Arrow 5×10 Review: 'Who Are You?'

There was a defining moment in Arrow’s midseason premiere where Felicity was having a conversation with Black Siren about how Oliver was trying to save her. Because he couldn’t save their Laurel. How this was his chance for redemption.

And then I realized that, much like Oliver, this is Arrow’s chance at redeeming itself after a season 5A that was uncharacteristic of everything they’ve presented in the past four seasons – and everything I’ve loved – about Arrow.

To be honest, it was getting incredibly frustrating for me to, week after week, to have to criticize Arrow the way I have in my reviews. But I don’t regret it because the criticism was warranted. Still, Arrow has been one of my favorite television shows so having to write mostly negative things after four seasons of mostly positive reviews was difficult for me. I found myself every week praying that something would change. That Arrow would begin to resemble the show that I fell in love with.

After watching Arrow’s midseason premiere, I’m pleased to say that I see progress, which is really important. It’s not going to all of a sudden be perfectly perfect. It’s going to take some time. But this was the first time that I’ve felt hopeful and positive after an episode of Arrow. Although I wasn’t entirely pleased with certain aspects of the episode – namely how it pit Felicity against Laurel and the fanbases, as well – this episode qualifies as one of the better episodes this season.

One of the most important things you can do in a fandom is voice your concerns. You might not feel like you’re being heard, but I promise you that you are. I know from personal experience from another show. They’re listening to you. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to do what you say, but they do listen.

“Who Are You?” appears to be the first episode where changes could be made following an overtly criticized first half of the season. Television is written well in advance so a good portion of this season – the first half of the season certainly – was written and some filmed well before the season five premiere. The producers then saw the backlash, which was conveyed through poor ratings, but it was too late for them to do anything about the part of the season that was already written and filmed.

But this episode really felt like one where the fandom’s concerns were addressed, where the absence of a certain fan-favorite couple interacting was corrected, and where there’s really a chance to do right by this show.

While I leave “Who Are You?” feeling optimistic moving forward and while I was treated with some Olicity moments that brought a once-prominent smile to my face, I have not forgotten what has transpired. I haven’t forgiven. I haven’t forgotten. I might not ever forget – because it’ll be on the DVD as evidence – but there’s a chance for forgiveness. I’m clinging to that hope that Arrow can really be Arrow once again.

Let’s break this down:

Laurel’s Homecoming

Arrow has been known for its cliffhangers over the seasons, particularly its midseason finale ones. So while it was a shock to find Laurel Lance waiting for Oliver in the Arrow cave, it wasn’t something completely out of thin air. Especially since the writers had teased Laurel appearing in the midseason premiere.

From the start I was skeptical about the fact that it was Laurel. Arrow promised that there would be real consequences when it comes to death. Because when you kill people and keep bringing them back to life it loses its significance and it gets downright annoying and cliché. After the finale I speculated about whether it was because of Flashpoint or if it was her evil doppleganger Black Siren. I never once believed it was actually Laurel.

And in “Who Are You?” we learned pretty quickly who this Laurel actually was. Well, to be fair, it was spoiled in the first promo for the premiere. But it was still a nice reveal to have Black Siren be playing this game and on a mission from Prometheus. It really allowed Katie Cassidy to do what she does best: play the bad girl. Black Siren was a badass and really gave those boys a run for their money.

But more than that, there was also this sense that perhaps Black Siren’s story isn’t over. When Oliver was talking to her about getting to decide who she gets to be, you could almost see that maybe she thought about it. And it begs the question: can Black Siren really be saved? Is it really all because of circumstance? Because Laurel Lance of Earth-1 had undergone a ton of emotional heartbreak and she never became that. Well, Arrow certainly left the door to her return open a crack as she’s now being housed at a nearby ARGUS facility.

