Original Airdate: May 11, 2016
I think that one of the most difficult parts in storytelling is tying up loose ends with characters and plot. Creative journeys that elicit twists, turns, and surprises are wonderful. They make for fascinating and engaging entertainment. But then something happens as you approach the end of your saga — you remember the things that you left dangling. You know, the characters whose stories you never really fleshed out, hoping that you would have time to return to them and tell their stories just as fully and completely as you did everyone else's. Inevitably what happens when you tie up loose ends is this — things get messy, unnecessarily so. Plots are rushed, characters flit from one motivation to another, and ultimately everything just feels a little bit crammed in. What happens when loose ends dangle is that they either have to be tied or cut. In the case of Arrow, unfortunately, a lot of this season has felt rather thread-y. And while "Monument Point" tries to tie up some loose ends — namely by re-integrating The Calculator, Brick (or Gareth from Galavant, as I will forevermore refer to him as), and Anarky into its plot — the result is an episode that feels rather threadbare.
SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN
Now that Darhk's evil plan to play God and destroy the world has begun to pick up some steam, Team Arrow is even more desperate to find a way to stop him. This week, essentially this boils down to the idea that if a nuke goes off from any of the NATO bases Darhk has access to and lots of people die (remember, Darhkness is tied to death), he will become unstoppable. So with Felicity's dad having recently escaped from Iron Heights, it seems like the perfect chance to employ his skill set in helping them take down Darhk.
It's not that I don't appreciate the Papa Smoak/Felicity banter — because we know that Emily Bett Rickards has natural ease and chemistry with everyone she shares a scene with — but I couldn't pinpoint the reason that this episode felt a little bit off-balanced to me. And then I realized that it was because it was entirely off-balance. Let me name the men for you in this episode: Oliver, Dig, Papa Smoak, Lance, Darhk, Brick, Murmur, Anarky, Merlyn, Alex, douchey board member, and an assortment of random Ghosts. Let me name the women in the episode: Felicity, Thea, and Donna (with the first two taking up more screentime than the last, and the TINIEST appearance by Lyla). I think that Arrow can do better because I know they can. It's not that this show has ever swung heavily toward favoring women, but the best episode this season ("Beacon of Hope") was an episode that featured primarily women, and it worked exceptionally well.
Maybe there's a connection there, writers. Ya think?
PULLING AT THREADS
The problem for me is that the narratives at this point in any given season for Arrow generally begin fall apart. You can pick at them pretty lightly and they'll start to shed their pieces (mostly because the show is trying desperately to stretch one thread out to last for three episodes), so let's dissect them, shall we?
1) We know that the main problem in this episode is that the team has to stop nukes. We know, given the fact that this is not the season finale, that they will fail in some capacity. The show had the potential to deliver some quality in the way that the team stopped the nukes, but honestly the show promoted the Papa Smoak/Felicity team-up (which was pushed until nearly the end of the episode and got about as much screentime as Lance/Donna did), with no real payoff. Sure, there were mentions of Noah wanting atonement for his sins and for Felicity to trust him, and there was a half-conversation between Green Arrow and Noah about living a double life, but... that was it. Literally. That was all that happened. Papa Smoak helped Felicity steal technology that used to be hers. Oh! Right! Speaking of...
2) Shoehorning "Felicity-as-CEO" into stories hasn't worked for the show so far. What has worked is when it takes the time to focus on the weight of this identity and the problems Felicity faces as a leader. But the problem with "Monument Point" is two-fold. Firstly, I have to sort of agree with the douchey board member here — even though he did it in the worst way possible, Felicity isn't being a leader at Palmer Technologies. Of course, that doesn't mean she's shirking responsibilities for BAD reasons (her reasons are always good), but she is shirking them nonetheless. And she's pushing them off, in favor of Team Arrow. If I was on the board of the company, I would vote her out too. #sorrynotsorry That's kind of the whole reason Oliver lost his company in the first place, too. Even though he had the best reasons — saving the world, or crossing names off a list — it didn't change the fact that he had other responsibilities that he let slip away. (Again: douchey board member dude is still the worst because his attitude is so superior, and his reasoning to let Felicity go because of her desire to see technology accessible to the public was the worst. But I hate that he had a small point in this instance about Felicity abandoning her duties and postponing meetings, presumably often.)
The second problem with this storyline in the episode was that it was just ill-placed and paced. We haven't seen a whole lot of CEO Felicity recently, so to bring that back to the forefront in an already jam-packed episode JUST to serve as a plot point to acquire the processing system is pretty disappointing. Because we all know that this character should probably emotionally deal with being fired, but she won't get the chance to because this is Arrow, after all. Anything that happens at this late in a season is bound to never be mentioned again.
3) Thea's agency has been mentioned for like, two seasons now pretty consistently. And yet, every time it is mentioned, it is by a man and then it is used in order to turn Thea into some animalistic female character who murders people or takes baths in Lazarus Pits. I love Thea Queen. And I love that there was a character (even if it was Anarky) who called her out and told her that she could be her own hero, defined apart from a man. Unfortunately for Arrow, it likes to make heavy-handed meta references and then completely undermine them in the very next scene. Because guess who (presumably) dies while Thea is fighting Anarky? That's right — Alex! A man! The man Thea was with! The show keeps talking about Thea's agency apart from relationships (or her toxic relationship with Malcolm), and yet it honestly doesn't know how to follow through. It tries, then stumbles, then gives up altogether.
And while this show has done well in the past of showcasing Thea's progression from weakness and dependence to strength, I honestly don't think that this Alex storyline has served to do anything besides undercut the very notion that Thea is strong enough to have a story of her own that doesn't involve romance. How many love interests have to die (or presumably die) before she can finally have a solo story? Sheesh.
