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ARROW Review: Misdirection and Distraction in “A.W.O.L.”

By on January 28, 2016
Arrow: David Ramsey

Pictured: David Ramsey as John Diggle -- Photo: Liane Hentscher/ The CW

By Justin Carter

There’s an absurd amount of organizations in the DC universe. Arrow’s already given us the League of Assassins, ARGUS, HIVE, the Suicide Squad, the Church of Blood, and Tempest. This week gives us Shadowspire, a criminal group that recruits active soldiers and after ARGUS agents who ruined one of their operations years ago. The organization’s appearance is, like Diggle’s brother Andy says, all about misdirection and distraction. It makes for a fun episode, albeit one that comes with a few caveats that weaken it.

The true focus of the episode is about building relationships, both internal and external. With Andy gone rogue, Diggle has to learn to trust his brother again, and the show does a good job of rebuilding a bond between them. I’m not entirely sure the whole criminal background sticks, but since the show has previously viewed Andy through Diggle’s eyes, it makes sense that he’d gloss over the black spots. If nothing else, this episode finally let him get to kick some ass after weeks of sitting around in a cage.

Felicity’s relationship, if you can call it that, is about reconciling her old life with her new one. Having to use a wheelchair is a struggle for her, compounded by hallucinating her old punk rock self taunting her. Having Felicity 1.0 taunt her current self is appropriately creepy, and it’s nice that the show uses the hallucinations to show how far she’s come. This would be overkill in any other show, considering we’ve only seen one instance of Old Felicity, but the performances of both are great, and she gets to do some hacking as she tells her old self to go away. Burning an old photo of herself is a very Felicity thing to do, and it’s pretty funny when she tells Oliver that she isn’t on medication before doing so.

But about those weak spots. The first that comes to mind is the death of Amanda Waller. It should be a big deal, given that this is the first time Waller has died in any medium (that I’m aware of, at least), but it doesn’t feel genuine. She’s never been more than a plot device, and even ignoring that, Cynthia Robinson-Addai never really stood a chance when compared to CCH Pounder completely owning the role in the Justice League cartoon. It also doesn’t help that, much like with Deadshot dying last season, this blatantly feels done because Viola Davis will be playing The Wall in Suicide Squad in a little under 7 months.

The other thing is something that was more or less a given. Felicity’s crippling may be reversible. Not all that surprising, given that these characters live in a world where people are reincarnated Egyptians and the title character knows a magician. But if and when that solution comes–totally banking on the end of this season or the halfway point of the next one–the show will have to sell it so the fix doesn’t feel like her being in a wheelchair was pretty much all for nothing to viewers. Still, those issues aside, “AWOL” is a fun hour of TV that gives a nice emotional payoff to one of its supporting characters and finally gives Felicity a codename: Overwatch!

 

Additional Notes

  • I’m fairly certain the writers picked Overwatch just to see what they could get away with. Then again, Oliver already said “Oracle” was taken, so maybe that’ll actually get a payoff someday.

  • Oliver tells Laurel about Barry’s time travel exploits in the midseason finale, and her facial expression is the most human reaction I’ve seen from anyone on this show. (That’s not a knock on the acting, that’s showing how a normal person would react to hearing that.) That said, this shouldn’t surprise her, since her previously dead sister mentioned a time traveler to her roughly a week ago.

  • Waller was briefed on her agent turning up dead with a missing eye, so why the hell didn’t she wipe his retinal scan from their databanks?

  • Next week: The Calculator! Because the Protractor is busy on Supergirl in a few weeks. (Joking, as far as I know, there’s no bad guy called the Protractor.)