'Arrow' 4×12 Roundtable: Discussing 'Unchained'

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 4×12 of Arrow, “Unchained,” where we discuss Roy’s grand return to Star City, Thea’s blood lust taking a turn for the worse, and the badass that is Felicity Smoak, and the introduction of her father.

What were your overall thoughts on “Unchained?”

ALYSSA

Arrow has easily been having the best season of any of the DC shows on television, and it’s because it’s giving the fans what they want: good story arcs and a focus on the characters and the relationships that they care about. In my opinion, this season has the potential to trump season two, which has always been my favorite season of the show as a whole. “Unchained” was another excellent installment in a fantastic season as we saw the return of a familiar face in Roy Harper and finally saw Felicity Smoak get a storyline that’s all her own. And I think that was what made me the most excited about this episode was the potential that it’s promised with the Papa Smoak storyline and the showdown we all knew was coming when Oliver goes up against Malcolm Merlyn in order to save Thea’s life. It feels like Arrow is hitting the gas and ramping up for an excellent second half to the season – except maybe that baby mama storyline that I seriously am not looking forward to.

LIZZIE

I thought it was a strong episode, particularly in the character sense. The introduction of the “Big Bad” so early in the season means that there’s been a lot of episodes during the middle half of S4 that have had little to no development in the overall arc of the season. That being said, when the focus on the characters we know and love is as strong as in this episode, that doesn’t really matter.
Plot-wise, the episode was a bit predictable. We all knew about The Calculator, and we all know Felicity would find a way. The fun part will be in watching her deal will the fallout from this revelation, and all the others that are coming her way.

LYRA

Just as Team Arrow is getting into the swing of things Roy returns with that chiseled jaw! His arrival only serves to make things better and remind us of how far we’ve come. Particularly those parkour moves that Oliver was throwing down. They were top notch! *pictures Oliver bunny hopping along Star City with no mask* Anything to do with Merlyn and Damien is pushed to the back of everyone’s mind when the Calculator hits the scene. Even though he’s the lamest of them all he’s going to change things for Felicity big time. The potential for things hitting the fan and never being the same increased triple fold after he showed his smug face. Also I think I might I might be shifting my opinion on who’s in the grave. Laurel dying is way too easy.

BETH

Any episode heavy on character development gets my vote of approval. Which lately, with the focus shifted onto Felicity, I couldn’t be happier. The woman does it all and even under the duress of the emotional adjustment that comes with her disability. Everyone upped their game and oh hello Roy! His appearance certainly brought a bit more heartbreak to Thea’s storyline. Of course, a certain predictable air hung over the Calculator’s appearance. Did any of us not see his paternal announcement coming? It was great that Felicity got to do the reveal though.
Arrow -- "Unchained" -- Image AR412A_0185b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Stephen Amell as Green Arrow and Colton Haynes as Arsenal -- Photo: Liane Hentscher/ The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

So Roy Harper made his grand return to Star City. What did you think of Roy’s appearance this week?

ALYSSA

This episode made me realize just how much I’ve missed Roy Harper. I’ve missed his presence, his big brother relationship with Oliver, his friendships with Team Arrow, and his romance with Thea. I really loved how Roy was brought back to Star City, as it seemingly was interconnected through his connection to Team Arrow and the Calculator, who just so happens to be Felicity’s father. Seeing Roy back in action – and being the hero – made me so proud yet sad that Roy’s visit was a short-lived one. I almost forgot how integral he was to Team Arrow, but it’s easy to forget when it’s been so long. But now that we’ve just gotten him back it makes it even harder to say goodbye.
Speaking about that Roy-Thea romance, I’d like to say that I didn’t realize how invested I was in their love story until this episode and that final scene where they were essentially saying their goodbyes. They were both approaching the situation from that standpoint. Thea because she had already made her decision that she wasn’t going to kill in order to live, and Roy because he didn’t know if he’d ever return to Star City again and Thea’s condition. It was incredibly simplistic, emotional, and heartbreaking to watch, and it made me really appreciate that relationship as a whole. More than that, it made me pray with everything that I have that this isn’t the last time these two see each other. Because I want them to have a happy ending, even if it isn’t that traditional happy ending. I want them to find happiness in each other. They are it for each other. Simple as that.

