Arrow ‘A.W.O.L.’ Review: Letting Go

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WARNING: This review contains spoilers

As Damien Darhk promised in “Blood Debts,” we were treated to a reprieve of his antics this week on Arrow, allowing for a more character driven episode. However, we still saw our share of baddies and spilled blood.

This week’s episode focused again on Andy and Diggle’s relationship. It would be easy for Arrow writers to cast Andy as a pure villain. I mean, he did abandon his family, took part in illegal activities while in the military, and worked for Darhk, so he is a bad guy, right? Well, thankfully the writers don’t necessarily see it that way. While addressing his misdeeds, Arrow also refuses to put him in a box and, like many of their past baddies, allows him to be morally complex and ultimately capable of redemption. It’s a testament to the quality of this show that its characters whether “hero” or “villain” have both good and bad qualities to them, just like real people.

Rather than the typical (and increasingly frustrating) island flashbacks featuring Oliver, this time around the flashbacks concern John’s time serving in Afghanistan along with Andy. Seeing the two together pre-Darhk helps the viewer see just how strong the two’s bond was, and really develops Andy’s character. While serving, the brothers are offered an opportunity to cash in on some drugs they recently confiscated by their superior officer, Joyner. Diggle is proud to see Andy turn down the offer, happy to think the military has straightened him out.
Joyner comes back into Diggle’s life as the leader of the dangerous criminal group Shadowspire, when the organization abduct an ARGUS agent in front of Lyla and him right after revealing he’s been compromised.
Diggle confronts Andy and questions his involvement with these war profiteers, and how he could have even joined them in the first place. Andy says they just saw the world differently, Diggle as something that could be fixed, and him as something merely broken. While he insists he’s no longer involved in Shadowspire, he says he’s familiar with how they work, and agrees to help. He’s transferred to a holding cell at ARGUS by Lyla’s former boss Amanda for debriefing.
Acting on a tip, the Arrow Team waits for Shadowspire soldiers to show up at a weapons shipment. However, it was an intentional misdirection as Andy predicted, and Shadowspire soldiers break into ARGUS and Joyner holds Amanda and Lyla hostage looking for the passcodes to access the top secret Rubicon. Diggle is forced to trust his brother again, and the two, with help from the Arrow manage to take down Joyner and the soldiers.

Another prinicipal member of Team Arrow was also confronted with her past in this episode. Felicity, now bound to a wheelchair after the shooting, is struggling to adjust to her injury and re-evaluating her role on the team. Despite Oliver’s assurances that Felicity should get back to work with them and her superpower is her mind, which is unaffected, she doesn’t feel ready. In fact, she is being haunted by her old self. Literally. Thanks to hallucinations brought on by her pain medications Felicity’s being visited by her former Goth hacker self, someone who’s frankly a lot less pleasant than the Felicity we’ve come to know and love. She’s angry, saucy, and bitter. Overwhlemed, Felicity yells at her to shut up and leave her alone, only for Oliver to think those comments were meant for him. Goth Felicity accuses her of living a lie and becoming only a shadow of her former self. We’re not heroes, she tells her, and pretending to be one hasn’t done you any good.

Rather than give into self-pity though, Felicity realizes this is her now. She likes playing hero and helping people. She’s not the same selfish, angry person she used to be. She tells Oliver this proudly this and that she’s ready to return to the team. Upon seeing his hesitation, she sees minds him that what happened to her isn’t his fault or hers, it’s Darhk’s. And they’ll get him, because that’s what they do. She then proceeds to guide the Arrow and company from behind the scenes in their take down of Shadowspire, gaining the codename Overwatch in the process.

The episode’s end finds both Diggle and Felicity saying goodbye to their past in different ways. Diggle decides to let go of the anger and disappointment he feels in his brother and lets Andy back into his life, releasing him from his cage and introducing him to his daughter. Meanwhile, Felicity shows Oliver a photo of her Goth-era self before burning it to symbolize that she’s no longer that person.
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