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.
As always, you lay out the episode very well. I have found Ray to be more likable this week than in the entire season. He came in, did a classic meet cute with Felicity, and within two episodes pretty much gains every shred of Oliver’s self-worth (the poor guy has worse luck than a Winchester, but he is able to work through the angst — I usually loathe angsty, brooding heroes with more manpain than common sense, but I can’t not like Oliver because he is so earnest in his determination to soldier on). He also was kind of creepy and had questionable boundaries (I delighted in calling him “Fifty Shades of Ray” for the kinda sorta stalker thing in the beginning), but he looked like Brandon Routh – like Felicity said, he’s a Disney Prince with geek cred to spare.
He also had “REBOUND” tattooed on his forehead.
What has surprised me this week is how much they actually have committed to showing the Ray/Felicity relationship as having narrative value outside the “Olicity obstacle” and “Spin-Off Superhero.” Rather than having an arc, it felt like Ray was an agenda (why am I supposed to care about his dead fiancee?), and it served three purposes: take Oliver’s balls, bang Felicity to put Olicity sex off for another season, and set himself up for the spin-off. They definitely used him far too much; a little more restraint would have been better, and this only compounded all the other problems this season had. Felicity also kept on turning into the damsel when he was around — could have gone without that. But between The Flash and Arrow this week he actually became a character: he’s the geek who looks like the Prom King, mixed with a side of eccentric billionaire, and his someone I actually want to watch.
However, he still stunted Felicity’s growth. There was a point during the Darkest Days (episodes 3×10-16) when she became a Stepford Wife whose entire purpose was to plug Laurel and Ray. “If Felicity thinks Laurel’s the One True Canary, we should think that too!” “Ray’s with Felicity in this scene, so I’m going to watch him instead of pressing the fast forward button!” There were moments when you saw that she could have had a very distinct growth arc over all three seasons – first she didn’t know her own worth and was happy just to be on the team; in season 2 she knew how important she was, but she still didn’t demand the respect she deserved; being demoted to EA and having to suffer through Oliver’s inability to keep it in his pants wasn’t a big deal. She could settle. In season 3 Oliver pushes her away — but she gets back on her feet instead of drowning in a flood of tears and vowing to become a nun, even though she’s Jewish. She wanted to live, and took the steps to do so… and then became a cardboard version of something that might resemble a Girl Wednesday to Ray (if you squint you could see it), but mostly she was eye candy and cute quips.
Another thing I realized during this episode is that Laurel does have a purpose unrelated to stipulations in Katie Cassidy’s contract. As the Black Canary? Laughable. Insulting to Dinah Laurel Lance of the comics. Where Sara was an icon for her feminism and bisexuality, Laurel was the battered puppy who kept on asking for more. As the love interest? Bert and Ernie have more romantic chemistry than Laurel and Oliver. As the female lead? Essentially every role that Laurel would have played on Oliver’s journey was covered by Sara and Felicity. And the press still often refers to Felicity as the show’s “leading lady.” So where does Laurel have a purpose?
Katie Cassidy is brilliant when she does those badass legal arguments with a bunch of Latin that always sound like they should end in a mic drop. I actually didn’t notice Laurel’s absence through most of the episode, but I was amazed at how much I liked her single scene.
We won’t get into Roy and Thea. I’m not ready.
I think season 3 will always be known as the season with a few moments of brilliance and a strong ending, but otherwise one giant hot mess. Daredevil raised the bar on Netflix, and with season 3 Arrow fell way behind in the “best superhero show” race. They’re still in second — The Flash is still too new and actually a little too lighthearted, Agents of SHIELD improved but still is only as compelling as its connections to the movies, Constantine got canceled, and Gotham devolved into a bad crime procedural with a comic book easter egg every five seconds. There is hope, but it’s been a long time coming.
Now I have to get back to my senior capstone. Writing this constituted my dinner break.
Thanks for the reply. Your comments are always insightful. I have never seen Ray as a stalker and don’t understand why people chose that as a theme for his character. Ray and Felicity have a lot of personality quirks in common. Probably too many for them to be right for each other. They always make me laugh. Their interaction on Flash this week was a riot. Ray never had a real chance with Felicity given the relationship between her and Oliver. It will be interesting to see how Oliver finally wins Felicity over.
I have not seen Daredevil yet but I have heard that it is very good. I will probably dive into that this summer once Arrow, Flash and SHIELD have concluded. Wow. That is a lot of superhero television, perhaps too much.
It looks like I will have to wait to hear your views on Thea and Roy for another time. I am pleased that the writers did not kill Roy off the show. It is always nice to have a recurring character who can come in and help save the day.
Thanks for the comments!