“Beacon of Hope” was undoubtedly Arrow‘s silliest episode ever. Everybody was speaking in freakin’ bee puns. The villain, Brie Larvin (Emily Kinney, reprising her role from The Flash‘s “All Star Team-Up“), was lifted straight out of latter-era Smallville. I lost count of the number of times someone forced “beacon of hope” into conversation. Curtis and suspended-Captain Lance ran away from a bee in the Arrowcave. Let me say that again: A major action sequence in this episode involved the two people left behind in the Arrowcave running away from a bee, director Michael Schultz showing us the pursuit from the mechanical bee’s point of view.
It was even worse for Oliver, Diggle and Laurel. When they encountered Larvin’s swarm of mechanical honey-mongers the little buggers actually came together to form a giant robot which was only defeated by Felicity and her trusty lamp. She eventually celebrated her defeat over Larvin by declaring, “Stay down, beeatch!” Oliver’s immediate and harsh look of disapproval was meant to mirror our own. Enough with the bee puns, already!
After all of that silliness, the episode then had the gall to direct us to an online PSA about what we can do in the fight against paralysis. That’s like a raunchy comedian closing out a set with, “But, no, seriously, we need to have an honest conversation about women’s rights.”
And yet “Beacon of Hope” was probably my favorite Arrow episode in quite a while.
Wait. Hold on. Where are you going? At least hear me out.
Yes, this was the silliest, campiest, most Silver Age-y Arrow episode of all time. However, this was also an episode which was fully aware of its own absurdity. We’re in Die Hard with bees, Felicity ruefully told Thea. Suspended-Captain Lance can’t believe his life now involves fighting a swarm of mechanical bees. New Arrow team member Curtis voluntarily made an intentionally bad bee pun and was repeatedly pinching himself over the increasingly bizarre reality of the case unfolding in front of him.
I have railed against this show many times for departing from its original mission statement and morphing into something completely unrecognizable. However, a huge part of the problem was tone. Even as Arrow’s storylines became progressively more comic book-y the show persisted in taking everything so seriously, which actually made the transition even harder to take. For example, I needed to know the show realized how silly it was to have everyone talking about “mirakuru.”
Here in season 4, Arrow‘s “Beacon of Hope” flat out tells us multiple times, “We get it. This is our world now, and it’s super silly. But let’s have some fun with it.”
And if you can give into that the episode is indeed insanely fun. You can groan every time someone makes a bee pun. You can marvel at just how big Emily Kinney plays Brie Larvin. And you can laugh incredulously at the show for trying to turn Brie into an actual human so, so late in the game by revealing her plight as someone with a tumor on her spine.
However, you can also appreciate that awesome opening training sequence or the way the episode splits its characters up and ultimately gives all of them something to do, with Thea, Felicity and Donna under attack and Oliver, Diggle, Laurel, Quentin and Curtis working to save them. The topic of Oliver and Felicity’s break-up comes up multiple times, but it’s far from the focus of the episode. In fact, it factors more heavily in Oliver’s portion of the story than Felicity’s. Donna actually has her own hair shoved back in her mouth to shut her up when she tries to bring up Oliver. This episode isn’t really about Olicity, and it does Felicity good to get away from that for a week.
The whole thing inspires her to chart a new path for Palmer Tech as a company which will produce things which can help people but at an affordable cost. When Thea gives Felicity her best “come back to the team” pitch, she emphasizes the thrill and adrenaline of the fight and pride in being a “beacon of hope” (there’s that dang phrase again). Felicity counters she was never in it for the thrill. She was there to help people, and that’s something she can do as Palmer Tech CEO. Just as importantly, while Felicity and Thea are having that conversation the topic of Oliver never comes up. They are both talking about their own goals and interests.
Sure, Felicity is the one who went crazy in suburbia without crime fighting in her life, and she’s repeatedly stated in the past just how much she enjoys being a part of Team Arrow.
But Felicity is also the one who was freakin’ paralyzed, nearly dying in the process. That’s bound to inspire some re-assessment of priorities. When all is said and done, she’ll probably end up back on Team Arrow eventually, just like the last time she quit the team. Until then, why not give her a chance to pursue her own version of Oliver’s mission. It might be a refreshing change of pace to see someone in the Arrowverse helping the world through their civilian guise instead of their superhero life.
