WARNING: This review contains spoilers
Did Arrow just kill off a major and beloved character? It certainly looks that way, although this season has seen the return of several previously thought dead characters (Sara, Diggle’s brother, and Ray), so I’m holding out hope. Either way though, the holidays were filled with Darkness for the Arrow team.
Oliver is in full campaign mode when the episode starts. He is leading a volunteer event at the waterfront for his ‘Save the Bay’ program, with Felicity, Thea, Laurel, Diggle, and the community there to support him. A drone flies into the scene though attacking the civilians, children included, with bullets. Felicity is thankfully able to remotely gain control of the drone and crash it into the water before anyone is killed.
Back at Arrow HQ Oliver is fuming. It’s clear to him that Damien Darhk is behind this act of terrorism, but the question remains: How do they retaliate? Diggle confronts his brother again looking for a clue in how to defeat Darhk, but he’s clearly still loyal to H.I.V.E. and won’t cooperate. The team comes up with a plan of action in the end though, but it’s a dangerous. Oliver is hesitant to follow through with it though as it puts everyone at risk but they all insist and he ultimately agrees.
In front of a swarm of cameras and reporters Oliver announces that he knows the man behind the attack on the bay: Damien Darhk. He distributes a photo of Darhk and proclaims that he is the leader of the Ghosts and a part of the organization H.I.V.E. He urges the city to stand united and bring him to justice together. We’ve seen Oliver take plenty of risks before, but that was as the Green Arrow, and this is as Oliver Queen. It’s a bold step and one that I fear will have serious consequences.
Having just painted targets onto their backs, Oliver is planning on canceling his planned campaign holiday party (not Christmas, Felicity reminds him, intending to represent her Jewish heritage as well). His friends disagree though. They can’t stop living their lives just because Dahrk is lurking in the background, and it’s important to show the city that they aren’t scared or intimidated. Oliver ultimately relents, but has them beef up security.
At the party, Felicity is a ball of nerves and awkwardness and it isn’t because of Darhk. Her mother found an engagement ring among the Christmas decorations earlier at their apartment. After talking to Curtis and his husband about their engagement, Felicity realizes that Oliver was planning to purpose to her months ago when Thea and Laurel showed up back in the season premiere. She’s hurt and confused that he didn’t go through with it and asks him why. He tells her that everything’s changed and their lives have become more dangerous. She says that she’s very aware of this, but still chose this life with him. Before he can respond, he’s interrupted by Darhk and his band of Ghosts. Leave it to this guy to ruin the holidays on top of everything else. He knocks Oliver out using his powers, and when he comes to Darhk’s gone, having taken Diggle, Thea, and Felicity with him.
Next, we see the Green Arrow wailing on a Ghost, demanding the location of Darhk. While he doesn’t kill the man, it’s the most aggressive and dangerous we’ve seen Oliver in some time. He and Laurel, who wasn’t captured because she was busy handling the tip line Oliver set up on Darhk at the party, try fruitlessly to figure out how to get them back with Laurel insisting that it isn’t his fault and all of them can handle themselves, Oliver is too upset to listen and goes back to chasing down Ghosts. Meanwhile, a tip comes in for Laurel indicating that Quentin has been involved with H.I.V.E. She confronts him and he reveals that while he had been working for Darhk because he threatened Laurel, he’s now a double agent for Oliver. She tells him that she is more than capable of protecting herself and doesn’t need his help. They then both get a text from Oliver to meet them back at headquarters.
Their meeting is interrupted unexpectedly by Malcolm, commenting about just how easy it is to sneak in to their hideout. He knows Laurel is in danger and wants to help. He whips out a specialized a phone the Ghosts use to communicate with one another and Darhk. How’d he get it? “I’m Ra’s al Ghul,” he tells Quentin matter-of-factly. Well, fair enough. Normally, they would try and trace Darhk’s origins using the phone, but that’s not possible without Felicity. So, Oliver decides the only course of action is to trade himself for his friends’ freedom. He calls Darhk and decides to do just that.
Darhk brings him into a warehouse and in a chilling speech speculates about how the Nazis really weren’t all that bad. Every once in a while humanity needs a reset, he speculates. Uh oh, if he was just a bad guy before he’s now full on sociopath. He brings Oliver in front of a large gas chamber and presents him with a demonstration. One of his volunteers comes forward, a “true believer” he calls them, and his apparently brainwashed follower willingly enters the tank and is killed by the invisible gas that enters.
The gas uses algae from Star City’s bay and he intends on using it on the city, which explains why he was so adamant that Oliver stay away from it. Now, Darhk tells him, he’ll do his bidding as mayor. He takes him to where Felicity is being held captive, letting them say their goodbyes. Felicity is relieved to see Oliver, but upset he’s exchanging his life for theirs, saying that’s something the old Oliver would do. He says he had no choice and had to protect her, but she tells him that she decides when she need protection, affirming yet again why Felicity is one of Arrow’s best and most beloved characters. (I would also argue she’s one of the best female characters on television period). And for the record, if he’d proposed, she would have said yes, she tells him.
Dahrk has Felicity, Thea, and Diggle brought out, but the plan changes. He traps them in the chamber intending to kill them with that same gas. Oliver is furious, telling Dahrk they had a deal and he’ll never be his puppet now. Damien seems unphased, reminding Oliver that he is a villain and that now he’ll have no reason to keep fighting. Oliver rushes to the chamber and he and Felicity mouth “I love you” to each other in despair.
Thankfully, Laurel shows up and breaks the glass with her Canary cry (although she really cut it close on time there). She’s not alone, the Green Arrow is with her. Although it’s not the Green Arrow at all, but Malcolm in disguise. Quentin shows up with cops to help, and everyone is able to escape and fight their way out. Oliver and Malcolm find themselves in a tussle with Darhk but Malcolm is able to use an exploding arrow on him, seeming to destroy him and allowing them to get away.
Felicity is unsure he’s actually dead, having seen a horror movie or two and noting the lack of a body, but the team is able to rest a little easier now, especially considering they’re all back together. Oliver attends a tree lighting event for the city and brings Felicity up with him for his speech. He tells her and everyone watching that she’s the light of his life and asks him to make him the happiest man alive. She happily says yes, and everything is happy, hopeful, and lovely. Until it’s not.
As Christmas carols play in the background, Darhk enters a room where a woman and her daughter decorate a Christmas tree. They see him and greet him with a hug. This man has a family? And he spends the holidays with them? Maybe he’s not a complete monster after all. Well, hold that thought.
Juxtaposed with that scene, is Felicity and Oliver basking in their happiness in the backseat of their car. All of the sudden though they find their vehicle surrounded and Ghosts begin attacking the vehicle with bullets. Their driver is killed and Oliver attempts to shield Felicity. He makes his way to the driver’s seat though and puts his foot on the break to speed out of there. Once out of danger, he finds Felicity’s been shot and pulls her seemingly lifeless body out of the vehicle.
This is beyond devastating. Felicity has proved herself an invaluable part of the team and show. The writing and dialogue for character has always been the sharpest among all of Arrow’s leads, she brings humor and heart to the series, fans adore her, and Emily Bett Rickards is a terrific actress who shares amazing chemistry with Stephen Amell. While this could be all be a ploy to make us mistakenly believe she’s dead (it is a mid-season finale after all), there is a very real possibility she may be dead. Felicity was never intended originally to be a part of this show and someone is in that grave from the season premiere. All I know is that these next few weeks waiting for the return of Arrow are going to feel very long.