So yes; it was a bait and switch after all. The grave at the beginning of the season not only wasn’t Felicity’s, but there are still four months to go before we will find out. The original foreshadowing made it seem as if it would take place directly after the midseason hiatus; but this wasn’t the case, and there is still someone very close to the Green Arrow who will be lost soon enough.
At first it was easy to be cynical and decry the showrunners for not having the gall to actually kill Felicity off, but the apparent spinal damage and the execution of the emotional fallout within Team Arrow prevented it from having little to no consequence. This would seem to be Felicity taking on the role of Oracle from Batman lore; the tech-savvy sidekick pinned to a wheelchair, which isn’t truly different from the role she already filled. Figuring out who will occupy that grave should an interesting revelation, and given all the foreshadowing, had better be a massive shift in the team dynamic.
With the Green Arrow out for blood and looking to kill Damien Darkh once and for all, we were treated to an intense opening sequence of Oliver dropping body after body in his hunt for interrogation. It had some serious throwback vibes, recalling back to Season 1 and his lethal vigilantism. This resulted in a rewarding moral dilemma for Oliver, as he questioned his role as the Green Arrow, whether he can truly be the hero the city and his friends need him to be if he’s not willing to go all the way. Stephen Amell’s acting sold his internal struggle, his longing to see Felicity but his reluctance in going to her in shame knowing that he hasn’t made things right by her and ended Darkh yet. His conversations with Diggle in the Arrowcave and later Felicity in the hospital helped cement his drive in needing to find the limit as to what he will or will not do to protect his city.
With Damien Darkh outed to the public and now on the run, we got to see true fear as the hunter became the hunted. His ferocity in attacking Oliver with his own arrows (a cool use of his powers, as Oliver opted to fight him melee initially to prevent exactly that) showed that even though he is a man who acknowledges his existence as the bad guy still retains some sense of honor. In rescuing his family from Anarky, he did Oliver a kindness and spared him. And he got called out for it by his wife as well! This tracks with Damien answering to the rest of HIVE in the previous episode, as not only is he not the man truly in charge, but his actions seem to be motivating in fulfilling his wife’s wishes. Perhaps she’s the true adversary, and Damien is just the front?
And Anarky! Not being a fan at all of his first appearance this season, the very concept of Anarky making a return made me apprehensive. Dealing with the psychological damage from his “baptism by fire” and now resorting to wearing a mask to hide his burn scars (evoking his comic book appearance) he seems to slowly fall more in line with the source material. Whereas his initial appearance made him out to be just an assassin with the flair for the dramatic, Anarky 2.0 seemed to be heavily The Dark Knight inspired, a little bit of The Joker here, a little bit of Two-Face there. Choosing to enact justice in a way that he knew was not just, but chaotic. It’s still a far cry from the young, rebellious and revolution-inspiring source character, but given the dramatic scale of his growth here alone makes me excited to see how he develops in the future. That is, except for his obsession with Thea. That was a bit weird.
This episode was all about crossing lines. Oliver debating whether he can be the Green Arrow or returning to the nature of The Hood, Thea edging the line of her bloodlust, and Diggle bringing the fraternal smackdown on Andy to get the information they needed, it all came down to how people choose to react to the cards they are dealt. It was effective, it brought things back up to speed, and promises some interesting developments in the back half of the season.