LIZZIE

To be honest, Roy, and the way his return was handled blew me away. I always liked, but never loved Roy Harper, in the okay if he’s there okay if he’s not way. In fact, the only time he ever tugged at my heartstrings was when he left. So, his return could have been a non-event for me, and yet, it was the odd episode where I found myself tearing up in a scene that doesn’t contain even one of my favorite characters.
Roy Harper, whether I appreciated him or not, was part of this team, and in a way, will forever be part of this team. His relationships – with Oliver and Thea, in particular, and the way he got to reaffirm both his gratitude and his love for both was so well written, so well-acted, that now, in his second absence, I find myself missing Roy Harper more than I ever did.
I hope there’s always a spot for him on Arrow. I hope the characters never forget him. And, for Thea’s sake, I hope, somehow, someway, he finds a way back.

LYRA

*holds him tight* I want to keep him forever and never let him go. He’s not allowed to come in here, sporting that perfect face, and make us wish for something more. For the briefest moments I thought that he could stay. I thought that he could join the team and help Thea through the pain plaguing her fragile body. It was all for nothing. Well not for nothing. *sigh* He’s a good man who’s willing to leave his loved ones to protect them from the danger following him. And don’t get me started on his scene with Thea. Break my heart, rip it out of my chest and skip rope with it. The kind of love that is still present between them has lasted this long and will continue to guide them for years to come. It’s everlasting, undeniable, and unchangeable. I don’t care who comes into either of their lives, I’m looking at you Alex, they are OTP material. They’ll get back together.

BETH

Roy showing up when he did and why; moved along some of the Oliver’s guilt complex plotting in this episode. It was good that Oliver could hear straight from Roy that he liked his new life, that he was moving on and that Oliver had nothing to worry about or feel like he owed Roy. It was a great scene that segued nicely into Roy’s scene with Thea. Where all the pondering of “what ifs” in Thea’s speech demanding Roy to live a normal life broke my heart. Here, Thea shone bravely and gave Roy leave to go without guilt hanging over him in his new life. I rather loved how they wove this “forgiveness” into Roy Harper’s return.

Not that we didn’t see it coming, but it was revealed this week that the Calculator is actually Felicity’s father. What did you think of that reveal and how would you like to see this Smoak family storyline play out?

ALYSSA

I would just like to praise the Arrow Gods that Felicity Smoak is finally getting a storyline all her own. While I’ve absolutely loved her continued and evolving arc with Oliver (God bless that relationship), it’s about damn time that Felicity got a storyline all her own that didn’t involve propping up other characters on this show and other shows.
I think we all knew since the details of who The Calculator was were revealed that he was Felicity’s father. We were like 99 percent sure of it. Granted you never want to get your hopes up, but Arrow did the thing and the Arrow fandom once again proved just how damn smart it is by calling this weeks in advance. With that said I absolutely love how they’ve introduced Felicity’s father who is already a nemesis of hers both personally – as he abandoned her and her mother when she was very young – and professionally as hackers – unbeknownst to them for now. The introduction of Papa Smoak is such an exciting plot point – definitely the one I’m most looking forward to seeing playing out because of the multi-dimension of it all. You have the obvious Felicity meeting the father that left her long ago and how she deals with that, you have how Donna feels about her ex-husband coming back into her life and her daughters, and you have what I’m sure will be an interesting reveal if/when Felicity or her father learn about the other’s “hobby” that pitted them against each other. While Tom Amandes is only confirmed for next week’s episode, here’s hoping that it was for spoiler reasons and he’ll become a greater part of this show and have a more direct involvement with Felicity’s arc forthcoming.

LIZZIE

They could have done a better job of hiding it, they really could. It was totally anti-climactic, not just because they’d been hyping it so much off-screen, but because they just made it too obvious on-screen. That being said, the beauty of this storyline was never in the reveal. The beauty of this storyline will be in the way they handle this new presence in Felicity’s life. And when I say they, I mean everyone, because this affects not only Felicity, it affects Oliver, Donna, and to a lesser extent, the team.
What do I want to see? I want to see conflict. I’d really like it if Felicity would tell her dad to take a hike, because she hasn’t needed him in years and she sure as hell doesn’t need him now, but that’s a) not realistic, b) bad television. What we need is Felicity struggling with what to do – struggling with maybe, perhaps, letting this man into her life, and what that means for her relationship with her mom, and her fiancée, and what it means for her, and her sense of self.
Felicity has never, in all the time we’ve known her, been the girl who let’s herself be defined by what she doesn’t have, or what happens to her. But that doesn’t mean she can’t doubt, it doesn’t mean she can’t make the wrong choice. It doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, easy is boring. Want a character to grow? Make him suffer.

