The CW's DC TV shows have made their return from hiatus, looking toward the endgame for their respective seasons. Arrow is following suit, bringing Oliver and the rest of the team back where they left off: in pursuit of Adrian Chase, who has since become public enemy number one – unless the Green Arrow is still in the number one spot, then Chase is probably number two with, well, not a bullet but, you know… an arrow. With a killer on the loose, one who has been playing the role of Star City D.A. all season long no less, it the stakes are high, meaning the show can't waste time getting the audience back up to speed following the lengthy break. Thankfully, 'Dangerous Liaisons' is ready to get Team Arrow back on the manhunt, but it might mean the team acquires some strange bedfellows in the process.
That largely has to do with Felicity's recent jaunt over to the semi-dark side by moonlighting with Helix and owing the hacker collective more than a few favors in return to everything they'd done for her. As it turns out, while 'Dangerous Liaisons' is concerned with the overarching story of Adrian Chase and his murderous alter ego Prometheus, the episode also has to do with the influence of Helix and they way in which the group aims to capitalize on their association with Felicity and her connections to the Green Arrow and his group of vigilantes. That splits the episode in interesting directions, as Oliver and Team Arrow – along with some help from ARGUS – continue the search for Chase, Felicity gets to go Rhythm Nation with the rest of Helix as the various investigations diverge and come back together following a suspicious murder by elevator.
While Helix and Chase are certainly the thrust of the episode's plot, 'Dangerous Liaisons' is far more concerned with exploring the moral choices characters like Oliver, Diggle, and Lyla have to make. As soon as Felicity is put in a position where her choice becomes working with Helix in freeing a hacker being held by ARGUS without due process, in order to obtain a device that will help locate Chase, the focus of the hour comes down to the question: Who gets to make such decisions?
Although it doesn't provide much in the way of progressing the Prometheus storyline, the hour does underline the season's overarching theme with interesting results. Oliver has already been brought low by Chase's actions, confessing to essentially being a serial killer and abandoning the Green Arrow alter ego for the time being. The show can only pull so far on that idea before it either snaps or brings the series back to its original shape, so rather than continue to mine the depths of Oliver's psyche and how he's dealing – or not dealing – with a major psychological breakthrough, the hour spreads the moral quandary amongst the other two original members of Team Arrow.
Felicity's walk on the dark side has been brewing since the team headed off to Russia earlier in the season, and 'Dangerous Liaisons' moves to resolve her affiliation with Helix, for the time being anyway. The hour smartly weaves the ethics of Felicity's choice to go against ARGUS with the group's illegal detention of an incredibly dangerous hacker of considerable importance to Felicity's new friend, Alena. The two sides of the equation make for an interesting examination of the lengths to which these characters go in order to do the right thing, while also demonstrating just how blurry the line between right and wrong often is. The episode underscores the idea through the impending domestic squabble between Diggle and Lyla, not to mention the ethical back and forth Oliver and Felicity get into throughout the hour.
Arrow has been trying its level best to stay thematically relevant throughout this season, and it has largely been successful because of episodes like 'Dangerous Liaisons'. It's a mid-tier hour for the series; the action is serviceable – though Dinah does get one impressive take down followed by a fun one-liner during the hour's climactic sequence – but it is working so hard to stay on target with what season 5 is all about that it comes off as kind of endearing, even though it doesn't really progress the immediate concerns of finding Adrian Chase and putting an end to whatever his plan is now. Even the B plot of Lance forcing Rene to face his fears about being a part of his daughter's life works for the most part, even if it's just mostly maudlin and will almost certainly complicate things down the line for Rene.
The episode's handling of its subject matter and its relation to the rest of the season – not to mention the ongoing question of Oliver's legacy – helps justify the fact that 'Dangerous Liaisons' exists primarily to put Oliver and Felicity in a room together and keep them there for the next episode. On the other hand, the hour almost feels like necessary housecleaning before the final battle with Prometheus can begin. The series has always been a big proponent of letting the emotional baggage of its characters get as dusty as possible, so pitting Felicity against Oliver in a battle over moral choices and then locking them in a room together is the Arrow version of some spring cleaning.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'Underneath' @8pm on The CW.