Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Arrow 4x21 Review: "Monument Point" (Jailbreaking and Tying Up Loose Ends)

"Monument Point"
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.


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?


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.


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. :)


  1. "But truthfully, each week is mostly just spent trying to muster up the energy to watch, care about, and review an episode."

    I could get a gif of a man appluding I would put it here. In one sentance you explained the problem with Season 4 of Arrow. I found this out myself after they killed Laurel so lazily.

    We know nothing about HIVE, the organization itself no backstory. We don't know why the villan does what he does. Also we just found out about his plan last episode and now the plan has failed since they stopped all the nukes?

    Season 4 is like Season 3= The villan only seems to become a threat near the last few episodes. HIVE really did not do much of consequnce this season. The League of Assassians had the same issue since we know jack and squat about them in this world. You could kind of get away with it because the League is connected to the Batman Mythos.

    But HIVE does not have that since its mainly connected to the Teen Titans and even then its not used alot, the only reason its famous is well because of Deathstroke who is not on this show anymore. Its not DC's HYDRA and if its suppose to be well it failed. Though if someone makes a show called Agents of ARGUS I`ll watch it. gives us an execuse to bring in Dick Grayson (he became a secret agent, long story)

    Also no Flashback Recap sorry Jen I didn't get to see them. I used to have faith in them but I've lost alot of that for Arrow since "11:59."
    Anyway maybe this Season will surprise you in the end. But I highly doubt it.

    Also Donna his daughter is dead don't jump on him for lying to the cops and trying to keep his job. I`m starting to not like Donna Smoak.

    1. I agree. The show is kind of all over the place. Maybe if they spent more time on backstories and less time on the flashbacks, they'd have a more well-rounded show, less holes in it.

      They often have too much going on in one episode. They could tell better stories if they tightened it up. Some of it just isn't necessary.

  2. Yes. I agree with your post almost in entirety.

    Passing around darkness to each character is unwanted. Come up with better stories. Which would mean Arrow hiring new writers. I don't know if it will get much better. What incentive do they have at this point? Would EBR and SA, who's careers are taking off, stick around past a season six? That being said, I did like the return to OTA and better action. That's about it.

    I've had serious issue with the break-up from the start. We don't need to rehash the shit storytelling that was baby-mama drama. But, when the break-up happened in Ep15, I decided that a late season break-up meant one of two things: No reconciliation until season 5 or a very rushed done in the last minutes of last episode that was written just as poorly as baby-mama drama.

    We know that tonight and the next two episodes happen in the same day. After tonight's episode, I don't see a reconciliation a good fit this season b/c there is, simply, not enough time to build up to that for reasons you outline. What, they're going to fit it in in the last two minutes of the finale? No. Olicity deserves so much better than that. If they were to reconcile, in Arrow time, it would happen tomorrow (possibly there is a small time jump - but not much). That wouldn't make any sense given the current events.

    It's obvious Felicity still loves Oliver and he her. But, there hasn't been any major development going forward at all. It's all business right now. A reconciliation would be shocking and just bad story telling without some real time spent on them talking some things out. Based on what we know is going down, there's not time for that. The ONLY way I can see it working (strong maybe here) is if DD is defeated in the first 15-20 mins of finale and a great deal of time is spent on Olicity talking things out, maybe we see a time good time jump, then they reconcile.

    Since SA described the finale in three words as, "Where'd everyone go?" I suspect Felicity will say something encouraging like, "Oliver I love you. I'd like to see us work, but so much has happened, I need time to work some things out." and then she goes to get to know her dad who, maybe, isn't so terrible after all. But, honestly, I don't really like that either b/c it's too predictable and a story told again and again. I want fresh, creative stories! Not underwhelming C- work that leaves me going, "Meh...whatever."

    I'd like to say I'm fully invested and curious. But, I'm more apathetic than anything else right now, sadly.