LYRA

I was hoping it was all a dream. Out of everyone he was my least likely choice. He’s boring and not likeable. Which is why he might be the perfect choice. *pauses in deep thought* If he’s a bore fest then I won’t fall in love with him and hope he’s not killed. I hope the Calculator gets killed. From here on out I’m hoping that both Smoak women don’t let him back into their lives. He should serve as a reminder of how far they’ve come and how little they needed him before/now.

BETH

Give me all the “We are Female; Hear Us Roar” storylines. Both Felicity and Mama Smoak need to put this waspish, smug Calculator in his place. If he’s here for anything less than meeting his amazing, BAMF daughter then yeah, the two Smoak ladies will show him what all has changed in his absence. I do not want anyone doubting Felicity or dragging her down in any way. So yeah… daddy had better be prepared to play nice.
Arrow -- "Unchained" -- Image AR412B_0543b.jpg -- Pictured: Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak -- Photo: Liane Hentscher/ The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

While Felicity has struggled since being confined to a wheelchair, she completely pwned it on two occasions: Taking on the Calculator and killing that Palmer Tech presentation. What did you think of our girl this week?

ALYSSA

Felicity Smoak continues to prove week after week that she is the strongest, most badass character on DC television because of her intelligence, determination, and confidence that make her who she is; and who she is is someone that is a hero.
One of the great things we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks is how Felicity has dealt with this life-changing diagnosis where she can’t do some things that she could before, including walking with that determined confidence that lights up a room. And we saw her struggle with that when it came to the Palmer Tech presentation. She kind of viewed her wheelchair as a limitation and let that – and what others thought – get inside of her head. But after a confidence booster from Curtis – who reminded Felicity of the force of nature she is at heart – Felicity was able to overcome that insecurity and completely dominate the presentation and impress even the lowest of doubters. It was truly inspiring to watch Felicity command that room with so much respect and that quirky humor that makes her the girl we all love.
Then we had Felicity going up against The Calculator, who turned out to be her father (although she doesn’t know that yet). Once again this stems back to last week’s episode where Felicity felt insecure about her inability to do her job after one mistake that didn’t cost the team. We saw her confidence shaken as she was convinced she couldn’t do the one thing she is supposed to do better than practically everyone. But she overcame that self-doubt verbally last week and she returned to what she does best in this episode – and what a villain for her first foray back to the team: a fellow hacker who planned to destroy the city. But Felicity was able to outsmart him and with the help from her friends was able to essentially defeat him. For now. He is her father, and he is still very much in the picture, which should make this incredibly interesting moving forward.

LIZZIE

Felicity is a BAMF, and this episode only goes to prove why. It hasn’t been easy, and in a way, I’m glad it hasn’t, because that shows how human she is. That’s always been this character’s best attribute, relatability. We like Felicity because we understand her, because even though she’s smarter than us, we can see ourselves in her. She, after all, is usually the one voicing our thoughts.
So, it’s been hard. Yes. She’s gotten better, but she still doubts herself. She still needs a pep-talk, and support. But, when push comes to shove, Felicity is strong. She is capable. She defeated The Calculator (albeit temporarily), saved the city and owned the PT presentation. She’s BAMF. Plain and simple. That’s why I love her.

LYRA

She was amazing! She fell down, doubted herself, struggled with where she stood, and ended up on top. Deep inside Felicity is the same person. It just took her a little while to shake off the pain of self doubt and believe in herself. That’s true courage right there. The power and will to move forward despite all the crap that life throws at us. Inspirational is what Felicity Smoak is.

BETH

Nothing can ever make me think less of Felicity Smoak. She’s like family for us now. We have her back, but in this episode, she took no prisoners and kicked butt professionally and privately. The lady doth move mountains for her friends and I do believe she will continue to do so. Even if it means, private investors doubt her. She never gives up on friends, and she believes in Curtis Holt, who can so save the company with his nerdy tech battery.

Thea’s blood lust took a turn for the worse — now it’s draining the life from her since she won’t kill to satiate the blood lust. What are your thoughts on Thea’s decision to accept her fate and how do you see this all ending?

