"Who Are You?"
Original Airdate: January 25, 2017
Our identities are often wrapped up in what we do. So when people ask you about yourself, your first response, generally, is to tell them what you do for a living. You'll say, "I'm a mom" or "I'm an accountant" or "I'm an artist." We place an enormous emphasis on figuring out exactly who we are. There are tons of self-help books out there that discuss the topics of finding your purpose and your worth in your identity. In an extremely literal sense, asking the question, "who are you?" will earn you the answer of someone's name. In a metaphorical sense, it begs the answer of what is most true about us — our passions and our fears and our triumphs. In Arrow, there has always been the central question of identity: who is Oliver Queen? Is he a vigilante? A hero? A killer? A regular guy?
What's refreshing about "Who Are You?" as an episode is that it doesn't tread the same worn-out roads of self-actualization that other episodes have in regards to Oliver as a character. Rather, we get a glimpse at a few different characters and journeys. Because whether they're ready for it or not, the back half of this season is going to catapult our characters into some pretty rocky terrain, and how they respond will define who they are and who they become.
EMBRACE THE MIRACLES (OR THE CRAZY)
I will admit that when I saw the promos about Laurel's return, I was skeptical. After all, the team seemed to readily believe that the real Laurel Lance was alive and well. But only Oliver really seemed to want to believe Laurel's story about being rescued by Sara and the Waverider. Felicity, on the other hand, hosted a welcoming party for the former Black Canary for the sole purpose of getting the woman's DNA. When not!Laurel almost reached for a glass of champagne, Felicity's suspicions were heightened further. And thankfully, within the next few minutes, Black Siren got tired of her charade and revealed herself to Oliver and Felicity.
Prior to this, though, Oliver talked about embracing miracles because they don't happen often. It was an interesting sentiment coming from him — you know, the usual King of Doom and Gloom — but it makes sense: Prometheus is trying to wreak havoc on Oliver's life. His primary goal is to turn everything and everyone Oliver loves into a memory. But as Oliver goes darker in the flashbacks, in the present-day, he's desperate to cling to hope. Felicity makes note near the end of the episode of the fact that Oliver being inspirational and uplifting is odd, but welcome, and I tend to agree. Everyone who reads my reviews knows that I'm not the biggest fan of Oliver Queen a lot of the time. But I do tend to believe that he has the potential to choose hope and life and happiness instead of clutching to lying and darkness just because it's an easier retreat.
I think there's a part of Oliver that always knew Laurel wasn't really Laurel. He wanted to believe it though — he needed to believe it. Oliver needed something good and hopeful to happen to prove that there is still reason to be surprised by life. As Felicity points out to Black Siren, Oliver is seeking redemption in trying to rehabilitate her — he's trying to save one version of Laurel because he couldn't save the other. I love that Oliver goes about this in a semi-healthy way in "Who Are You?" because normally Oliver's crusades are one-man missions that get everyone around him in trouble.
Actually, that honor belonged to someone else this week...
A NEW KIND OF FELICITY
Dear Arrow writers, I missed this Felicity Smoak. Give me more of her, please. And sprinkle in some more darkness so that Emily Bett Rickards can continue to shine. Love, me.
But seriously, friends, I think that this is the first episode in a while in which I've really felt like Felicity was well-rounded and on a good trajectory for the rest of the season. Picking up where I last left off though, Felicity actually begins to let recklessness infiltrate her life in this episode. When Black Siren and Oliver have a meet-up — with the rest of the team standing by in case he needs back-up — Felicity makes an executive decision to take down the female villain when it appears she might be a threat. Make no mistake about it, Felicity knew that Black Siren probably wasn't about to attack Oliver. But she needs an outlet to channel her grief and anger into, and currently it's this. Why, you ask? Because when you feel helpless, there's nothing that you crave more than a little bit of power.
I mentioned that Oliver mostly is healthy in his pursuit of helping Black Siren heal and become a pseudo-Laurel, but Felicity continually points out in this episode that Black Siren is not Laurel Lance. At all. And Oliver needs to stop pretending that she is. But Felicity isn't issue-less in this episode either. It's clear she's projecting her anger at Prometheus and her grief over Billy's death onto Black Siren. She jumps the gun, desperate to take the villain down. Why? Because Felicity needs SOMEONE to pay for what happened to Billy. Oliver assures her that Prometheus will be brought to justice but it was really nice to see Felicity facing her own demons in this episode in her own way.
Make no mistake about it: I'm still mad at the writers for the way they handled Havenrock and Felicity's paralyzation. It's absurd to me that it takes losing her boyfriend — a guy we and she barely knew — to send Felicity down a path of self-actualization. But honestly, at this point, I'll take any story about Felicity that I can get that isn't related to her relationship with Oliver, directly. Because this week's story isn't rooted in their feelings for one another at all: it's rooted in their mutual grief and feelings of helplessness.
