Welcome back, Arrow fans. Last night, the show returned with the first of five consecutive episodes that will bring us to the blessed end of this terrible season. However, as hard as I’ve been on Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Co. all year, I have to admit, I loved “Dangerous Liaisons.” Mostly, that’s thanks to Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards).
Ms. Smoak has spent much of this season sidelined while the show tried to convince us her and Oliver’s rebound relationships had a chance. But now that those other paramours are literally or figuratively dead, the show has been throwing Olicity scenes at the audience like it’s their business (which it might be based on Twitter, but I digress). While their interactions during this episode weren’t exactly romantic, they were still some of the best scenes they’ve ever had together.
Case in point, the one where Oliver begs Felicity not to help Helix break their leader out of an A.R.G.U.S. blacksite and she basically responds, “trust me to make my own mistakes, you sanctimonious bastard,” and then spitefully flicks her unfinished cigarette in his face. Though the way we got to that point was convoluted and messy, what Felicity said to Oliver is essential to both their relationship and the lessons he has always struggled to learn.
For years, everyone and especially Felicity, have told Oliver that he shouldn’t carry his burdens alone and that he needs to stop deciding what’s best for everyone. And yet he keeps making the wrong choice because he doesn’t trust people to make their own mistakes. That was the heart of the issue here. Did Felicity know that working with Helix would probably blow up in her face? Absolutely, she’s the smartest person in the bunker, but she persisted
nevertheless because she also could have been right. And though Oliver and Diggle (David Ramsey) treated that choice as some horrible fall from grace, the fact is, her actions were no different than the dangerous choices Oliver and every single one of his allies has made a million times before. The only difference–and the one that gives the episode its meaning–is that Felicity is a woman.
I know what you’re thinking, “what?” but hear me out. While the ostensible point of this episode was to pit Oliver and Felicity against each other and see how far they can stretch the meaning of morality, it was also subtly about the way Oliver and Diggle see the women they love. At different points throughout the episode, both men worried that Felicity and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) were compromising their morality–even their goodness–in order to do what they thought was right. Now, both women have expressed similar reservations about the boys’ actions in the past, but what edged all that worry into uncomfortably gross patriarchy here is why both men are so unnerved by Lyla and Felicity operating in moral gray areas.
Like Oliver, Diggle wants to make sure the woman he loves doesn’t do something she’ll regret. It’s condescending, but the intention is noble. The difference is that he trusts her to make that choice even if he strongly voices his disagreement. Oliver, however, has never been good at trust. It’s the whole reason he and Felicity broke up. The most telling exchange in Oliver and Felicity’s aforementioned confrontation comes when Oliver essentially says that he would feel responsible if Felicity compromised her goodness in order to fix his mistake. How disgustingly self-absorbed. Thankfully, Felicity saw that exactly for what it was and made the rather devastating point that he doesn’t have to carry the city’s darkness alone, that she wants to carry that burden with him, that that’s what partnership is all about. Dear God, how romantic!
But also how hurtful. That hurt came full circle in the conversation Oliver and Felicity had just before the credits rolled. “You didn’t back my play,” Felicity says and then bitterly points out that she has always supported Oliver’s actions even when she didn’t agree with them. “You don’t trust me,” she finishes, bringing up the exact problem that broke these two up almost exactly a year ago. How devastating. How brilliant.
After all that, whether her play actually worked is almost a moot point in terms of character dynamics. However, it is vital to the plot and, unfortunately, the answer isn’t entirely clear. It appeared that Cayden James gave Felicity the code to help her find Chase (Josh Segarra), but it also appeared that Chase was in the Arrow Cave at the exact moment she and Oliver used the code. And then an EMP went off in an explosive end to the episode. Whether all of those things were connected and Felicity was the victim of a double cross are answers for next week. And for the first time all season, I can’t wait.