ALYSSA

I knew something was coming because it’d been way too quiet and easy on the blood lust front since Thea’s run-in with Damien Darhk that appeared to have fixed things. Though I was not expecting this. Although I kind of should have. It makes sense that if Thea refuses to kill that it would punish her for it. Kind of like with vampires if they don’t feed when they transition and they die (thank you The Originals for the assist). So Thea was basically presented with a choice: choose to kill to satisfy this blood lust or choose not to kill and subject yourself to death. Thea chose the latter, and – while I know it won’t stick because that’s too easy and I’ve seen photos of Willa Holland on set – I admire Thea’s decision to make the difficult yet honorable choice. Granted Oliver and Malcolm wanted none of it, but eventually both agreed to let Thea make her own decision (“It’s my choice. It’s my life.”)
This whole thing also provided for an emotional reunion between Thea and Roy that had me sobbing, and I was not prepared to react that way. You saw in Thea’s eyes how she was accepting her decision to presumably die in order to remain herself – which incredibly honorable – when she was saying her goodbye to Roy. About how she wanted him to promise her that he was going to live her life (even after she was gone); how she wanted him to get married (even after she was gone); how she wanted him to have kids (even after she was gone); how she wanted him to have a normal life (even after she was gone) despite how much she wanted to do all of those things with him. And Roy’s response – “If I could do it all over I’d do all those things…with you” was equally heartbreaking and beautiful and encapsulated everything that is wonderful about Thea and Roy.
When things took an even greater turn for the worse that’s when things got interesting. As Oliver found himself in a hospital for the second time in three episodes, Nyssa al Ghul appeared with an offer that was just too good to refuse: she has a plant that counteracts the effects of the Lazarus Pit and will give it to Oliver if he kills Malcolm Merlyn. I think we all know what Oliver’s decision is going to be with this one.

LIZZIE

I freaking love it. Arrow could have gone many ways with this storyline, but for them to basically have Thea saying: I’d rather die than become the person this thing demands of me, that’s powerful. And having the people close to her accept it, that’s even more powerful. Especially Oliver. Thea didn’t choose the bloodlust, after all. She didn’t choose to come back. But, like Felicity, she’s a strong woman who, in this episode, is asking Oliver to allow her to make her own choices. That’s big. No, that’s huge.
That being said, I don’t think the bloodlust is going to consume Thea. I don’t see her as being the one in the grave. First of all because, been there, done that. Arrow has already explored that storyline, and they gain nothing by going there again. There’s also the matter of timing, it’s merely episode 13, and the death is still five episodes away, at least. And then there’s the fact that the bloodlust makes Thea about 200% more interesting than she’s ever been. You know when you don’t kill off a character? When you’ve introduced a plot twist that allows you to take that character and turn it on its head.
Possibilities. That’s the name of the game.

LYRA

I don’t like it but I understand. Let’s elaborate. I don’t like that she wasn’t fighting. Thea is fierce and a fighter who went on a journey to protect herself from those that would harm her. I also don’t like that pain is creeping into her mind and pulling her down her defenses, making her weak. It’s unlikely that she would idly sit by and let all of this happen. Sadly she is doing just that. Thea doesn’t want to give into the blood lust inside of her because it’s a lack of control she will not permit in her life. She will not kill people to satisfy some primal urge. She’s bigger than that. Instead she’ll dictate life on her own terms. Letting the blood lust drain her is a chance to end her suffering and right a death that maybe shouldn’t have happened.

BETH

Oh good God. Right now, I don’t want to think about how it will end, especially since there was a plan involving Damien Darhk. Some way, some how; Thea must live, right? Although, RESPECT for the woman. Her willingness to die rather than take someone else’s life deserves it.

Do the Arrow writers really expect us to believe Oliver is in love with the flashback chick?

ALYSSA

To be honest I don’t even really pay particular attention to the flashbacks. I haven’t for a while. But I’ve watched them enough to know without a doubt that there is no way that Oliver is in love with the girl in the flashbacks, whose name I cannot remember most of the time. I understand she was introduced to be a love interest of Oliver’s to kind of be the antithesis of Oliver and Felicity’s healthy and chemistry-filled relationship, but I just don’t for a second believe that Oliver is in love with her. Sure, he saved her life. Sure, she’s helped him along the way, but how does that translate to “love?” And better yet, have you seen a response from Oliver that would make you believe as much? To be honest, I’m just counting the episodes until they inevitably “break up” if you can even call it that. You’d think Oliver telling her that he killed her brother would be the death blow in that non-existent, chemistry-free relationship. Here’s hoping.

LIZZIE

You know what, I think they do. They’ve never been particularly self-aware, and they figure, hey, we’ve done zero character development, done nothing to show that Oliver actually feels anything for this chick other than pity and maybe, perhaps, gratitude, but, let’s bring out one women we clearly established Oliver was in love with, and let HER be the one to say Oliver’s in love with what’s-her-name. That way it’ll be totally believable!
I’m side-eyeing you so hard right now, writers.
Look, I’m a look-on-the-bright-side kind of person. Normally, I’d say, well, let’s give the writers the benefit of the doubt. That’s my favorite line: let’s give the writers the benefit of the doubt. But there’s just no way. Not in this case. When I took my first writing class, our teacher has us write: SHOW, DON’T TELL in big bold letters across our right hand in black marker at the beginning of every class. So we didn’t forget.
Well, Arrow writers, maybe you should have been in that class. But, since you obviously weren’t, I’m going to go ahead and say it: If you want me to believe Oliver cares about chick-whose-name-I-can’t-remember, then SHOW. Don’t TELL.

