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TV RECAP: ‘Arrow’ – S4E11 – “A.W.O.L.”

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Only in Star City does date night end with an old colleague from your top secret former job crashing an evening walk and getting kidnapped right in front of you by an anonymous military outfit in a black van with no plates. This week’s Arrow was Diggle-centric, which is usually a sign of Arrow gold because David Ramsey is a trooper and when Diggle gets the chance to hog the spotlight a little, he owns it. Even without the Ghosts and Damien Darhk, this week’s Arrow had some kick, and was possibly the most most engaging entry of this season so far. It’s proof that sometimes what’s simple, works best.

The episode had an easy A plot and B plot, the A plot followed the Diggles – John, Lyla, and Andy – and their latest dalliance with A.R.G.U.S., and the B plot followed Felicity as she tries to adjust to life in a wheelchair and whether she might still be an asset to the team. The Felicity story was necessary work because she couldn’t just roll into the Arrow Cave like nothing’s changed, it would be a disservice to the character and what she’s gone through. How the show treated Felicity and how she handles her trauma was questionable, but effective.

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Now, I wasn’t a fan of the Felicity flashback from season three, it was cliched and uninspired and it introduced Felicity’s mother who we’re apparently supposed to be so bewitched by. Goth Felicity from the flashback made a return appearance this week, an avatar for all of Felicity’s concern and anxiety about being paralyzed and uncertain whether she can still contribute to the team. Of course she can, and Felicity’s split personality gave her the right amount of perspective to realize that. As for those Oracle comparisons, don’t worry, Oliver gives Felicity the nickname “Overwatch.” Why? Because Oracle is taken. There you go sports fans, no one in the Batman universe was robbed of anything.

While Felicity’s inner-struggle was far from original, it was at least her own, but Oliver at the end stating that he was going to do everything he could to get Felicity’s legs back, kind of undermined the progress made, and basically said that Felicity’s paralysis is a problem to be solved. I suppose it had to be said on the record that in a universe with super-powers, time travel and the supernatural that anything’s possible, but that’s something that should come from Felicity. If she wants to find a magic spell, or build an Iron Man suit, then that’s up to her. Not to get all preachy, but disabled doesn’t mean distressed.

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For the Diggle clan, things were more clear cut. A peace between brothers that, I think, is doomed to tragedy because either Andy is playing John, or there will be some sort of retribution on the part of Darhk for losing one of his soldiers. Remember last week when we learned that Oliver was at the cemetery with Felicity, but John was mysteriously absent? Maybe he was off-camera somewhere, but despite the more upbeat tone, this is still Arrow, and there’s a coffin that needs stuffed.

With Darhk sitting out the week’s villainy, it fell to an army unit called Shadowspire, a group of war profiteers that were supposedly dismantled by Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S., to raise some hell. It turned out that the Diggle boys had a history with Shadowspire, serving together in Afghanistan to take apart a local drug lord. The Shadowspire boss, Lt. Joyner (well played by Erik Palladino), tried to get John and Andy to take part in their move to sell the drug lord’s opium and make a little scratch on the side; it looked like Andy turned them down flat making John very proud in the process, but we know that Andy liked the allure of illicit money just a little too much.

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For Joyner and Shadowspire, the ultimate plan was to get access to an A.R.G.U.S. program called “Rubicon.” Taking Waller, Lyla and A.R.G.U.S. hostage to get it, we get to see just how cold as ice Waller is as Joyner threatens to kill every hostage until she gave up Rubicon. Props to Cynthia Addai-Robinson for playing the scene with this disturbing little smirk as Lyla tells Joyner that even after everyone’s dead, she still won’t give it up. Too bad it results in her getting shot in the head. They killed Waller! That sucks and it feels like something that was mandated from the top bosses, like Deadshot, because we’ve got a Suicide Squad movie coming in seven months and we can’t have too much crossover with the TV universe. Getting rid of TV Waller was cheap and dirty, but there it is.

It was also problematic how the whole situation was set up. Andy tells Team Arrow that Shadowspire favors misdirection, and even if you don’t entirely trust Andy then why concentrate all efforts on those railguns that Shadowspire was allegedly so interested in procuring. And while we’re at it, why wouldn’t a security conscious affair like A.R.G.U.S. revoke an agent’s retinal scan after he’s killed, especially when – wait for it! – his eye was removed from his dead body. It’s kind of a double insult that they would kill Waller and basically make her stupid for the privilege, but the rescue scene works thanks to the well built relationship and rapport that Ramsey and Eugene Byrd developed in the episode.

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The whole Andy coming back from the dead story has been kind of iffy, it at times feels like the writers have created a backstory out of whole cloth to force the issue, but Ramsey and Byrd have managed to sell it. Ramsey plays well John’s dilemma, he’s a good man that wants to understand the unmaking of his brother, but he just can’t get his head around the awful stuff Andy’s done. Meanwhile, Andy seems to have loosened up, and he seems invested in trying to make amends with his brother. Still, in the back of your mind is the thought that Andy is playing a game, the key to the long con being to know when it’s no longer in your best interest to tell the truth and start convincing people of the lie. Is that where Andy is at the end of the episode, meeting his niece and having a nice family dinner?

In all, it made a nice break from the inevitability of that flash-forward funeral, and the ongoing crisis of Damien Darhk and his dastardly plans. Despite the silly loss of Waller, this felt as much like vintage Arrow as anything has lately, and the focus this week on Oliver, Diggle and Felicity there was a refreshing kind of focus. Speaking of back from the dead though, next week’s episode will feature the return of Roy Harper, so if you’ve been missing Colton Haynes and his red hoodie, then episode 12 is going to be for you.

Category: TV

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