Arrow – Where Love Is a Battlefield

“Suicidal Tendencies” explores the many ways we say “I do” in the name of love with Oliver pushing Felicity toward a better life with Ray and Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton sacrificing his own for John, Lyla and baby Sara. Their wedding forms the catalyst for an episode that leaves the viewer with a distinct feeling that love is pain. Diggle introduces this theme with his violent, and much appreciated, threat to Ray regarding Felicity – “You hurt her . . . they’ll never find your body” – and ends with Maseo shooting the Mayor of Starling through the heart. Meanwhile, Ray attempts to play Superman and Lawton turns out to be the true hero of the episode.

Dancing Diggles http://www.ign.com/
Dancing Diggles http://www.ign.com/

Arrow moves into serious territory when it cedes its flashback sequences to Floyd Lawton’s return home after a military tour of duty. Lawton represents the real servicemen and women whose transitions from the battlefield to the home front sometimes come with psychological problems. Lawton’s young daughter does not recognize him, and soon his wife doesn’t either since he cannot reconcile what he has done in the line of duty with the civilian life he is now expected to lead. Deadshot accepts a post with HIVE, HYDRA’s DC counterpart, after listening to their human “drone” who harshly tells him “people like you don’t get to have families.” Lawton internalizes this message along with the equally miserable mantra – “For people like you, love is a bullet in the brain” – presenting an odd juxtaposition with John and Lyla’s big day.

Deadshot and Cupid www.ign.com
Deadshot and Cupid
http://www.ign.com

“Did you hire a florist?” the manic Cupid asks a flummoxed Lyla as they trudge through the forest of Kasnia. Amy Gumenick’s Carrie Cutter lightens the mood alternating between planning her wedding with the Arrow and smothering Lawton with love. ARGUS has tapped the always entertaining Suicide Squad to rescue Senator Joseph Cray from the clutches of non-descript terrorists, thereby hijacking John and Lyla’s Fiji honeymoon. Senator Cray, by the way, could take a lesson in subtlety from Frank Underwood. The Senator’s plan to orchestrate a hostage scene so he can come out the hero and then run for president makes little sense. No matter, since the plot serves to push Deadshot firmly into hero territory as he presumably sacrifices his life so John and Lyla can return to Starling and raise the “scrumptious” Sara.

Lyla and John’s fear that their work might orphan their daughter reveals that even heroes struggle to find that elusive Work-Life Balance. They separately come to the same conclusion that Sara needs her parents, with each deciding to give up their dangerous careers for her sake. Diggle will forgo all the fun he has with Team Arrow and Lyla will leave her life as a SHIELD, oops, ARGUS agent behind. Lyla happens to resign her post first, however, leaving Diggle open to stay with his team. Given Lyla’s skill set and passion for her work, one wonders if she will stay out of the workforce for long.

The Happy Family www.ign.com
The Happy Family
http://www.ign.com

Diggle and Lyla’s wedding presents an opportunity for the writers to remind us that Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy could not pass a chemistry test if their lives depended on it. The moment Oliver stiffly rests his hand on Laurel’s back felt like a direction – “now Stephen, place your left hand on Katie’s upper back just behind her right arm, no her back, not her shoulder, oh for god’s sake Stephen try to look interested [notes the exasperated director] – rather than an instinctive decision on the part of the character. Contrast that exchange with the relaxed spontaneity exhibited by Rickards seconds later as she casually rests the back of her arm on Amell’s chest. These simple interactions show that Cassidy’s character is best served by a friendship with Oliver rather than anything approaching romance.

Felicity Caught the Bouquet  www.ign.com
Felicity Caught the Bouquet
http://www.ign.com

Not surprisingly, this wedding episode gave audiences plenty of emotionally-charged interactions between Arrow’s signature couple, Oliver and Felicity. Ray Palmer makes an inexplicable appearance at a press conference regarding the Arrow and later does some x-ray sleuthing to discover the man’s true identity. Felicity’s own facial recognition software also plays a role in Ray’s discovery. She withheld crucial information about everyone’s secret identities and is shaken by the subsequent realization that the two men in her world are about to collide.

