‘Arrow’ 4×11 Roundtable: Discussing ‘A.W.O.L.’

Every week, Fangirlish writers will be discussing new episodes of Arrow and sharing their thoughts, feelings, and speculation about the hour’s hot topics in a little something we like to call Fangirlish Roundtables.

Today, we’re breaking down episode 4×11 of Arrow, “A.W.O.L.,” where we discuss the Diggle brothers, Felicity and her hallucination, and the fact that we actually enjoyed the flashbacks.

What were your overall thoughts on “A.W.O.L.?”

ALYSSA

This episode was by far one of my favorite episodes of Arrow ever, and it’s because it reminded me about everything that I love about this show: Olicity, Felicity Smoak, and John Diggle. Those are the reasons why I started watching; those are the reasons why I watch; those are the reasons why I am invested. Sure, I am obsessed with superheroes, but there is no show I obsess over more than Arrow and it’s because of those three characters and their relationships.

It’s hard to believe that in four seasons this is basically the third Diggle-centric episode that we’ve gotten – four seasons. Diggle has been sidelined far too often and it’s a damn shame because there is some truly amazing things to uncover about his past, his relationships, and to watch him evolve into the Diggle we know and love. But this episode also showed everything that makes Arrow work so well and the reasons why the audience gives a damn. From the plot to the acting to the stunts, which honestly have fallen flat compared to season’s past recently, to the flashbacks, even, were out of this world. Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity – Original Team Arrow. They are the heart of the show and anytime where they are showcased – namely Diggle and Felicity because the show is about Oliver – it’s simply magic on screen. I hope the writers and producers are paying close attention to the overwhelming praise that this episode is getting. And I hope that they keep that in mind when crafting episodes and storylines around the characters that the audience loves.

LIZZIE

I feel like I’ve said this before, more than once, but this was, if not the strongest episode of the season, one of the strongest. Proof of that is that I liked absolutely everyone this episode. Lyla was (and always is, really. She needs more screentime) a badass, Diggle/Lyla was adorable, baby Sara meeting her Uncle Andy legit had me in tears, Olicity was on point and even Laurel was helpful, and a very, very good friend. Every time I see an episode that hits on everything I wanted, like this one, I think: Well, that wasn’t SO HARD, WAS IT?

And, though I didn’t mention it before, my absolutely favorite part of the episode was…well, Felicity. Or rather, Felicity vs. Felicity. I can’t imagine the whole situation is easy, and she’s been incredibly brave so far, but the whole hallucination thing really rang true with what a harrowing experience this has been for her. It was also a cool visual. But the reason it all worked wasn’t because it felt true, or because, huh, cool special effects, but because Emily Bett Rickards is a believable actress. That’s about the highest compliment I can give an actor, I promise. When she’s Felicity, I believe her. When she’s Goth!Felicity, I believe HER. When she’s having a conversation with Diggle, their emotions run true. Same when she’s hanging out with Thea, or Laurel, or laughing and/or fighting with Oliver. Emily Bett Rickards makes Felicity a real person, one we can relate to. And that’s why we feel so much about her.

LYRA

It showcased how much Team Arrow has grown. They’re a lean, mean, crime fighting machine who knows how to support each other. Both of the main couples came out fighting despite the dangers surrounding them and permeating from inside of them.

BETH

Any Felicity-centric plot line makes me happy, but add Diggle and his soldier back story; ‘A.W.O.L.’ couldn’t get any better. As the past is wont to do, it came roaring into the present — haunting Diggle and Felicity, riddling them with doubt. When you break this show down, Oliver deals with his past every day and much of his drive as the Arrow counts towards reparation for the sins of his family and his earlier days as the vigilante when taking a life meant nothing. Felicity and Diggle both have helped immensely in his rehabilitation. However, the two of them, to be able to relate to Oliver and see the potential in the vigilante had to know darkness themselves. In this episode, seeing Diggle and Felicity confront the dark parts of their lives, turning points where they stopped trusting in others — it was enlightening and also, made for one enthralling episode. Do hope there will be more storylines like these in future!

