‘Arrow’ 5×19 Review: ‘Dangerous Liaisons’

When you’ve been missing something for so long and it finally comes back to you, you experience it as this vast, emotional tidal wave that is as welcoming as it is shocking. You didn’t necessarily expect to find it. But when you did, it brought with it this sense of satisfaction that makes you want to shout it to the world.

That is how I felt watching Arrow’s latest hour, “Dangerous Liaisons,” as I felt like what was lost about Arrow was finally found as the show finally understood what has made it work.

There’s a chain reaction when you realize that something you had lost has finally come back to you. At first, it’s just shock. Then, it turns into realization. Finally, that results in fist pumps and chants of “YES YES YES” as you feel something you haven’t felt in a long time: real emotion, excitement, thrill, and satisfaction.

Ladies and gentlemen, Arrow is back!

It really sucks that it took until the end of this uneventful and controversial fifth season for it to happen, but that’s one of the pitfalls of this 23-episode season that would do much better with a 16-episode order.

“Dangerous Liaisons” managed to do what an episode of Arrow hasn’t done in quite some time: engage me. I’ve felt like I’ve been listening to a teacher drone on and on in a boring ass lecture rather than engage students with hands-on activities that pique interest. And that’s really been the comparison between Arrow in the first half of season 5 versus the present, which has managed to bring out an excitement in me that I thought was long gone.

At the heart of that engagement were the emotional connections, which brought the relationships of Oliver & Felicity and Diggle & Lyla to the forefront in a not-so-subtle way as to remind the audience the true heart of this show. It’s not the action (which was completely badass, btw), but it’s these characters and their feelings and how they make us feel. Hell, even Rene’s reunion with his daughter ignited an emotional reaction from me.

Arrow is great when it makes you care. Arrow makes you care when it brings the core relationships to the forefront. Sure, you’ve heard and will continue to hear people hate on Olicity because they’re threatened by the romance on a superhero show (even though comic books are soap operas.)

But it was this episode, where scenes between Oliver and Felicity were so incredibly powerful that they actually bring Arrow to a new level. And the fact that this show had been lacking those scenes for so long almost made the impact even greater because I almost forgot what witnessing scenes like those felt like.

It wasn’t romance (although those were always nice.) These were scenes where there were real conversations going on about important issues that define their relationship – and most relationships, although the details are different for everyone. But when you put Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards into a scene together – yet alone an emotional one – the only thing you can expect is greatness. Anything less would be downright ignorant.

“Dangerous Liaisons” was basically a prologue for next week’s “Underneath,” which has been the season’s most-hyped episode by far. With the teases of this Olicity-centric episode, which feature flashbacks between the end of season 4 and the beginning of season 5, this has been an episode we’ve been waiting for. But “Dangerous Liaisons” has somehow managed to make this episode even more significant as 5×20 will be a direct effect of the events of 5×19.

We saw the Oliver and Felicity tension – how this lack of trust has been the source of their issues this season. We saw the Diggle and Lyla tension – how their trust is in question after Lyla kept some pretty big things from Diggle. We saw the issues that will be the focus of “Underneath” all laid out in bolded, 72-size font. And we’re going to get to watch these issues unfold and be worked through by each respected couple.

Arrow has finally realized what works on this show. They’ve weeded out the bad and the ugly and gone “back to basics” – and I mean actual “back to basics” and not this fake news version of “back to basics” the show had been preaching early on. Arrow is capitalizing on the aspects that work, including Olicity, Original Team Arrow, Dyla, and emotional storylines that has finally given it some credibility at the end of this season.

And if the promo for next week’s “Underneath” is any indication, we’re going to feeling some intense feelings – like 3×20 feelings. Or even greater. Prepare.

Let’s break this sensational hour down:

A Matter of Trust (Olicity Edition)

At the root of Oliver and Felicity’s breakup last season was the very important issue of trust. Because while Oliver keeping William a secret was a factor, it wasn’t the reason why Felicity ended things. Felicity broke up with Oliver because she didn’t feel like he fully trusted her the way that two people getting married should.

We’ve never gotten the proper conversation in regards to the breakup, but this episode served to shine a light on the issue that remains an issue between Oliver and Felicity at present. Let Felicity explain:

And that, my friends, is the source of Oliver and Felicity’s issues.

It’s a matter of trust.

And Oliver might not realize that just yet, but he will.

Trust isn’t something that’s been easy for someone like Oliver to find after those hellish years where he was broken down into a monster. Opening up was hard enough, trusting people on the surface was hard enough.

But trust goes much deeper than knowing someone has your back when you’re out in the field or when your life is on the line. Trust is about being open about even the most difficult of circumstances. Trust is about having faith in someone else that what they’re telling you is what’s right for them. Trust is about acceptance.

We know that Oliver Queen is the walking definition of self-sacrificial hero. For years he’s been risking his life to save others; for years he’s been shouldering burdens so others don’t have to. Which is fine if they’re open to that.