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's the ATOM?  www.ign.com
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s the ATOM?
http://www.ign.com

Ray ends up causing all kinds of trouble for Oliver who sees Palmer as more of a nuisance than a nemesis. A brief skirmish between the two (and also with Arsenal who as far as I can tell still lays in a heap), leads Oliver to dispatch Ray as if he were a tiny bug that needed swatting. Oliver’s generic name for Palmer’s alter-ego, “Supersuit,” gets to the heart of the Ray Palmer Conundrum. For all of his intelligence and “military grade” equipment, Ray ends up looking like a floating Iron Man knockoff in his ATOM suit. Does the world really need yet another member of the 1% jumping into the hero business? Whoever’s working on that new CW spinoff needs to answer the “so what” question and do a whole lot more to amp up ATOM’s cool factor before expecting viewers to invest in his story.

ATOM www.ign.com
ATOM
http://www.ign.com

A hooded Oliver delivers a strong message to Ray about Felicity in his gravelly Arrow voice prompting comparisons to Diggle’s earlier warning. Oliver stands secure in his non-relationship with Felicity – “I have nothing to prove to her, but you do. She chose you, so trust her.” Ray humbly accepts this advice and promises to make Felicity happy. Oliver, who is not yet ready to “be a hero and a human being,” continues his martyrdom by pushing Felicity into Ray’s arms. Meanwhile, these exchanges reveal that Felicity’s balancing act between Ray her lover and Oliver her soulmate is a delicate one that threatens to come crashing down at any moment.

Deflated ATOM www.ign.com
Deflated ATOM
http://www.ign.com

“Suicidal Tendencies” makes clear that heroes and villains alike carry the scars of love and battle with them. The wonderfully complicated and gritty Floyd Lawton best embodies this lesson, and I am guessing that despite his brush with death we have not seen the last of him. Lest we allow serious themes to bog us down, this episode happens to also treat viewers to Shirtless Oliver, Suspenders Oliver, and the illusion of Multiple-Hooded Olivers. It’s nice to see that priorities are still intact.

Suspenders Oliver  www.cosmicbooknews.com
Suspenders Oliver
http://www.cosmicbooknews.com

10 Comments »

  1. I feel bad I haven’t commented – apparently graduating and preparing for grad school actually takes up more time than those long grad school application essays. However, I should mention that my impression of the show right now is coming directly from an awareness of how the industry works, based on my research into media studies.

    For some reason TVLine.com isn’t posting any comments I wrote (they post some, so I don’t know if I’m in trouble?), so I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote here instead of regurgitating it. The thread went like this:

    PERSON A: I’m at the point where I hope Mateo kills Felicity.
    Her character is now that bad.
    Oh and she got to be the prize between Oliver and Ray.

    PERSON B: She was one of my favorites, now, she could go with Ray on his new show. This triangle just is just bad. I don’t give a hoot about any of it.

    PERSON C: Agreed, she used to be so awesome!
    Now i’m at the point where I wouldn’t care if she dies or goes to the new show.
    Let her go I say.
    I want Oli to be back to his ass kicking self.
    I am also at the point where I prefer Laurel to Felicity and that’s saying a lot!

    PERSON D: That’s exactly what they wanted to happen. They’ve written Felicity badly this season so people start rooting for Laurel and you’re just buying into it.

    ME: Exactly. Sara has already been killed off, and now they’re getting rid of Felicity via character assassination. The entire season was planned around two major agendas: launch another spin-off and reinstate Laurel as the female lead character. The Laurel-as-Black Canary storyline has been planned from the development phase. Based on the comic books, Black Canary would be obvious as the female lead/love interest, and it’s likely something that made Katie originally sign on for the show.

    For some reason, during the development phase the writers decided to change Dinah/Laurel’s origins to create conflict and drama with Oliver, drawing out the romance over several seasons. They knew they wanted shippers – they’re one of the most active audiences and constantly promote their shows on social media. The producers were probably hoping for something like Chuck and Sarah: no other love interest for either was going to last long; and inevitably they would end up together with a happily ever after. They weren’t anticipating a character introduced in episode 3 to be such a hit – Felicity had instant chemistry with Oliver, added charming humor to an otherwise dark show, and won the audience over. Suddenly people saw how amazing she was with Oliver platonically, so why not put them in a romantic relationship? Shippers came out of the woodwork – in Felicity the audience had the strong, lovable female character they wanted. They found Oliver’s leading lady. And the writers went with it.

    Felicity was funny, relatable, and (at least until this season) broke through cliches by showing you can be a geek and brilliant and awkward and girly. The nice, smart girl didn’t need to be a plain Jane. She constantly proved she was more than Oliver’s “Girl Wednesday;” I found her empowering because she was an Everywoman who (again, until this season) refused to play the damsel, even if she got herself in trouble and needed rescuing, it was because she was ready and willing to step into the field and get the mission accomplished. Her life, her choice. Her conflicts with Oliver weren’t only about keeping her on the sidelines for her own protection: she challenged him about doing the right thing, while (until this season) always made sure he knew she still supported him. Her interactions with Oliver weren’t just about cutesy, flustered flirting; she helped him find another way to be a hero and made him want to be a better man. Throw Diggle into the mix, and you have one of the most formidable crime-fighting teams on television.

