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REVIEW: Arrow 4×12 “Unchained”

Written by Alex Reale

 

I guess I just expected too much from the recent episode of Arrow. I mean, not only was Colton Haynes coming back as Roy Harper, but he was actually going to suit up in his Arsenal costume! Of course Arrow fans were going to be thrilled. However, this episode, “Unchained”, reduced Roy’s appearance to an unnecessary plot point that had little to no purpose in the main story arc. In addition to this, the show is also pushing further and further into becoming more Felicity-centric, and let’s just say that I’m not too thrilled with this choice. (spoilers ahead!)

Team Arrow is chasing down a parkour-loving burglar who’s been prowling around Star City. During their chase, Thea collapses and loses consciousness. It turns out that the Lazarus Pit is STILL having negative effects on her well-being. That means she’ll have to hang up the Speedy costume and sit this one out. Don’t worry – we’ll still have a red-wearing archer working with Team Arrow this week.

Oliver soon discovers that the burglar is none other than Roy Harper. It turns out that he’s being forced to carry out these burglaries for a vile hacker named the Calculator; if he doesn’t, the Calculator will reveal the truth of Roy Harper’s fake death to the world. Fortunately, Felicity and co. are able to rescue him from the villain’s influence, allowing Roy to temporarily join their team once again. One quick question: where the hell did Roy get his Arsenal costume from? Did he have a spare, or do he and Thea share clothing sizes? A minor nitpick, but still worth noting nonetheless.

Elsewhere, Nyssa Al Ghul escapes her imprisonment in Nanda Parbat and ventures to Japan in search of a mysterious Lotus. Who happens to be protecting the Lotus? Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana. I’m not going to comment on the amazing coincidence that this single person just HAPPENED to be guarding the object that Nyssa was searching for, but I will admit that it was a welcome return for the character. Unfortunately, I have a strong feeling that Tatsu will be killed off soon. With the Suicide Squad film coming up, DC has been slowly eliminating characters that are overlapping between the movie and the television universes. First they killed off Deadshot, then Amanda Waller. Since Katana is also in the film, I’m assuming her Arrow counterpart will be gone soon enough.

Once again, Felicity stole some screen time this week. Normally, I respect and love characters who have to overcome personal struggles and challenges (see Beth or Carol from The Walking Dead). But with Felicity, I just don’t give a damn. I can show a little respect for her and her journey to defy her newfound paraplegia, but the character herself annoys the crap out of me. This show is becoming way too focused on Felicity (and most of the side characters for that matter). We already had a heavy Felicity episode last week (and I absolutely abhorred “Goth Felicity”). Do we need yet another episode based around her? I’ll bear with the fact that the show doesn’t revolve solely around Oliver Queen anymore, but if you’re going to focus on other characters, give them all a fair shot. Don’t pinpoint Felicity just because Tumblr seems to be obsessed with her.

At the climax of this episode, the Calculator attempts to set off a bomb that will destroy Star City, until he’s blocked by Felicity and her cyber skills. The two share a barrage of insults via distorted voice-chat while Team Arrow works on diffusing the villain’s bomb. Roy selflessly sacrifices himself to blow up the bomb while everyone else escapes. The building explodes and you think that Roy’s a goner. Nah, bro. He’s perfectly fine. They couldn’t kill off Arsenal that easily, could they?

Slowing down a bit, the episode’s conclusion shows Felicity overcoming her self-consciousness and giving a stellar presentation to a group of Palmer Tech investors. Who happens to be in the audience sitting next to Felicity’s fiance? The Calculator. Three seconds later, we find out that he’s Felicity father. No surprise here. The theory of the Calculator being related to Felicity has been floating around for a while. My only question is: does the Calculator know that Felicity was the one who foiled his earlier bombing plan, or is he just as clueless about it as she is?

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Overall, Roy’s involvement in this episode was pretty meaningless. What was the entire point of him coming back? Is he going to be sticking around, or was this a one-and-done deal? I’m guessing the producers wanted to bring him back as fan service since so many people demanded it. At the same time, I’m wondering if they brought him back to further tease who is in the grave. Is it Roy? Or is it Thea, and Roy is permanently coming back to Team Arrow? It looks like we won’t know for a while…

Speaking of Thea, we learn at the end of the episode that Nyssa’s Lotus could actually negate the effects of the Lazarus Pit, thus curing Thea of her blood lust. Nyssa offers to give the Lotus to Oliver in exchange for him killing Malcolm Merlyn. According to the previews for next week, the two will actually come together for an epic sword fight. I highly doubt it’ll be a fight to the death. Arrow won’t kill off Malcolm Merlyn when he’s one of the best (and most popular) villains on the show. Chances are they will find a way to work around it. Maybe Merlyn will kill Nyssa instead? Or maybe Nyssa, Merlyn, and Oliver will have to join forces to take out Damien Darhk?

I can’t end this review without talking about the flashbacks. I’ve been hating them since the beginning of Season 3, and this season’s flashbacks are even more pointless. This week, we see a dream sequence WITHIN the flashback. During that dream, guess who comes back? Shado! Remember Shado? She’s back to help Oliver wrestle with his guilt over killing Taiana’s brother a few episodes back. This whole flashback scene was unnecessary. I think they threw it in at the last minute because they HAVE to have flashbacks and because they wanted to show Shado again.

Overall, I was disappointed with this episode. To be honest, I’ve been disappointed with Arrow this entire season. I think Greg Berlanti and co. are too preoccupied with The FlashLegends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl to give this show the attention that it deserves. We have the makings of a spectacular season, but so far, it’s been a bit of a disappointment. Let’s hope that Arrow kicks it back into high gear by next week.

Final Grade: C

+ Some good fight scenes.

+ It was nice seeing some familiar faces come back.

+ Great performances all around.

– There was no point to Roy’s return.

– The whole “dream” sequence with Oliver and Shado was confusing and unnecessary.

– The introduction of the Calculator/Papa Smoak means that we’ll be getting more Felicity-centric episodes; I miss the days when the show revolved around the titular character more than the co-stars…

Extra Thoughts:

– I wonder if the Calculator and Damien Darhk will team up, or if they’ll become rivals for control over Star City.

What were your thoughts on last night’s Arrow? Were you happy to see Roy, Nyssa, and Tatsu return? What did you think about the Calculator plot twist? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!