Saturday, November 4, 2017

Arrow 6x04 Review: "Reversal" (Clever Girl, Meet Tech Boy) [Contributor: Jenn]

Original Airdate: November 2, 2017

It's a few weeks into this season of Arrow and I honestly don't know what to do with myself — I have very little to say in the way of snark. I'm not seething with rage at a stupid decision (or string of stupid decisions) from Oliver Queen. My only point of annoyance this week is that Oliver tried to "white knight" Felicity, but even then, the show proved that Felicity could shut him down and that it was Oliver's job to meet Felicity where she was at and listen to her rather than anticipate her needs. Indeed, the title of this episode is apt because we see quite a few characters in role reversals -- most poignantly, perhaps, Oliver and Felicity. Let's take a look at what happened in the episode, which includes my thoughts on the season's new Big Bad (and the Baby Bad), Diggle-as-Green Arrow, and everyone's ship: Olicity.


From the random woman at the restaurant to Alena to Curtis and pretty much all of Team Arrow, it's hard to find someone in the city who isn't invested in the relationship between our Mayor Handsome and The Brightest Witch of Her Age... errrr, I mean Clever Girl Smoak. What's really great about this episode, apart from the fact that Oliver and Felicity naturally have fallen back into their adorable pattern of "let's make heart eyes at each other for 50 minutes" is that it actually provides some substance to their relationship.

For starters, Oliver and Felicity have to deal with the fact that he is protective — and he will never be able to change that part of him that wants to dive in front of bad guys for the woman he loves. It's all well and good to have a "white knight" complex, I guess (there are definitely worse complexes to have), but Oliver only acts in the way he thinks Felicity needs him to act and not in the way that she actually needs him to act. And as it turns out, he actually royally screws up in "Reversal," messing with Felicity's mission and knocking out the people who were pretty set to give her resources she needed to take down Cayden James — our season's new Big Bad! As it turns out, Oliver, not every situation can heroically be solved by beating up the people you assume are the bad guys.

(I think Oliver is itching a little bit to get back into the field and this provided him the opportunity to feel like he was contributing something again.)

After Felicity has words with Oliver and he has words back (blah, blah, blah Oliver does his typical heroic dance where he protects Felicity because he can't bear for anything to happen to her. Dude, this is the chick who took a bullet for your then-girlfriend, remember? The one who actually knocked out her own ex-boyfriend when he held her at gunpoint. Remember that too?), the two decide to actually switch roles for the remainder of the episode. And it's pretty dang perfect because not only do they physically switch seats, but they also emotionally switch seats.

Alena is back in the picture because it turns out Cayden James is actually a bad guy and not a good guy. Oops. Remember when Helix extracted him last season? Yes, the same Helix that drove a wedge between Felicity and Team Arrow because of all of the secrecy and hacktivisim and law-breaking and ARGUS infiltrating. As far as I can tell, and our hacktivists can, Cayden wants to shut down the internet. Seems... about right. There is still a chance for these two ladies to take him down, but it requires teaming up and Felicity isn't exactly Alena's biggest fan at the moment. Still, when there are human lives on the line, Felicity does what's necessary to be heroic.

Oliver's failed rescue attempt aside, he actually steps in to help Felicity and Team Arrow try and take down Cayden James and his team of mini-baddies. With Felicity in the field, Oliver is at the command center, guiding Felicity through the bad guys and fighting. Apart from his few, pretty adorable, mishaps, Oliver manages to lead Felicity — step by step — to her destination. Oliver spends "Reversal" being the one to give Felicity encouragement, affirmation, pep talks, and — ultimately — grace in the face of guilt and blame. Felicity blames herself for the fact that Cayden James is out in the world, apparently seeking to end it. If she hadn't trusted Alena and hadn't been a part of Helix, none of this would have happened.