    But what about Laurel? Wasn’t she supposed to be the female lead? Sure, Katie still had top billing, but everyone saw Felicity as the de facto female lead, and was taking on every function and role Laurel was supposed to have in Oliver’s overarching narrative. Laurel became a regular in an episode’s B-plotline, and you wouldn’t miss anything if you decided to fast-forward through her parts. This season, they’re going back to square one. They’re making sure Laurel is set up to be the female lead again. The way their doing it is by killing off the competition, literally in Sara’s case and figuratively in Felicity’s.

    It started with the character schilling after the midseason break: suddenly Laurel was everyone’s best friend and shoulder to cry on after Oliver’s supposed death, even though she’s barely had any sort of civiI interaction with anyone on Team Arrow (and she only rarely showed Oliver any basic human consideration). Then we are told Sara had no “light” – by Felicity no less, the show’s metaphorical light. Laurel is therefore the better Canary, isn’t she? And as Felicity has become the show’s unofficial kingmaker – get her seal of approval and you can officially consider yourself a hero – it’s discrediting Sara’s heroism, in case anyone in the audience was still hung up on her death.

    Eventually Felicity will become so hated we’ll want her to be killed/written off the show. This pod person has become season 1 Laurel – B storyline, extremely dislikable, and always making the worst choice – the one that would make the audience loathe her more. The Ray spin-off is something that came later. It wasn’t originally planned, but after the success of The Flash, the writers decided they wanted another show in the same continuity. How do they go about it? Make him interact with Felicity. The audience like[d] Felicity, so they’ll follow her into the B-plotline that sets up the spin-off. Great way to use her popularity, and as a bonus they’d be making room for Laurel to take her “rightful place” in the Arrowcave.

    I desperately want to hope the writers are pulling a long con; that this whole season has been leading to a satisfying twist that would make everything before it make sense. They have reasons for breaking up Original Team Arrow. They have reasons for suddenly making Laurel this tough, “strong female character” (the term used in irony). They have reasons for transforming Felicity into her evil twin. They have reasons for suddenly making Ray a jerk, and they have reasons for why this season has been such a let down. However, I’m pretty much losing my faith. Characterization and narrative have been sacrificed for contractual obligations about main characters and cranking out another spin-off. In the words of the late Whitney Huston, didn’t we almost have it all?

    I’ll probably have more to say, but right now I am just incredibly pessimistic and disappointed. For a second we did get “The Emancipation of Felicity Smoak” – sticking to her guns, challenging Oliver to do the right thing. However, instead of working to resolve this conflict between Oliver and Felicity, they shoved her into Ray’s arms. She’s been reduced to a ghost of her former self; I can no longer recognize the character I loved in seasons 1 and 2, and I am really pissed about this. I’m bitter that so much is being ruined to push the Laurel Agenda. It’s the writers’ own fault for:

    (1) Casting an actress that makes interacting with the hero painful to watch, who fluctuates between emotions like she’s manic-depressive

    (2) Changing her origin story so the hero can pile on even more manpain – eventually he’d get over it, right? And we’d sympathize with her, right? And we’d root for her, right? Nope. Never happened.

    (3) Making her an unlikable bitch from square one: we were never shown why we should like Laurel, we were just told she was a good guy in the first five seconds we saw her in the pilot: “Dinah Laurel Lance. Always saving the world.” There’s also the issue of trying to legitimize an adapted iteration of a character by giving them the same name (and reminding the audience that this IS the REAL Black Canary, in case you were blinded by the fact that Sara completely kicked ass and fulfilled the spirit of the Black Canary like Laurel never will. I want to see a relationship between Laurel and Felicity that brings out the best in female friendships. I want Laurel to be someone I want to see each week, and watch her interact with the ensemble like she actually belongs there. We may get there someday, but getting from right now to this vague future is looking impossible.

    (4) Any attempt to “fix” Laurel has made everything worse: she is an incredibly unhealthy woman in desperate need of mental health professionals. Yes, every character (except those with Diggle as their last name) could use some therapy, but Laurel’s issues caused addiction, something that hasn’t been dealt with properly at all. One meeting does not fix everything, and there’s two important steps about acknowledging when you’ve hurt people and trying to make amends. That never happened. Oh, and Oliver/Laurel is one of the most toxic relationships I’ve ever seen on television, and I watch vampire shows.