As for the rest of the team, they might not actually need Felicity anymore. Curtis, for however much longer he’s around, is a suitable replacement, both in skillset and temperament. Plus, Laurel proved herself capable of being the team member to calm Oliver down when he goes all growly, which used to be Felicity’s job. Granted, Laurel did so in such a way that it’s likely to reignite the shipper wars. Many arguments will be had over what to make of the way she put her hand on Oliver’s cheek at one point. However, this is not the first time this season Laurel has acted as Oliver’s advice-giver, and it’s a limited role which suits her.
We sometimes forget this, but other than Thea no one has known Oliver longer than Laurel. It’d be a shame not to take advantage of that shared history when Oliver needs someone to call him on his bullshit. The end result of it in “Beacon of Hope” is that she gets to playfully congratulate him after he actually offers something close to an apology to Curtis.
“Beacon of Hope” was Arrow‘s second consecutive break-up episode. “Broken Hearts” was Oliver and Felicity’s official break-up; “Beacon of Hope” was Felicity and Team Arrow’s break-up, most directly explored in her conversations with Thea. Just like “Broken Hearts,” it brought back one of the Arrowverse’s campier villains, but this time out it remembered to have fun with it. That sense of self-aware joy might just be temporary. The season is nearing its end, and the stakes must be elevated. Plus, you only get the one time to make everything seem so fun because Curtis is viewing the Team Arrow world for the first time and geeking out over the things we take for granted. But we should enjoy it while we can.
1. Weekly Update from Pointless Island: Oliver and that one girl fought that one guy, but he has magical powers which make him invulnerable to bullets. He would have killed Oliver, but his magic juju ran out forcing him to make a hasty exit and leave his soldiers behind. Don’t worry – Oliver and his gal pal will kill all of them because, remember, Oliver used to kill people.
2. Favorite Line: Mama Smoak: “From now on I am wearing flats. These assaults are weekly. This is ridiculous.”
3.Second Favorite Line: Laurel reacting to Curtis’s overly excited description of her sonic choker: “Yeah, we get it, it’s badass.”
4. Third Favorite Line: Quentin: “Just like Independence Day [everyone looks at him] What? I can’t watch movies, too?”
5. Nitpicks: What’s the board going to say about that weird secret lair Felicity sent them to? It’s clearly not your average panic room.
6. Nitpicks: So, um, did Malcolm just recede back into the shadows after breaking up with Damien Darhk in prison on HIVE’s behalf? There were clearly no other ways in or out of that room. I’m assuming he was just standing there quietly in the dark waiting for the guard to come back and retrieve Damien. Maybe at one point Damien would even say something like, “I know you’re still there, Malcolm. I can hear you breathing.” Then Malcolm would mumble to himself, “This type of shit never happened when I was still Ra’s al Ghul. Stupid Oliver. Stupid Nyssa.”
7. Sarcastic Prediction: The Palmer Tech board unanimously votes Felicity out as company president the moment they hear her new plans and realize she means to take a hatchet to their profits.
8. Serious Prediction: Curtis dies next week. He literally just joined the team as Felicity’s replacement and bonded with everyone. However, Oliver made that standard Oliver speech about the potential cost of their lifestyle, which inspired Curtis to eventually go home to re-embrace his husband. Then he coughed because of that lingering cold and, for no real reason, said part of his comic book name aloud to an empty room: “Terrific.” The Joss Whedon thing to do would be to kill him by the end of the next episode, his death possibly related to that cough.
9. Counter Prediction: Why would Barry Allen come to Curtis’ funeral? They’ve never even met. Curtis is just a giant misdirection to throw us off the scent of the real dead man/woman walking. The real person to die will be Laurel. That’s why they gave her a much larger role in this episode and in last week’s.
10. Counter Counter Prediction: Kill off Laurel? Are you crazy? She’s Black Canary! No, it’s clearly going to be her dad. He’s the one to go. It’s amazing he’s lasted this long. Now that he’s no longer Captain and his inside man bit with Damien has long since passed he actually serves no purpose to the story anymore.
11. Counter Counter Counter Prediction: It’s actually, um, Diggle’s brother? Or Felicity’s mom? Or…ah, screw it. I have no idea who it’s going to be.