What was immediately fascinating about this episode is how the flashbacks were in Starling City and the present time was on Lian Yu, a cool contrast from seasons 1-2 where it was the reverse. Especially while in the direct middle of the five-year journey. I also noticed that the present and past were a bit more even this episode, as opposed to majority present, minimal past. The focus of both sides of this episode is Oliver’s relationship with his sister. I am so glad that Oliver told Thea the truth once again. As she said, now they truly have no secrets from each other (well, Oliver always has a few up his sleeve).
We start with Oliver and Thea training on Lian Yu. “Did you learn all this in nine months?”
This episode was so fantastic in exploring the relationship between Oliver and Thea. We know how much Oliver appreciates those who he can be himself with — that strange mix of Oliver and the Arrow that he can only be in the Foundry, but also on Lian Yu. And you can see how weird it is for him, in Stephen Amell’s performance, how he’s still getting used to being himself around his little sister. There’s his restraint, but also his levity (“If I told you what it was, you wouldn’t eat it”) that I think will be important in making Oliver more Oliver and less Arrow. We’ll get to Slade’s quote later, but in this early part of the episode, Oliver begins to access the more human part of him and that’s because of Thea.
In order to avoid Thea’s questions about Sara’s death, Oliver takes a walk to visit Slade in his ARGUS prison, but finds a dead guard there instead!* This explains how Slade was fed, I guess a guard did shifts there and brought him food, but Thea and Oliver seem to feel like they will starve there — won’t the next guard come in a matter of hours to relieve the first guy? Oliver runs back to Thea, contacting Malcolm who let him free. Malcolm wants the Queens to kill Slade to prove they won’t hesitate when killing R’as. He then terminates their phone access (well, Oliver destroys first himself) and waits. Slade gets the drop on them and locks them in his ARGUS prison.
In what was a very painful scene to watch, Oliver and Thea use Thea’s tiny arms to reach the release button for the cells. She tries to reach the normal way, but can’t, so they DISLOCATE HER ARM OMG OW. My arm was hurting that entire scene! It’s a testament to Thea’s growth of course, she previously wouldn’t have soldiered through without screaming, but also shes her trust in her brother. Also, she manages to get through the rest of the episode, with all the fighting and travelling back to Starling, with her arm still in pain. Thea’s getting tougher than anybody is ready for.
Thea and Ollie escape, but before they can catch up to Slade’s escape, they have to stop to catch their breaths and Thea uses the opportunity to ask once again about Sara. She knows something’s off and that Ollie’s hiding something from. And Oliver actually tells her.
I was nervous last week when Thea learned everything but her part in Sara’s death and thought they’d draw it out for a little while longer, but she finds out she’s the one who killed Sara and that Malcolm made her do it. Willa Holland hasn’t gotten to really stretch her acting legs into dark territory yet, but I thought she did a great job expressing her pain at having killed someone who was a friend, having killed someone she grew up with and whose death has affected everyone else around her. She shows such despair, both about Sara and about feeling duped by Malcolm. Her breakdown, however, alerts Slade to their position.
The two Queens fight Slade until Thea gets the upper hand with her gun. Slade eggs her on, but Oliver tries to convince her that killing Slade would only make her more like Malcolm, more like the killer he’s already made her. But she shoots anyway. It’s easy to forget that Thea shot Malcolm point-blank in 2.24, she has it in her. He just happened to be wearing protection. We’re two-for-two in Thea always going for the shot. This will be important to know about her character as she continues on this journey.
Thea’s shot was merely a flesh wound (on purpose or nahh?), so they lock Slade back in his prison. But Slade, as he does, gets in Oliver’s head again. He claims that Oliver has lost his parents and now Thea (which I don’t know if this is true, her anger so far is mostly at Malcolm). “She’s been touched by darkness.” (Very poetic of you, Slade.)
Slade is crazy, but he makes a good point. “How many people can Oliver Queen lose before there is no more Oliver Queen?” While I think his relationship with Thea is still better than it’s ever been, his team is working without him and he has no one else besides them to ground him. Will distancing himself from his humanity help him defeat Ra’s? Or is repairing these relationships best? We’ll find out more next week before the hiatus.
When they return home, Malcolm seems to be waiting in their loft (is there any place Malcolm can’t stealth his way into? No point for locks around him). Malcolm is furious that Oliver told Thea, but Oliver stares back at him with steel in his eyes.
I loved Thea’s rage at Malcolm. She calls BS on his love for her, implicitly understanding that R’as is only after them because of him in the first place! “I will be your student, I’ll be your partner, I will even be your soldier, but never again will I be your daughter.” YES THEA! YES WILLA!
In the past, we see Oliver returns to Starling City, so that ARGUS can catch China White selling the Omega bio-weapon to the highest bidder. Amanda Waller needs Oliver because Peter Kang spent Christmas at the Queen mansion. They follow Kang to his office at Queen Consolidated, but the encryption is so strong they need Oliver to go in and personally get the files from the network. Despite Oliver’s death, they haven’t taken his fingerprint out of the system and he’s able to track the location of the Omega auction. Before Oliver leaves his fathers office two important things happen: he sees a file from his father and he sees Felicity for the first time.
