[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Gordon Verheul
Writers: Onalee Hunter and Sarah Tarkoff
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Kirk Acevedo, Michael Jai White, Vinnie Jones, Audrey Marie Anderson, Cody Runnels, Sydelle Noel, Brendan Fletcher, Holly Elissa, Miranda Edwards, Michael Johnson
While Felicity allies herself with FBI Agent Watson to capture Diaz, Diggle becomes suspicious of Lyla on a mission and Oliver is double-crossed by Brick and his men in prison.
The significance of the title runs strong in all three subplots and is told magnificently. First let’s focus on Felicity’s story arc. This is only the third episode and we see a new side of Felicity that has been unleashed. While she is still the witty, sarcastic computer genius played by the ever-versatile Emily Bett Rickards, there is an edge now to her. Pleading her case to Special Agent Watson shows a woman driven by the depth of loss in her life and level of sacrifices she has had to make. What makes that conversation deep and to the point is that both are right and neither are willing to budge on their stance. They were both individuals trying to do their jobs, and on that level they can respect each other enough to bend the rules in an attempt to tie off the loose end that is Ricardo Diaz.
Seeing Watson actively engage one of the Longbow Hunters hand to hand was impressive; Hot Dart has her outmatched, and yet she is gutsy enough to try anyway. What makes Diaz’s performance in that scene was the arrogant calm that he exudes, despite being ambushed by the FBI in the CDC. He feels completely untouchable with his new crew on his side as he easily steals those blood samples from that lab.
While I will touch on the fight choreography as a whole later on, I want to instead focus on the shady duplicity Felicity demonstrates in this collaboration. Before the big reveal, you can see that look on her face change when Watson notes how they nearly caught The Silencer. Behind closed doors with Rene, she voices little concern over causing Watson to lose her posting in Star City in this effort and lying to her face about Rene actually capturing The Silencer successfully. While she doesn’t have the poker face perfected, Felicity is showing a lot of her husband’s ruthlessness in her. I suppose she has had to apply Oliver’s level of commitment if she is to succeed in her mission. The old Felicity would have felt regret over her actions, and yet this version has steeled herself to making these kinds of compromises.
The writers have found a way to make her be able to compartmentalize as effortlessly as she does a computer program. Her attitude towards Watson is on the level of respect, and yet nothing has changed. She acknowledges that the woman who put her husband away is a good cop, but that doesn’t change the fact that she has no faith in the system to put Diaz away. Emily delivers that verbal acknowledgement to Rene in a way that shows Felicity in a way she has never been portrayed: Cold. Like I said, this is the season of Smoak and God help anyone who gets in the way of her mission to get her family back.
The conflict between Diggle and Lyla is also a point of interest considering who the guilty party is. First off, the father-son “interrogation” between John and JJ was hilarious, especially when the mom wins out. What works in that scene is David’s delivery is even and stable, as if he were interrogating an actual suspect. The punchline of it being his kid caught red-handed was perfectly timed. JJ, portrayed by child actor Marco Guedes, does a fantastic mini-Diggle, face-wise. But let’s get on to the main point of interest.
The chemistry between John and Lyla on missions is genuine and balanced; like any solid married couple, they compliment each other and have each other’s back. This is why Lyla’s shady tactics without Diggle’s knowledge comes as a shock to her husband. Up until now, Lyla’s entire time at A.R.G.U.S. has seen her as a by-the-book kind of woman. Even when aiding Team Flash or Team Arrow, she has never gone behind anyone’s back. When she took over as director, she wanted to bring humanity back to the way the organization does things after Amanda Waller’s death. The fact she pulled an off-the-books extraction without John’s knowledge to get intel on a bigger crisis looming isn’t the issue. On the surface it looked as though she was taking a page from Waller’s book when, in reality, she was taking a page from Diggle’s.
