Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Arrow 4x03 "Restoration" (Make the Clock Reverse, Bring Back What Once Was Mine)

Original Airdate: October 21, 2015

Have you ever had a fight with someone before?

(You're human, I assume, so of course you have.)

Okay, but have you ever REALLY had a fight with someone before? The kind of fight where you can't even stand to be in the same room as that person and when you know that your relationship is going to take some time to mend? Most of the fights that I have had with my mom and my sister (and occasionally my brother) have been the "quick-fix" ones — the ones where you yell and say mean things and shut your bedroom door, but ultimately after dinner, you've settled back into normalcy again. The bitter words are done and over with and you've moved forward until your next fight.

Not all fights are settled so simply, though. Sometimes you drag around the baggage like a weight on your ankle. And it always — always — comes back to hurt you in the end. Oliver and Diggle are at odds. No, wait, that's putting it far too nicely. Oliver and Diggle's relationship at the beginning of this season and the beginning of "Restoration" is a lot like the rift caused by Pangea: one that is huge and has lasting consequences. But the bromance between these two isn't the only restoration that is fixated upon in the latest episode of Arrow. There is also the literal restoration of Sara Lance and the figurative (possible) restoration of Thea Queen.

With all this talk of reparation, let's dive in, shall we?


I said in my review of "My Name Is Oliver Queen" that I was glad the Arrow writers didn't easily fix Oliver and Diggle's relationship, because it was not an easily fixable problem. Oliver betrayed Diggle and in Diggle's mind, that was a line you cannot cross without repercussions, and severe ones. When I was little, I wasn't always a model daughter. I broke my parents' trust quite often, and it hurt them. And it hurt me. And honestly, the thing it hurt most was our relationship. Every time I would say something, my parents internally questioned me and my motives. How could I blame them? After all, I hadn't done anything to give them much faith in me.

Lyla Michaels and baby Sara are two of the most important things in John Diggle's life. Toying with them, even if Oliver was in complete control, wasn't a line he should have crossed. I get that. I totally do. But Oliver and Diggle's circumstances are a bit different than the ones between me and my parents. They rely on each other, night in and night out, to have one another's backs. And when Diggle and Oliver aren't communicating openly, it's the difference between life and death for one or both of them.

And that's precisely the final straw for Felicity. Felicity Smoak doesn't get mad often. She's more prone, like me, to express her emotions through crying. When typically calm people lose their tempers, it's terrifying. Felicity does just this at Diggle and Oliver in the not-foundry-foundry and honestly, it's one of the most amazing moments in Felicity Meghan Smoak's history. As she berates both Oliver and Diggle for letting their issues compromise their safety, the men — wonderfully — look genuinely scared of her. 

The problem between Diggle and Oliver is rooted not in the lack of trust, but the lack of willingness to try to restore the relationship on Diggle's part. He admittedly doesn't want to give Oliver the chance to prove himself again. They have a heartbreaking confrontation in the not-foundry-foundry about this: about how Oliver has tried so hard, apologized so many times, and Diggle has never once stepped toward him. He's only stepped back and away. We know from last week that Diggle has been hiding things — things about H.I.V.E., valuable information that Oliver needed to know about to help.

And, to his credit, Oliver isn't mad at Diggle for withholding information. Probably because he remembers being on the other side of that conversation every episode in season three. (I'm just saying.) In To Write Love On Her Arms, Renee says something extremely apt: "Secrets make you sick." It's true. In order for Oliver to prove himself — to try and restore the relationship with Diggle he once had — Diggle needs to let Oliver in and to stop trying to do things alone. I'm thankful this particular story didn't drag on for another few episodes and that it ended with Oliver proving he would do anything for Diggle — even take a bullet.

Er... I mean, a metahuman's deadly playing card tattoos.


First off, let me address one of the villains of the evening, Malcolm Merlyn. See, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BECOME AN EVIL VILLAIN AND OCCASIONALLY ACTUALLY HAVE GOOD ADVICE. No one listens to Malcolm about the Lazarus Pit. It's kind of hilarious, actually, that he's the only one with a working knowledge of it, the only one who people should be turning to with advice, and yet he's consistently ignored when it comes to his sound judgement regarding, you know, bringing people back to life using its waters.

Oh, Malcolm. If only you didn't have such a duplicitous personality and face, maybe Oliver and Laurel would have actually listened to you. Speaking of those two, I've been reading around the Internet from fans that we shouldn't compare the two circumstances. That Oliver making the decision to save Thea is not the same as Laurel's decision to resurrect Sara. And to a point, I think that's accurate. These definitely are different circumstances — Thea was only mostly dead (on the brink of officially being classified as "dead"), while Sara had been long gone and buried in the ground for a year. And while that is true and while what Oliver did isn't exactly the same as what Laurel did (or why she did it), the fact remains that these two circumstances are similar.

They're both rooted in selfishness.

