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It’s always a risk when an episode takes a break from the main story to focus on a side plot that’s been sitting in the background, especially so close to the end of the season. “Underneath” takes this risky approach with mixed results. We certainly didn’t need an episode focused entirely on Oliver and Felicity’s rocky relationship, but the end result and what it means for the future of these characters was appreciated.
Make no mistake. The turmoil between Oliver and Felicity and their very present romance during Season 4 was my biggest gripe from last year. The typical relationship drama was on high alert and full of characters making ridiculous decisions left and right. In what was one of the best decisions of this year, Arrow dropped the relationship nonsense and kept the show focused on a great overarching story and character arcs that didn’t involve melodramatic fights with the inevitable walk off screen tactic.
So. What does that mean for an episode entirely dedicated to Oliver and Felicity? Well, the premise itself is actually an interesting one. Having the two locked in the bunker with no escape is a great set up, thanks in part to the devious Adrian Chase. However, the problem is that most of this time is spent on the repetitive back and forth about Oliver not having Felicity’s back. Most of the episode ended up falling into filler category as there didn’t seem to be any major character progression. Yes, it related back to everything that went down in the break up, but just going over that isn’t enough. Flashbacks this week were dedicated to a time shortly before the season started and served to show us that Oliver and Felicity had not yet resolved their problems. It’s something we’ve already established and felt like nothing more than several scenes of fan service.
That said, the episode did give us a great ending where the two reconcile some of these long dormant feelings. Felicity goes over a wealth character development where she apologizes to Oliver for walking out on him and even recognizes some of her hypocritical behavior. I would much rather have seen this play out throughout the episode where I could see Felicity make these realizations along the way. Thankfully, this entire season is here to backup these claims and allow the apology to feel earned. That’s why a slow build up over the season is important!
It’s also worth mentioning that Diggle and Lyla got their own share of relationship drama. The two trapped down in the bunker could learn a thing or two from Diggle and Lyla, as they were treated to a similar story that took a significantly shorter time to tell, with double the impact. Diggle isn’t happy that Lyla is using questionable methods over at ARGUS. We get it, it’s the same story we got last week. The difference this time is that Lyla gets to shoot back and question Diggle’s own morally gray tactics with Team Arrow. I loved the moment where Diggle realizes he is in the same situation and immediately recognizes the hypocrisy in his words. It’s like he is a real adult who doesn’t stir drama at every turn!
Overall, the feel and tone was one that we haven’t really seen before in Arrow. Whether it was the purple hue or the dire atmosphere, things felt different and refreshing. It’s hard not to notice the same set locations used over and over, so it was great to see the bunker utilized in a way it has never been used before. Team Arrow was fun to watch as they tried to find a way into the bunker. It really makes you think about how far these new recruits have come. Earlier in the season it was tough to watch as they tried to replace beloved characters like Thea and Laurel, but they have really started to grow on me.
Oliver and Felicity got their big episode but it ultimately took too much time from the exciting main plot of the season. Shave off about half the episode and you might end up with something a little more concise. This small bump in the road may feel like an odd addition to a season getting ready to close out, but the ramifications will be appreciated later down the line.