LYRA

Oliver and that random girl is the biggest piece of bologna I’m ever seen. Love her? I don’t even remember her name! I think she worked in a poppy field so let’s call her that. Poppy is forgettable, bland, and holds no spark of life to interest me in her. Shadow hallucination was just that…A HALLUCINATION! She didn’t know what she was saying because Oliver was being electrocuted repeatably. I’d chalk up this hallucination to wishful thinking on Oliver’s part. He’s had nothing for so long. Maybe he’s deluding himself to think she’s important? I don’t know. I’m just trying to come up with reasons why Oliver would love Poppy. Can’t find any.

BETH

Nooooo… nooooo… no? I’m not sure, but it sort of sounds like they expect us to think that which… why? How? Why? Nope. There’s nothing there but an insane situation that puts both of them in danger. Not sure that even Stockholm Syndrome could be applied here since it would have to be her in love with Oliver? Traumatic bonding that led to love? Hmmm… frankly, I am grossed out by this plot addition. It definitely demeans the love the writers have written for the other characters, I think.
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So Nyssa escaped Nanda Parbat this week and traveled to Star CIty, where she left Oliver with quite an offer: He can save Thea if he kills Malcolm Merlyn. What do you think of Nyssa’s plan and how do you see this playing out?

ALYSSA

You’ve got to admire Nyssa for her incredible intelligence and strategic moves that prove she’s not someone you would ever want to mess with. Sorry for you, Malcolm Merlyn. This is one of those storylines that’s finally coming to fruition after remaining dormant for so long, but I’m kind of glad it is if only because I’m praying that Malcolm gets what is coming to him, though I doubt he will die because John Barrowman is such a huge part of this show. But I’m hoping we’ll see Malcolm pay for the shit that he was caused or been responsible for in some way, shape, or form. And you’ve got to admire Nyssa for following through on her promise to Malcolm up to this point. She promised she’d end him, and she’s almost there.
Nyssa continues to prove she’s one of the smartest, most overlooked characters on this show as she showed incredible strategic thinking in her plan. How she had followers within Nanda Parbat that helped her escape; how she knew exactly what she needed to get in order for Oliver to comply with her (the Lotus); how she knew the only way Tatsu would agree to give her the Lotus was if it in some way helped her old friend Oliver; how Nyssa knew from the start that this was an offer that Oliver could not and would not refuse. Bravo. As far as how I see this whole thing playing out, obviously there’s going to be a duel, and obviously Malcolm is not going to die. I don’t see that happening. But now I’m starting to wonder if Malcolm is the “he” that Oliver has to kill?

LIZZIE

Good for you, Nyssa. I was expecting something like this to happen, and frankly, it took too damn long. The Nyssa we know, the Nyssa they’ve shown us, would have never bowed to Malcolm Merlyn unless she was planning something. And I’m glad she was.
How do I see it playing it out? Well, sadly, I don’t think we’re getting rid of Malcolm Merlyn anytime soon. I say sadly because, boy, I truly hate the bastard. I love the actor, but hate the character. Malcolm, however, is useful and interesting and the producers love Barrowman as much as I do, so I guess that means things are not going to work out in Nyssa’s favor. I just hope she survives it. I really do.

LYRA

First off, let’s talk about Nyssa’s initial appearance. I know she’s a member of the LOA but…HOW DID SHE GET THERE SO FAST! Boom Oliver looks up and here she is with not a noise. Ninja training achievement unlocked! Secondly, Nyssa’s plan is her trying to throw anything together to get revenge on Malcolm. He stole something from her and no loyalty will stop her from wiping Malcom from the face of this Earth. It’s going to end bad no matter what Oliver picks. I will say one thing, it’s selfish for Nyssa to hold hostage the cure for Thea’s condition just because she can’t take down Malcolm by herself.

BETH

Nyssa, can be considered nothing less than a brilliant strategist. She figures out who best works as pawns and how to move them to her advantage with master skill. Malcolm Merlyn will get some comeuppance thanks to her. However, I do hope that she does not interfere with Thea in a way that brings on her demise. I really did not think Thea would be in this much danger of death this season.
What are your thoughts on “Unchained?” 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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