Arrow -- "A.W.O.L." -- Image AR411b_0076b.jpg -- Pictured: David Ramsey as John Diggle -- Photo: Liane Hentscher/ The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

This episode was all about trust for the Diggle brothers. What were your thoughts on that and the place they came to in the end?

ALYSSA

The way Arrow incorporated the present and flashback versions of these brothers was beautifully done and really touched me emotionally. Before this episode I was hoping for the two to reconnect for John’s sake. It wasn’t about Andy, but after this episode – and especially that final scene when he meets his niece, Sara – I began to want that peace and reconciliation for both John and Andy. Arrow bringing Andy “back from the dead” was one of the best things that it could’ve done for Diggle and his arc this season. It’s a storyline that reminds us that at its core this show is about the people that fight the good fight, not the fight itself. The thing that makes this show so incredible are the characters and their motivations, their struggles and their accomplishments.

Here’s the thing, I very much want to believe that things are going to get better for the Diggle brothers. If Arrow has proven anything it’s that anyone is redeemable – unless you’re Malcolm Merlyn because that guy just doesn’t want to be redeemed (still love you Barrowman, just not a big fan of your character). It’s hard to imagine that just a few episodes ago Andy seemed lost for good. Even without being under Damien Darhk’s control Andy said he did not want to saved. But after several weeks locked in that cage and getting to see and talk with his brother, including moments that were reminiscent of old times, I believe Andy began to realize that even if he didn’t believe he was redeemable that he wanted to be. He wanted to be someone that could laugh with his brother, be Uncle Andy to his niece, and return to his family. That’s the most important step in it all: wanting to be redeemed. Do I think it’s smooth sailing from here on out? Of course not. But I believe that Arrow doesn’t set characters up for failure intentionally. So while Andy might continue to struggle to get to a place of good he will get there in the end.

LIZZIE

Color me surprised, but I really, really liked it. Andy’s progression hasn’t been so quick as to be unbelievable, and I don’t for a moment believe he won’t regress, but, to be honest, I like that Diggle is maybe, possibly, getting his brother back. I had something in my eye when, in that scene at Argus, Andy and John shake hands and Oliver is just there in the background, looking. Because Oliver looked kinda …happy. And this part of the story is not about Oliver, but well, can you saw growth?

That being said, bringing Andy to his home might possibly be a bad idea. I’m all for letting him out of the cage, I was kind of all for that a few episodes ago, but are you really gonna leave him there with Sara? Or is like Lyla never allowed to leave now? How’s that gonna work? And, most importantly, is Andy EVER going to go see his OWN son?

LYRA

I don’t trust it. Diggle has good intentions. He wants to reconnect with a brother he has missed and who he has always tried to see the good in. But you can’t always dictate people’s lives. They have to be the ones who want to change. Andy still seems to be out for himself. If the time came where he had to pick and choose between his family and himself…he’d hesitate. Diggle doesn’t need someone like that around his wife, daughter, and team. At the end Diggle introduced Andy to his family as the final effort/test to see if his brother will chose family. It’s all up to him now.

BETH

Oh dear heavens, they were precious together. Do I suspect that Andy’s change of heart could not be wholly genuine? Yes! Even despite my caution and doubts though, seeing Lyla and Diggle open their home to Andy was a beautiful moment! I am glad Diggle got that moment, because it feels like the calm before the storm. Also, a side note, but the whole time baby Sara was being shown off, I kept expecting Andy’s son to run out. Am I the only one who keeps wondering if that reunion is going to happen?

We got Diggle brother flashbacks this week. What did you think of those?

ALYSSA

To be honest this was the first time in a good long while that I’ve enjoyed the flashbacks. While I understand that Arrow has this five-year plan where they tell the story of Oliver’s five years stranded in hell, it has failed to have a significant impact on me since season 2 with Slade Wilson. Why? Because it was personal. Just like these flashbacks with the Diggle brothers were. This episode was able to show us meaningful flashbacks that were a direct parallel to the present day storyline – in the flashbacks where John believed he knew who Andy was and could trust him, but it turns out he was lying to him to the present day where John didn’t trust Andy but had to eventually take that leap of faith in order to protect his wife and prevent Shadowspire from setting those Rubicon codes loose.

