Spoilers ahead for “A.W.O.L.,” the latest Arrow episode!
With all the Legends of Tomorrow setup shenanigans a thing of the distant past, Arrow is back to doing what it does best — and this season is firing on all cylinders (and possibly a few more, never-before-seen cylinders).
The latest episode barely featured Oliver, and was arguably one of the best episodes of the year, which is a testament to just how strong an ensemble they’ve built in this little corner of the DC universe. This episode was all about Diggle and Felicity, and they took full advantage of the spotlight to tell some meaty, narrative-pushing stories.
Forget Arrow, this is the Diggle Family Hour
Diggle has always played an important part in Arrow, but “A.W.O.L.” was all about the Diggle clan. It’s apparent from the opening scene: Instead of Oliver’s usual drama, we’re greeted by Diggle and Lyla on a date — which is immediately interrupted by an undercover ARGUS agent, who is immediately abducted and eventually killed (uh-oh). The ARGUS stories are usually a refreshing change of pace, and this one was no exception.
John and Lyla head into ARGUS, get some classified intel passed on from Amanda Waller in secret, then start looking into the big mystery — which involves none other than the rogue military unit Shadowspire. Turns out Diggle had a run-in with the unit back in his military days, and his brother Andy (who is conveniently locked up in a cage, due to his nasty habit of previously working with Damien Darhk) just so happened to work with them. The man in the cage finally got a chance to play a key role in the story, and actually showed he’s still a human being under all that bluster.
Andy and John are forced to work together to save Lyla’s life, and juuuust when you think Andy has turned back to the dark side, you realize he’s been playing the Shadowspire gang all along and really is working to help John. Sure, it was telegraphed from a mile away, but it was still a nice moment to see the Diggle brothers working together. Hey, if the Taliban can’t handle ‘em, a few Shadowspire agents don’t stand a chance. After keeping him locked up, it’s nice to see Andy make some progress, though you have to wonder just how far he’s really come. If nothing else, it represents an interesting arc certain to play out over the next several weeks.
Felicity is still awesome (and has a codename!)
For a minute there, it seemed like they were going a really lame route with this story, but huzzah, Team Arrow righted the ship by the second act. Felicity’s pain meds cause her to hallucinate her younger, goth-hacker self, who is giving her a hard time for the person she’s become as a full-fledged adult. Which, really? What’s so bad about being the CEO of a billion-dollar tech company, being engaged to a superhero, and saving the world on a daily basis? Luckily, modern-day Felicity figures that out pretty quickly, too.
She pushes past those lame hallucinations (Seriously, kill Hacker Grrl Felicity with fire, now), and decides to make the best of her wheelchair-bound situation (As Oliver notes, her real superpower is her brain, after all), saves the day, and continues to be a strong, awesome character. Sure, seeing Felicity struggle to come to grips with her injury is only natural, but this character is strong. More than struggling with her condition, the story they’re focusing on is how she overcomes it. That’s the way to go.
Plus, as always, the relationship between Oliver and Felicity continues to be the heart of this story. Their story has grown into one of a true, believable relationship, and it’s a fantastic component that brings some heart to the narrative. Their speechifying (where they literally poke fun at all the speeches) is adorable, and it really is amazing to see how these two characters have grown, both separate and together, over the years.
She also, finally, got a codename! After Felicity jokingly makes a recommendation (Hot Wheels doesn’t quite have that superhero ring to it, sadly), Oliver names her Overwatch while in the field (because Oracle is taken, naturally). For those who might not have caught the in-joke: Overwatch is the name of Arrow producer Marc Guggenheim’s recent CIA conspiracy novel. Well played, Guggenheim. Well played.
Holy crap, they killed Amanda Waller
Seriously. Wow. Did anyone else’s jaw hit the floor when he pulled that trigger? Amanda Waller is a major character in DC lore, and has played a big role in Arrow over the past few years. It’s been a while since Arrow has thrown a surprise death at us, and knocking the ARGUS leader off mid-scene in the middle of a random episode was a gutsy move. For a show that has somewhat grown predictable at times, it was a stark reminder that anyone can die at anytime. R.I.P., Waller.
It also begs the question — who will take over ARGUS, now? It’d stand to reason Lyla could potentially head back into action as the new head of the agency, and it’d be a nice change of pace to actually have a legit ally leading the organization. If they do got that route, it’d open up some interesting B-stories, as Lyla fights to change the organization from the inside. It could also act to integrate ARGUS into the fold in a more natural way. Win, win.
Diggle’s flashbacks connect to Oliver’s — now that’s symmetry!
Flashbacks are a key part of the Arrow formula, but who says they always have to focus on Oliver? The flashback machine shifted over to Diggle this time around, as we track a mission from 2005 while he was serving with Andy in the Middle East. We see a bit more of how Diggle ended up working with Shadowspire, and seeing Andy and John together helps to actually show, instead of tell, us about how they were close in the past.
But, the big twist comes when Andy is introduced to Shadowspire boss Baron Reiter, who is gearing up for his infamous trip to Oliver’s island, aka “Purgatory.” It feels a bit on the nose to tie these threads together, but for the most part, it did work. Heck, maybe Andy ends up on the island for a while! Now that could be some fun drama, if/when it comes out.
Other tidbits of note:
What’s next for John Diggle? An interesting question, to say the least. Andy has come a long way since being picked up as a brainwashed Ghost. But, he’s also been slow to show remorse, so having him come through in the clutch for John was a huge moment. With him now living at Casa Diggle, we’ll almost certainly be seeing more of him. Might he eventually help out Team Arrow again?
Latest bets on the mystery grave? No major leads in this episode, though the leading candidates are still leading. We’ve officially marked Felicity off the list; though Capt. Lance, Oliver’s secret child/ex-girlfriend, Lyla, Diggle, Thea, Laurel and virtually everyone else are still sitting at even odds. Another interesting option: Felicity’s mother, who has started slipping into a large role the past couple of weeks, and would certainly represent a brutally heartbreaking option to put in that casket.
What’d you think of “A.W.O.L.”? Good? Great? Terrible? So-so?