But the fact that Oliver has been reluctant to accept that others will experience their own darkness or that he be willingly open with his most secret of secrets shows that his trust issues run deep. It’s not just about Felicity. Because if anything, Oliver trusts Felicity the most, along with Diggle. But Oliver’s definition of trust and the world’s definition are two different things. And Oliver has to learn that trust runs much deeper than on the surface.

When Oliver went to Felicity to try and talk her out of this risky mission with Helix, the two had a profound conversation about what it means to shoulder your own burden versus wanting to shoulder someone else’s. Felicity’s stance was that she understood how Oliver has carried burdens for others, and that he didn’t need to shoulder hers anymore. Felicity fell in love with Oliver because he was always willing to do what’s right no matter what the cost. And that’s what she’s trying to do.

But Oliver, who has always protected Felicity from the bad in the world, is afraid of losing Felicity to the darkness that took him. He doesn’t want to see that light fade out of her. He doesn’t want to lose her. But the thing is, that’s not in his control.

“After all these years, I supported you even when I disagreed. And you couldn’t do the same for me.”

All Felicity wants is for Oliver to trust her. She’s opening windows of opportunity for him to stop and say, “You know what, I might not agree with what you’re doing, but I’ll stand behind you because I believe in you. I trust you.

As Felicity brought up in that final scene, this entire thing stems down to this lack of trust in these kinds of situations. The situations where there is a real risk. Over the past four years, we’ve seen Felicity stand beside Oliver even through things she hasn’t necessarily agreed with. But she’s done it because she trusts the decisions that he’s making; she trusts that he knows what he’s doing; she trusts him.

And that’s all Felicity wants in return. She wants Oliver to do the same for her. She wants that unconditional support. The unconditional support that Original Team Arrow has shared with each other through the years. She wants Oliver to believe in her the same way she has and will always believe in him.

But the trust goes both ways here. While Oliver doesn’t trust Felicity’s decision to ally with Helix in order to find Adrian Chase, Felicity isn’t too trusting when it comes to Oliver laying it out there that there is another way for them to take down Chase; that this is something that could be avoided. But mostly, this episode served to point out Oliver’s trust issues when it comes to certain things that he feels like he needs to be in complete control of.

Trust isn’t something that’s preexisting. Trust is something that is cultivated through time. Trust is something that’s created through experiences. Trust is the foundation. And Oliver and Felicity have had a trusting foundation over the years, which is what makes this episode and the one to follow so important. They need to rebuild that foundation of trust before they reunite.

But despite the trust issues and the miscommunication, this episode served as an introduction to next week’s epic hour where Oliver and Felicity will finally have time to talk through their issues. They’ll have no choice but to given that Adrian has trapped them in the Arrow bunker. And given the circumstances and the talks to be had, both Oliver and Felicity should emerge a little more understanding and a little more trusting of each other.

 

A Matter of Trust (Dyla Edition)

It’s not exactly a happy time for two of our favorite Arrow couples, including Diggle and Lyla, who seem to be nearing a crossroads that will determine their future together. The interesting thing about this Diggle and Lyla storyline – apart from the anger within if Arrow even so much as breaks them up – is that Dig and Lyla have been here before.

How easy it is to forget that Diggle and Lyla’s history goes back before Arrow’s conception to their time in the military together. All we really knew was that after the war, they couldn’t maintain a relationship. Naturally some obvious issues come to mind: a lack of communication, trust, and/or understanding. And following Diggle’s reveal that they’ve been in this position before, it’s more important than ever that they be able to do what they didn’t do before: fight for their relationship.

In “Dangerous Liaisons,” Diggle got a glimpse at the ugly truth that Lyla has been hiding in regards to her running ARGUS. When she took over for the fallen Amanda Waller, Lyla promised that she wouldn’t become Waller – that cold, calculating, unjust person. But Diggle began to see shades of Waller in Lyla in this episode that rocked him to his core.

Not only was Diggle watching “one of the best people I know,” Felicity Smoak, descending into darkness, but he had to watch his do the same simultaneously. There’s only so much one John Diggle can take before he begins to question if there even is a moral line if those two women have crossed it.

Diggle watched Lyla “cross a line” in regards to holding Helix’s founder, Cayden James, without due process because he’s incredibly dangerous. But the ends don’t justify the means. Diggle believes in justice. Justice, as in someone being held responsible for crimes they actually committed as opposed to crimes they could commit. But Lyla can’t take that risk, which makes her sound a lot like Amanda Waller.

And this goes both ways, much like the matter of trust does for both Oliver and Felicity. Diggle can’t see Lyla’s perspective. All he sees is her taking risks in order to protect the world from future harm. He doesn’t see that she’s doing what she feels is best to protect people from potential threats. ARGUS hasn’t been exactly a place of holiness, let’s be honest.

But that’s what communication is for. These two need to come to a mutual understanding where they both share their opinions and actually listen and compromise. If they don’t do that, then things don’t look good.

The issue in this episode for Diggle is that he doesn’t recognize the person that Lyla has become. There’s a complete lack of understanding on both sides that has brought them to a crossroads where they need to fix the break before it swallows them whole.

“We’ve been down this road before. We know where this fight takes us.”

