Have you ever watched an episode of television which so annoyed you that you felt the need to jump through the screen, walk straight past the actors and director and find the head producer so that you could do your best Harrison-Ford-angry-finger-pointing while admonishing their efforts, telling them “No!” as if punishing a misbehaving pet or child?
That’s how I felt the moment goth Felicity showed up as a hallucination to torment newly paralyzed Felicity in Arrow’s “A.W.O.L.” This is seriously how you’re going to handle Felicity’s first episode in a wheelchair? By reminding us of that one horrible flashback episode where you rather unfortunately established that Felicity used to be a wannabe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo computer hacker?
Or is it? Was I truly annoyed by the premise or Felicity working through her issues with the assistance of an external representation of her past? Or do I just have so much lingering ill-will toward last season’s “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” (read my review) that I instantly react against any reminder of its existence?
In the crazytown bonkers world of Arrow, is it really that much of a stretch to buy Felicity debating her past self for half of an episode because she took too many pain pills (she took three even though Oliver clearly said to only take two)? Come on, this is Arrow we’re talking about. You didn’t really expect them to get ultra-serious and give us sobering glimpses of each little defeat Felicity feels as she adjusts to life in a wheelchair. Her self-worth is tied to her ability to assist Team Arrow’s mission to make the world a better place, and while losing the ability to walk shouldn’t actually impact that it would understandably throw her off her game. The whole device of using a hallucinated version of goth Felicity works far better than you’d expect, as argued by the AV Club:
Bringing back the raven-haired hacker Felicity as a hallucination proves a decent way for the show to externalize Felicity’s complex feelings after her life-altering injury. It’s to the show’s credit that it teases some serious backsliding on Felicity’s part—I was half-expecting her to break back out the hair dye during parts of this episode—before swerving back.
This is actually the second Arrow episode in a row to pull the trick of teasing us with a potential character backslide before re-assuring us that they are in no rush to cancel out a season’s worth of growth just to change things up. Last week, it was Oliver reverting back to his old “kill or be killed” and “my way or the highway” ways while hunting for Felicity’s shooter before snapping out of it in the end. As the show’s producer Wendy Mericle told THR, “That’s what we love about this season. Oliver is evolving and he’s able to see, ‘Oh, that’s what old Oliver would have done, and this Oliver is not going to leave your side going forward.” That’s the progress he’s made.'”
“A.W.O.L.” attempted to do the same kind of thing with Felicity, but it’s not nearly as easy to pull off, as per the AV Club:
It’s tricky for Arrow to sell us on Felicity’s growth from her past when we’ve only seen her (relatively) dark side in one flashback episode and when the Felicity we first met really isn’t that different from the one we know now. Wisely, the show doesn’t oversell the temptation the hallucinatory Felicity represents, instead using it primarily as a way to indicate the real Felicity’s temporary distraction and doubt before pulling out a seriously awesome bit of ARGUS hacking to reveal Felicity is once again fully onboard.
In fact, Felicity’s confrontation with her hallucination is resolved sooner than you’d expect, and it results in several lovely moments with Oliver. In general, the two of them together have turned into instant “Awwwwww” machines in that their every major interaction seems to be so sweet (outside of that huge relationship-ending fight they had which Barry Allen erased from time in the Arrow/Flash two-parter). She gives him a great speech in the Arrow cave, instantly recognizing that of course he’d blame himself for all of this. Then, at the end of the episode, she shamefully shows him a picture of herself from her college days. They each joke about how much they’ve changed, and you realize that they’re right, even if what Felicity has changed from was a bit laughable.
So I guess if I had actually walked through the screen and confronted the producer she would have patiently told me to let it all play out before judging it, and, dangit, she would have been right.
OTHER THINGS HAPPENED IN THIS EPISODE, MAJOR THINGS
Yet this wasn’t really Felicity’s episode. This was a showcase for the Diggle family (OMG, Sara’s gotten so big). The flashbacks were all about John and Andy’s time in Afghanistan, showing us exactly how Andy hid all of his illicit activities from his older brother. The threat to Lyla’s life in the present forced the Diggle brothers to work together again, and by the end Andy is out of his prison cell and sleeping in John and Lyla’s guest bedroom (or on their couch).
That crazy family. It seems like only last week that John was going full-on Mike Tyson on Andy’s face (the punching part, not the biting ears part). Wait, that was just last week! Those two sure have come a long way, yet I don’t know how much we’re actually supposed to trust Andy.
This was also an episode concerned with wrapping up its ARGUS storyline and disposing of its version of Amanda Waller (adios Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to clear the deck for Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller in this August’s Suicide Squad movie. Deadshot’s death was sudden and unsatisfying last season, and the same goes for Waller here, though as Felicity points out no one beyond Oliver and Lyla has much of a reason to really mourn her passing. In fact, Oliver and Lyla don’t even have much of a reason to truly mourn her considering the horrible things she set into motion, but, hey, at least they got to clink glasses in remembrance of the woman they both knew.
Ultimately, “A.W.O.L.” was Felicity’s episode to get her groove back (albeit from a wheelchair), and for Diggle to finally decide that locking your brother in a prison cell in your best friend’s basement isn’t the best way to promote trust and understanding. Good times.
1. “Oh, Barry can travel through time.” – Stephen Amell’s comic timing keeps getting better.
2. I have no idea how else Katie Cassidy could have played that scene. Laurel did just bring her sister back to life thanks to magic water, but her ex-boyfriend nonchalantly announcing that Barry Allen can travel through time should still be a bit of a mind fuck. However, Oliver moves right past it to explain why he blames himself for Felicity’s condition. So, Cassidy has but a moment to process the new information about Barry, and gives it her best, “WTF?” reaction before shaking it off and reminding Oliver that before he puts everything on himself he should remember that Felicity does make her own decisions. She did about a good a job at it as you could.
Then again, assume Legends of Tomorrow has already started at this point for everyone in Arrow/Flash meaning Laurel must have already had her conversation with Sara about going off with a crazy man from the future to travel through time. After that, maybe Laurel wouldn’t really be that stunned that Barry can travel to the past when he runs really fast (not that she even got that much of an explanation).
3. Is Oliver claiming he can’t call Felicity “Oracle” because it’s already taken just an in-joke or a promise that we might someday get to meet the Barbara Gordon-type who goes by “Oracle” in the Arrow/Flash-verse? I lean toward in-joke.
4. Got to say – don’t love Felicity’s codename, “Overwatch.”
5. It’s so Arrow that Oliver would tell Felicity how it is not healthy or realistic for them to deny the truth her medical diagnosis (her condition is permanent) before pledging to do anything he can to help her walk again since they live in a crazy sci-fi, magic world.
6. At one point, Thea uses Waller’s name as if it’s the first time she’s heard it. I honestly don’t remember – is this actually the first time Thea would have heard of her?
7. I referred to Oliver and Felicity as being an “Awwwww” machine. I will concede that if you don’t actually like them as a couple their every sweet interaction could be seen as nauseating or merely boring.