Felicity throws all of her energy onto Black Siren, even going so far as to let her escape so that she would lead them to Prometheus. She risks her life in the attempt to get justice for Billy's death. It's not something she did lightly, but when Felicity decides to do something, there is no stopping her. And there's an incredible scene between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow Cave, where he begins to chastise her for letting Black Siren go and almost getting herself killed in the process. She, meanwhile, tells him that he needs to stop projecting his helplessness onto Black Canary. He's seeking redemption for Laurel any way that he can get it, and it's putting their lives at risk. I don't think Oliver realized how far he was willing to go for this redemptive crusade until this episode.
But then again, neither was Felicity prepared for how far she might go to get justice. In a face-off, Prometheus challenges Oliver to choose between battling him and saving Felicity, who is being threatened by Black Siren. When Oliver attempts one last-ditch miniature monologue to sway not!Laurel to the side of the light, it fails and he shields Felicity as Black Siren does her siren thing. But Felicity put her life on the line because justice was more important to her than anything else. It's interesting to consider how far she might go to do this. She went behind everyone's back at the party to swab DNA, didn't tell anyone about her plan to let Black Siren escape, and also commanded Rory, Curtis, and Rene to do something without Oliver's consent.
A reckless Felicity is an interesting one, and I want to see more of her.
MY KIND OF OLICITY
I'll make this short and sweet: I need more Oliver/Felicity scenes like the ones in this episode if I'm ever to believe that these two crazy kids can make it work. I need Oliver being the hopeful one, and Felicity delving into darkness. I need them to challenge each other, to fight and then walk away (but stay in the same room). I need Oliver to be upfront about his crusades, and for Felicity to tell him when they're not working. I need Felicity to push Oliver to become better, and I need them to teach one another things constantly — to never stop learning, because that builds a relationship whose cornerstone is trust.
If this continues — which I know will be short-lived since Annoying Reporter Chick is still existing, after all — I might finally return to being aboard the Oliver/Felicity train. Until then, I'll sit back and hope that Oliver is beginning to learn his lessons.
Overall, "Who Are You?" felt like it resolved a number of loose strings while also giving us new threads to tug at (do we really need someone filling the Black Canary role, show? And what is Prometheus' actual endgame here?). But as far as episodes are concerned, this one actually managed to hit the mark. Kudos, show! Don't make this short-lived for me.
And now, bonus points:
- (Yes, I kept getting The Who's song stuck in my head. Hence this week's subtitle!)
- Thank you all for being patient and waiting for this review. As it turns out, having a birthday that falls in the middle of the work week really messes with your television watching/reviewing schedule!
- I love that immediately, Felicity is skeptical of Laurel's reappearance.
- "After the past four years, it's just hard for me to accept good news."
- I'm a huge fan of evil!Laurel (also known as Black Siren). She's a lot more fun, for me anyway, than regular Laurel Lance.
- I missed Thea.
- So there was a Diggle story this week, because if you'll recall, he's been arrested. Evil General Dude is planning to have him killed, but thankfully Adrian Chase is able to find a way to get Diggle to remain in Star(ling) City custody and prevent that from happening. Adrian Chase officially became awesome in this episode.
- Rory remains the cutest and the best character for levity at the moment.
- "Every meta gets a nickname."
- "We get to choose what we are. We get to choose WHO we are."
- I kind of like the fact that Curtis and Rene had a conversation of substance. Also, another character facing an identity crisis? Curtis. He laments the fact that he's not as good in the field as everyone else and feels like he's failing. Rene, however, reminds him that there are things he IS good at and a reason he was brought to the team in the first place. He doesn't need to fixate on what he can't do well, but rather what he can do well. It was nice for them to have a story, and I find that Curtis being a bit more serious is actually nice sometimes. He gets a little too cartoonish otherwise.
- "When did you find the time to get a PhD in psychology?"
- "Do you have a sister? I hear he LOVES sisters." Okay, props to the person who wrote that line.
- "Can we have the room, please?" "Seriously? This is getting good."
- I'm still not paying attention to the flashbacks. I had hoped that the Russia ones would be interesting, since we waited for them/Bratva for a while now. But sadly, they're not compelling to me at all. I'm actually rather bored while watching them. Bonus of this week's flashback, though? We got introduced to Talia al Ghul!
- "You really need to shut your damn mouth" is literally the best one-liner said to a villain in recent memory.
- Felicity got to punch Black Siren, which is officially awesome.
What did you all think of Arrow's return? Sound off in the comments below!