Oliver’s Optimism

It almost seems like a lifetime ago when Oliver Queen was this brooding vigilante whose idea of justice was killing the bad people in the world. But that was the start of Oliver’s Green Arrow journey. And as we stare at season five, we’ve seen just how far Oliver has come to embracing the Green Arrow mantle. But he hasn’t yet. Not entirely.

But in the midseason premiere, it almost felt like there was a set-up of the remaining pieces that need to fall into place for Oliver to become that hero. Oliver has always been that dark hero who chooses to look at the world with a glass half empty mentality instead of glass half full. It’s been something that we’ve all teased him about when talking about his characterization, but it’s true. And he’s no doubt been shaped by his experiences. But there comes a time when you have to decide to move forward despite all of the bad that has happened. It’s taken Oliver nearly five years, but we’re finally getting a glimpse of that.

So it’s no suprrise that Oliver wasted no time in buying Black Siren’s sob story about being his Laurel that had been saved and finally shows up five months after her death into this exact moment. No, that’s not convenient at all. Still, Oliver elected to believe her. Why? Because of those blinders that Felicity pointed out. Oliver couldn’t save Laurel so he wanted so bad to believe that a miracle could bring her back to them. He wanted to believe in the good for once instead of the bad. Only the good wasn’t real. That wasn’t Laurel. And it almost got some of the people closest to him hurt.

But even after he learned – thanks to Felicity’s determination and intelligence – that she wasn’t their Laurel, there was a part of him that felt like he could still save her. Black Siren was this villain who had become this due to her circumstance, which involved her Oliver on Earth-2 having died some 10 years prior. But our Oliver still believed he could save her. He’s still carrying the guilt about Laurel’s death, and this was his chance at redemption, as Felicity so eloquently said.

Even after all the bad. Even after Black Siren nearly hurt Felicity several times over (which we know doesn’t fly with Oliver), instead of choosing to embrace the dark and lock her up or even kill her, he chose to embrace hope. And to be honest, it’s weird, a word which here means “I’m not used to Oliver being someone positive.”

“I could really get used to this optimism of yours,” Felicity tells him.

And I agree. Arrow is all about Oliver’s journey to becoming the Green Arrow. While he’s made significant strides to getting there, he hasn’t gotten there completely. There are still some elements that are missing, including that optimism and being with Felicity. But given that Arrow was conceived as a five-year show, Oliver should reach that journey at season’s end. That means that Oliver will have found those missing or broken pieces and become the hero he’s been destined to be from the start.

Felicity’s Descent

While Oliver appears to be embracing a more hopeful outlook, we know that Felicity is going to go down a bit of a dark path. She’s going to go through her island. Basically, Felicity and Oliver are going to switch places.

We got a small glimpse of it in this midseason premiere as Felicity was much more ferocious when it came to hunting Prometheus down, which included letting Black Siren go and endangering her own life in the process. But Felicity’s rage for Prometheus has clearly clouded her usual clear sense of judgment. And to be honest, I’m so excited for Felicity to finally get to experience her Island – and a storyline that doesn’t include a love interest.

Malone’s death has certainly ignited a fire within her that’s been simmering since the Havenrock incident. Prometheus is enemy no. 1 right now, and Felicity is going to do things we probably wouldn’t expect to exact revenge. This is the guy that killed her boyfriend and manipulated her ex-fiance to do the killing. Just typing those words makes me enraged. I’m so ready for Felicity to get to experience her island – and own storyline – and emerge on the other side stronger. Stronger and also more understanding of what Oliver has had to endure over the years. Perhaps then she’ll be able to understand why he did what he did, which ultimately forced her to call their engagement off. Perhaps then Oliver and Felicity will finally be able to be together and be happy like we know they both deserve.

Felicity vs. Laurel

While I loved what these two characters brought out of each other emotionally, I wasn’t particularly fond of how the writers pit the characters of Felicity and Laurel against one another. Sure, it wasn’t our Laurel. But it still looked like our Laurel, talked like our Laurel.