  3. My largest problem (as you know) with Arrow generally is its pacing. Especially after reading a lot of great writing about the subject of narrative rhythm by Ursula K LeGuin. The show has a difficult time finding and maintaining its rhythm. I feel like it is constantly stepping on my toes or wandering off. And yup, the scenes with Lance and Donna really did not serve a purpose in the episode. I do love watching those actors (and I get that Donna was another voice talking about the danger of lies, presumably less guilty of using them than Oliver) but I would have preferred that the scant 40 something mintues of the episode concentrated on only two threads - stopping the nukes and Thea in the dome.

    I wasn't as bothered by the whole Alex storyline as you are. If anything he seemed the pawn in this scenario. He was drugged, just like Thea was last year, to get him to do someone else's bidding. Alex was used by Ruve (I'm not sure why she chose to do that still) and died as most pawns do. He also died because Thea has had a part in creating Lonie and his creepy Oedipal/Mommy complex. I like that he sees her as his creator or mother figure and that he also wants her sole attention. She has her own consequence there and that is separate from all the other villains of this season. I don't think the sad end of Alex had to do with her romantic life entirely. I think it was more about her own demons (Lonie was burned because of her bloodlust) coming back to haunt her. Lonie sees her as being controlled by the man in her life but I don't think Alex has been doing much controlling. He is the one who doesn't know about her other life so he's more of an ignorant bystander than someone who is blinding or controlling or defining Thea.

    Speaking of her storyline- I have two questions. One, Malcolm must still kinda agree with the whole 'destroy the world to make it again' plan? He sounds too much like agrees with Darhk's overall goals. Kinda makes Malcolm look like small potatoes huh? He really doesn't seem to see that it is all super crazy town. What purpose is Malcolm serving now? As much as I enjoy John Barrowman I really want to be rid of Malcolm.
    Also, if the scrubbers are destroyed won't that just deter HIVE from launching anything? Just destroy their ark and all the sudden they cannot do any other part of Genesis. Seems like a good plan to me and Lonie could be onto something there. I'm guessing they are already sealed in which puzzles me because Darhk isn't there yet. He's busy in his nexus room which was pretty easy for Oliver and Dig to get into. So he must have a way into the dome which means they could destroy the air system and get people out right? Also, this is always the weakness of destroying the world by nuclear war. You leave yourself no escape and if anything goes wrong with the mechanics of your bunker then you are screwed. Stupid plan HIVE.

  4. The other super interesting thing to me was Felicity's failures this episode. I'm guessing she is pretty used to be successful at the things she does. She probably aced school and university even if actual grades meant nothing to her. She is not used to being fired. And because she was fired (which seems like a logical step for the board to take) she didn't have access to the processor so they had to try and steal it and then that didn't go so well and they didn't get all the nukes shut down. Her failure at her job links directly to her being forced to send a missile as far off course as she could but not far enough. Wow, I was not expecting them to go quite this dark with Felicity. That is going to have major consequences for her. By the way, I'm not getting at her for failing. We all do and her work with the team is important. I'm just pointing out that this is really going to hurt and it is just not possible for her to spend so much energy on the team and not let the CEO part of her life suffer. Oliver had the same problem and Ray would have if he had stayed at Palmer Tech and tried to be the Atom. There is a tension there that is interesting and unfortunately the fallout (pun intended) for Felicity is going to be extremely painful. I find that interesting and I live in hope that they are going to give that its proper weight and time in the storytelling.

    Also, really, a nuke fell. That is major. The consequences will be huge for the whole east coast. If they are going with realism of a full load of nuclear devastation then the immediate dead are going to be just the first of the countries problems. And I did like them ending on Darhk getting super charged by all the death. Good, high stakes place to end and it also underlines that Darkh doesn't really want to make the world a better place. He gets loads of power from death so death on a massive scale is in his own interest, not some sort of twisted fatalistic utopia vision.

