TV Korner: Arrow 4.11- “A.W.O.L.”

By patricksmith - January 28, 2016

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A.W.O.L. is a Diggle and Felicity focused story at it’s core, but it’s also a welcome distraction from the “Who’s in the Ground” game.

I’ve always considered Diggle to be the personification of Oliver’s conscience. This idea was only helped along by his more passive role in the last three seasons; but season four has given Diggle a costume, a codename (a bitchin’ codename, I might add), and most importantly, things to actually do. Not only has David Ramsey shined in his new role as an active member of the team, that activity in the field has actually strengthened his contributions out of it. The pre-fight meetings and the post fight wrap ups are made much more engaging thanks to that increase in his personal stake. Felicity on the other hand has improved as a character by maintaining a constant off the field presence. This works well though. It gives her defining character trait of compassion an external representation, as she watches over (ohhhhh…I see what they did there) her team. Despite the great deal of metaphoric personality that they contribute to the overall team dynamic, A.W.O.L. drops the thematic pretense and delivers a solid conflict with Diggle and Felicity at its center.

“The Taliban aren’t ready for the Diggle brothers.”

Despite my posturing about this being a story about both of them, Felicity doesn’t even get involved until the third act, so it would be accurate to say that this is a Diggle story first. Diggle’s plot-line is yet another that practically comes out of nowhere. The sudden emergence of this week’s conflict lacks a natural transition, but it’s an abruptness that isn’t dwelled upon, as the plot gets underway almost instantly. The villains of the week aren’t particularly interesting or even original for Arrow (I think this is like the fourth private military firm that the team has had to deal with in the show’s tenure.) What sets these enemies apart from the flood of other military themed villains we’ve seen before is the sheer ruthlessness they show during the episode. So much so that they even deliver one of the more shocking deaths that the show has seen. Surprisingly though, it isn’t Team Arrow that acts as the primary force of good in the episode. This time, it’s the Diggle brothers. It’s a rocky road to be sure, and that’s one reason that it’s so intriguing. It’s easy for anyone with siblings to relate to either John or Andy’s position. The modern scenes are the frame, but the flashbacks are the glue. Not only do we see how the brothers worked together during their military time, but the expectation and pressure on Andy as well as John’s guilt are all made readily evident. There’s still superhero level action and excitement at play, and it’s all Arrow caliber, which is too impressive to be ignored but has also become the standard. A story about two brothers is classic though, and it adds a layer of classicism to A.W.O.L..


The other big thing happening in A.W.O.L. is Felicity’s return from the hospital, and her attempts to acclimate to her new life. Which is surely difficult enough, but now her past self feels it necessary to torture and taunt her for facing the consequences of a life among heroes. These scenes were brilliant. Not only do they showcase Emily Bett Rickards playing two parts of her character and even toy with playing the villain, in this case, quite literally, acting as her own worst enemy; they also illustrate the turmoil Felicity is actually going through after losing the use of her legs by bringing in an avatar of her independence. It’s a savage character study that sees Felicity essentially taking herself apart, but it’s also profoundly revealing. This is one of the most involved scenes we’ve witnessed Felicity having in this season, so to see it pull no punches in characterization is a breath of fresh air that’s a long time coming. All of which culminates in an ending that is both hopeful and triumphantly characteristic for Felicity.

Final Word: To read this you’d think that Oliver and the rest of the team don’t actually have a lot to do during A.W.O.L.. Well, that’s only partially true. All of them contribute physically and Oliver and Felicity have a few tender and heartwarming scenes together as they try to find the middle ground between Felicity’s independence and Oliver’s insistence on helping her get comfortable with her situation. Other than that, there’s not really anything going on up in the heads of the rest of Team Arrow. That’s the trade-off. Diggle and Felicity get a lot to do, but it’s at the expense of every other character. It’s not a bad thing that the rest of the team is being pushed back for story priorities, but their distinct lack of perspective kind of makes their presence in the episode almost eerie in a way. Regardless, A.W.O.L. is still a strong personal story that is better off told.

A.W.O.L. gets an 8.5/10. Diggle and Felicity deserve to have this kind of attention, but the detriment of definable roles from everyone else keeps the episode from standing up straight.

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