The writers wanted to show growth in Lyla’s character, and they did that; her time married to John and getting to know Team Arrow has influenced her perspective on how the evils of the world must be fought. The fact that she said she respected John’s decision to not take up the hood when Ollie handed it to him will probably be on Diggle’s mind from that point. He chose the straight and narrow to protect his family, and in contradiction Lyla went behind his and A.R.G.U.S.’s backs to do the same. The resolution of this argument is believable and rational, since both know that it’s not just the two of them anymore. They are both doing what they do for the right reasons, and there is no hidden agenda. Still, knowing this show, such a state in any relationship is very transitory.
Now on to the big man in Slabside. Like every step Oliver Queen has taken in the last six seasons, it’s a mountain climb to get the intel on Diaz and always a different target. However, besides the fight club he inadvertently made possible by his actions last week, Oliver is offered a different curve ball in the form of Bronze Tiger. As a way of complimenting the Diggle-Lyla relationship, the writers chose to let Ollie in on Ben Turner saving Lyla’s life when he was on Task Force X years ago. Up until this point the series has sold Turner as a heel only out for the kill, even in this season. If this is a legitimate face turn, that nod they give to each other when Oliver is transferred to Level Two is an indication of a gained respect.
Oliver’s dealings with Brick in this episode are contentious, as they should be; you’re left guessing as to whether this thug can be trusted to deliver. What makes the conclusion of his surviving the fight more memorable was Oliver showing his willingness to cross the line and injure the corrupt guards. Although this would help him gain entry into Level Two to find “The Demon”, this could mean he has lost access to the general population and visitations. Stanley, at the same time, has lost his protector and only friend in that prison. Oliver knows that he has no defense, and yet he remains undeterred to get that information. When you think about it, given they are sending Oliver down a level, you get a sense why this individual is called “The Demon.” DC fans can only speculate if it’s Jason Blood. Personally, I hope not because Arrow does its best work with human-level threats.
Now on to the fight choreography. For WWE fans, it was Stephen Amell vs. Stardust aka Cody Rhodes Round Three, and it didn’t disappoint. They took into account that Oliver was injured by shanking himself to save Yorke, so the movements were less aerial and more close-quartered and MMA-like. The scenes leading to that fight made his wound obvious through a slight limp. What also made it believable was that Ollie wasn’t always in control and Sampson went for the wound first. Overall, seeing Oliver completely decimate Sampson was on a level we had not seen in a while. You could feel the hits and the broken limbs.
Then there’s the brawl between The Silencer and Dinah Drake, which is enhanced by both the lack of sound in their movements via the villain’s power and the muffled background music. It’s a brilliant cinematic move to draw the viewer into the environment as closely as possible. It also keeps Dinah on a normal level of combat since the device cancels out her Canary Cry. Showing Watson get physical beyond her mere presence against Hot Dart was also a good throw-in. Sydelle Noel sold it beautifully. And while I’m not cool on Kodiak’s Captain America movements with the shield it was a decent throw-down with Rene in another example of close-quartered fighting.
One complaint this week has to do with Brick. He’s no Wilson Fisk, and only has a small gang. So how could he have that level of influence to schedule a fight club with four paid-off guards? And for that matter how many guards are on Level 1? Then there is Curtis; for someone that is on the level of Felicity Smoak, he seems very underused when it comes to tech development. If this was off-the-books, then Team Arrow tech could have been used in the attempted take down.
Emily is probably having the time of her life this season, given how well her character is being written. Whoever posted that YouTube video “Why We Hate Felicity” had better take note of this season because we are seeing layers of depth to this character that we haven’t seen before. The fights hold you this week, as well as the deepening mystery of Oliver’s new target and what exactly Diaz injected into himself that would give himself superhuman strength. Could the CDC have had Mirakuru stored from Deathstroke’s assault on Star City five years ago? Also, you barely notice the absence of the flash-forwards, and that’s necessary to keep the fans on their toes. Great work this week, guys!