really get the impression how much he has become invincible in her eyes or at least always the survivor. And we know that is going get broken. Her hopeful face when they come back to find the door open and she thinks Oliver is back punched me in the gut. Ouch. I love that she immediately blamed Merlyn for all of this and stared him right down. I cheered at that point and then cried when Merlyn said “I can see how much you loved him.” (Does he remember how he loved his wife?) Her hand when it reaches to the sword then fades into Oliver's hand reaching out from his stretcher. Amazing and I thought that Glen Winter would direct something like that. The denial from the beginning of the episode becomes shock and numbness as the blood test comes back and she walks out to work like a zombie. At work we see her anger start to surface. Thank you for pointing out that she should not have brought up how Anna would feel. She was projected her feelings about her relationship with Oliver onto Ray/Anna and that was not right. She apologises right after being called on it and rightly detirmines “I shouldn't be here.” She is too raw and emotional but Diggle's call pulls her right back into the fight at a time when she is most unsure and angry about the whole crusade. Her face while watching Diggle and Roy nearly die was gutting. I love how Diggle realises that she was the one who shut the door on them. I can completely understand how she would make that decision and I can see how Diggle is hurt by it (and maybe feels she doesn't have the same faith in him that she has in Oliver.) There is no way of knowing for sure if she made the right call at that moment but it highlights a big problem going forward. Such beautiful symbolism and symmetry when she turns the lights on her way out saying she is done. And then she goes to Ray saying she doesn't have to help anyone go on a suicide mission. She couldn't stop Oliver, she can't stop Ray or Diggle or Roy but she can make the call about what she will do. Now I can't wait to see how that will evolve for her and what will bring her back to the crusade.

    1. Emily Bett Rickards was a complete and total all-star this episode, on par with her origin story. The fact that she kept referring to him as a survivor (and her conversation with Ray about understanding the reality that one day Oliver won't come back but that being a long LONG time from now) was so painful because as I said and you said: it's almost like Team Arrow was invincible with him around; they kept beating the odds so many times.

      I think the most important moment in the episode for Felicity (besides knowing that Oliver is dead) is the moment that she chooses to close that door. It's not that she doesn't trust Dig; I think that's where he misunderstands her. It has nothing to do with trust because Felicity trusted Oliver -- trusted that he would come back because he loved her. It has everything to do with fear and not wanting to watch the people she loves die. She is snapped to reality throughout the episode. Too often, I think Felicity saw their adventures as a sort of game where they always cheated death and now that Oliver hasn't? Now she realizes that it's not a game and she cannot continue to exist like it is one. She needs to take every measure possible to protect her friends and loved ones.

      And the conversation with Ray was important, too, because though she can't stop people in her life from making their own decisions, she CAN walk away so she isn't forced to watch them die. Not again.

    2. Oooh, I like it. The moment of shutting the door... It is a turning point. And a moment of shutting a metaphorical door too. Along with shutting off the lights it is the best communication of where she is by the end of that episode. Oh, and giving Ray back his chip that doesn't work. Unlike the laptop in 1x03 that starts her on this path and the computers and gadgets that Felicity makes work for Oliver and team she is giving the tech back and not fixing it this time. Wow, you just gave me an epiphany, thanks!

  3. I liked how Laurel was written in this episode. I have never been a hater but I have been disappointed in how she has been portrayed sometimes. THANK YOU for pointing out that it is not necessary for female characters to be likeable but to be various and different. Awesome. Female characters are so often derided if they are not “likeable” where audiences often have a much higher patience and empathy for unlikeable male characters. I liked seeing her in the courtroom finishing off the work that the police and Team Arrow do in apprehending criminals. If Team Arrow is not killing them they have to be incarcerated and the justice system has to work for all of Team Arrows efforts to be worth anything. We see how quickly everything that they have done comes undone by the end of this episode. And Laurel is the one most intimately connected to the justice system (in addition to her father) and the one most familiar with how it can fail. I think this is a great motivation for her character. When she first goes out in the costume it is because all the good work done by Team Arrow has been for naught, all the criminals are back out and she is trying to save the city. It is not just blind rage from her personal grief but a desire to see some justice in the world. “I am the justice you can't escape.” It reminds me of how Oliver said back in season 1 “If the police won't and the courts won't then I will.” She seemed so calm and deliberate in this episode.