And before you berate me for calling Oliver selfish, let me first clarify something for you all: selfish often, as a term, gets a negative connotation. We use it frequently as such. But just because Oliver and Laurel are selfish in their love doesn't mean that they are unfeeling — on the contrary, I think their actions indicate that they care too much, that they can't let go. The reason why I don't like Oliver and Laurel romantically is that they're toxic. When they are together, they become the worst versions of themselves. They illuminate every negative quality they have. And selfishness and stubbornness are both qualities that Oliver and Laurel possess (Laurel more so sometimes than Oliver, especially because this season Oliver has learned to try and let other people in and not control them).

But let's not romanticize heroes, here, either: Oliver is no saint. When he travels to Nanda Parbat in order to resurrect Thea in "The Fallen" (because yeah, I'm going to make this argument: she basically was close to the edge of death, even though Malcolm in this episode says she wasn't dead, it was pretty well-established — at least to me — that she would never wake up from her coma), Malcolm warns him that bringing Thea back will not bring back the same little sister he once knew. Malcolm, in his rare wisdom, tells Oliver that it is better for Thea to die at peace than to be thrust into the Lazarus Pit and emerge tainted with darkness. Bringing Thea back to life that way is no real life at all and by lowering her into the waters, you are literally yanking her away from eternal rest by giving her eternal unrest (and possible darkness). But Oliver doesn't heed Malcolm's warnings. And for all of his — EXTREMELY NUMEROUS — faults, Malcolm was right. Bringing Thea back didn't bring back the same Thea Queen who was lowered in.

Oliver just couldn't let one more person in his life die, though. He couldn't bear the pain of one more loss. That was too much for him to handle — with Sara gone, Thea gone, Felicity with Ray, Moira dead, and his father long gone... what did Oliver have left? Desperation leads us to do selfish things. Love leads us to do selfish things. And so, Oliver resurrecting Thea wasn't an action he did for her sake — it was an action he did for HIS. That is what I mean when I say that Oliver's choice was selfish. Was it wrong? That's up for you to debate. But it was selfish in the sense that his decision was more to save himself from heartbreak than it was to give Thea the best life possible. The best thing for Thea, as Malcolm noted, would have been to let her rest — to let her be at peace. But that's not the kind of person Oliver is. He doesn't just accept things the way they are. He challenges status quos and that's what makes him such an amazing hero.

It's also what drives him to make decisions that aren't completely and well-contemplated.


Laurel's circumstance is similar, but a bit different. Yes, it's true that Sara has been dead for a year already, and Laurel should have worked through some of the most crippling parts of her grief. Nyssa brings up an extremely valid point when she confronts Laurel about her decision — both women love Sara, but love isn't the driving force here. It's grief.

Laurel wants to bring Sara back so she never has to stop grieving. Grief is difficult. It's like forgiveness. I once heard someone say that forgiveness is a process. You don't forgive someone and move forward completely. The next time you think of that wrongdoing or of that person, you have to make the conscious decision to forgive again. And again. And again. Grief is similar — you never really STOP grieving someone you've lost. I know a woman who is re-married after her first spouse died of cancer in 2006. She loves her new husband, deeply, but she'll never stop grieving her deceased one. She will always love him and miss him.

So I understand what Nyssa means when she confronts Laurel about the decision to use the Lazarus Pit on Sara. That's not a decision rooted in love. It's rooted in grief. And I agree with her, to an extent. I do think that Laurel's decision is rooted in the same selfish love that drove Oliver to the Pit in the first place. He didn't want to let go of Thea. Laurel doesn't want to let go of Sara.

(And yes, I'm also aware that there is a difference between the circumstances since Sara has been gone for a long time and Oliver believed he was "saving" Thea from death by using the Pit.)

But at the heart of Laurel's desires is selfish love. SHE is still not ready to let go of Sara. She wants her baby sister back in her life, however she can get her back. Does Laurel love Sara? Absolutely. Should she try to move forward and continue to grieve and celebrate and love Sara without her by her side? Yes, that's what I noted above regarding grief. It's a process, after all, and a life-long one for Laurel. Would you make a different decision if you were in Laurel's place? That's... a good question. For all of my harping on Laurel and her decision-making, it's easy to say what I think a character should do and harder to actually admit that I would be better.

Because I'm an older sister — I love my baby sister more than pretty much anything else in the world right now. So can I say with a clear conscience that if I was in Laurel's shoes, I would turn around and fly away from Nanda Parbat without using the Pit on my baby sister? Could I walk away without seeing her face or hearing her voice if I knew there was a chance to do so?

I... can't. I don't know what I would do. In fact, I don't know if what Laurel is doing is right or wrong because I can't say with certainty that I would make a different decision. And that's extremely interesting and complex to me. Laurel's relationship with Sara is the one thing — for me — that makes her personally relatable. I connect on almost every other level with Felicity Smoak (and sometimes with Thea), but this is one area in which I am tethered to Laurel. I know what it's like to be a big sister and yeah, while I can sit here and say that Laurel is being selfish by refusing to do the hard thing (grieve) and take the easy way out (bring someone back so you don't have to grieve), I also can't say that I would do anything differently.