But it was more about how the writers – maybe not intentionally – seemed to pit Felicity fans and Laurel fans against each other. They’re not stupid. They know the drama that has transpired as a result between those two fandoms. So to kind of put them against each other wasn’t cool. It was ridiculous.

If there’s one prominent thing missing from the Arrowverse it’s female friendships. There’s already so much pressure in this world where women are pitted against other women, where they’re judged for being different. Television serves to inspire. It should inspire and promote positive relationships between women. It’s something that I’ve been calling for on Arrow especially. We got a taste of it with Thea and Laurel, but it wasn’t enough.

You have some incredible females on this show – Felicity, Thea, Lyla, and now Tina. It’s practically a crime for them not to form bonds together. That’s something that I’d like to see more on Arrow and television in general. Let’s stop pitting women against women and start promoting positive examples of female friendships for girls and women.

The Olicity Spark

There’s no denying that the relationship between Oliver and Felicity has been perhaps the biggest spark of this show. It was a game changer in every sense of the word. Especially when it comes to influencing Oliver’s journey to becoming Green Arrow. It’s essential.

When a relationship is the talk of the fandom – both for positive and negative reasons – it’s easy to get lost in that. The producers seemed to take an entirely different direction this season that appeared to be at least partially influenced by the cries of “Arrow has become Felicity & Friends” or “Arrow has become all about Olicity.” And it’s funny because these are probably the same people who love Barry and Iris on The Flash. And The Flash has been more about romance than Arrow has. So what’s the problem?

“It’s like I said, you know me better than almost anyone.”

There’s no denying that there’s been an intentional decision to not have Oliver and Felicity interact like they have in the past, even when they weren’t a couple. They’ve basically breathed the same air in the same room and that’s it. There’s been but a couple of meaningful conversations; conversations that were a weekly occurrence. It’s like Arrow was trying to stay as far away from the romance as possible. And to do that they had to limit those Oliver and Felicity interactions because, as we know, Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards breathe life into those characters and their relationship. Even when Oliver and Felicity aren’t together, it feels like they are because of what Stephen and Emily bring to their performances.

But things for Arrow season 5A weren’t pretty, particularly the ratings. The Olicity fandom has been its own source of advertisement for Arrow over the years. They’ve promoted the show when the network hasn’t. They’ve had tweeting parties, celebrated success, and brought a level of excitement to the fandom. But that hasn’t been present since the producers drove them away with the handling of the two characters’ relationship.

And it seems like they realized their mistake because this midseason premiere was stock full of those little Olicity moments that have made us fangirl over the seasons. As a fan of the show, I understand that right now Oliver and Felicity aren’t together. But they’re still partners. They’re still friends. They still know each other better than anyone. So why was that relationship ignored? It felt like a slap in the face.

Now, I’ll admit that the plethora of Olicity moments that we got in “Who Are You?” – from the touching to the eye sex to the protective instincts of Oliver to the flirting of possibility – definitely made my heart warm. But they also gave me a sense of hope moving forward. I don’t expect Oliver and Felicity to be back together next episode. I fully understand that it’ll probably take until the final episodes of the season. But I do have hope that Arrow won’t ignore their relationship. They’ll allow those organic, magical moments to happen between them. They’ll encourage the fandom instead of infuriate it.

But just because I’m happy now doesn’t mean that it makes everything okay. I won’t easily forgive. And I certainly won’t forget what has happened this season. It’s going to take a lot more than just a few moments to earn my trust back. But I do hope they can. Because I want to have that hope again.

Diggle’s Predicament

If there’s something I’m probably irrationally irritated by this season is how much Diggle has been separated from Team Arrow. And how he keeps being locked up in prison cells. Seriously, Diggle does not belong in a prison cell.