    Merlyn did seem genuinely saddened by Oliver's death and I know Barrowman has said that he plays Malcolm with a real affection for Oliver. I don't know how much of his sadness stemmed from his feelings for Oliver and how much from the failure of his plan to kill Ra's. I don't think Malcolm is cruel per se but I think his villian-ness stems from the fact that he is most concerned about himself. His feelings, his self-preservation, his way, take precedence over everybody and everything else. He may feel bad about Oliver dying but I think he would put himself before Oliver any day (and possibly before Thea). He will always come first and his intelligence, charisma, humor, talent and toughness combined with his innate selfishness makes for a really amazing antagonist. I know that the flashbacks in ep 12 are supposed to be his so I am excited to see how he got to where he is now.

    1. I really liked Laurel this episode. I thought her compassion for Felicity was really great because she understood that Felicity needed that reassurance. And Laurel's grief-turned-heroism was also important, too. You're right in that she seemed so calm and deliberate. Perhaps it's because we got the scene of her doing her job as an attorney and then bookended it with her rise as Black Canary, but I rather like this Laurel Lance. I like that she wasn't irrationally angry and reckless. I like that she used her grief to calmly contemplate what she could do to be a better person -- a better hero, because you can see in that scene where she gets played by the criminal's attorney that she feels useless and defeated -- for this city.

      I try so hard to read Merlyn week after week and his motivations. On the one hand... he's the devil. On the other, I have to wonder if there's any shred of humanity left in him or if he just uses people as pawns and playthings. You're right though in at least the way Barrowman played his apology scene: in GIFs you can see his eyes start to get glassy. So I DO feel like there's some part of Merlyn that is human (after all, the Devil WAS an angel once, too) but overshadowed by his own selfishness and evil deeds. Malcolm truly is all about self-preservation. Brava, Felicity, for going toe-to-toe with him and what an awesome moment for Merlyn too, to realize how strong she really was.

  4. I thought the flashback this week was pretty interesting, not because of the bio-weapon itself, but because of some character stuff. I think it's another example of a conflict between a life of battling evil and a normal or family life. Maseo is the one who told him that a man cannot live by two names and in the flashbacks I think we'll see how Maseo's agent life will destroy his family life (a conflict that drives a lot of what Oliver is struggling with this season). Ever since they introduced that family I have been waiting for something horrible to happen, now I am convinced something horrible is going to happen to that kid. I don't know if I can watch that. And I also think the flashback this week established more of the bond of emotion between Oliver and Maseo and Tatsu. Maseo says he will forever be in his debt and he and Tatsu are certainly putting their lives at risk by helping Oliver. Now we know a little about why they are willing to do that, especially Tatsu who never really liked Oliver. A big clap from me at Tatsu being the one who brings Oliver back to life. I don't think I heard anyone theorising that. And I like seeing how Oliver planned so effectively to take the tracker off the vial and place it on one of the bad guys in order to follow him. That planning the Arrow is so good at is showing itself in that moment.

    John Diggle killed me this week. He was more willing to think that Oliver might have been killed than Felicity, I think, because he has more combat and life experience and is just more pragmatic in nature. But his struggles were so painful. “I can only see one inch in front of me and this is in front of me.” It was his drive to keep working on the evidence that got the breakthrough and revealed what Brick was up to. Felicity is a genius but Diggle ain't no slouch. My chest hurt when he said that he just couldn't protect Oliver this time. That is the center of who he is, a protector, and now he's lost Oliver as well as his brother Andy. And then “It's funny. He was worried that something would happen to me.” Sob! Way to kill it David Ramsey!

    I thought this episode was really powerful because we see all the work that they've done since Slade (that had them feeling so good in ep 1) completely blown up. The team has broken a bit individually and broken away from each other. They each look so alone and lost. Everything that Oliver has is broken, his body, his team, his work. Now we see what happens next. And to leave me wanting that is good screenwriting.

    1. Hmmmmm. I thought the flashbacks this week were interesting and important for present-day Oliver. I suppose it felt off for me because so much time was devoted to the flashbacks while hardly any time was devoted to present-day Oliver (since, you know "dead" and all). And maybe the balance of it is what struck me as a bit off. Nevertheless, YAY MATEO. YAY TATSU. I think it was Jen (@jbuffyangel) who mentioned that it seems Maseo and Tatsu are estranged in the present so I'm interested to see how they got that way. I think you're right about their kid though. Ugh.

      DIGGLE. I wasn't as emotionally invested in his grief UNTIL THAT SCENE WITH LAUREL. Marc didn't oversell it because I definitely started crying. It's so weird because those two rarely have moments together but if they're going to be as good as that one was, I'll need 100x more, than k you. AND HIM SAYING HE STILL THOUGHT OF HIMSELF AS OLIVER'S BOYDGUARD? I mean, the feels were strong with that one.

