It’s Felicity VS The Calculator in this week’s Arrow
“Unchained” may not be the best overall episode of Arrow’s fourth season, but it has plenty of moments that are memorable for not just the characters, but the entire Arrow universe.
Felicity Smoak, CEO
After Felicity’s incredibly eventful parts in the last two episodes, I’m sure the story is ready to give her a break. Of course, Felicity is one of Arrow’s most bankable characters, so I guess that’s probably not going to happen. As it turns out though, this is a storyline that is much more up Felicity’s alley as she goes head to head with hacking taskmaster The Calculator, a DC comics super-villain that is pretty recognizable for comic book fans. Now this is probably the perfect nemesis for Felicity, not just because of his abilities but because of his penchant for creating chaos within the system compared to Felicity’s role as a defender of the system. Nowhere is this more evident than in the zero-hour hack-battle, which mimics a similar sequence in an Oracle comic against the titular hero and The Calculator. Of course, afk Felicity is attempting to deal with her new disability and her role as Palmer Tech CEO. A struggle made all the more obvious by a looming keynote that she has to deliver to investors. It’s a new obstacle for her to overcome, and it’s interesting that despite the fast paced world of Arrow refusing to let up on her despite this new setback, her strength of character is too great to buckle without a fight. In fact, I’d say since Felicity’s incident, we’ve seen her character stock go up and become more certain. It doesn’t hurt that Emily Bett Rickards knows how to deliver a one-liner either.
Bloodlust, Peppers, and Ex-Boyfriends
“Unchained” also marks both the return of Colton Haynes as Roy Harper and Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul. Thea’s bloodlust in back, but this time in a much more silent killer fashion that forces every member of the team (especially Oliver) to contend with the question of how far they are willing to go to save one of their own. This is a question that becomes a reality as Roy is blackmailed in to committing crimes, to avoid having identity exposed and putting his friends in Star City in jeopardy. Colton Haynes slips right back in to form as Roy, even suiting up and going back to his Arsenal persona for a time. The real star is Thea though, as her character development over the tenure of the series is put to the test when a quandary between life and death comes up. All of this works on a thematic level, as Roy and Thea both prove just how much they have grown up since the show started. Brilliantly, “Unchained” takes Oliver out of the driver’s seat, and gives the power of choice to the other characters. It serves to create emotional tension for Oliver, but it also throws the responsibility of plot development to the supporting cast, a decision that makes the story move forward in a different direction than Oliver’s decisions would push it. It’s nice to see an episode dictated by Thea and Felicity, but Laurel’s character is really starting to fall behind in terms of relevance.
The Nyssa storyline doesn’t eat up a lot of screentime, and it isn’t really explored to its fullest, but a brief return for Rila Fukushima as Katana adds some intrigue to the future of Nyssa’s assault on Malcolm’s League of Assassins.
Final Word: The Felicity aspect takes the cake as far as interest in concerned for “Unchained.” Roy’s return is a welcome one, and the way his character is brought back is very interesting as it introduces Arrow audiences to one of DC’s most brilliant tech based villains, the Calculator. Tom Amandes succeeds in bringing The Calculator to life in a realistic way, but not enough is done with the character to take full advantage of his rich history in the comics. Thea’s storyline is downplayed appropriately, but Willa Holland still manages to deliver a strong performance, making the most of Thea’s tragic situation. Unfortunately, the action for the episode is looking a bit off. Punches noticeably didn’t connect at times, and characters slowed down to a crawl in scenes that were supposedly urgent. Usually Arrow really delivers in terms of action and stunts, but this time it was much harder to buy.
“Unchained” gets a 7.5/10: Sloppy action isn’t enough to hold back this otherwise strong character driven episode of Arrow. Oliver’s part is limited in the proceedings, but Stephen Amell still delivers character drama. Everyone gets enough to do, but Felicity and Thea are the ones that make the most of it. Plus, everybody loves Colton Haynes, so it was good to see him back as Roy; even if it was only for one episode.