While Arrow might be a superhero show make no mistake that the show’s true superpower rests with the characters that have defined this show over the course of its four seasons. And in Wednesday’s episode, two of the fandom’s favorites — and Oliver’s partners — John Diggle and Felicity Smoak got to shine and proved their value, their talent, and showed exactly why they are loved.
In “A.W.O.L.,” we saw a focus on John and Andy Diggle as their past came back to haunt them when the evil organization Shadowspire attacked A.R.G.U.S. dead-set on acquiring a program they intended to use for evil.
Also, we saw Felicity struggle to come to terms with who she is now that she has to embrace this new life where she can’t do all of the things she used to be able to do. And she gets a visit from someone in her past to help guide her to discovering the hero within.
Here’s the rundown…
In Brothers We Trust
Last week’s episode hinted at some growth in John and Andy’s tattered relationship. We saw how John treating Andy like a Ghost didn’t help, but when he finally began treating him like his brother we saw Andy begin to respond…and help.
Woven throughout this story are flashbacks to the Diggle brothers in Afghanistan together, where we see them fighting side-by-side, see the love, and begin to see the beginning of Andy’s decline.
John and Andy have a discussion about the different kind of people they are. “You saw the world as something to be fixed, and I only saw it as broken,” Andy tells his brother. But there’s still something good that can come out of Andy’s past affiliation with Shadowspire: he knows how the base operates. When John learns that Shadowspire, an organization from the Diggle brothers’ past, is behind the murder of an A.R.G.U.S. agent, John must trust his brother to help them locate the missing — and then confirmed dead — A.R.G.U.S. agents.
Andy is transferred to a cell at A.R.G.U.S. so Amanda Waller can gather intel about Shadowspire. Andy knows how Shadowspire operates due to that past affiliation. He says they’re all about misdirection. They’re not after the rail guns. They’re after something else.
While Oliver, Thea, and Laurel are keeping watch over the place where Shadowspire is expected to steal rail guns, Shadowspire is busy breaking into A.R.G.U.S. The rail guns were a misdirection just like Andy said it was.
Lyla activates the monitor where John and Andy are and they see what’s happening in the main chamber where Lyla and Amanda Waller are being held. Leuitenant Joyner gives Waller an ultimatum — he wants access to Diggle uses some of the IT knowledge he’s gained — “I have a friend who’s into this stuff. Occasionally I listen to her.” — and try to communicate with the team. Meanwhile Andy is wondering why John isn’t trying to fight his way inside of that room. “Your wife is in there! Now’s not the time to not trust me!”
With Lyla being held at gunpoint, Andy begs Diggle to trust him. So the brothers devise a plan and he plays it to perfection. A couple of Shadowspire agents find Andy locked up and tells him that he knows Joyner and wants to help him out. He turns on his brother as a means to gain Joyner’s trust and find a way inside of that room, and it works. As Diggle is brought to the room, Joyner pulls a gun on him as Lyla attempts to break into Rubicon. When she can’t, he goes to shoot John when Andy attacks and immobilizes him. And perfect timing when Oliver breaks into the room. This was their plan from the beginning — to get them both in the same room at the same time.
The major leap. All it took was John trusting his brother. John putting that trust in his brother was about more than the mission. It was also about John extending an olive branch to his brother and indicating that he wanted to repair this relationship; he wants to make this work. And Andy’s cooperation indicated that he’s all in. “This is the first time in eight years I’ve seen old shades of my brother,” Diggle says.
John invites Andy over for dinner — and it looks like to live with them — as a means to try and further repair their relationship. Andy has proven that he can be trusted, now it’s time to try and get to a better place of understanding. He’s still hesitant on reuniting with Carly and his son, but it’s just going to take some time.
When Andy met his niece Sara. In that moment I got a glimpse of the future. I saw a future where Andy is in an even better place than we’re beginning to see right now. I saw a future where Andy reunites with his wife and son. I saw a future where John and Andy and their families come together and there’s such a great and profound love there. While the things of the past can never be ignored or forgotten they can move past them. We’re starting to see the beginning of that.
It’s hard to believe that a few episodes earlier we saw how lost Andy appeared to be even when reunited with his brother. We began to question whether or not he could be redeemed. But if Arrow has proven anything it’s that no one is beyond redemption.
“Welcome home, man,” John says to his brother. And I couldn’t be any happier as we get to continue to see this relationship rebuilt.