      Yup -- that parallelism of everything they worked for with Oliver blowing up while they try to deal with Oliver being gone was really great. (Painful, but great.)

  5. Lastly, Little things:
    Vinnie Jones was great as Brick. I'm so glad he'll have a recurring arc. Brick is a good planner (getting evidence to get people out of jail, keeping that evidence to keep that crew under his thumb) and plenty ruthless. He can do comedy so brilliantly in Galavant and such and that be so brutal here. A future ep summary said Malcolm has issues with him from the past. Can't wait to see that. Also, when Diggle tried to take the headshot at the beginning of their fight did he miss or did the gun misfire or something?
    The sword fight between Thea and Malcolm was great and had a different feeling now that we've seen the duel between Ra's and Oliver. Swords just seem extra scary now maybe.
    In the flashback to Oliver and Maseo breaking into the lab to get the vial of Alpha Oliver fires an arrow zipline. The shot of him firing his arrow into the building was almost the exact twin of him firing his arrow into Adam Hunt's building in the pilot. Awesome touch there.
    They way they filmed Tatsu at the end made that pot she had over the fire seem very important. I wonder what she was cooking up.
    Thea's worry over Oliver's absense was maybe the most painful for me since she is so in the dark. Everyone else is grieving but she is just in limbo. Ugh!
    I can't wait for more Captain Lance. If Laurel is going to go around as Black Canary this will have to bring up Sara for him. TELL HIM ALREADY!
    I love the little bits of humour in a very dark episode. Diggle “This suit is too tight.” The punchy clowns in Ray's office. Oliver running smack into the window. When Thea says “I could have killed you.” Merlyn says “It's cute that you think so.”

    So yeah, that was even longer than I thought. I will be quiet now.

    1. VINNIE JONES. Dude is hilarious on Galavant and terrifying in Arrow. Because he's not a dumb criminal by any means. He's really and truly smart and calculated. Those are always the worst kind.

      The stunts and fight choreography on this show are always A++++. That fight scene with Malcolm and Thea was great.


      I loved the cheeky moments of humor this episode too. I think Dig has become one of the best characters on this show for that and Roy's constant sarcasm/deadpanning is HILARIOUS.

      Thank you so much, Becca, for always commenting. YOU ARE REALLY SMART SO DON'T EVER BE QUIET ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS. You know you're eternally welcome here. ;)

    2. I do adore a smart villain. Malcolm is a great antagonist because he is so often steps ahead of everybody. And Slade played Oliver like a guitar. And they still haven't stopped China White in the present. If you have to dumb down your villain in order for your hero to win, you haven't written a very good hero.

      Aw, thanks. All those years of university must have done some good ;) But perhaps being quiet wasn't the right way to say it. I always tell my toddler that playing is more fun when everybody gets a turn. I get my enjoyment (and a lot of aha moments) from the conversation, the give and take and I wouldn't want to just talk, but also listen. I am a teacher by training who does some lecturing but discussion is always the best part of life for me. So thanks for giving that here.

  6. I could have written your observations, because they were exactly my own! but I was expecting soooo much more!! maybe because I´ve been daydreaming about what would happen in this episode for two months, maybe because Oliver wasn´t on it (present time), or maybe because The Flash was perfect yesterday and I was hoping too much.... but I really think everything was so fast.... they jumped from once scene to the next one in seconds, I didn´t have time to digest something and then, we are somewhere else.... I don´t know... I´ve been driking water a month thinking about this episode, and seeing myself crying like a baby (like I did in 3x09) but nothing...... nothing at all....

    1. Anon! Thank you for reading and commenting, first of all. Second: I understand your frustration. It's unfortunately something that happens to us, being imaginative humans. We build episodes and things up so much in our heads that we often prefer our made-up versions to the ones that actually air. I think that I enjoyed it more going into it with no expectations.

      But here's what I would encourage: re-watch the episode. Pay close attention to Felicity and Dig throughout and pause when you need to. Let yourself marinate in the acting. I know the episode moved fast -- we did seem to jump around a bit because there was a lot of ground to cover -- but if you can focus on Felicity throughout the episode, I think you'll find it's a lot better the second time around.


    2. I´m on it, thank you! Actually, reading you helped me see things in a different light. Also, one of my friends noticed a really nice moment: when Felicity touches the scimitar the image collides with oliver´s image.... and their hands seems to touch! She has an eye for detail! :)

    3. You're welcome, anon. :) :) :)

      Honestly, that's my only goal with these reviews: as long as you read them and think about something you hadn't before, I'm doing my job right!