Basically, Diggle was hinting at the audience that the last time they lost trust in each other, they ended things. They’ve been in a similar position where trust issues were their downfall. But I refuse to accept that notion. Diggle and Lyla have proven that they’ve only grown stronger during their time apart until they were reunited. It’s an issue now, sure, but as Diggle and Lyla head into a pivotal episode for their future, they now know what spelled their downfall – the lack of communication – versus what’ll ultimately save their marriage – trust and communication.

“So let’s stop it. Let’s move forward,” Lyla tells him.

“I don’t know if I can,” Diggle replies.

Now, this is an important moment for Diggle and Lyla. This is the moment, well episode 5×20 will be, the moment when Diggle and Lyla either come to an understanding or don’t. Only one of those options ends with them still being married.

But I feel like the past has sort of prepared them for this moment. They’ve lived through their last breakup. They know what they did and what they didn’t do. They know what they have to do if they want to save their marriage. Because third time might not be the charm next time.

A Family Affair

While The Flash has always been credited with being the “family” show, family has always been a huge part of Arrow, as well. Perhaps not as often as we’d like (especially this season.) But those moments that we’ve experienced all stem from these family moments, whether that’s blood family or friends that are family. Family is always something that brings a wave of emotion with it unlike any other. It’s an emotional tipping point. And we’re getting to see that emotional tipping point with Rene.

Earlier this season, we received a flashback-heavy episode that revealed a part of Rene’s backstory that led him to where he is today. Shocker, it involved family. But it also involved some pretty heavy stuff that had a not-so-happy ending. Rene’s wife was shot and killed in a home robbery, and his daughter had been taken away from him. We didn’t know exactly why she was taken from him. Until this episode.

One of the unexpected relationships that I’ve come to enjoy this season has been with Rene and Quentin. With Laurel gone, Quentin has sort of taken on this father role to Rene in a dynamic that has been satisfying with its execution and potential.

In “Dangerous Liaisons,” Rene opened up about the issue of losing custody of his daughter – basically because Curtis blabbed to Quentin. But it was a damn good thing he did. Quentin helped get to the root of the issue and ended up inspiring Rene to fight. But it wasn’t easy.

At first, Rene admitted that while he had supervised visitation rights, he didn’t go and see his daughter because he believed that she deserved better than him. Quentin, who has lost both his daughters at one point, couldn’t understand why Rene was so reluctant to see his daughter. How could a father not want to see his daughter? Quentin would sell his soul for one last moment with Laurel. So Quentin tried to fight him on it.

Even when Rene revealed the reason why he didn’t want to see his daughter – because he didn’t trust himself – Quentin was there to guide him. We learned that after his wife had died and he got drunk, passed out, and his daughter burnt her hand badly trying to get the soup off the stove. And that revealed the reason behind Rene’s reluctance: he didn’t trust himself around her.

Rene felt as if not only was he not worthy of his daughter, but that any contact with her would put her at risk because he was a stupid alcoholic some years back.

But things changed when Quentin surprised Rene with a visit from his daughter. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the game changer. That father-daughter reunion jump-started the sprinklers that are my tear ducts as the two bonded over shared interests. But even more so when Rene vowed to fight to get custody of her – despite his initial reluctance to do so.

This is a storyline I’m here for. I haven’t been too fond of the newbies, but I’m interested in seeing how this plays out. I’m now emotionally invested. Damn it.

Five Things

  1. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cared so much or loved Arrow this much. That pisses me off. But at the same time, this is the show that I’ve been waiting for this season. Arrow managed to bring emotions to the forefront that I hadn’t felt in a while. It brought purpose to the show, it brought promise, and it proved that redemption is possible even in the most epic of fails.
  2. Oliver & Felicity scenes truly are next-level type of scenes. Arrow has a great cast and great character dynamics. But there’s just something that you can’t explain when it comes to the significance of Oliver and Felicity moments. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards bring this incredible chemistry, knowledge, and emotion to their scenes together in a way that you don’t usually see. And this episode brought us a couple of those moments that just cannot be explained, only admired.
  3. Oliver & Felicity and Diggle & Lyla’s issues are paralleling each other. At the core of both of these couple’s issues is trust. Although their situations are difference, Felicity and Diggle find themselves questioning their partner’s trust in the other. It’s ironic because Arrow has always said that Diggle is Oliver a couple years in the future, and we’ve taken that to mean the same thing with Diggle and Lyla’s relationship and Oliver and Felicity’s.
  4. Rene reuniting with his daughter really dealt me an emotional blow. Like, I haven’t been a fan of Rene this season because his character has come off quote brash and displeasing. But that goes back to this whole backstory thing, where your audience gets to know a character and grows to love them despite their flaws. Now, I’m not loving Rene just yet. But I’m in deep like as we see this emotional storyline with his daughter play out.
  5. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive an entire week until “Underneath.” Like this is such a weird feeling because I haven’t experienced in over a year. I forgot what this felt like. I forgot what it was like to go about your week without thinking about Arrow next Wednesday. Well, I’m about to become reacquainted with that feeling.

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

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