  5. You say the show can do better but can it really? I mean they had a chance to do a healthy relationship and blew it. Had a chance to give a iconic comic book character a memorable death and blew it. These EPs have messed up a lot this season

    1. Oh, dear God. Baby mama drama was the WORST. It dumbed down the show completely. That's a story stolen from every day time soap ever. I will never forgive them. It put a huge black mark in the entire season for me. Arrow needs to fire their writers and get new ones on board. But, I don't see it happening. What's the incentive? This show will likely go six seasons before SA and EBR get better offers and move on.

    2. So I definitely do think the writers can do better, Douglas. But I'm totally with you on how you feel this season. They could have done so much better at writing. The thing is, I believe they have the talent and skill necessary to craft really good stories. We've seen them do it before.

      Unfortunately, they also have the skill (because it does take a certain skill to do this) to craft really BAD stories. And that's what they chose to do. For what reason, I have no idea. But I'd like to believe that they have the capability on staff to tell better stories. I'm just -- like you -- really disappointed that they're choosing to write the bad ones instead.

      Don't even get me started on the baby mama drama that stripped Felicity of her agency, backpedaled characterization for Oliver, and made everyone in the show justify lying.

      *smoke comes out from ears*

    3. I, too, am perplexed by what's going on with the writers. They don't seem to have flow charts or anyone editing their work. In Canary Cry, they wrote in flashbacks that didn't align with the story they previously told. You have to give the actors credit for acting as well as they do given some of the trash stories they have to act out. SA seems like a really smart guy and he must do a lot of cringing. I believe he didn't want Oliver to lie to felicity and asked/had some of the script be changed to make it not quite as bad as they had it written out. Not sure where I read that though - so don't quote me on it.

      Writers got shit on far and wide over baby-mama drama. They've defended it and shame on them. They should want to get that shit story off their resumes. How embarrassing. I felt like they were writing to a teenage crowd on that one. Every show breaks up their endgame couple at least once. Oliver and Felicity are clearly paying endgame break-up dues. But, that's a thought for a whole other post - b/c I don't think it was necessary for this couple. I don't think it's necessary to move all shows forward and keep fans engaged and I despise the argument that it is. Some angst is normal. But, Oliver and Felicity had been in love for years. They worked. There doesn't need to be major drama with them ever. Major drama they face outside it as partners on the team? Yes. That's a given. They set up that relationship fairly carefully over three years before going for it, only to start dismantling it, what, 10-11 episodes later. They couldn't even give it half a season before they messed with it. All superheroes do have some relationship drama but that was the worst!

      So, now we have yet another Thea-cray-cray story b/c they, quite obviously, have no idea what to do with her. At what point do we start to not even care about her?

      Because Oliver and Felicity broke up so late in the season, and given current events, I don't foresee a reconciliation this season. And, honestly, I don't want a 2-minute reconciliation in the last final moments of the finale anyway b/c there is almost no way it would even be good . If they can't give us a strong, well-written reconciliation, I'd rather they save it until next season when things have calmed down and they can give it the time and attention it deserves.

      That being said, I have no idea what they are doing with Felicity now. It would appear she's going to be disillusioned much like Oliver has been in the past. He will be her light, instead of her his. Now she, Digg and Thea will be able to understand where he's been coming from, is what is coming out of fan specs. Maybe this is meant to propel Oliver and Felicity back together?

      SA says the finale can be summed up in three words, "Where'd every one go?" So, I expect a cliff-hanger of some sort. Felicity and Oliver aren't driving off into the sunset like last season finale, is my guess.

  6. Any one else think the show jumped the shark considering the fact that a nuclear weapon went off inside the United States on the east coast. That should have huge consequences and upset the entire DC universe. This isn't contained like The Undertaking or the Deathstroke Attack or even Alpha/Omega.

    But the show won't adress it at all. The Flash won't adress it not in any detail. Arrow is about Oliver and Star City and he's fighting a Bond Villian who's plans are global. I mean isn't like too much and considering we have two more episodes left doesn't this feel like the final act came too soon?

    I don't think the last two episodes will be very good and they have to adresss the nuke somehow. It seems like too much too soon.