      Also YES that moment was beautiful. It was also intentional, as Marc Guggenheim said today on Tumblr that while Glen Winter edited that shot, it was also extremely intentional by them.

    4. Hmm, I felt like the finale had more cuts and jumps than this premiere did, leaving me less time to process. There WAS a very fast back and forth between scenes and trying to give everyone screen and story time and introduce Brick and his plans, but I think it was well balanced with the scenes where there was silence or the paired scenes (Thea/Roy, Diggle/Felicity, Diggle/Laurel). Or the scene where they wait for the test results. Sitting in silence in their respective places, all waiting, wondering if they're suiting up for action or not (Felicity away from the computer, Diggle at the secondary workstation, Roy at the suits, ready to jump in). That scene was precious to me, because there were so many people in the arrow cave, but so little movement in a place that's usually bustling with movement. So I see what you're saying about the fast paced cuts, but I think this episode handled it better than the finale, which I think I echo your sentiments on how those cuts took away from the extent of the emotion I was expecting to feel.

      But reviews like Jenn's are always great places to pick out the slower emotional moments that we didn't catch on the first (or even second viewings). I certainly didn't notice the hands touching in the scimitar scene...

    5. Yes! exactly! All that silence!! No music, no noise, just silence. That moment was one of my favourites!
      I usually read one blog, but today it wasn´t enough, and looking I found this, and you are so right! It helps a lot... and watching the episode again too! :)

  7. I am finally ready to make it fully Thursday by reading and commenting on your Arrow post! lol

    "Oliver Queen is the connecting thread of Arrow. Without him, Laurel would have no reason to interact with Diggle or Roy or Felicity and vice versa. Without Oliver, there is no "them."" I hope this leads to more Team Bonding time... There's so little of it (I mean, I get it, with what time?), but hopefully once Oliver returns (maybe even before?) we can have the members of our team hang out in different pairs outside of crime fighting. Most in need? Diggle and Roy. Wait, more Laurel/Felicity obviously, but Diggle and Roy too. We finally got a Laurel and Diggle scene, so that was great, but more team bonding to prevent things like this from happening again! (Should Oliver go and get himself killed for a THIRD time.)

    It's definitely a bold move to kill off your main character for all the reasons you've said, but it's such a testament to how the show has grown that they can do it and the supporting cast can carry an episode without Stephen Amell. Season 1 Arrow couldn't have done that. But now, here we are, where Oliver wasn't the driving force in the episode (and I mean, he WAS, but not in the same way -- and Flashback Oliver doesn't count. I missed him, but I wasn't bored because he wasn't on screen. I'm so proud of show for getting to this point!

    "Felicity has to believe that Oliver would never break a promise to her because he never has before." CUE TEARS. "I love you" was also a promise." STOP IT JENN.
    I remember when Felicity first joined Team Arrow and Oliver was going after some guy on the list and Felicity stopped Oliver by locking the door to the lair. This is that same Felicity. Only the stakes are higher and Oliver isn't there to growl at her about locking his doors. But Felicity's decision making is the same as three years ago. She will act if it means keeping you sane and safe.

    (I wonder if they will have a funeral for him? With no body... but Oliver has been eulogized before -- isn't his tomb still there next to Roberts? I doubt they'll even deal with this -- seems like they're letting the public Oliver Queen just hide away, a recluse or perhaps partying in Europe or on some fancy islands? But they had a moment for Sara, so I wonder... Also, aside form Quentin and now Thea not in the know about their loved ones, will Quentin figure out the Arrow is gone too? I doubt Diggle will won the costume again...

    Hmm, interesting thoughts on Thea. I also think that all this puppetry is just part of the journey. It's leading to something more. Perhaps she will be the one to finally defeat Merlyn, where Oliver couldn't, once and for all. He is giving her the tools to do so, both physically but also emotionally by teaching her how to deal with the pain of betrayal while simultaneously betraying her. There's more to Thea's journey definitely.

    1. Ooh, I hadn't thought about that moment from season one where she remotely locked Oliver's door. At that point she was trying to keep a man she didn't even know safe from an overzealous Oliver. Interesting comparison. We've seen her be incredibly loyal but she has never been afraid to do what she thought was right. (And Diggle was much calmer and more rational about the whole thing of course)

      Not telling Thea could be problematic (she would just get more frantically worried and not saying anything would be unbelievably cruel) but then they threw in that moment where Merlyn tells her they have to leave because they are in danger so that might remove the immediate issue of Thea knowing if they go into hiding and radio silent. I think Quentin will be aware pretty soon. It looks like things are going to get pretty bad next week and the Arrow's absence can't be covered up during something like that surely? And if they bring Canary in Quentin will expect to talk to Sara and that must all come out right? Right? Please tell me that man will get the truth!

