Well, Arrow fans, it finally happened: Oliver (Stephen Amell) broke-up with Susan Williams (Carly Pope). I cannot believe how long it took to get to this. A few weeks ago, I joked that their break-up would last as long as their relationship, but I think it actually turned out to be true. However, even though I’d dreamed of that moment for months, I couldn’t enjoy it. To be clear, I didn’t suddenly fall in love with television’s most unprofessional journalist. Rather, it was that the reason Oliver gave for the split is one we’ve seen over and over again during the last 5 years.
Last week, I refused to write a new recap over my frustration that Arrow seemed to keep repeating itself. And much as I wish I could do that again now, I can’t complain about writers repeating themselves and then go ahead and do that myself. So–to get back to the point–what kept me from enjoying the Susan/Oliver break-up was that we have watched Oliver pull away from people with the excuse that knowing him ruins people’s lives so many times now that it’s impossible to take him seriously. Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) have to convince Oliver this isn’t true at least once every season (they even did it already during this one), so why should we believe he actually means it this time?
Still, the show deserves credit for not sticking with that narrative for too long. While Oliver ended last episode by disbanding Team Arrow, he was back fighting by their sides by the 45-minute mark. Oliver’s realization that he was once driven by an enjoyment of killing also didn’t last long. As I briefly mentioned last week, it seems patently ridiculous that both Felicity and Diggle didn’t already intuit that information even if Oliver somehow hid it from himself. They’ve always understood his motivations better than he has and the fact that Diggle quickly recovered from Oliver’s confession and went back to convincing Oliver to be better suggests that he maybe knew that fact without necessarily ever saying it out loud. Diggle pep-talks are a well-worn trope of this show by now, this was just the latest example.
That said, there was something slightly different about the way this storyline played out. Ever since she became the third member of Team Arrow in Season 1, Felicity has been there to give Oliver that extra push when Diggle’s pep-talks aren’t enough. That didn’t happen here—even after Diggle directly asked her to intervene.
Felicity and Oliver’s relationship has been really odd this season. Amell and Rickards have a seemingly irrepressible onscreen chemistry, so, the show has mostly kept them apart all season in hopes of convincing us their new romances had a chance. While the choice was always notable, Felicity’s reluctance to even speak to Oliver for the past few weeks has almost become compulsive. It’s bizarre, but understandable considering they were once engaged and Oliver killed her very nice, very normal boyfriend a few months ago. Still, it was downright unnerving to watch her figuratively throw her hands in the air over Oliver’s decision to enlist the Bratva’s help in killing Chase (Josh Segarra) this episode. That choice is deeply at odds with the Felicity we’ve known for nearly five years and it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore her behavior. Keeping secrets and playing fast and loose with morality is Oliver’s move, not hers.
Thankfully, based on the preview for the next episode a month from now (yes, a month!), it looks like the show is finally going to deal with it. I can’t wait, but I’m also wary. This season has been so uneven that I can’t even trust the show to get this right. At least I have a few weeks to prepare for the disappointment.