Arrow Visits the Land of Oz
The Cowardly Lion is nowhere to be found in “Broken Arrow,” an episode that showcases a Tin Man and a Scarecrow. Oliver courageously places his trust in Felicity and Diggle, Tatsu and Maseo put the lives of millions ahead of their own, and Thea battles the relentless Ra’s al Ghul. Ray Palmer gleefully welcomes the Arrow as his mentor, and when this “Tin Man” steps into the fray wearing his newly insulated ATOM suit, Oliver helps him find his heart. Surprisingly, Roy Harper exhibits more courage than anyone else and in a shocking twist proves that he has a brain – “I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow” – when he outwits the SCPD with an ingenious con.
The episode opens with Roy’s somewhat preposterous arrest as the Arrow. All of Starling City falls for the ruse that ex-con Roy Harper and not Oliver Queen is the masked vigilante, with the exception of Captain Lance who will not be duped again. Laurel in her role as Assistant DA appears for less than a minute to ensure Oliver’s release from police custody. She then disappears, opening space in the hour for Ray and Felicity’s charming banter complimented by a generous side dish of Oliver angst. Roy’s choice prompts a switch in positions between the master and the apprentice with Roy teaching Oliver about justice and sacrifice instead of the other way around.
Oliver fights his own instincts to break Roy out of prison as Diggle and Felicity work together to rein him in. At one point Diggle attempts to physically block Oliver who wants to run off and rescue Roy from the next prison beating. Oliver pushes past him, breaking the duo’s first line of defense, but he has little chance against the second. Felicity follows Oliver outside and tells him, “You need people to help you; you need to let them.” Earlier this season Oliver would not have taken Felicity’s loving advice. That he does so now shows how far he has come since his resurrection.
Felicity speaks a harsh truth, “There is no more Arrow. Ra’s took that from you.” She then softens the blow with the reassurance he has been yearning to hear, “I know who you are. You’re the man that I . . . You’re the man that I believe in.” Oliver knows exactly what she meant to say. His feelings toward her – “It’s Felicity!” – remain strong. Whenever he takes the steps to give her the relationship she craves, Felicity will finish that sentence and break Ray’s heart in the process.
Brandon Routh has done a marvelous job endearing Ray Palmer to audiences over the past week. His sparkling relationship with Felicity, which as Oliver points out is more familial – “There’s a decent chance that you and Palmer are related” – than sexual, lightens the mood on both Arrow and The Flash. The writers have begun to facilitate Ray’s departure to a spin-off that has some potential if the focus begins and ends with Ray rather than with that silly suit. On Arrow, Ray brushes off his previous “I love you” to Felicity as coming “with a lower-case l,” prompting this viewer to wish she could step through the screen and mend his aching heart.
Ray reclaims his pride by tracking Deathbolt, a meta-human who runs around Starling City robbing banks and calling too much attention to himself. For no discernable reason, Felicity wanders into a power station alone at night to install some tech. Naturally, she runs straight into the villain of the week. Three beautiful men hover over computers at Palmer Technologies while Felicity morphs into “the blond” in need of rescue. Her two paramours determine that it is only with Oliver’s instincts and Ray’s scientific prowess that Deathbolt can be defeated. This conclusion leads Oliver to throw down in a high stakes game of Wii Boxing guiding the ATOM suit as Palmer inhabits it.
When Ray falters in the boxing match with Deathbolt, Oliver gives him the somewhat premature “you are a hero” talk which teaches this Tin Man that he has a heart. Felicity falls short of her own Dorothy metaphor when she fails to vanquish the Wicked Deathbolt herself. ATOMIVER saves her, reducing scrappy Felicity to an object that advances both men’s storylines at the expense of her typical resourcefulness. Upon rescue, she gives Ray the hug and gratitude that also belong to Oliver, further establishing that each man is literally in the other’s way when it comes to securing Felicity’s love.
Meanwhile, Roy holds steadfast in his commitment to atone for his crimes, showing as much strength of character as Oliver ever has. Near the end of the episode, his presumed death at the hand of a malicious prison guard who turns out to be an ARGUS agent illustrates Arrow’s knack for zigging when audiences expect it to zag. Roy, Diggle, and Felicity ran a con on Oliver and the audience. Roy turns out to be the brains behind this operation, showing that he has more under that red hoodie than a pretty face. When he learns about Roy’s “death,” Oliver briefly feels the pain Team Arrow suffered when they believed him to be dead at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul.
Thea suffers the same pain across town. She falls back into her tired role as victim in this episode, pining after an imprisoned and later presumed-dead Roy. Thea hits her lowest moment of the series when like her mother she finds herself on the business end of a sword. Thea will make a trip to the Lazarus Pit, however, while Moira’s body continues to molder in the family plot. Roy chooses not to share the plan to greatly exaggerate his death with the woman who loves him. Just when we thought Thea was finally in the know, she remains in the dark, earning Lance’s title of “the most naïve girl I’ve ever met.” Still, Thea bravely fights off Ra’s as long as possible before he mortally wounds her. He knows that Oliver will beg him to save Thea’s life.
This visit to Oz allowed the men of Starling City to shine, especially Roy Harper whose courage and departure pave the way for Oliver to reclaim his identity as the Arrow. Oliver’s admirable side emerges when he shares the hero mantle with others, teaching men like Ray that they too have “the nerve” to be heroes. Ray Palmer took another step toward filling out his ATOM suit even as the loss of his princess looms on the horizon. The women of Starling City did not fare as well this week. Hopefully, Thea’s trip to the Lazarus Pit will result in some superpowers and Felicity will remember to embrace her inner Dorothy.