[This is a review of Arrow season 4, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
The drama on Arrow is often secondary to whatever Star City’s green hooded vigilante and his band of merry men and women are combating at any given moment. As such, it’s inevitable for the show to find a way for the two halves of Oliver Queen’s life to cross paths as frequently as possible. That has become easier as the show has progressed, thanks to everyone in Oliver’s inner circle knowing he’s the Green Arrow and pretty much joining him on his crusade against crime. But because Team Arrow is such an tight-knit bunch, every once in a while there is an outside element that needs to be factored in; one that has the ability to disrupt the team’s present state of affairs and introduce the sort of personal drama that can potentially alter the course of the entire season.
At the beginning of season 4, Oliver was in a happy, stable place with Felicity. He had traded in handing out compound fractures with his compound bow for brisk jogs and wholesome “good mornings” to his neighbors. Overall, Oliver was enjoying the sweet predictability of domestic bliss and all its brunch-worthy trappings. Such happiness and stability was destined to be short lived, given the type of show Arrow is and the conventions to which it must adhere. And while there has been tremendous tumult throughout the past 14 episodes – ranging from the resurrection of Sara Lance to Felicity’s paralysis to the emergency amputation of Malcolm Merlyn’s grip on the League of Assassins – it’s perhaps no surprise that Oliver’s past indiscretions and his continued pathological love affair with concealing the truth would upset the fragile balance of his personal life.
It is a surprise, however, how much Arrow‘s William storyline calls to mind the “sorry, forgot to tell you I had a kid” plight of Lady Edith Crawley on Downton Abbey. And, if nothing else, when a storyline cuts as close to one of the most melodramatic television shows in recent memory as this one does, you can bet there’s going to be some pretty sensational happenings throughout the hour.
Somewhere in the middle of the sensational happenings list is Damien Darhk losing his magic choking abilities, thanks in large part to the episode’s second most sensational happening: the live-action arrival of Megalyn Echikunwoke’s Vixen character. The arrival of Vixen is another example of how Arrow has become an intermediate stopping place for various characters within the larger DC TV Universe, but the character also has some sage words of advice for Ollie about parenthood that lead to his decision to send Samantha (Anna Hopkins) and William (Jack Moore) far away in an effort to protect the heir to the non-existent Queen fortune from the inevitable blowback of Green Arrow’s actions.
The hour is peppered with various characters offering insight into fatherhood and the role parents play in the lives of their children. Diggle’s advice to Oliver is basically the exact opposite of what Vixen recommends be done in William’s best interest, and the choice Oliver makes underlines how often his decisions are made without consulting those who have a vested interest in him. In this case, Oliver decides it’s best to leave William with a video message in which he reveals his secret identity – which he pretty much does at the drop of a hat nowadays – as a way of explaining why he can’t be a part of his son’s life. While shuffling his child off to some undisclosed location protects his progeny from people like Merlyn and Darhk, Oliver’s disinclination to consult Felicity (again) about what’s going on in the personal life they’re supposed to share leads not only to her returning the engagement ring and declaring a need for space, but it also plays a part her regaining the ability to walk (with the help of Curtis’ “terrific” microchip, of course).
When your paralyzed fiancée is so angry and disappointed in you she gets up and walks out of the room, you may have set a new television standard for screwing things up. And while Felicity’s recovery grants the episode a memorable (for better or worse) ending, it also puts the show’s depiction of the injury she suffered in a somewhat questionable light — specifically in terms of its brevity.
But the episode is more interested in exploring new emotional beats, especially as they pertain to Oliver backsliding into old patterns of behavior. Regardless the promise he made to Samantha, there’s really no excuse for Oliver not telling Felicity about William – that’s the sort of thing you do in a relationship – so Felicity’s insistence that she put some space between them is understandable. But, frustrating as it is, there’s something to be said for the writers sticking to their guns and having Oliver make the wrong choice because it is absolutely in keeping with his character. It feels like a cheap ploy to inject drama into a situation that had begun to feel a little too stable (because it is), but it is also evidence of the series being true to its lead character. Oliver is the kind of guy who makes bad choices and then has to sift through the emotional wreckage and fallout of his decisions. In the past, he was a rich, spoiled playboy whose choices frequently resulted in acts of infidelity and at least one child. Now, the choices he makes often carry more weight, but it doesn’t mean when it comes to his personal life Oliver is any less selfish or misguided.
It can be a risk to depict your protagonist in such a way, but Oliver’s many flaws are part of what has made him an engaging hero. While he has learned to be a better vigilante, his understanding of how to be a better companion has been slow coming. With any luck, Felicity’s mic drop at the end of the episode will be the wake-up call Ollie needs to tear down the now-unnecessary emotional wall he’s built up around himself. And watching as he learns the importance of doing so may lead to a satisfying arc for his character during the remainder of the season.
Arrow returns Wednesday, March 23 with ‘Broken Hearts’ on The CW. Check out a preview below: