Since Arrow‘s inception this show has been about Oliver Queen’s story of redemption as he braved the darkness that we found him with in the series’ first episode to become a hero that lives in the light in present day season four.
So it should come as no surprise that the focus on Arrow‘s mid-season premiere was the appeal of darkness for Oliver when he was missing the light that has guided his way: Felicity.
In “Blood Debts,” we saw the return of a darker Oliver Queen as he risked mind, body, and morals to track down Damien Darhk and seek revenge for what he did to Felicity as she lay in the hospital suffering after Darhk’s sick attack in the mid-season finale.
The focus here was on Oliver and how he was treading the moral line between what he knows is right, what he knows isn’t right, what he wants to do, and what he actually does do. We saw a little bit of that darkness creep back inside of him. While Oliver was doing whatever it took to track Darhk down — including unleashing a homicidal maniac in Anarky on the public — it was a reminder that this Oliver is not the Oliver that he’s become. It’s also a reminder that Oliver does have those moments when he feels like it’d be easier to handle a situation in a certain way that’s not morally just. He regressed, and that’s okay. But he needs that reminder that his humanity is the most important thing.
But all it took for Oliver to regain a sense of self was to visit Felicity in the hospital. Throughout the episode we’d seen everyone but Oliver visit Felicity. Hell, everyone told Oliver at least once that he needs to go visit Felicity. They knew that would help him. When he finally did visit her, Oliver admitted that he didn’t want to see her until he had finally put Damien Darhk away. It was evident right from the start of the episode that Oliver was feeling an immense amount of guilt for what happened to Felicity. He told her as much, and for a moment we found Oliver back to that place where he bears the weight of the world on his shoulders. But it’s not his fault. Felicity knows that.
Even in his darkest moments, Felicity has always been the one to bring Oliver back from the edge of darkness. It’s what he was missing in those moments where he was overcome with unbridled rage and his fierce determination to find Damien Darhk and make him pay. No matter how Oliver tried to deny the personal connection in this feud with Darhk, it’s definitely personal. We saw how Oliver took on that unbridled rage Stephen Amell referenced, beating the shit out of people to find out Darhk’s whereabouts. He was not going to stop. And he was willing to cross a line to do so. Because of Felicity. But it’s also because of Felicity’s absence that he went to that place. She’s always been his rock; the one who always helped him maintain that sense of morality that he seeks; but she’s also been the one to give him a push when he needs it. If it’s Felicity asking, Oliver will do it.
Let’s take a look at some of the hot topics from “Blood Debts”:
Felicity Is Paralyzed (Temporarily We’re Sure)
Due to some spoilers that hit the web — including a super spoilery Australian promo that I don’t regret watching — I knew that this was coming and yet it still was emotional as all hell. To be honest I was surprised with the immediate dealings of Felicity being injured. After she was brought into the ER and Oliver looked like an emotional wreck that broke my heart in a million different pieces, we flashed forward a little to a conscious Felicity surrounded by the people that care about her, minus Oliver. He was too busy dealing with this in the way that he always deals: by staying away until he was able to get justice for Felicity. It’s so very Oliver it hurts. After another surgery we learned that the doctors weren’t able to fix her, as Donna said, and there was permanent damage to her spinal cord: “She’s never going to walk again.”
I’d like to say a couple of things. First: There’s nothing wrong with Felicity being confined to a wheel chair. It doesn’t make her any less strong than she has already proven herself to be. Second: This is Felicity’s island coming up; how she deals with this. Third: Felicity will walk again. In fact, it’ll probably be Curtis who comes up with the technology to make it possible. But granted that won’t happen until that important Palmer Technologies board meeting in four months. Felicity Smoak has always been and always will be the strongest person on this show. And I’m so very glad someone — not just someone, Oliver — said it.
Something that hasn’t been acknowledged enough — on Arrow anyway, plenty of acknowledgement from fans — was the importance and strength of Felicity Smoak. She’s a character that while not physically superior is a hero in her own right. She’s someone who has faced incredible hardships in her life but has grown stronger for it. She’s the one that never stops fighting, never thinks twice when it comes to saving a life, someone who will fight for those that she loves. She’s also someone who is incredibly important to Oliver Queen and Arrow as a whole. The cast and producers have said it themselves that Arrow didn’t really become Arrow until Felicity became a regular part of it. She brings this bought of light in a show that lives in the darkness.
There was a really beautiful scene between Oliver and Felicity in the hospital when Felicity confessed what must’ve been really hard for her. She gave Oliver an out. She felt that since she was in this position — being paralyzed from the waist down — that it wasn’t fair to subject Oliver to her burden. So she gave him an out. Only he took that out and buried it — “what are you talking about?” — as he confessed his love for her in what was such an emotionally powerful scene for these two and spawned a new quote that will live on in Olicity infamy — “For better or for worse.” Here was Oliver reassuring her that the only place he wants to be is by her side; that he’s never going to leave her side. Nothing else matters.