Regarding the Felicity sighting, I simultaneously feel that it was too much but just enough. It’s feels too much for him to have seen her that one time before he met her in her office, too on the nose. But a second viewing and some internet comments pointed out that 1. must be love if Felicity thinks he’s cute with his flashback hair 2. he involuntarily smiles again — this time I think because the remnants of the old Ollie are rejoicing about this hot girl who thinks he’s cute 3. it kinda of makes his surprise at seeing her in 1.03 deeper because he didn’t know her name, so he goes to his office and it’s the girl who thinks he’s cute. What a pleasant surprise. And she still rambles to herself. So I feel a little better about the scene, but hope that this is all the contact flashback!Oliver has with flashback!Felicity.
We get glimpses of perpetual drunk!Lance (“I’m just observing how one little boat trip could turn everybody’s live to crap!”), fresh out of law school Laurel, big brother Tommy, and substance abuse!Thea. As follows the main plot, the person Oliver is most interested in (note: it’s not Laurel) is Thea. He sees her procuring drugs and follows her to Tommy’s birthday party where he kills the man who sold it to her.
Is this the first time we see Oliver kill someone less because he was forced to in a life/death situation? I know he was endangering Thea, which would make any big brother angry, and he was going to tell his secret, but outside of island survival or the ARGUS mission, this feels like a first. If there is a prior incident like this in the flashbacks, please remind me of another situation in the comments!
Oliver wants to say screw the consequences and quit working for ARGUS, hoping that his family’s money will keep them safe, but then he watches his father’s video message to him. (Robert channels his inner Walter White: “I told myself everything I did, I did for my family. That was a lie.” Did you just enjoy it, Robert?) In it, he tells Oliver that “What good is a family without a soul?” Oliver wanted to come back home and save his family from their self-destruction, but he realizes he must perform the greater good.
“You can save this city.”
I believe it’s been said before that when he came home in 1.01, it was “time* to come home. It’s been implied before that Oliver could have gone home earlier but chose to go home then. Here is one, of possibly many, moments when Oliver will deny himself such an opportunity.
Oliver and Maseo stop the auction and get the Omega component back, China White begins to hunt for Tatsu and her son again, and who I assume is the shady military director of ARGUS promises to let Oliver go anywhere he wants if he returns with them to Hong Kong for debriefing. Clearly this is a lie, but also, I wonder if Oliver will choose to go home if actually given the opportunity after having watched his father’s video.
I really enjoyed this episode. I am so glad we’re getting to see Oliver’s relationship with his sister and I am excited to see where it goes. In the past, we see Oliver take action against someone harming Thea, protecting her at all costs, but in the present, he is finally learning to let her make her own choices by giving her the knowledge she needs to make informed decisions. He will still protect her, but he will let her choose how. This was supremely exemplified when he dislocated her arm. He knew she could take it, did it, but still cradled her arm as they reached for the button and immediately held her afterwards. He’s learning to treat her like a grown-up.
I liked getting glimpses into all of our characters’ pasts, the return of Tommy and Slade, and the sort of tag where Quentin blasts his daughter from keeping Sara’s death from him. That moment was so crucial and well earned (despite how frustrating it was). I wonder what Lance’s distance from his daughter means in the long run for his relationship with Team Arrow and her evolution into the Black Canary (he said the thing! He said the thing! Is he the Cisco of Starling City in terms of naming people?).
I had this exact thought when Laurel dumps the liquor over Sara’s grave. Christelle came in with the perfect gif.
- Oliver was stranded in 2007, making this somewhere in 09/10 depending on when he was shipwrecked plus two and a half years later. Just thinking of where everyone is at in their journey. John is back from Afghanistan, but his brother is still alive. I hope we get to see more of Diggle the Younger! I love that they worked together and we of course need to finally see the moment he got shot, perhaps in the Suicide Squad episode? Great casting of Eugene Byrd (who I know from Bones) as his brother, especially because he is so tiny compared to John. Just in that quick visual, you understand why John’s brother means so much to him and why he was so hurt when he died.
- Late 09/10 means Felicity is recently out of MIT. I assume she got hired immediately after she graduated. I think I’ve heard from the producers (or second-hand on Twitter maybe?) that she might also have a masters degree from somewhere? I wonder if that’s still in her back story, if she’s getting her masters while at QC, or if MIT was grad school and she really graduated super early from undergrad…
- Flashback Ollie’s hair is bad enough, but with that hat on…! I hope it becomes ponytail long enough soon, maybe that will help hide how terrible his hair is? LOL
- Thea doesn’t know Oliver wasn’t always on Lian Yu yet, does she? Actually, do any members of Team Arrow know about Hong Kong yet?
- I love the consistency with which Oliver always startles awake, immediately alert to where he is and on edge. Twice in this episode, but consistently whenever we see him awake from sleep. It’s never gradual, but not always a nightmare jolt either.
- I feel like Robert’s message could’ve been longer? I wanted more, but I guess he figured he’d have time to go back and add more. And maybe some of it was cut for time.
- Knowing that Oliver sacrificed helping his family for the greater good is the past is exemplified in the present in his treatment of Thea (keep her out of harms way, but his secret and his mission was more important than her knowing the truth) and his willingness to let Felicity go (and even Laurel in season one). He’s conditioned himself to self-sacrifice.
- I first wanted to use the subtitle “Killer Queens” but I really think it will probably come to better use down the road. I feel it.