Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Arrow 4x06 "Lost Souls" (Hold Me Close, 'Cause I'm a Hopeless Wanderer)

"Lost Souls"
Original Airdate: November 11, 2015

One of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of being lost.

Luckily for me, I've inherited my dad's sense of direction. I can drive to a place once and generally remember how to get back to it, should I return. My dad navigates driving with relative ease and — as someone who doesn't own a smart phone — he surprisingly rarely gets lost, even without that friendly Apple GPS directing him every step of the way. I've been lost before, though, when driving. I've gone down dark roads, squinting at street signs, the feeling of panic bubbling up in my chest because oh gosh what if I just keep driving in the wrong direction for hours? What happens then?

I've been lost in a less literal sense, too. I've struggled to find direction and purpose and meaning in my life before. I've spent hours and sometimes days seemingly trapped in this swirling dark cloud of insecurity and uncertainty. I don't like that feeling and I'd venture to guess that not many people do. We love feeling like we are in control of our lives and our circumstances. We love knowing what is just ahead of us so that we can prepare. We love that feeling because it's like a security blanket to us — warm, comforting, smelling sweetly of home.

See, that's the thing about being lost. You only know that you're lost because you've experienced what it feels like to be found, to have a home. Sara Lance, recently returning from the dead, is completely lost in this week's episode of Arrow, aptly titled "Lost Souls." She doesn't know who she is anymore, and cannot stop herself from becoming the person she already is. It's one thing to start with a blank slate — blank slates are exciting because they hold promise. But what happens when you don't begin your life with a blank slate? What happens when that slate is already muddied with mistakes and pain far darker than anyone should have to bear in the moments after they arrive (or re-arrive) on earth?

Sara Lance isn't the only soul who feels lost in this episode, though. Felicity Smoak is feeling lost and that is not only foreign to her, but it's also frustrating. And it's scary. And she thinks that maybe, just maybe, she has lost who she is in who she is with Oliver. With all of this heaviness to tackle, let's dive into a discussion about these lost souls, shall we?


Okay, so here's the deal — I love Felicity Smoak. I love her so much because I relate to her on pretty much every level (okay, except for the level where she's dating like, the most attractive superhero and is also a hacker slash genius). "Lost Souls" allowed us to see a side of Felicity that we rarely get to see, and that is the side where she becomes unhinged. True story time: when I was in high school, I won "Most Reliable" on my newspaper staff. That's the kind of person I am — always there, always prepared, always dependable. It's something that I've actually been struggling with at my new job. I'm in this mentality that I have to be a superhero. I have to have all of the answers and be able to say "yes" to everything. The moment I tell someone that I need a deadline pushed back or can't do an assignment is — in my warped thinking — the moment that I have failed and let down everyone.

Isn't that like, really foolish thinking? And yet, it's how I often operate. And it's how Felicity Smoak does too. Recall, if you will, every time Felicity has helped another character on this show (and on The Flash). If your list is growing too long to keep accurate track of, you'd be exactly where I am right now. Felicity solves problems. That is her job. That is where she feels most at peace and most at home. Isn't that essentially what she told Oliver in this season's premiere? She finds her worth and her purpose when she can solve puzzles and save lives.

Felicity carries the burdens of broken people. She's carried Oliver's before. And Roy's. And Ray's. And Sara's. And Diggle's. And Laurel's. And Thea's. And her mother's. And Barry's. And Captain Lance's. Felicity is the person who carries others and who is always there to offer an encouraging word or a smile or a well-crafted motivational speech. That is who she is, at her core. She is the woman who carries other people and helps set them on the trajectory to become the heroes they always could be but never dreamed possible. She removes their burdens and says, in her sweet way: "I've got this. Let me help you. You are not alone. I believe in you."