One of the interesting things about this season has been the parallel between Oliver in the first couple of seasons and Thea this season as both struggle with darkness and how it affects their life. With Anarky — the man Thea set on fire in a bought of blood lust rage — making his return this prompted Thea to address that blood lust and whether or not she’s truly capable of controlling it. Sure, Damien Darhk was able to take away that blood lust — which hopefully we’ll see more of a focus of this season — but Thea found herself starting to second guess whether or not she could live her life with the threat of that blood lust within.
Apparently setting Anarky on fire was the key to his heart, as he somehow has become obsessed with Speedy as she seemingly set him free. It was this weird attachment that contributed to Thea’s behavior and concerns in this episode, which came to a head when the two duked it out at Darhk’s. But when Thea had the opportunity to kill him — which he begged her to do because it was like he saw part of himself in her — she refused. Sure, Anarky got away, but this also showed that while the darkness will always be a threat Thea is strong enough to overcome it and be a hero in the darkness.
John and Andy Diggle Make Progress
Since John Diggle learned that his brother Andy wasn’t the man he thought he was he’s been harboring this intense anger towards him. While it’s perfectly acceptable it hasn’t been too good in helping get information about Damien Darhk. John has tried using violence as a means of coercion it took a conversation with his loving and intelligent wife Lyla for him to realize that perhaps he should give Andy, his brother, a chance. Perhaps he should come at this from a different, more personable perspective. And that’s exactly what we saw.
We saw John take a more personable approach toward handling Andy and it surprisingly worked. Andy opened up just a little bit and helped John and the team track down Darhk. At the end of the episode we saw John bring a deck of cards to his brother’s cell so the two could play, like he referenced earlier in the episode. Could this be the beginning of a reconciliation between the brothers?
Darhk Times Ahead
One of the more interesting moments in this episode came after Oliver had unleashed Anarky to find Darhk. He tracked down his whereabouts and essentially was holding Darhk’s wife and daughter hostage. In a shocking turn of events we saw Oliver and co. rescue Darhk’s family, to which Darhk gave him a few more weeks with his loved ones before Project Genesis is unleashed. Wow, Damien, how very kind of you.
Later as Darhk and his family are riding off in a limo, we got a glimpse at his relationship with his wife and learned a little about her. Seems like she’s actively involved in Genesis, as well, and was promised “a new beginning.” She also tells him, “You should’ve killed the Green Arrow tonight.” Somehow Darhk’s wife, who’s clearly in charge, has made Damien look more compassionate. He let the Green Arrow go free because he saved his family, which is clearly incredibly important to him. It was a sign that Darhk, while a crazy son of a bitch, is someone who is still human in that his love for his family governs all. That is why he’s doing this, right?
Felicity Is Not In The Grave
Can we finally stop talking about all of the many reasons why Felicity isn’t the one in the grave?! This episode featured two flash forwards — at the start of the episode with Oliver and Barry at the grave, and at the end with Oliver and Felicity in a limo at the grave site. While it was teased that a revealing flash forward was coming up, I didn’t think we’d get it so soon. But we can officially cross Felicity’s name off the list of possibilities of who’s in the grave. Now, to the exchange. Clearly Oliver and Felicity are not okay right now — there’s also some tension, more on that below — but whoever the person in the grave is is someone they both care about very much. I mean, how often do you hear Felicity encourage Oliver to kill? “You have to kill the son of a bitch.” The “he” continues to be a mystery. There’s still no mention of Darhk’s name, but it could be him they’re referencing. Or perhaps it’s a different “he” we’ve yet to learn? Anyway, I’m about to throw a Felicity-Isn’t-Dead-So-Suck-It-Haters party if anyone would like to join!
Now that we’ve rejoiced in the official confirmation that Felicity is not the one in the grave and very much alive, let’s talk about the tension going on in that limo — and the absence of the ring on Felicity’s finger. It’s evident that these two are at a rough point in their relationship — probably because of Oliver lying about William — and the absence of the ring indicates that the engagement might be on hold. Even with this tension and that significant distance between them — holy wow — I’m feeling really good about where Oliver and Felicity are right now. They’re both alive, for starters. Plus that just means that all signs are pointing to another engagement in the season finale and a wedding next season for the show’s 100th episode. They’re going to be fine, but it is going to hurt like a bitch for us fans.
Join us to discuss these topics and more during our Arrow roundtable this Tuesday!
NEXT TIME ON “ARROW”
“A.W.O.L.” (Episode 4×11)
Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8/7c on The CW
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.