    I am just so incredibly angry right now. Sorry for ranting. I’ll probably have calmed down enough to have a rational conversation tomorrow.

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    • Congratulations on your graduation! That is a big accomplishment and based on your writing I think grad school is the place for you. You offer some very smart insights about media and television studies. I am not as concerned as you are about Felicity. I think she remains true to herself even when she is juggling her feelings for Ray and Oliver. Characters are allowed to show emotion without writers being accused of character assassination. Laurel is not a threat to Felicity’s character or to her relationship with Oliver. The writers decided a long time ago to embrace Felicity. They continue to do so as they try and figure out what to do with Laurel as Black Canary. I appreciate where your “rant” is coming from, but I think there is more hope on the horizon. Thank you for your comment. I look forward to hearing from you again.

      Like

      • Ugh. I just re-read what I wrote. You know how people shouldn’t text while drunk because they’re guaranteed to say something they’ll regret? I shouldn’t comment when emotional and exhausted. Thank you for being so incredibly kind and understanding after I completely went off the rails like that!

        While I’m still seeing too much of an agenda behind the narrative, and I’m still extremely disappointed that they’ve focused Felicity’s story on establishing Ray as a character, all hope is not lost. Felicity’s going back to Ray after he withheld information and accused her of lying is still extremely out of character to me – she wouldn’t let Oliver get away with that,

        I desperately want the core Original Team Arrow dynamic back, because that always was the heart of the show, and the focus has been far too much on their sloppy attempts to establish Laurel as the BC. Why couldn’t Nyssa train her before putting on the mask? Her “arc” didn’t do her any favors in integrating her on the team, making her more sympathetic, or giving her the credibility to become the BC. I wanted something more epic; where Laurel-as-Black Canary makes her first appearance when all hope is lost – and after a season of training montages convincing the audience she is capable of the physical aspect of being a vigilante. I particularly wanted her to show up and save Oliver closer to the season finale, because the fallout of her taking her sister’s mantle would be a great place to start season 4.

        Someone on another website pointed out that no matter how bad the plot became or how far off the characterizations went, all of Felicity and Oliver’s scenes were golden – and they are. Both Stephen and Emily understand their characters’ relationship so well that they can play any situation as believable, simply because the chemistry is so incredibly strong. That more than proves your claim that they’re each others’ soulmates. Though I’ve never been a fan of the ‘destined lovers” trope, preferring that characters make a choice out of free will to be together because their connection is so strong, the unplanned nature of “Olicity” never makes it feel forced, as the Oliver/Laurel relationship would be. Seeing her talking to his picture in the flashback is key foreshadowing for the eventual direction of their relationship, and I think I forgot that amidst all the “FOREVER ALONE” angst we’ve been getting from Oliver.

        My “rant” (that actually sounds more like a conspiracy theory, doesn’t it?) made a few valid points, but was too wrapped up in bitterness (I’m especially bitter about Sara’s fate, and that likely won’t change anytime soon) to see the good points: Diggle’s story very likely to be a fulfillment of his own Campbellian hero’s journey, and he really will become the “Master of Two Worlds,” able to identify as both a family man and a hero, and creating a path for Oliver to eventually take, though we’re likely to be waiting until the last five minutes of the series finale before feeling that level of completion. And even though I was very sad to see him go, the thematic conclusion to Deadshot’s story – sacrificing himself for Diggle and his family and atoning for killing Andy – was very satisfying.

        I haven’t been keeping up with spoilers beyond reading speculative fan fiction, but apparently someone will die (though the possibility of being brought back by Lazarus Pit is very strong), and there are some crucial scenes happening while on a jet.

        Hopefully I was right and there is a long con in play, though I have absolutely no clue where they’re going with this season, and I’m hoping we get a time jump between seasons 3 and 4 so friendships between the team and Laurel can be established without needing to show the steps getting there. In The Walking Dead we never see how the chaos really began; we just see Rick waking up after everything has gone to hell. It’s a storytelling cheat in a way, but one I welcome. Establishing female relationships has never been the writers’ strength, so going from the messy, inorganic relationships we’re seeing now to established friendships without showing the step-by-step process of getting there will be a benefit to the show.

