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After weeks of unfocused plotting and spending more time setting up DC’s Legends of Tomorrow than focusing on developing a cohesive arc for this season, Arrow took major steps to right the ship with “Dark Waters.” While there were still some major issues with the episode (those flashbacks are just not working), the episode captured a lot of what made Arrow work so well in the past- sharp writing, strong acting, and an interesting confrontation with an interesting villain.
But before I dive into what made this the best Arrow episode in months, I want to address what was glaringly obvious this week: the flashbacks have now become a liability to the show. Frankly, I don’t understand how this latest round of flashbacks impacts the current storyline at all. In the previous three seasons, while the flashbacks may have taken away from the pacing of episodes, there was at least a clear link to the current action. This season? Nada. I have been so bored and confused by what Oliver is doing (he’s infiltrating the soldiers to get something for ARGUS, but that’s about where my comprehension ends), that I tend to tune out during these trips into the past. However, since the season has been such a mess up until now, the lackluster nature of the flashbacks tended to blend into the general disappointment of the season. Put up against a strong episode that was firing on nearly all cylinders, the flashbacks became a source of ire for me, pulling me out of the taut storytelling and forcing me to focus on how awful the flashbacks actually are. I understand the show can’t simply drop them at this point, but man, they are really weighing it down.
Now, onto much more pleasant matters. That was a really good episode. And it makes me so happy to get to write that. Sure, the Diggle story arc is still a weak link, but I’m willing to overlook that in the grand scheme of things. It was great to see Oliver finally start to trust that Team Arrow can take care of themselves (along with some killer speeches from both Laurel and Felicity on the subject, highlights of the episode for sure). It has always mystified me as to why Oliver seems to think he has to protect everyone around him, including the highly trained fighters on his team. I can understand needing to protect Felicity in a fight and feeling a brotherly need to watch out for Thea, but Thea, Diggle, and Laurel have proven time and again that they can handle themselves. Moreover, as both Laurel and Felicity pointed out, Team Arrow signed up for this. They aren’t innocents off the street. He can’t keep treating them like little kids all the time.
Although, I suspect all that progress may be for naught with Felicity’s injuries. And that is really too bad. I don’t understand why the writers feel the need to allow Oliver one step forward in his development as a character only to drag him back. A tortured hero is all well and good, but he needs to learn to trust and keep that trust or he doesn’t grow. You may have noticed I said injuries above, and not death. That’s because I don’t believe for a second that the show is killing Felicity off. Not for a single second. It would be the dumbest move yet in the history of the series if that was the decision the writers chose to make (and that’s saying something, considering some of the missteps the show has taken recently).
There are four reasons I don’t see Felicity being the name on the tombstone. First, Oliver was far too calm for it to be Felicity’s grave. If Oliver loses Felicity, I can only see one of two reactions. Either Oliver’s grief manifests itself as complete rage and he goes after Darhk without a plan and gets serious injured himself or he is so overcome with grief that he can’t function for a period of time. He doesn’t kneel calmly at her grave and swear vengeance. Second, Felicity dies, all of Team Flash comes to pay their respects. They love Felicity, they would all want to be there- not just Barry. Third, Barry would be way more broken up over her death. There would be tears, at least. And fourth, the writers have spent far too much time building Felicity from the ground up to kill her. She is, aside from her name, a wholly original character to the series. The show has set up a number of mysteries around her that still need to be answered (particularly that “Oliver has a kid in Central City” ticking time bomb). I can’t see them tossing all that hard work away simply for shock value.
Now, what I can see happening is Team Arrow reacting to this attack without a full plan and someone else getting killed in the attempt at retaliation. That would make sense, and add a level of danger to the whole enterprise. And, now that we have an idea as to what Darhk is up to, the whole story becomes a bit more dire. I still don’t quite get how he plans on destroying the world (it is the world, right, not just Star City?), or how his Genesis Project will build the world back stronger (or who gets to live to repopulate the world), but it’s nice that we actually have an evil plan to see thwarted. I do hope we start getting some answers regarding his power source and what he can and can’t do sometime soon.
But, quibbles aside, it was great to watch an episode of Arrow that was well-plotted, smart, and funny. Too often, the show has gotten bogged down in its own sense of importance and seriousness. This was a great note to end the first half of the season on, and I actually find that I’m looking forward to seeing where things go next year.
— Even Donna Smoak was fun this episode! A Christmas (er, I mean Hanukkah) miracle!
— Putting the show’s sole Jewish character in a gas chamber was a bold choice, Arrow writers. Perhaps not the smartest idea.
— I remain worried for the safety of Thea. She got some great lines this episode and a lot of unnecessary close-ups.
— Speaking of Thea, she claimed she wasn’t feeling bloodlust, although last week she seemed pretty bloodlusty in her attempt to kill Savage. Just saying.
— Darhk, it appears, does have a weakness: his daughter. I have to believe she will come into play at some point down the line.