Felicity Finds Her Place
Felicity is faced with a difficult new reality that finds her paralyzed from the waist down and unable to fend for herself the way she used to. The basic things that we take advantage of: walking around in our house, driving our car, walking up the stairs. But she’s got the best boyfriend in the entire world in Oliver who is there to help her along the way. She’s been confined to their loft for a week and a half as she’s afraid to embrace how this paralysis will affect her life once she steps back out into the world. She begins to question her place on the team, but Oliver reminds her that “Your super power is right there,” as he adorably points to her head.
When Oliver goes out to do his hero-ly duty, Felicity is left alone in the loft and with medication that causes hallucinations. So, naturally, Felicity begins to hallucinate…only it’s her past, Goth self from five years prior. Whoa.
When the team is on a mission to infiltrate a Shadowspire site, Oliver calls upon Felicity for help. It’s his way of getting her involved in the fight again, but it’s also because the team relies on her. They can’t do this without her. Without hesitation, Felicity jumps onto her tablets and begins hacking away with ease, including opening . And Oliver couldn’t be more proud. But things soon turn sour when there’s a system overload and Oliver is trapped inside a container and Diggle is surrounded. They manage to escape it, but Felicity can’t help but blame herself for getting them into this position.
We see Felicity struggle to cope with what this new life entails. Despite her power being her brain she sees her limitations as something that are holding her back. Sure, she can’t do things like “walk down the street and get a cup of coffee,” but the most important thing is that after making a mistake in helping the team that night she believes that she can’t even do the one thing that she’s supposed to be able to do. It’s an incredibly demoralizing feeling to feel that powerless; to feel like the one thing that you’re great at has been taken from you. The fact that Felicity is going through this dealing with being paralyzed doesn’t help her when it comes to self confidence, especially with an angry past hallucination version of herself taunting her along the way.
Felicity gets another visit from her past self and she tells her to stop feeling sorry for herself, to stop pretending that this Felicity is the real Felicity. She says she’s worn her new look as a mask. Felicity’s past hallucination continues to taunt her about the condition she’s in and how it’s the product of the choices that she’s made, the life she turned her back on — to become a hero. And look where that got her — in a wheelchair. “You thought you were such a badass,” the angry hallucination taunts.
But Felicity has finally had enough. She embraces her true self; the hero she has become. She returns to the Arrow lair where she finds Oliver and the two have a very important conversation consisting of two very incredible speeches given by Felicity. She admits that she was wallowing in self pity when it finally hit her: “This is who I am.” The old Felicity used to be angry, which never accomplished anything except creating even more anger. Felicity realized that she wanted to do some good in the world. But Felicity knows Oliver is blaming himself for what happened to her, and she tells him that it’s not his fault nor is it her fault. And she delivers a truly inspired speech that is indicative of the true hero that she is: “We’re going to stop [Damien Darhk]. Not out of guilt or vengeance or regret. We are going to stop him because it’s what we do. It’s who we are.”
When Felicity is back to helping the team — and being a badass doing it — Oliver gives her a code name: Overwatch. And it’s perfect. While Felicity might not be out there fighting the bad guys physically she’s still the strongest person of all of them. She watches over them, protects them, guides them. Overwatch couldn’t be more perfect for her.
At the end of the episode after Felicity has accepted that she’s not that old, angry, brunette version of herself from five years prior, she shows Oliver a picture of what she used to look like and her “bad personal style choices.” She burns it for good measure making it damn clear that she won’t feel that self pity that she let herself feel and made her question who she is. She knows who she is. She’s Felicity Smoak: badass, IT genius, and hero.
Oliver also addresses something that crossed my mind from the beginning when we learned that Felicity was diagnosed with paralysis for life. We live in an Arrowverse where there are metahumans running around, where people run faster than the speed of light, where people fly, where they shrink to the size of an atom, and where people come back from the dead. So basically paralysis should be a cake walk by comparison. “That is the world we live in now,” he says. “And I will not stop searching it until we find a way to make you walk again.” And you damn well know he will find it.
There are not enough words to say about how sensational Emily Bett Rickards did in this episode portraying not one, but two different versions of her character interacting with one another. Whether it was Emily tackling her character’s struggle with adjusting to this new life that she must accept or a version of her character five years prior or the two interacting with each other, Emily proved that she’s a superhero in her own right. Her acting was flawless as always and she managed to impress me beyond the sensational performances she’s given so far.
