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As Arrow episodes go, “AWOL” wasn’t too bad. It was entertaining, it allowed both David Ramsey (Diggle) and Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity) a chance to shine, and, perhaps best of all, we didn’t have to deal with any Island flashbacks (despite the presence of the scary Island general at the end of the episode). But, as is so often the case with Arrow, the emotional impact of what happened within the episode turned out to only be on the surface and we didn’t really get into some of the darker places the show really needs to go.
Now, I know Arrow is a dark show. Or, at least dark when compared to some of the other DC live-action shows on television. And I get just as bored and frustrated when brooding and ineffective Oliver Queen shows up as the rest of the show’s viewership. But I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with the handling of Felicity’s mental and emotional crisis over the loss of her ability to walk. I didn’t mind the use of the hallucinations. In fact, I enjoyed seeing Rickards get a chance to stretch beyond the bubbly and rarely dark confines of Felicity. But the arc of the episode was focused not on addressing the deeper issues of Felicity’s injury, but rather on addressing who she has become since she was a goth hacker. This identity crisis, while genuine, just didn’t quite mesh up with her current storyline. It didn’t drive deep enough into what was at issue.
Sure, this could simply be the first step in a journey to break Felicity down and build her back up into a stronger, less “fun” version of herself. To give her her own jagged edges (something that will almost certainly happen when she finds out Oliver has lied to her about the kid). But at the end of “AWOL,” I felt Felicity’s story was kind of empty. Burning a picture from five years ago doesn’t get to the heart of what is really bothering her. Yes, she’s changed from who she once was. But the issue is that her entire life has been affected by this accident. I’m not asking for her to get all down and depressed (because as Oliver has proved time and again, that doesn’t make for good television), I’m just asking that the show not wrap this up in a little bow so quickly.
On the flip-side, I’m finally starting to enjoy Andy Diggle. Amazing what happens when you give Eugene Byrd something to do besides look sullen behind bars. Andy is smart, charming, and cannot really be trusted. I love that there’s someone within Team Arrow now who genuinely might turn on a dime. Plus, it gives Diggle (and Lyla- Hi Lyla!) something more to do within the season’s arc. This increased focus on Diggle, however, has made me all the more nervous that he might be the one six feet under at the end of the season. After all, with a brother who might not be the most trustworthy character back in his life, who knows what might happen.
As a (mostly) standalone episode, “AWOL” worked pretty darn well. It may not have had as much emotional resonance as I was hoping for, but I certainly enjoyed the ride. It’s amazing how well the show can handle episodes that don’t fall neatly into the villainous season arc so much better than the ones that do. I really think it benefited from the lack of Damien Darhk (and even the refusal to mention his name). Which is pretty darn troubling, when you think of how important he is likely to be in the next several weeks.
— Nice to see Laurel being useful again. I always enjoy seeing the show’s women knock some sense into Oliver when he’s about to start brooding for no real reason.
— Is it just me, or is Thea getting dumber as the season goes on? When she isn’t struggling with her bloodlust, she just seems to be around to repeat key parts of the attack plan. I miss the days when she actually had something to do.
— I’m trying to decide if the death of Amanda Waller has something to do with the upcoming Suicide Squad film. Considering that Arrow has removed most of the characters who appear in the film from the TV chess board at this point (with just Boomerang- who is locked up on Purgatory- and Katana- who is apparently going to make another appearance this season- remaining alive), perhaps DC wants to have as little confusion over the TV vs. film versions as possible. Or perhaps the TV show isn’t allowed to do anymore Suicide Squad episodes, so there’s no real reason for ARGUS and Waller to remain around. Anyway, it’s interesting to speculate about.
— While I enjoyed the double does of Felicity, I was a bit disappointed with some of the CGI tricks. They were pretty good, but there were definitely some obvious seams when the pair were on screen together.