        I’m still disappointed in the show and the direction Felicity’s story has gone, but maybe the writers will be able to pull this off. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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      • Ray had a point, Felicity did withhold some important information from him about her life. I think the two of them are even when it comes to secrets and a lack of trust. Ray’s character remains a temporary distraction. I am also wondering who is going to die. I have not gotten over the loss of Sara or Moira. I suspect Lyla is expendable and Roy. We will have to wait and see. I am glad the Lazarus Pit is available. Someone important will need it in the future. I don’t watch The Walking Dead so I will take your word for it. Arrow usually ends strong. There is much hope for the future.

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  2. “Does the world really need yet another member of the 1% jumping into the hero business?” Loved that line! As if the creature comforts of 1-percentitude aren’t enough for those folks, they also need superhero franchises to puff up their egos 24-7? We need more street urchins and crusty proletarians in the Justice League!

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  3. thank you for this review,for writing about why there is so much “WHAT IS THIS?” on the atom issue (the problem with this character is much deeper that any preference about romantic couples) and also for calling Oliver Felicity’s soulmate 🙂

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  4. Ooohh, where to begin, Lex I’m on board with a lot of what you’ve said. I do believe that Felicity really needed her own development arc/storyline but the writers are messing it up by making TOO MUCH about love triangles, propping up Laurel so she can be Oliver’s right hand (maybe right after dispatching Roy & Felicity off- who knows) and generally acting OOC by going against her values like e.g. lying to Quinten, dissing Sara like she wasn’t as good as Laurel (please!) Laurel may not be a threat to Felicity’s character but they shouldn’t downplay Felicity and her values to further Laurels arc. I do think a lot of people in the ‘fandom’ are throwing a hissy because they only want Felicity to be with Oliver no matter how Oliver treats her, how wrong it might be at THIS moment in time or how unhappy SHE might be, i.e. they want her there to please Oliver. If they cared they would see she needs to explored her options & not be a doormat instead of calling her a ‘hoe’ like some have, so shallow it’s sad.
    While I agree that Felicity wasn’t 100% honest & upfront with Ray, could she really have told him about the Arrow team thing without telling him secrets that were not hers to tell? I don’t have anything against Felicity & Ray, like I said before I think part of Ray’s function in Arrow is to show Oliver HOW to appreciate Felicity as a beautiful, intelligent, funny, loving, trustworthy equal partner/woman not treat her like a child he has to make decisions for. I also think Ray is there to educate Felicity that she is worth loving, is smart, worth being chosen and her opinion does matter because lets face it Oliver has done a sledgehammer job of knocking Felicity’s confidence in the past at times. Felicity deserves a loving, physical relationship like every other Arrow character and she shouldn’t be vilified for that.

    Loved your line about the chemistry (lack of) between Oliver and Laurel – which Laurel’s fans still refuse to acknowledge doesn’t exist. They still sing the comic song (because that happens in the comics) & not admitting that Arrow the TV series is a different arc to the comics, there was no younger kick-ass Lance sister triangle thing in the comics and in the show Oliver has his own IT/muscle support team (Diggle/Felicity/Roy) so obviously it’s going to be different, it’s like they don’t see it. If the writers actually cared about Laurel they would take time to look into why she’s not well received instead of blaming ‘Olicity’. Laurel is not a warm person who people gravitate towards like Felicity, she’s self cantered , impulsive & acts first, thinks later, is stubborn & not a team player (but wants to be in team Arrow), what is there to like? Bottom line we all know it’s a contractual thing with Kate Cassidy.

    Absolutely loved Deadshot and I don’t believe he’s dead, can’t be, he’s still part of the suicide squad. Floyds was the perfect redemption arc, we hated him, were unsure then we cared/liked him. Diggle also grew with Lawtons story arc from wanting him dead to wanting to save him, at times like that my faith in the writers gets restored.

    Diggle is the ultimate goal, the bench mark for Oliver & I think Oliver sees that but hasn’t been pushed enough either direction to actually try to get that life, he hasn’t sunk that low emotionally yet. Diggle and Lyla have found reasons to live for (each other and Sara) & Oliver hasn’t.
    At the end of season 2 & beginning of season 3 I had high hopes that they would really get back to the core team that we love (Oliver/Dig/Felicity & everyone little brother Roy) but alas, it was not to be, not sure where they are going. I shall light a candle and hold on faithfully till end of season.

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    • I am glad to see that I am not the only person who loves Deadshot. They can’t kill him off just when he becomes really complicated and interesting. Ray is a placeholder for Felicity until she and Oliver can figure things out. You are right that Oliver is not yet ready for what Dig and Lyla have. We will hang in there though and give him some more time. Thanks for your comments.

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