But the question is... who carries Felicity? Because it's tough to always be the constant — the reliable one, the dependable one. When you can't fix a problem and your identity primarily wrapped up in problem-fixing, you get frustrated. You get angry. That is why Sara posed such a threat to Felicity when she first entered the Arrow cave. It wasn't because she was pretty or a love interest of Oliver's. It was because that when Sara was around, Felicity wasn't the one everyone relied on to fix problems. And if she couldn't be that person, then who WAS she, really?

In "Lost Souls," Felicity is stressed and she's snapped because she feels guilty over what has happened to Ray in the same way that Oliver felt guilt over what happened to Thea's blood lust. They both didn't feel guilt over what they did, but rather what they did not do. And Felicity's guilt and pain is inherently tied up in the fact that she doesn't quite know who she is (we will discuss this momentarily). We saw that in the season premiere this year, when the topic of kids was mentioned. Felicity chokes on her drink and Oliver smiles — beams, really. I relate so much to Felicity as a character. I understand why she's angry. I get the fact that it has nothing and everything to do with Oliver. I get that she feels guilt and frustration and sadness and regret. I understand that she feels torn between her lives and that she feels, in hindsight, guilty for her happiness and bliss.

If she didn't feel all of these things — if she didn't agonize over decisions and cry and snap and ultimately remind herself of who she is and what she deserves — then she wouldn't be the Felicity that I fell in love with. And she wouldn't be the Felicity that Oliver did either.


When Oliver and Felicity drove off into the sunset at the end of season three, both of them were making a choice, but one of them was making a bigger decision than the other. You see, Oliver was ready — more than ready, actually — to hang everything on Felicity: all of his hopes and his dreams and his future. And Felicity thought she was ready to do the same. But as "Green Arrow" revealed, she's still uncertain of who she is and what she wants. Felicity is around the same age that I am (roughly), while Oliver is a few years older. And the fact of the matter is that she's struggling with a quarter-life crisis (the one John Mayer sang about) and what that means to her is that she is trying to be everything for everyone without taking the time to find out who she actually is.

She's a lover and a Steppenwolf wife in her cozy little home with Oliver. But that isn't really who she is. She's a CEO and a boss, but she's still trying to figure that out too. She's the girlfriend of a vigilante in Star(ling) City. She's the tech-wiz and the hero and the one who always saves the day and comes through for her friends. She is a million different things at once, all while wearing fashionable dresses and trendy heels. And yet... she's so lost in her different identities that she's trying to find meaning in latching onto one of those identities and defining herself by it and it alone. And that's where Oliver factors into the equation.

In "Lost Souls," Felicity constantly pushes Oliver away with retorts and sharp remarks and she does this mostly because she's sleep-deprived and guilt-ridden over leaving Star(ling) City when Ray was still alive and sending out signals for help. But I think she also does it because it's easier to blame Oliver for making her "lose" her identity than it is for her to actually acknowledge the fact that maybe she has been in this identity crisis longer than she is willing to admit to herself. What I think is so interesting about this episode is the idea of losing your individuality in a romantic relationship. I've known friends to have this happen to (and in fact, there's an entire episode of How I Met Your Mother dedicated to this fact) and it's kind of disheartening to watch unfold. This also happens when people have kids sometimes — they pour all of their energy and identity into their child that when that kid grows up and eventually leaves, the parents don't know who they are anymore without him or her to take care of. Honestly, I don't think that this is what has happened to Felicity though. I think she unfairly places blame on Oliver for taking away her identity when he whisked her away in that Porsche because it's easy and because she feels guilt.

So Felicity pushes and pushes and tells Oliver that she was never the kind of girl who would lose herself in a guy. She never wanted to BE that person whose entire identity and world was wrapped up in him, but that — she claims — is what has happened. Oliver is heartbroken and decides to give Felicity space. Let's just dwell on the emotional maturity of Oliver Queen for a moment, shall we? Here is a man who at the same point last season, kept pushing Felicity away because he thought that was what was best for her. He pushed her right to Ray and then he moped about it and did stupid things and... well, okay, let's not rehash all the problems I had with Oliver last season.