Luckily for Felicity, Oliver graduated top of his class from the Oliver Queen School for Guilt and Self-Loathing, so he doles out the advice that she would give him. It's really an encouragement to me that Arrow is taking Oliver and Felicity's relationship slowly, first by rebuilding the blocks of their initial relationship that were healthy. We are so used to seeing Felicity on the comms, talking Oliver through a difficult physical or emotional obstacle. But this week, Oliver is the one who gets the chance to play the role of Felicity Smoak. And he does a pretty darn good job. (He did have the best teacher, obviously.)

Still, there's more to this storyline than just a simple, ironic role reversal. Felicity's ability to accept Oliver's grace and advice is actually evidence of her being a strong character. Too often we think of strong characters (especially female ones) as those who always have the answers and solutions and press through the toughest situations without breaking a sweat or batting an eye. But being a strong person means accepting that sometimes we fall down and need a hand to help us back up. Felicity gets the chance to be on the receiving end of that rescue line and it's humbling for her and also for Oliver. She's saved him so many times that he gets to be the one who walks with her through something tough. Make no mistake: Felicity doesn't need Oliver to save her all the time. She's no damsel. But she's human. And for all of the times he has been vulnerable with her, this week was a welcome chance to see Felicity be a little vulnerable right back.

Oliver walked alongside her, not pushing her forward or berating her. He did what a good boyfriend should do — encouraged and supported her in the ways she needed to be encouraged and supported. And ultimately Oliver's affirmation of Felicity will help both of them become better individuals and a better couple in the future. "Reversal" was a lovely chance to see Oliver and Felicity take on situations and emotional burdens that the other person typically carries. I think that after this week, they have a deeper appreciation for one another.


Cayden James is already a great villain. I've never seen Person of Interest or LOST (save your dramatic gasps for the comments section, folks) but I've seen snippets of Michael Emerson's acting and I'm really intrigued by what he will bring to Arrow. Not just in terms of acting, but in terms of the broader plan of a "Big Bad." Unfortunately for me, the Big Bad has little cronies and one of those this week is none other than Black Siren herself. Though I'm always a fan of female villains, Black Siren is essentially a one-trick pony (and for the record, I feel that way about any version of Canary that is not Caity Lotz's) — she does a Canary Cry, stalks about and delivers some salty lines of dialogue. But otherwise, all Black Siren serves to remind us is that she's still a baddie-in-training and her relevance to the real Big Bad will eventually run out. We've all seen that formula play out half a dozen times.

Really, Laurel continuing to be on the series isn't engaging me. The only reason we care about her and the only reason Team Arrow cares about her is because she looks like the Laurel who used to walk their Earth. Otherwise, she's not a really captivating villain and the motive of "bad just for the sake of being bad" is a pretty thin one, writers. Still, it seems like Black Siren will be around for a while so I guess I'll have to get used to the Canary Crying and snide comments a while longer. I am grateful, however, that the show realized her motives and purpose aren't strong enough to anchor an entire season as the Big Bad. So I'm interested to see what exactly Cayden James' motivations are. How did Alena read him so wrong? Is he just after revenge on ARGUS or was he a master manipulator this whole time? What will it look like for Team Arrow to go up against a man who is already ten steps ahead of them? Unlike Damien Darhk — who was the most amusing villain to me because of the fact that Neal McDonough could chew up scenery like nobody's business — or Malcolm Merlyn — who was just a dang delight, brainwashing and murder aside — Cayden seems very calm and measured. He's pretty logical and robotic in his calculations and plans so it'll be fun to watch whether or not the team becomes unhinged in his presence or vice versa.

Speaking of the team, we're still experiencing a role reversal of Diggle playing Green Arrow. He got a fancy new crossbow last week that apparently shoots slo-mo arrows (I know it really doesn't shoot them in slow motion but for the love of God, show, just because you CAN use slo-mo doesn't mean you SHOULD in every episode), and we're brushing aside the fact that his tremors are gone because he's injecting himself with a drug (which people on the Interwebz have pointed out could be Mirakuru — which would serve some nice bookending with Slade back in our story). I like that Diggle is leading the charge and that when Oliver accidentally began to debrief the team, they found it amusing rather than annoying. Diggle is a different kind of leader than Oliver, but not in a bad way.