4) I keep waffling back and forth as to whether or not this show is going to put Oliver and Felicity back together before the finale, but at this point I don't want them to. I really don't. Because there have been no indicators that these two are ready to rekindle their romance, let alone rekindle it in a healthy way. And the issue that I have with Arrow is that they did the exact same thing last year — they rushed an Oliver/Felicity reunion in order to tie up that horrible (godawful, extremely bad) Al Sah-Him storyline. And though it was cute that they drove off into the sunset together, the show really did a disservice to the complexity of Oliver's storyline (hello, will no one address the fact that Oliver literally planned to commit suicide? No? Okay.) and the problematic nature of it by feeding us what we most wanted to see.
The same thing is bound to happen this season.
In spite of the fact that Oliver and Felicity have had no discussions about their problems (Oliver has yet to apologize and I doubt he will before they get back together, ugh) and yet I can foresee the show doing the same thing they did last year and bookending this season with Oliver and Felicity together, apart from the group. Do I want this to happen? No, of course not. I think that next year's midseason finale is when the two should get married, but not before then. And sure, we can use the internal logic of the fact that this is a show about people who put their lives on the line all day and night and so they rush into things quicker than we would, yadda yadda. The fact remains that this? This is not good romantic storytelling. This is barely passable college-level writing workshop storytelling. And that's what frustrates me most of all.
5) Diggle is getting sidelined and the show keeps spinning its wheels. No one on Arrow is allowed to exist without having an identity crisis. And when one person solves their crisis, they have to pass the baton to another character. It's a rule in the Arrow-verse, much like gravity. I would like to believe that there are more conflicts a character in the world could have than "I am struggling with the darkness inside of me," but maybe there just aren't. Maybe no one struggles with their marriage or debt or what to make for dinner in Star(ling) City. But apparently everyone struggles with identity crises. I hated the whole Andy/Dig storyline when I realized it was being dragged out because the arc was poorly paced and only relevant to the overarching plot. And while there are a lot of things this show could have done with Diggle this year, of course the show chose to steer him down a path of darkness, just like Oliver.
It seems that just as Oliver is escaping his darkness, Diggle is falling in. And honestly, while the conversations in "Monument Point" should have been a lot more emotionally-driven, they served the purpose: little breadcrumbs for the writers to revisit whenever they eventually feel like it. It feels like Oliver and Dig have had the exact same conversations all season, with slightly different wording. And if that isn't concerning, a little bit, then I don't know what to tell you. I'm just disappointed that the show couldn't think of any other purpose for Dig to serve than as the idol that Oliver's darkness could just go into (until inevitably Thea is dark and then Dig can pass that idol to her).
6) It's been twenty-one episodes and still no motivation for Darhk destroying the world except that the world is bad. Well, duh-doy, dude. Pretty sure you are part of the problem. Look: I don't need my villain's plans explained here, bu at least Ra's had some logic behind his stupid decision-making. At least he was a horrible person because he lived in the League of Assassins! At least Slade Wilson turned vindictive because he lost a woman he loved. WHY DO YOU WANT TO DESTROY THE WORLD, DAMIEN DARHK? And will this become an eleventh-hour revelation in the finale that we are all too tired to even care about? (Answer: probably yes.)
7) I really don't know that I care what is happening to Quentin Lance, and I love Donna Smoak but their little story this episode wasn't so much a loose thread as the show thinking they had a loose thread that needed tying (in the midst of all of the chaos, do the writers think that Quentin Lance's employment is at the top of my "must-know" list?) when in all reality, we don't care that much about the thread to begin with. Laurel has been gone for a few weeks now, and yet the show still feels the need to throw in little things like this to remind us that she's really gone.
APPROACHING THE END OF THE WORLD
I don't really have much else to say about tonight's episode of Arrow. I'm really compelled by the emotional response that Felicity had to having to kill tens of thousands of people in order to save millions. I hope beyond hope that this comes back soon — that we see her deal with the ramifications of the decision she made. But in all honesty, I am not expecting too much. And I think that's a real problem. At this point in Arrow's season, I should be at the edge of my seat, anxiously awaiting the conclusion of this narrative. But truthfully, each week is mostly just spent trying to muster up the energy to watch, care about, and review an episode.
And really, that shouldn't be how I feel about the show two episodes away from the finale.
Observations & favorite moments:
- (I'm harsh because the show can do better. And by four seasons in, it should know how to.)
- Who has two thumbs and still doesn't pay attention to the flashbacks? THIS GIRL. They're a definite waste of time this season.
- "Every time my life starts to suck, you show up."
- Malcolm got a new hand from his buddy, Damien Darhk. I bet it was so Darhk could make all the hand puns he wants.
- Whenever characters on this show talk about lying, a little part of my soul just dies inside because of all of the double and triple-standards they have for aforementioned lies.
- I am still convinced the show is borrowing the dome from The Hunger Games.
- "We're running out of time." "The whole world is, so... yeah." SLAY GIRL, SLAY.
- I do love me some Donna/Felicity bonding.
- "You're better than me." No duh, Oliver.
- I think that Oliver argued the group shouldn't wear their vigilante suits in the daytime because it was risky. And I am legitimately curious as to how that is valid.
- I missed Oliver's parkour SO much.
- "The president asked me if the fate of the world was in the hands of an IT girl, a criminal, and two guys in Halloween costumes."
- "You can make your own decisions, Thea. You're not a pawn. You're a Queen. ... Get it?" Make it stop. MAKE IT STOP. IT HURTS.
What did you all think of "Monument Point"? Hit up the comments below and let me know. Until then. :)