TV Recap: Arrow, ‘Left Behind’

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Left Behind Plot Summary:

Three days after Oliver (Stephen Amell) left to duel Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), there is still no word of his whereabouts. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) refuses to believe he could be dead until Malcolm (John Barrowman) confirms it. Rudderless and facing a criminal named Brick (Vinnie Jones), who threatens to destroy all the work they’ve done cleaning up Starling City, Team Arrow must decide whether to carry on without their leader or quit. Elsewhere, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Ray (Brandon Routh) move toward their own careers in vigilantism.

While we, the audience, can rest easy knowing Oliver survived — Arrow‘s characters cannot. They do not have the benefit of knowing the title of their own show, so this episode was about the characters coming to terms with Oliver’s death. The periodic shots of Oliver being dragged to safety and eventually revived undercut the premise, but it was otherwise an emotionally strong hour of television.

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The midseason premiere, “Left Behind” feels like the first episode of a really depressing spinoff. This episode was the inverse of this season’s premiere, “The Calm,” because it takes all the hope and confidence established in that episode and obliterates it. Because the justice system in Starling City is utter nonsense, Vinnie Jones (he’s called Brick on the show, but nobody hires Vinnie Jones to play anything but himself so that’s what I’m calling him) was able to negate every bit of crime-fighting Team Arrow has done this season by simply stealing the evidence the SCPD had against the criminals. The plot was a surprisingly clever way of kicking the Team while they’re down.

And they are definitely down. Diggle’s (David Ramsey) heartfelt, teary confession to Laurel that he felt like he had failed Oliver as a bodyguard was strong but Felicity’s reaction was the toughest to watch. Much of the episode’s emotion hinged on her reactions and Rickards (mostly) rose to the occasion. Felicity was constantly on the edge of an emotional breakdown and watching her continue to deny the truth while knowing she would only be disappointed was both tense and heartbreaking.

Rickards can get a little too shaky when she needs to act weepy, but she really sold Felicity’s steady rage at Malcolm after he delivered the bad news. I, like Felicity, do not believe his crocodile tears. Malcolm is a well-established sociopath who barely knows the definition of the word “guilt” let alone has the ability to feel it. Felicity should have picked up that blood-crusted sword and stabbed him for being such a liar. Hopefully Thea (Willa Holland) can do us all that favor when she finds out what a terrible father he has been.

It wasn’t until Felicity tried to convince Ray to abandon becoming a vigilante that she lost it, a strong decision writing-wise. Ray has always been the more emotionally available version of Oliver and his presence forced her to confront the reality of what happened. Felicity was raw and hurt and it was cathartic to see her finally lose control. Ray was, unfortunately, the scene’s only weakness. Warning Felicity not to assume anything about his long-lost love was supposed to intrigue us about that relationship, but it made Ray seem insensitive instead. The girl is clearly grieving; give her a break. Felicity had no reason to apologize then or later for her outburst. It seemed out of character for Felicity to bolster a broody, self-centered hero when she always challenged Oliver when he acted that way. But the girl can be forgiven for being a little erratic right now, I suppose.

That is especially true of Felicity’s decision to save Roy (Colton Haynes) and Diggle rather than make sure Vinnie Jones did not get away with the evidence. She has always been focused on making sure that their actions have a greater meaning, but she is defined by her empathy. Of course she would choose to save her friends–especially after what happened to Oliver–and it was surprising that they could have thought she would make any other decision. There’s only so much loss a girl can take and Felicity has reached her limit.

Team Arrow’s chain of command has never been made explicit. Oliver was, of course, the figurehead, but Felicity has been the heart for a long time. As we saw from the opening scenes, the Team can function without the Arrow, albeit less effectively. Roy and less-so Diggle are somewhat expendable, but none of it works without Felicity giving direction and support. When she walked out, turned off the Arrow Cave lights and left them standing in the dark, it meant the end.

As it stands, Starling City is once again a place of lone vigilantes toiling away at a losing battle. Ray will probably keep working on that suit until he either electrocutes himself or finishes it. Roy will most assuredly continue as Arsenal because his life consists of nothing else. Diggle will probably don the hood on occasion or retire. There’s no place for him at ARGUS and maybe a quiet life at home is exactly what he needs. Laurel is finally taking up Sara’s (Caity Lotz) Black Canary mantle and, as it has all season, the development doesn’t feel earned. Maybe someday it will, but judging by that little half-assed kick in the closing scenes, I’m not optimistic.

Starling City and Arrow have perhaps never been darker than at this moment. Everything is unsure and everything is in flux. But what is so surprising about that is the show has maybe never been more exciting.

Rating: 7/10

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By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.

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By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.