But in this episode, Oliver gives Felicity space and he does it not because he's angry, but because he knows space is healthy. Forcing Felicity to talk isn't working and he's not going to drive a wedge between them further, so he talks to Dig and he drinks with Dig and he actually laughs and relaxes instead of doing something self-destructive. Hallelujah, praise Jesus for character progress. Meanwhile, Felicity is self-destructing in another way by pushing Oliver away, even though she loves him and knows he is not to blame for her current identity crisis. 

The thing is, Felicity hasn't had the best examples of romance or relationships in her life. She's seen dysfunction far too many times over and the way that she looks at Donna Smoak, you can tell, is in the same way one might be asked to watch a "don't do drugs" video in school — as a cautionary tale. Felicity isn't just experiencing that twenty-something crisis of identity. She's also upset with herself because she's fallen into a relationship where she is happy and where she left everything she knew in order to be with a man... and the only way that Felicity has ever seen that story play out has been badly. And that's terrifying to our darling Smoak.

Thankfully, Mama Smoak swoops in to save the day. When Felicity tells her that she's fearful she's lost all of who she is in Oliver, Donna proposes this — that is what love is. Love means losing part of who you are, and it means that the other person does similarly. It's not a bad thing to lose yourself in love... because you're not really losing yourself. You're actively choosing to share your life with someone else and to let them into your deepest, most broken and vulnerable places. You carry each other. Love is a gamble because you put a piece of you on the line and you hope the other person places their half alongside yours. While some aspects of this are more cushy-television-romance advice (losing yourself in a relationship and your identity really isn't a good thing, and Felicity's fears are actually pretty valid), most of the advice is actually quite solid. Just because you don't know exactly who you are doesn't mean you shouldn't figure it out alongside the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Isn't that what a relationship is, at its core? 

Felicity realizes this at the end of the episode, as she and Oliver apologize to one another for the way they behaved (Oliver for going over Felicity's head and calling her mom; Felicity for placing unfair blame on Oliver for taking her out of town in a Porsche). And what really strikes me as important in this Oliver/Felicity relationship is the fact that there is always mutual respect and understanding between the two of them. Felicity trusts Oliver and loves him, even when he's frustrating the crap out of her. And he's constantly supportive, even when she yells and calls him "Chatty Cathy." They fight for each other in a healthy way this year — they communicate (Oliver telling Felicity that they need to talk later is such great character growth), they are honest (even when it is brutal), and they actually listen to one another. Felicity may not know exactly who she is, but I don't think "Lost Souls" was supposed to give us a simple answer for that. I think it merely existed as a way to show us that even the most put-together people feel guilt and feel pain and hurt and second-guess their decisions and love deeply.

And ultimately, Oliver and Felicity's relationship strengthens in this episode because of that.


(I've got puns for DAYS.)

Damien Darhk has something evil up his sleeve and it's not just another magic trick. Unfortunately for him, Team Arrow banded together and managed to rescue Ray — with assistance in the field from Curtis! — from his evil cube-shaped prison. But that doesn't stop Darhk from becoming excited about whatever project he has cooked up in order to save (see: destroy) the city. Oh, and there is one more itsy bitsy tiny little problem now... Darhk knows that Ray was communicating with Felicity Smoak, which now puts her on the evil genie's radar. And even though that sounds like a fun place to be, it's most definitely not.

Apart from snippets of the Darhk, the other type of darkness tackled in this episode is one that involves my favorite "lost soul": Sara Lance. Her blood lust is not being satiated and when she takes trips into the field to help Team Arrow take down baddies, that anger and vengeance begins to get the best of her. So much so, that she actually ends up killing a guard while the team extracts Ray. Laurel and Thea are insistent that Sara can learn to control her anger and that they can help her. But Sara seems to know better.

