TV Recap: Arrow, ‘The Fallen’

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The Fallen Plot Summary:

After Thea’s (Willa Holland) confrontation with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) leaves her in critical condition, Oliver (Stephen Amell) is forced to become leader of the League of Assassins in order to save her. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Malcolm (John Barrowman) accompany him to Nanda Parbat and after a confrontation with Ra’s, Felicity is forced to reevaluate her relationship with Oliver.

Wow. I thought Oliver and Felicity wouldn’t hook up until the season finale. At the very least I expected The CW to wait until May sweeps, but they just went ahead and aired a super long, highly-anticipated sex scene in the middle of April. For all its boundary-pushing (remember those controversial Gossip Girl ads from a few years ago?), sex on the CW is usually pretty tame. It’s all kissing and no thrusting. Women wear their bras long past the point of logic and any intimacy is lessened by whatever hit song is playing on the soundtrack. Yet not only did Arrow show Felicity removing her bra, the music was just a more tragic version of composer Blake Neely’s love theme for the couple. Not to be crass, but it was hot.

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But I’m sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot of things happened before Oliver and Felicity got down and we should probably get to those before this gets masturbatory (though I’ll get to that).

Like her brother before her, Thea was mostly dead after being stabbed by Ra’s. Oliver was–understandably–barely holding it together and finally showed the appropriate level of hatred toward Malcolm for ruining Thea’s life. If only post-Lazarus Pit Thea had done the same. For all Malcolm’s worrying that Thea would be fundamentally changed after coming back to life, she was surprisingly unaltered—in the long run at least. Her first coherent act post-revival was promising: she denied Oliver’s existence and showed Malcolm affection. No wonder Felicity stormed out to give Ra’s a piece of her mind (I’ll get to that too). Yet by the end of the episode, she was basically back to her old self, if a more confused version. If this is Thea without a soul, then she’s an absolute bore. Admittedly, losing Oliver yet again is throwing her further off balance and if this episode was proof of anything, it’s that the prospect of loss make a person do crazy things.

Felicity doesn’t act without thinking about the implications first. That’s why she’s the show’s moral compass. But she kind of lost it at the prospect of losing Oliver. She literally charged at Ra’s al Ghul and threatened to start a war against him. It was far from Felicity’s first time standing up to a villain, but this is the first time Ra’s has reacted to anyone foolish enough to threaten him with respect. He even gave her romantic advice (getting there). That moment was odd and a little out of character, but it’s probably just the show foreshadowing the appearance of Ra’s al Ghul’s son or something. Anyway, Felicity seemed more composed after their conversation, but then she went really nuts and drugged Oliver post-coitus with the hope of somehow sneaking him away. Diggle and Malcolm did not hesitate to tell her what a stupid idea it was and while the attempt ultimately failed, it was a nice moment for her. Seeing Felicity do something irrational emphasized how “destroyed” she would be after leaving Oliver in Nanda Parbat. It’s especially understandable after she desperately jumped Oliver’s bones (we’re here!) knowing it would probably be the first and last time.

I’m no shipper. I enjoy Arrow because it’s a show about people learning to live with trauma disguised as a comic book story. However, I’ll admit to sympathizing with the shipper cause when it comes to Oliver and Felicity. Time and again, the creators of the shared Flarrow universe have had difficulty building a love story from the ground up. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Oliver showed about as much spark as two planks of wood being smacked together when they slept together in the first season’s penultimate episode. Barry (Grant Gustin) has a better romantic connection with Felicity, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and maybe even Joe (Jesse L. Martin) than his supposed true love Iris (Candice Patton). But Oliver and Felicity work because they weren’t part of an original plan. They happened as a reaction to the actors’ chemistry and fan enthusiasm.

Some might argue that’s fan service, and while that might be true, their relationship is also just the right move for the show. If Oliver’s journey is really about coping with what happened to him during his five years away from Starling City and becoming a hero, then what he needs in a romantic partner is someone who understands who he is right now and pushes him to be better. Felicity fits that bill. What makes the pair compelling isn’t the heat between them–though last night’s episode proved there’s plenty of that–it’s about the emotional intimacy. The longing looks and physical closeness are just extensions of that. Perhaps their best moment of the night was their parting scene. As Felicity said, these two should be used to saying goodbye to each other, but this was the first time they said it with full knowledge of how much they love each other. It was heart-breaking. Oliver probably meant every word he said when he told Felicity to try to be happy without him, but she spent the episode coming to terms with the fact that she can’t. And deep down, Oliver probably knows he’s just as hopeless.

In my very first recap, I said that I thought this season would end with Oliver deciding that he wanted to be more than just The Arrow, that he wanted to be Oliver Queen too. From the promo for next week, it looks like Ra’s will try his damnedest to destroy any remnants of Oliver Queen from Al Sah-him (meaning the arrow) on the way to making him ready to lead The League. Thrilling as it was to watch Oliver invoke his future position to keep the League of Assassins from hurting his friends, I hope he doesn’t lose his soul. He probably feels the same.

Rating: 8/10

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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.