(All of this few hundred words to say that I'm not sure if Oliver and Laurel made the right decisions in bringing their siblings back because THEY wanted them back and it was better for their hearts if they didn't have to break again. But what I do know is that I can't say I would do anything differently. So who am I to judge, either of these characters, then? Good on you, Arrow, for making your characters do things that actually make me THINK and relate more to them and your show.)

Nyssa makes a point toward the end of the episode (after she destroys the Lazarus Pit): Sara's death? That was on Malcolm's hands. But Sara's resurrection and what comes of it? That's on Laurel's. And the question lingers is this: she may bear Sara's likeness and name and voice, but who is the woman who emerged form the Pit, really?



So let me talk both about the literal Darhk and the figurative one within Thea. First of all, Damien is the most terrifying villain that this show has ever had, in my opinion. He's calm and collected until you press the right combination of his buttons. For reference, a laundry list of things that we have learned so far Damien doesn't like: cowards, cursing, disobedience, sass, anarchy, back-talking, messiness, calling him by his first name (oops), any color that isn't blue.

When Damien enlists Jeremy Tell, a metahuman, to take down the Green Arrow and aforementioned metahuman fails to do so, Mr. Darhk makes someone else pay the price (that person just so happens to be the one woman who ordered the hit on Andy Diggle). Similarly, in Thea's storyline this week, the actions of someone else caused Thea to pay the ultimate price.

Malcolm Merlyn made Thea kill Sara. And because she did, a chain of events was set off that eventually landed her in the Lazarus Pit. Because of the Pit's effects, Thea now has a lust for blood — something that Malcolm tells her will never go away as long as she's alive. If she kills people, the darkness will be tempered for a while, but not permanently. There is no rest for her while she is on earth. (In a convoluted explanation though that was kind of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, Malcolm conceded to bringing Sara back because it would give Thea peace. The thing causing her unrest is the Pit and its effects. And she was in the pit because she killed Sara. So if Malcolm resurrected Sara, it stands to reason — I'm using the term "reason" pretty loosely here — that Thea would have nothing to feel guilty about. Mind you, Malcolm makes this decision AFTER he sets up two League pawns for Thea to slaughter and quench her blood lust. Father of the year, that one is.

Thea's story is still complex, though, interwoven with threads of darkness that she can never truly pluck away. The same holds true for Sara Lance, in a deeper way. And really, a lot of Arrow and "Restoration" can be boiled down to this idea: you can mend relationships, repair brokenness, and try to restore everything to the way it was before. 

The question isn't IF you can restore things — relationships and people and situations. The question is... should you?

Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP for this episode is bestowed upon Willa Holland, mostly for her scene in Nanda Parbat where Thea tells Malcolm that she will not kill anyone — that she will not become like him. It was so powerful and yet also subtle. Thea does a lot of yelling in Arrow and a lot of getting up in peoples' faces. But this one felt... different. And it felt different because she kept her distance from John Barrowman, but also because Willa interjected a lot of pain into those lines instead of just anger. It was beautifully done.
  • Okay, look I love Original Team Arrow as much as the next person, but the references were waaaaaaaaaay too heavy-handed this episode. One is fine. Two, I'll give it to you. There were literally THREE references within the first six minutes. (I checked the clock.) Plus another one at the end of the episode.
  • After listening to the Arrow season three soundtrack this week, I appreciate Blake Neely's score even more. The opening chase/fight sequence was awesome.
  • I weirdly love how much Malcolm and Nyssa hate one another.
  • "You're ARGUS?" "You can read!"
  • Guess who has two thumbs and still isn't paying attention to flashbacks? THIS CHICK! This week in flashback-land, Oliver tries to stop people in the workers' camp from getting executed by another soldier and rescues a woman by pretending to bring her into the forest to kill her. But they manage to escape and somehow I still don't think she's making it off that island. 
  • "Does that qualify as being normal?"
  • I love Curtis Holt so much and I especially love that they made the reaction to him discovering Felicity's secret really subdued. In fact, his response was to be awed by her and how she's actively helping make the world and Star(ling) City better. I love him and I adore Echo Kellum.
  • "You're supposed to be more evolved than him." "... Hmm?" "Sorry, but he is." FELICITY LOVES OLIVER BUT ALSO KNOWS THE TRUTH: DIGGLE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE EVOLVED. I love this show.
  • "I will NOT kill people. I won't."
  • "Since when are you such a badass?" "Since always." HATERS TO THE LEFT, PLEASE.
  • I just get so happy whenever Sara Lance is on my screen.
  • "You guys are a special kind of stupid." Where is the lie, though?
  • I'm ready to see the actual Lair 3.0! We've seen sketches and renderings of it. GIMME THE REAL THING.
  • Thank you to @hellresidentNY for pointing out that we made it one whole episode without talking about Oliver's mayoral campaign.
  • Also thank you to the people on Twitter who pointed out that it is probably Ray contacting Felicity through her phone. Good catch!
Well, there you have it, folks. Did you enjoy "Restoration"? Let me know in the comments below. Until then. :)


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