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Arrow’s “Dangerous Liasons”: Not Judging

Arrow is down to just two regular female characters right now – Felicity and Dinah. However, even if Thea, Laurel, Moira and Sara were all still around on a regular basis (or Nyssa, Shado, Katana, and Evelyn on an irregular basis) the themes of Arrow would likely remain unchanged. Like Angel before it, Arrow is and always has been a show about masculinity. “Dangerous Liasons,” the show’s first new episode in a month, really hit us over the head with that, charting Oliver and Diggle’s struggles to adjust to their significant other’s pursuing their own path and Quentin and Rene bonding over the joys and responsibilities of being a parent to a daughter.

To recap: Chase is in the wind. Team Arrow has no leads. Mayor Queen has no good answers for the press or the city. Even Argus is no help. The only hint of a lead or solution is the revelation that Helix’s founder was working on unique new tech which could be used to track Chase. Yay! That is until this founder was abducted by Argus on the grounds that he represented and even bigger risk to national security than Edward Snowden. Wah-wah.

Helix will volunteer the tech, but only if Felicity helps them pull a prisoner breakout at Argus. However, Oliver and Diggle side with Argus, opting for the noble, but inconvenient “there has to be a better way” line of thinking. It’s Helix + Felicity vs. Team Arrow, and Helix ultimately ends up winning for what Roger Ebert used to call “the idiot plot” reasons.

The prisoner wasn’t even on site at Argus, yet Lyla didn’t bother to tell Oliver or Diggle because she didn’t think they needed to know and somehow believed Helix wouldn’t figure it out. It’s a decision Lyla would only really make because the episode needed a good fourth act twist, giving us “the van Team Arrow is monitoring and the van Felicity is in aren’t actually the same, but we’re going to film it like they are because we want to build up to a good act break.” Thus, Helix waltz rights into an off-the-books blacksite prison (which Diggle morally objects to) guarded only by lasers and machine gun robots while Team Arrow is stuck at actual Argus headquarters 12 miles away.

Team Arrow makes it to the offsite location just in time for a brief skirmish which ends with Felicity standing between them and their target, thus letting her Helix friends get away. Helix later cuts her off for being too much of a liability due to her Team Arrow connections but leave her with the promised tech, which tracks Chase down to the Arrowcave just in time for the episode to close on a grenade blast tossing Oliver and Felicity into the air right as they were about to get into the emotional fallout of him refusing to trust her.

Let’s put aside the fact that this was all built around Felicity supporting something that was, at best,  vaguely defined (some super hacker?).

Let’s also push past the fact that Lyla’s sudden turn toward Amanda Wallerisms feels remarkably abrupt since she’s been off screen for so long and the show had done very little to prepare us for this turn.

Felicity and Lyla made their decisions and refused to apologize for them, but this episode wasn’t really about them or their specific decisions; it was about Oliver and Diggle (and, to a lesser extent, Quentin and Rene). That’s because even though Arrow currently has a female showrunner (Wendy Mericle) it remains a show which is directly informed by the actions and viewpoints of its male hero. Thus, Felicity going dark isn’t so much about her as it is about a writer’s room choosing to tie her arc into the overall theme of the season: Oliver’s legacy.

This is the season where everything comes full circle, and Oliver is forced to grapple with everything he’s done on the show to this point. Felicity’s embrace of pragmatism over idealism, of choosing to do whatever it takes regardless of the cost inevitably links up to Oliver’s legacy because here she is behaving more like Oliver than ever before. It’s a real “look what I’ve done to her” moment, not a “look what she’s become completely of her own volition.” Predictably, regardless of how much of a hypocrite he knows he’s being Oliver doesn’t like Felicity going down that path and refuses to support her.

The progressive element of the story is Felicity unapologetically pursuing her own path, but it all inevitably comes back to what this means for Oliver because he is the main character and this is his show.

Stephen Amell has repeatedly promised actual adult conversations were in the offing for Oliver and Felicity, and their conversation in her apartment was an early start before next week’s bottle episode trapping them together in the Arrowcave. Here, while Oliver could not bring himself to support Felicity he also didn’t bark orders at her. This was him trying his best to be respectful and patient, illustrating his growth as a character. For her part, she was allowed to explain her motivations and plea for the same kind of trust he’s always been able to rely on from her. Yet even here the conversation was still mostly about Oliver. For example:

Hi, I’m Officer Billy. I was Felicity’s new boyfriend until Chase tricked Oliver into killing me. Feels like that would have come up at least once in this episode about her doing anything it takes to catch Chase. Well, bye now.

Instead, Felicity’s motivations were framed almost as if they were a tribute to Oliver, her attempt to replicate his admirable dedication to always doing the right thing. And regardless of how open-minded Oliver thought he was being he kept making the conversation about himself, about what he can and cannot allow and his guilt over having created this entire situation with Chase. It was the result of a show attempting to seem vaguely feminist (Felicity is doing her own thing no matter what) when in fact its point of view is inherently masculine.

It will be very interesting to see how they navigate that next week when Felicity and Oliver are forced into their own version of Festivus.

THE NOTES

1. Quentin’s reaction to Rene’s daughter calling him Hos? Priceless.

2. The prominent placement of the Quentin/Laurel picture and eventual close-up at the end? Obvious set-up for the Quentin-Black Siren confrontation which is on the way.

3. That guy Helix saved is totally going to be the Big Bad next season or at least one of them, right?

4. I wonder how many nights Oliver spends drinking alone in the Arrowcave.

5. “Do you have anything for us other than canned platitudes?” Something, something, something Trump.

6. A booby-trapped old arcade room? Oh, Adrian Chase. That is the coolest thing you’ve done all season.

7. Lyla telling Diggle Argus’ tech people calculated a less-than-50% chance of Helix hitting the area she wanted them to guard was a pretty big hint that a twist was on the way.

8. Give them credit – it would have been so, so easy to make the Helix leader the secret boyfriend/lover of Felicity’s mini-me, which would retroactively mean she’s been doing all of his, even killing someone, for a man. They didn’t go that route, though, at least not yet.

9. Felicity got awfully judgey with her Helix mini-me for accidentally killing that guy. It was the writers attempt to draw a moral line differentiating Felicity from Helix, but sadly we have to always remember that Felicity nuked an entire town last season.

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About Kelly Konda (1853 Articles)
Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

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