"Reversal" ends with Slade Wilson interrupting Oliver and Felicity's little make-out session. He needs Oliver's help, and next week we get to watch these two in action together again. I'm not going to lie — I missed Slade, so this is exciting for me. What's also exciting and odd is that I have no snarky way to wrap this review up.

Good for you, Arrow. Good for you.

And now, bonus points:
  • Can we all please just take a moment to dance around and thank the powers that be that we don't have to endure any more flashbacks? PRAISE HANDS EMOJIS ALL OVER THE PLACE.
  • "I'm a hacktivist, not a monster."
  • "What are you doing here?" "... You... invited me."
  • Felicity asks how Oliver could be the mayor, Green Arrow, a brother, and a boyfriend at the same time and I have to remind her that it's not like he did any one of those things exceptionally WELL.
  • Cayden James calls Felicity "clever girl," and it just made me think about how Felicity Smoak is really Hermione Granger.
  • "We're not dead." "Told you so."
  • I legit thought that Oliver's phone call at the end of the episode was about Thea waking up from her coma.
What did you all think of "Reversal"? Sound off in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. Although Oliver jumping in and beating up people was sooo the wrong move (annoying even if he had been right about who the bad guys were) he did have one valid point in their little whisper argument. Felicity rashly went into a situation that was very unknown and she turned down any help from her team. She went in without backup and she's berated Oliver for that dumb move in the past. What I like about that scene wasn't that the show pointed out that Oliver was wrong. It showed that they were BOTH wrong in how they were approaching the problem. They both fell back on bad habits. Oliver went in fists pounding to save someone he cared about (even though he used to lecture Barry on knowing a situation before moving in) and Felicity started to run solo and shut other people out due to her own guilt and desire to handle it herself even though she had little idea as to what "it" actually was.

    (Neither Oliver nor Felicity nor any other person on their team has really vanquished a threat all on their own. Nor does it diminish victories over Merlyn, Slade, R'as, etc that Oliver needed help to bring them down. None of those villains did the big evil plans on their own and the heroes needed to work together to fight back. It doesn't make Oliver, Diggle, Felicity or anyone else lesser when they need help or advice.)

    I found it really refreshing to see both of them being wrong at the same time in old familiar ways and then listening and learning from each other fairly quickly. That is progress. They had their little whisper fight, brought up their arguments for their actions, realized they were being stupid and changed their behaviour. Awesome! And they fought fair. They ticked each other off but didn't use the other's mistake as a cudgel to beat them over the head. They saw the other person's point, apologized and moved on. This is what gives me hope for a healthy future for these two.

    Putting Oliver in Felicity's chair also highlighted how important she is to the team in her role as Overwatch. Without those eyes and ears and quick thinking they would not have succeeded.

    I also find it interesting that the Big Bad this season actually has little connection specifically to Oliver at all. He and Merlyn had a twisted relationship, ditto for Slade, R'as al Ghul was mildly obsessed with him as heir, Dhark was fixated on him as Mayor and Green Arrow, and last year was all about how Oliver himself had created his own demon. James will certainly figure the Green Arrow into his calculations but the direct line seems to be to Felicity or Argus right now and to a more cerebral form of villainy rather than physical violence/match up. I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

    The idea of any of them balancing personal lives, families and careers with a life as a vigilante has always seemed so ludicrous to me. It's nice that the show brings it up but I don't know if they'll ever convince me that I can really believe in a balance rather than just suspending disbelief for the classic superhero tale. I really get annoyed when stories try to make it look like people can have all those parts of their lives functioning smoothly without having nannies, assistants, family or others to help them pick up the slack. They have to sleep sometimes!!

    Amen for no flashbacks! I think that plays a part into giving more time for the present day story line to play out.