Review: Arrow 4×11-A.W.O.L.

This review contains spoilers.

You saw the world as something that needed to be fixed. I only saw it as broken.

In this episode, Diggle must find a way to trust his brother while Felicity is forced to confront herself about her life.

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Previously on Arrow, Diggle found out that his brother was alive and evil and Felicity was gunned down on the orders of Damien Darhk. This attack has confined her to a wheelchair potentially for the rest of her life.

The episode begins with Diggle and Lyla being confronted by Alan, a member of A.R.G.U.S., and he tells them that he has been compromised before being kidnapped.

This is followed by a sweet scene between Oliver and Felicity where he tries to raise her spirits and get her back on the team. She denies his requests stating that she just is not in the right mental place to be helpful.

Oliver continues to be much more endearing as a character this season. He is completely understanding and reasonable in this scene. He is trying to help but not pushing too hard. And Felicity’s emotions are natural and interesting. I am glad that the writers are finally doing something with her character that does not involve which billionaire superhero she should date.

The Diggle brothers then have a scene where they discuss why Diggle works with Green Arrow which leads us into a Diggle flashback. The brothers are on a mission in Afghanistan but they get ambushed. However, Andy is able to save the day.

This episode has actually been fairly decent so far so it is obviously time for it to get incredibly dumb and silly. Felicity begins to hallucinate about herself in her goth form. First of all, I never understood the episode where that was revealed. I still do not understand how the events of those flashbacks turned a damaged computer hacker into the naive and adorable I.T. girl we met in season one. It makes no sense to me and, in my opinion, completely contradicts Felicity as a character so it is frustrating to see this brought up again. The goth look does work on Emily Bett Rickards and her performance in this episode is great but it is a ridiculous part of the story.

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After this, Laurel and Diggle investigate a crime scene where they discover that Alan is dead and missing an eye because the writers of Arrow love to take out people’s eyes. Diggle and Lyla talk to Amanda Waller about the incident who secretly hands them a flash drive.

The Ghost of Felicity Goth taunts Felicity for a bit while the rest of Team Arrow looks at the files on the flash drive. There are two other A.R.G.U.S. agents on the drive that are obviously targets. They also find out that the organization behind Alan’s death is Shadowspire which is the group that the Diggle brothers are working with in the flashbacks.

I am really tired of the events of the flashbacks directly relating into the events of the present. In the first season, the two stories thematically connected and that really worked. It’s too convenient that what we are seeing in the flashbacks directly relates to what is happening in the present. At least these flashbacks do not take place exactly five years ago like every other flashback but it’s still silly.

In the flashback, Andy tells off the leader of this organization which impresses Diggle. However, it is just a trick to fool Diggle. In the present, Diggle confronts Andy about his relation with the organization and Andy helps him find Shadowspire’s base.

The relationship between the brothers is the best part of the episode. Their conflicting ideologies on the world are fascinating. Andy is not some cartoon like Darhk. He has made bad choices and has more than likely done terrible things but he is a person with a broken outlook on the world. And this point of view completely confronts Diggle’s view on life who thought his brother was a more altruistic person. Everything that has motivated him since Andy’s “death” is now in question. I feel like there is more that the writers could be doing with that but at least they are doing something with Diggle.

Green Arrow, Speedy, Black Canary and Spartan arrive at the base and Felicity takes down the security to let them in. Black Canary and Speedy find that the other two A.R.G.U.S. agents have been killed and leave while Green Arrow and Spartan take on Shadowspire. However, Felicity trips the fail -safe which traps Spartan. Green Arrow is able to rescue him and get out but the CW’s take on Neil Gainman’s Death continues to taunt Felicity.

Oliver and Felicity talk about what happened and the latter says that she does not want to be on Team Arrow anymore. After that, Diggle and Lyla take Andy to A.R.G.U.S. so that Waller can interrogate him. They think that Shadowspire is going after guns but Andy suggests that the guns are a misdirect. Meanwhile, Oliver and Laurel talk about Felicity. Ollie suggests that Felicity got hurt because he changed the past with the Flash in the crossover.