Sara Lance is such a fascinating character to me because her evolution is one of the most dramatic on this series — and in fact may be the MOST dramatic, Oliver Queen included. This is a woman who was a giggly blonde girl, who was presumed to be dead and then was forced to become an assassin, who returned to Starling City and became a vigilante, who turned into a hero, who then actually died (for realsies), and then was raised back from the dead. Sara's story is one that is filled with pain and despair and what I found most fascinating about this episode, though, is that in spite of the blood lust, we see a quiet and softer version of Sara than we have ever seen. She's smiling and gentle and cries a lot. 

And she's wise enough to know that if you feel lost — if your soul feels uneasy — the best course of action is generally to find peace for it. And that peace will not be found in Star(ling) City, a place that is the literal nucleus of every non-Lian Yu/Nanda Parbat pain Sara has ever encountered. Laurel and Thea don't want her to go, but they ultimately understand that if they ever want Sara back in their lives permanently as a healthy, happy young woman, then she needs to find a home for her wandering soul. And the best way to do that is to travel and try to harness light elsewhere. I'm proud of Sara, truly, for being brave enough to escape the place that is comfortable and venture into the unknown in an effort to save herself.

"Lost Souls" was one of the best episodes of Arrow recently, primarily because it focused on women, and also because it reminded us that while everyone who resides in the Arrow 3.0 cave is a hero, that doesn't mean everyone automatically always feels content with their lives and circumstances. Sometimes your soul is restless — like it is a hopeless wanderer. And the only thing to do in those cases is to allow it the space and time (and love) to find its way home again.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • Let's never stop talking about how great the MVP of the episode was: Emily Bett Rickards. I don't understand how one young woman can be so hilarious in one scene and completely break your heart in the other (I'm looking at you, Oliver/Felicity fight). EBR has proven throughout the course of this series that she's a force to be reckoned with and someone who should not be underestimated (that goes for the actress and the character). All of Felicity's emotions throughout this episode were palpable, from her frantic energy, off-the-charts snark, gut-wrenching pain, and tender resolve. She absolutely knocked it out of the park and I'm so thankful that she has inhabited such an amazing female character. Kudos to you, EBR!
  • In flashback-land, Oliver got duped into killing a dude and Island Love Interest is still alive (for now). Also there was some magical nonsense going on, but who cares about that, really?
  • "Well, one of us has to have a job that makes money." I will never NOT love that Oliver accepts Felicity makes bank and he is broke.
  • I kinda dig Alex/Thea which can only mean this will end badly.
  • "You're married, he's straight. You're married, he's straight..." Couldn't we have introduced Echo Kellum LAST season? Maybe it would have been a better season...
  • I'm just happy Caity Lotz is back on my screen. And oddly, I didn't even mind Ray in this episode. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
  • "I will, however, accept your undying support and back rub." They're so married it hurts.
  • Okay, criticism time: Arrow... you don't need to have EVERY SINGLE FLASHBACK-TO-PRESENT OR PRESENT-TO-FLASHBACK TRANSITION CONNECT EXACTLY. There was a weird bird transition and something else in this episode that made me roll my eyes.
  • I also really missed Charlotte Ross' Donna Smoak, so I'm stoked she's returned.
  • "Well, she dyes it actually." FAVORITE CALLBACK IS FAVORITE.
  • Okay, the moment that Team Arrow listened to Oliver/Felicity's banter and all started grinning was absolute perfection. 
  • Dig just watching Oliver and Felicity's banter is perfection.
  • "Isn't luck just another word for destiny?"
  • "Felicity Smoak is one of the smartest, most badass women on the planet." Where is the lie, though? 
  • "He's wonderful, in a million different ways." You stop your adorable stuff right now, you idiots.
  • "... Yeah, I really do have too many hobbies."
  • There was a #LadiesSupportingLadies fight sequence and I could not have been happier.
  • "It's kind of amazing that we've made it this far." THESE TWO THOUGH.
  • "Just because I understand science doesn't mean I'm not bored by it." Between this and the cursing comment, I'm beginning to grow concerned over how much I'm relating to an evil supervillain...
What did you all think of this week's Arrow? Let me know in the comments below! :)


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