These flashbacks also managed to somehow connect Oliver’s flashbacks to Diggle’s flashbacks to the present day where Shadowspire was on the loose. It was actually pretty impressive. But the reason that these flashbacks worked was because we gave a damn. We give a big damn about John Diggle and we give a damn about John working to repair his relationship with his brother, and that requires examining the past and learning where they both came from. For the first time in a while I felt that the flashbacks had a significant impact on the episode, and I didn’t roll my eyes when they would transition back to the past. I actually sat up a little taller because I cared. We’re coming up on episode 14 that’s always known to be flashback heavy in the first three seasons. I just pray that somehow the writers forgot about that tidbit and give the things we want to see in the present instead of losing our interest for a near hour.

LIZZIE

The flashbacks have lost their appeal to me, in general, but I have to admit these were much better than the Island Flashbacks. I mean, I literally do not care about what happens to Oliver in those, because I know not only that he survives, but what he becomes. In this case, though, the Flashbacks were about showing us what Andy becomes, and though I can’t say they were my favorite part of the episode, I at least wasn’t getting up to get something to drink every time they came on.

Mostly because I knew that guy playing Joyner had to be evil. He always plays a bad guy, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he looks like he’s always in a bad mood. Yep, that could be it.

LYRA

Absolutely loved them! This seasons flashbacks have been utterly boring and half the time I don’t even pay attention to them. As soon as I realized the Diggle brother flashback was happening I sprung up into attention. I think these worked better because we see the before and after of Andy and John’s adventures. They’re up front and center and influence both timelines. I can back this. I want more of this.

BETH

They were a wonderful break from the Island flashbacks. The brothers interaction and seeing Andy weasel his way into a pack of no-good-dirty soldiers fit the story, pushed the story along and that’s what flashbacks are meant to do.

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Felicity had to confront her past and doubts about her place on the team with her injury when she started hallucinating her past self. What did you think of those scenes and Felicity understanding who she is?

ALYSSA

This was a brilliant way to show how someone is struggling with self-pity and with doubt in a way that is eye-opening, sobering, and intriguing. Felicity literally had to confront her past – a past version of herself filled with anger and one that was urging her to succumb to darkness. But Felicity Smoak is the one person that shines brightest on this show. Even in her darkest moment of this hour, she showed that she lives in the light. Heroes are the ones that persevere. They don’t give into fear or darkness. They rise about it, which is exactly what Felicity did. At her lowest point – as she wallowed in self-pity – she took a stand and realized that she isn’t that person she used to be; the one that was angry at the world. She hasn’t been that person in a long time. Felicity found herself in this episode – she declared herself to be the hero that she is. And that was incredibly motivational for her character for me.

Speaking about the hallucination scenes, good gracious they were sensational. Emily Bett Rickards continues to astound me with her performances – and she gave two incredibly brilliant performances in this episode. She played a past version of herself that was in an entirely different mindset of who her character has evolved to be. But she also portrayed the present version of herself that was struggling to find herself in the face of adversity and her newly diagnosed paralysis. The scenes themselves were incredibly gripping and exposed a vulnerability inside Felicity that we don’t get to see often enough. This was Felicity second guessing her place on the team, her place as a hero, now that her life has been permanently changed. The fact that her past self appeared to her shows you how much Felicity has evolved in the five years since and the four years she’s been with Team Arrow. People change people. And that’s one of the most important themes on Arrow.

LIZZIE

I already talked a bit about this, but this was, without a doubt, my favorite part in this episode. This is something the show had to do. There was no reason to introduce the whole Felicity paralysis thing unless you were really going to explore what something like that does to a person – and what it does to a relationship. Of course, the personal journey for Felicity is the most important part, and it was very good to see it come to the forefront. Doubts are normal in a situation like this, and though Felicity’s hallucinations were perhaps a bit more clear than a normal person (read:us) would have, they served to serve the point that even a strong, determined woman like Felicity can have her up and downs. She’s not perfect. No one is.