Oliver and Felicity
Arrow has proven time and time again that Oliver and Felicity are one of the greatest strengths of this show. But it’s not because things are always perfect. Because they’re not. It’s because Oliver and Felicity are two people that stick by each other when times are darkest. Their relationship has flourished because of the challenges they have faced and overcome, and it will continue to strengthen as they continue to overcome the obstacles in life. Together.
While Felicity was growing accustomed to this new life that lies ahead of her, Oliver made it clear that this isn’t something that she has to go through alone nor is it something that will change the important things. When Felicity begins to question how she can still help the team, Oliver provides encouragement that we’ve always known: “Your super power is right there,” he says with an adorable finger pointing to her head.
While in the past it’s been Felicity that’s always been there for Oliver in his times of need, this time it’s Oliver’s turn to be that source of support for Felicity. And he is. When she’s feeling at her lowest Oliver is there to remind her of who she is; to remind her that her injury isn’t indicative of the hero that she is.
There was a lot of blame being thrown around about who’s to blame for what happened. Oliver blames himself. Felicity blames herself. And Laurel is the reasonable one for once and reminds Oliver that it’s Damien Darhk that is responsible. It was cute seeing Laurel act as a supporter of the healthy relationship that Oliver and Felicity have. These are two people that she truly cares about and they’ve found happiness and true love in each other. Eventually Felicity comes to an understanding and tells Oliver that it’s neither of their faults — it’s Darhk’s. And they’re going to stop him not because of vengeance but because “it’s what we do. It’s who we are.”
Arrow once again proved that the strength of this show is its characters and how they inspire each other in times of need or in times of happiness. After Felicity garnered the personal strength to return to Team Arrow — thank God for that elevator, right? — she gave two incredibly inspirational speeches to Oliver that made me proud as hell, as they did Oliver. Felicity
Back at the loft, Oliver and Felicity have a very normal moment where they’re just a couple doing normal couple-y things like teasing each other about their poor style choices in the past as evidenced by a picture of past, goth Felicity. It’s these kind of lighthearted moments that show just how important it is to have these kinds of moments in this show.
The two tease each other about their past selves and Oliver notes how much they’ve both grown. And that’s the point. They’ve grown into the people that are in this committed and healthy relationship and this deep and profound love because they’ve been shaped by the events of their past. “Thank you for always being on my side,” Felicity says. “No place I’d rather be,” Oliver says.
Felicity insists on burning that old photo of herself as a way to make sure her past remains in the past — no more visits from her hallucination self. Then Oliver takes a moment to get serious and address the situation at hand: Felicity’s paralysis.
“The doctor said your condition is permanent and I don’t think it’s healthy to live in denial. But I have seen people speed and shrink and fly. We watched a friend of ours come back from the dead. That is the world we live in now. And I will not stop searching it until we find a way to make you walk again.”
You know damn right that Oliver will never stop searching. It’s not that Felicity being paralyzed is a bad thing — there is nothing wrong with having a disability — but he’s vowed to help her because she wants it.
Shadowspire + Flashbacks
This was the first time that I actually gave a damn about the flashbacks in an episode of Arrow in a long time. And that’s because they were made intriguing and impactful by their connection to the present situation, which was John and Andy Diggle.
Shadowspire, an evil organization, was present both in the present day and the flashbacks that found John and Andy in Afghanistan fighting the good fight, but it was apparent from present day hints that Andy was falling into the bad ways of Shadowspire, which would prove useful in the present day.
We also learned that this might not be the end of Shadowspire this season or beyond as Arrow linked the organization to Baron Von Reiter, who is the man leading the charge in the normal flashbacks on the island.
- Where’s the petition to file for more episodes like this because this was one of Arrow‘s best hours ever. Diggles, Felicity, Olicity, and Dyla? Sign me the hell up. Every week.
- Felicity’s code name — OVERWATCH — is perfect and badass.
- Felicity and her hallucination of herself was some of the best acting I’ve seen in awhile. Bravo, Emily Bett Rickards!
- I actually liked Laurel this week…like I said, this episode was perfect.
- Why can’t the DC Cinematic Universe let us have nice things…thanks for killing Amanda Waller. UGH.
- I am so invested in John and Andy Diggle now that if the writers betray that I’ll never recover.
- “I’m just trying to make you proud, Felicity.” — Diggle “You did.” — Felicity. MY HEART.
- Oliver’s reaction to goth Felicity was priceless — he’d still tap that.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.