While we watched Diggle dodge the long hand of the law – which here refers to a three-star general trying to frame Diggle for espionage – for the first half of season five, there was no denying that he couldn’t live in hiding forever. Or that his past would catch up to him. So we saw Diggle confront this in prison. He told Oliver that he can’t run anymore, he has to own up to this. That’s the only way this is going to be solved.

Perhaps the person that’s going to help save Diggle – both from a prison cell permanently or death – is the District Attorney Adrian Chase, who finally has a real purpose since his brief stint as Vigilante. If Chase can save Diggle I might just love him for life.

General Douche was trying to have Diggle transferred, which included moving him and what was sure to be an assassination attempt on Diggle. Luckily Chase was able to act on his feet and prevent a relocation from happening. For now. Well, Diggle could use Felicity’s help right about now, which is something that we were teased is about to happen.

Curtis Finds His Place

This season has been particularly hard for me because there are certain parts of the show that have been altered in a way that doesn’t make them as enjoyable as before. One of those things was Curtis, who was one of my favorite characters last season. But this season it’s felt like the writers forced him into a physical role on Team Arrow when he just wasn’t right for it.

Curtis is someone who, like Felicity, thrives behind a computer and technology. His contribution is his techy skills, much like Felicity. The fact that he wasn’t kicking physical ass last season didn’t mean he wasn’t a hero. Felicity has been a hero since season one and she’s never been someone to regular be out in the field or forced into a field role that didn’t fit her particular set of skills. The same applies to Curtis.

Curtis had a bad day. Like a really bad day. Not only does he keep getting his ass kicked, but he also lost his husband when he left him because of this life that he’d chosen. While it was painful, it would’ve been a little less painful if Curtis had made the right decision. And he felt like he’d made the wrong one. Because no matter what he does, Curtis keeps finding himself as more a liability than a threat in the field. And, honestly, that’s because he doesn’t belong there. He belongs back at the Arrow Cave with Felicity helping them from the computers.

I did enjoy the dynamic between Curtis and Rene, where Rene actually helped Curtis discover his real strengths, which don’t lie in the field. So it makes me wonder what role we’ll see for Curtis moving forward? Will we see a balance between field and home base? Or will nothing change whatsoever?

A New Canary

This midseason premiere felt like the official declaration that Black Canary will live on past Laurel Lance. If it wasn’t the statue being destroyed – by Black Siren, no doubt – it was Oliver and Felicity discussing how there’s a woman out there worthy of taking on that mantle and that all they needed to do was find her. Well, ask you shall receive.

It was a brief introduction, but I’m already seriously digging this new Black Canary. She’s every bit as kickass as they’ve promised with superior physical skills. Not only that, but she’s got a Canary Cry of her own. There’s something about the way that, while she seems to be someone who is dark and a loner, she moves to defend the innocent and punish the guilty that feels so very Black Canary.

Five Things…

  1. The Olicity moments in this episode made my heart swell. There was almost an intent to have as few Oliver and Felicity scenes in the first half of this season, and this midseason premiere was almost an intent to have as many as possible. The writers know what gets this fandom talking. So they delivered.
  2. But I haven’t forgotten where the writers have gone wrong. Just because we’re being treated with these swoon-worthy Olicity moments, that doesn’t erased what the writers have done wrong. How they intentionally ruined something that was working so well for the contrived drama of it all. Sure, we all know they’re going to put Oliver and Felicity back together by season’s end. But make no mistake: We have not forgotten.
  3. Wasn’t a fan of this Felicity vs. Laurel storyline. There’s enough female vs. female and not nearly enough female friendships. While I enjoyed certain aspects of this dynamic, I didn’t like how it felt like the writers were also pitting Felicity fans vs. Laurel fans.
  4. Diggle has been away from Oliver and Felicity too much this season. Like I understand it’s part of his current arc, but I miss my Original Team Arrow.
  5. I’m already loving this new Black Canary. That final scene was all I needed to fall in love with her demeanor and her willingness to shield the innocent from the scum that walk the Earth.

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

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