But let no one said that Felicity Smoak is not a badass, even without the full use of her legs. The way she fought back against what was essentially herself, her own doubts, her own fears, was pretty damn awesome. And the thing about this fight is that …it’s not over. In a situation like Felicity’s, you gotta fight more than once. Doubts reappear. That’s normal. Adjusting is not easy. But that’s okay. It might be hard, and Felicity might need Oliver’s help, but she knows who she is, deep down. She can make it – legs or no legs.

LYRA

She was essentially fighting her own demons. It was easy to sympathize with her because everyone has gone through this. Everyone has had moments of self doubt where our inner thoughts are our worst enemies. It was inspiring to see such a strong woman falter before getting her bearings once more. If she can do it, then so can I. It’s a journey that Felicity is going to blow out of the water because she’s a bamf!

BETH

Oh hello — more Felicity! Brilliant sequencing, putting Emily Bett Rickards front and center and while that’s always an attention grabber, seeing her confront herself took it to another level. Giving her personal demons a very familiar face, the personification of them as her old self allowed fans to see some of the transition Felicity has had to go through to become the well-loved part of the team. The continual growth of Felicity proof of how talented Rickards is. With each new layer of the genius hacker, Felicity becomes a stronger, more vital presence on the show and as an asset for Team Arrow. I loved every minute of them.

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In the past it’s always been Felicity that has been there for Oliver in his darkest times. Now it’s Oliver’s turn to be there for her. How do you think he did?

ALYSSA

It continues to astound me to no end how much the writers of this show love and respect Oliver and Felicity’s relationship. It shows in every obstacle these two face together, and how they both grow stronger because of it. They really are a team within a team. And once again this show has proven that Oliver and Felicity are one of the show’s greatest strengths – that’s been the case for now four seasons.

For so long we’ve watched as Felicity was the one that was there for Oliver in his times of need, and for so long we’ve wanted to see him do the same for Felicity. That time has finally come. Now that Felicity has been thrust into this new life where she struggles to do even the most basic of things that we surely take advantage of – walking around our house, driving our car, walking up and down the stairs – she is at a low point in her life. But she isn’t facing this alone. Oliver, the world’s best fiancé, is by her side every step of the way. He’s there encouraging her, motivating her, and loving her. He’s there to remind her that her injury isn’t indicative of the hero that she is. Oliver made it damn clear that the only place he wants to be is by her side, supporting her, loving her, and facing the future with her.

LIZZIE

Oh, my baby Oliver. You mess up sometimes, but when you learn a lesson, you really, really learn it, don’t you? Sometimes, when someone is doing something because they think they have to, you can tell. Not Oliver 2.0, no. He’s not taking care of Felicity because he has to, he’s doing it because he loves her, and she needs him, and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but by her side. In his mind, he’s probably not even taking care of her – he’s just making things easier, just as she does for him. And that’s the beauty of their relationship – that nothing has changed even though everything has changed .Oliver doesn’t look at Felicity and see his disabled-girlfriend. He sees the woman that he loves, the same woman he’s always been, even though she might have problems getting around. And he also managed to combine both acceptance and the absolute unshakable belief that this changes nothing, that their relationship is just as strong as before, with the notion that he won’t stop trying to cure her. It’s beautiful to see.

Now, I don’t think they’ve faced their worst moments, not yet. Felicity pulled herself out of this crisis, but there will come a time, be it when Oliver’s lie is revealed, and when he father appears, when she just won’t be able to. Even strong people can reach a breaking point. And that’s when Oliver will need to step in and pull Felicity back to the light, back to the path that she always pointed out for him. And he will – because that’s what it means to truly be partners. It means one person doesn’t always have to be the strong one, and you take turns taking care of each other. It means understanding that, sometimes, when you can’t make it one more step, someone will take care of you. It means absolute trust. Oliver and Felicity have long been OTP material, but they haven’t been really tested like this, and now that they’re here, now that the test is coming, I have no doubt that, as dark as it might get, they’re going to make it through – together.