This is where Oliver loses me in this episode. He naturally has to make it all about him. He has to blame himself and whine about things he has no control of just for the sake of drama. At this point, Ollie’s angst is just irritating. He needs to get over himself. If the past is fighting back, that might be interesting but why isn’t anyone else being affected? Everyone died in that crossover until Barry time traveled so the past should be coming for everyone. On a different note, Katie Cassidy’s facial expression when Laurel learns that Barry can travel through time is hysterical.

Felicity is trying to read The Shining when Vinnie Vincent’s biggest fan starts to make fun of her again. The subplot is ridiculous but Rickards makes this scene her bitch. She is wonderful in every moment.

Green Arrow, Black Canary and Speedy arrive where the guns are because they are idiots and don’t listen to Andy. Naturally, Andy is correct and Shadowspire is actually invading A.R.G.U.S. headquarters. The head of Shadowspire wants the codes to some evil program that Waller has because she’s Amanda Waller.

Felicity arrives in the Arrow-cave to talk to Oliver and is completely fine. She is no longer hallucinating and has solved all of her internal issues off-screen. This is terrible writing. Imagine if in the season one finale of The Flash, we did not see anything that happened with Barry in the past. He went back in time to save his mom and then the next time we see him, he’s back and didn’t change the past. We wouldn’t know how or why that happened and the episode would not be nearly as effective. But that’s not what happened. We saw why Barry didn’t change the past and it was emotional and one of the best moments of the season. Here, the writers are too lazy to actually deal with character so they just decided not to. She’s just better now for no reason. In fairness, maybe a scene was cut for time but if a scene needed to be cut, it should have been the one with Oliver and Laurel. That’s a fine scene but it’s not necessary. And that’s only if something was cut. This really kills the episode. The idea of an episode where Felicity and Diggle have to completely re-evaluate why they’re superheroes is really interesting. While the hallucination is silly, it is a smart move to have Felicity question herself at this incredibly vulnerable time. However, it’s awful that she magically gets over it for the sake of plot.

The leader of Shadowspire kills Waller because Suicide Squad is coming out in a few months but Green Arrow, Speedy and Black Canary arrive on the scene. And Felicity finally gets a code name; Green Arrow officially names her Overwatch and then makes a lame joke about Oracle. I know it’s just one line but it’s so dumb. He says, “I was going to go with Oracle but it’s taken.” I get the feeling that the writers wanted to call her Oracle and DC said no so they wrote a stupid line to explain to us dumb viewers that Felicity is supposed to be Oracle even if they cannot call her that. And the line doesn’t make any sense in context of the Arrow-verse. Who is going by Oracle? Stephen Amell almost breaks the fourth wall saying the line. It’s a minor complaint but it irritated me.

With the help of Andy, Team Arrow takes down Shadowspire. In the final flashback, we learn that the boss of Shadowspire is the main villain on this season’s island flashbacks which is ridiculous. The episode ends with Andy moving in with Diggle and meeting Baby Sara which is an incredibly sweet scene.

Verdict

Conceptually, this is an amazing episode. Both Felicity and Diggle are being challenged in ways that shake their foundations. However, the execution is weak. Despite Rickards giving it her all, the hallucinations are unbearably silly and there is no resolution to her issues. That’s unsatisfying as a story and it takes down the rest of the episode. The material with the Diggles is very good. David Ramsey has always been a highlight of this show and he wasn’t used that much in seasons two and three so it’s great that there is so much to do with him this season. However, I wish there was a more interesting bad guy. It’s just a bland soldier which we have seen on this show a hundred times. The conflict isn’t remotely engaging and thus, the action ends up being dull despite being well-choreographed. This is one of the better episodes of the season but it still has a lot of problems.

 

3outof5

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Sean Blumenshine

I am currently a senior at Wichita State University studying communications. I started reading comics in 2013 because of how much I loved Man of Steel and season one of Arrow. My favorite hero is the Green Arrow and my favorite villain is the Joker.