    2. CONNIE! It finally feels like a real review now that you've commented. ;)

      I'm really excited to see the team bonding and I'm with you -- I want to see more varied pairings than just Roy, Dig, and Felicity. It looks like next week we will get some Roy/Laurel action which is gonna be exciting. I want Laurel to be better integrated into the group now that Oliver is gone and this week's episode seemed like she was fitting in better.

      I was thinking as the episode was airing: "Wow, I actually don't even really miss Oliver right now. This whole episode is about THEM." And you're right, it totally worked and it wouldn't have in season one or even last season, I think.


      I don't know if they'll have a funeral since there isn't a body. Hmmmm. I guess we will have to see.

      WHY DON'T PEOPLE ON THIS SHOW TELL THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS ANYTHING? Eventually someone is going to tell Thea that Oliver is The Arrow and someone has to tell her she killed Sara JUST LIKE SOMEONE HAS TO TELL QUENTIN THAT SARA IS DEAD.

  8. Random thought since I know you watch Parks and Rec: Laurel is Ann! That episode where Ann realized she absorbed the personalities of her boyfriends at the time... Both women are successful in their careers (so, a level of independence), but Laurel has a similar issue. She was a part (somewhat) of Oliver's party lifestyle, she absorbed her grief and anger for five years, she built herself around Tommy, and as you've said, she's now so focused on Sara's death that she can't move on in a healthy way. Her life would have similar boxes to Ann in that episode of Parks...

    I didn't mind Laurel in this episode. I went into her first scene ready to dislike her, but she got props for her moment of hope towards Felicity and her moment with Diggle. I think once she has more of these scenes with people who aren't Oliver, it will do a great service in softening her towards those of us who don't always like her (of course there are those in the fandom that will always hate her, but I don't see myself being that person). It's like you've been saying, Oliver is the glue, but Laurel needs to become more apart of the team without him. Maybe then she'll get to show other sides of herself that she doesn't show when it's just Ollie because she's always been a certain way around him (as one is around people you've known a long time).

    OMG I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THE LACK OF INTRO. =O Brilliant. Also, briefly skimming the comments on the way to my own: the thing where Felicity touches the sword and it phases to Oliver, I didn't catch that either!!

    Something I am curious about: it was SO easy for Malcolm (and even Oliver in the finale) to get to this remote island... What will prevent Oliver from returning just as quickly? Besides his injuries of course, but I can't imagine him lying on that stretcher in the mountains for 3 episodes, so what will he be up to, struggling with?

    1. Oooooh interesting with that Laurel/Ann comparison. I definitely wouldn't have thought of that. Bless the writers for having Laurel direct her hopeful comment at Felicity. I mean, geez, if MALCOLM knows that Felicity was in love with Oliver, surely Laurel does too and I liked that it was a very #LADIES moment between the two of them. Even if neither of them fully believed it, it was the effort from Laurel that counted.

      Apparently the lack of intro was due to a lack of time, so says Marc Guggenheim, but also very fitting, right? AND I IMMEDIATELY NOTICED THAT GLEN WINTER EDITING MOMENT. Also follow Marc Guggenheim on Tumblr if you aren't already. When someone said they loved the editing of Felicity and Oliver's hands touching from far away, Marc's response was: "That wasn’t editing. That shit was planned." LOL.

      I am VERY curious as what's going to take Oliver so long to come back, apart from healing from his wounds which, you know, the stabbing thing isn't the suspension of disbelief for me. It's the FALLING OFF A MOUNTAIN AND NOT CRACKING YOUR SKULL OPEN THING. Oh, television suspension of disbelief. ;)

      Yeah, how did Malcolm get there so fast anyway? Did Barry carry him? lol.

  9. Hm. Malcolm is just a villain. He couldn't possibly have thought that Oliver would win over R'as. Of course Team Arrow thinks that but Malcolm knows Oliver can hardly beat him on a good day with the wind blowing the right direction. R'as laid the smackdown on Oliver and no way could Malcolm have misjudged that - it wasn't even close.

    So. That. Not telling Thea. I have the feeling that Malcolm is training Thea for a reason, and we're not going to like what it is. I guess he's going to manipulate her grief/rage to his own purposes. Let's hope she is strong enough to withstand it (not very hopeful about that just currently).

    Loved Felicity in this ep. I thought Laurel was great too, and gave a great acknowledgement to Felicity and her relationship with Oliver.

    And the Brick? In the comics, he's invulnerable. He's got a bona fide superpower. Don't know how that translates here.