LYRA

HE WAS THE CUTEST UNICORN! *deep breath* He was ready and willing to help Felicity in any capacity just like she’s always done. He knew her regime and had confidence in her spot on the team. The role reversal was exactly what this couple needed to show how far they’ve come and how far he’s willing to go for them. Felicity is his lobster and he’ll do everything to make her feel comfortable because he believes she deserves the best of him and this world. He’s absolutely right. This gives me the confidence to say that whatever comes their way they’ll overcome it together. (No matter how hard it is aka baby mama drama.)

Oliver was her shining light in the darkness surrounding her with it’s doubts. OTP has never been more brilliant!

BETH

Omigosh, be still my beating heart. Wasn’t he the most understanding, sweet fiancé of all time? He behaved exactly as Felicity needed. When she was not even sure what exactly she needed, he left and gave her space to figure it out. In his interaction with Laurel, taking her advice to heart, he showed respect not only for Felicity but Laurel too and it was heartening. The man certainly took to heart becoming the best man he could be for Felicity.

What did you think of Felicity’s code name: Overwatch?

ALYSSA

Like Felicity said, “it’s perfect.” What’s even better is that Oliver was the one to give it to her. In this episode we saw Felicity question her place on the team and her ability to do the one thing she’s supposed to be good at. Oliver saw that and he understood that. We saw him throughout the episode encourage her to get back in the game because he knows that’s where she shines brightest – when she’s helping people and protecting the team. I loved that Felicity didn’t just get her code name randomly. This episode sort of built up to that moment. For so long she’d been asking for a code name since everyone else has one. It was Oliver’s way of saying to her, You are an important part of this team despite the doubts that may set it at times; you’re the most important person on this team; we couldn’t do what we do without you watching over us. Overwatch. Felicity watches over the team; guiding them and protecting them from harm. The name really couldn’t be more perfect. But I’m also curious about a line that Oliver dropped, about Oracle already being taken. Does this mean that Barbara Gordon exists in the Arrowverse? Could we see her or Dick Grayson down the line? There have always been teases of Nightwing on the show. And with the Titans show dead in the water, perhaps these characters have been freed up to use on Arrow.

LIZZIE

Since it couldn’t be Oracle, and since we didn’t really want it to be Oracle (because Felicity deserves her own story), then this was the second best thing. Fandom’s a funny thing, I’m not very involved, but I’ve seen this name everywhere, and after a while, it just …well, it stuck. I wanted it. In fact, I was half-convinced it was true already. Yesterday, when I first heard it used, it just felt right.

The more interesting thing about the code name, though, isn’t what it is, but what it isn’t. It’s not Oracle, Oliver said, because that’s taken. Are we meant to assume Barbara Gordon exists in this world, then? And, if she does, then, there’s a Batman, right? Is this Arrow opening the door for more? Because, I’m now more and more convinced that they meant to give us a Supegirl crossover at some point. If Batman exists, then Superman also exists. Nothing else makes sense. And that’s just too big a tease for my poor heart.

LYRA

I like the simplicity of it. It’s something that she has deserved for ages and the final piece to lock this team into place. Codenames give them security and solidify them as a unit against Darkh and any enemies coming their way.

BETH

To be honest, I’m not overly fond of it, but cannot think of anything better that it should be. Am I delighted though that she finally has a code name?! Oh heck yes! It has been a long time coming and Felicity deserves the recognition that comes with being an official member of the team. Which, really couldn’t it be said she was part of the original Team Arrow?!

What are your thoughts on “A.W.O.L.?” Sound off in the comments to keep the discussion going!

Join us for another Arrow roundtable next Tuesday!

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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  1. Greatest Arrow ever! This is what happens when the show puts focus on Diggle, Felicity, OTA and Olicity! These elements are what make Arrow so strong and so beloved and can we talk the pacing? The pacing was the best Arrow may have ever had. I loved that we just had two plots and no useless Laurel Lance subplot or Lance family bore or Thea and Peyton manning. Just focusing on the Diggle bros, ARGUS and Felicity Vs. Gothlicity.. And once again this episode proves just how awesome Lyla is and how well she fits in in the lair. I want more Lyla Michaels …no I NEED more Lyla Michaels and I need Lylicity.

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