Arrow is really hitting its stride this season, consistently delivering a tone that’s lighter and more entertaining than last season’s dark, slow-moving melodrama.
When I think about it, “tone” is a tough concept to really define or explain—which is kind of embarrassing, because I talk about it a lot! But I think that this week’s episode is a good example of where tone comes from, and how Arrow can continue to get it right.
As it turns out, tone is not just a matter of subject matter. “Lost Souls” deals with a lot of the Big Serious Themes that Arrow’s been bogged down with for years: death, loss, guilt, resurrection, relationship problems. But despite all those Big Serious Themes, it’s a breezy, fun episode with lots of laughs and sweetness between the superhero-ing and pain. So let’s look at how that breezy, fun sausage gets made, shall we? (Ew. Sorry.)
Felicity is desperately searching for Ray Palmer, who—according to his secret messages—is “still alive” and “in trouble.” She discovers that he accidentally miniaturized himself six months ago, and is now trapped in a glass box on Damian Darhk’s desk. (Okay, now that I type that sentence, I’m a little disappointed the show didn’t play this situation for a few more laughs. But I guess Ray’s life is technically in peril, so whatever. You do you, Arrow. You do you.)
Anyway, Felicity is working non-stop to save Ray, so Oliver comes up with a brilliant (read: less than brilliant) plan to distract her by inviting Donna Smoak to town. Yes, it’s the triumphant return of Felicity’s ridiculous mother!
As usual, Felicity proceeds to get very frustrated with her mother, and even more frustrated with Oliver. She’s wracked with guilt over not discovering Ray’s messages sooner, and convinced that she’s the only one who can save him. Consequently, she spends a lot of this episode pushing everyone—particularly Oliver—away.
Which is sad! But this is also one of the best character-building episodes Felicity’s had in a long, long time. After spending most of last season alternately weeping and getting her heart broken, it’s great to see the always-charming Emily Bett Rickards get to be an actual character again. She gets to be funny, cute, guilty, frustrated, angry, determined—you know, like a person! It’s great.
Perhaps most importantly, Felicity eventually comes to the conclusion that she’s “lost herself in” her relationship with Oliver, and that she needs some time to decide who she is without him. Again, this is sort of heartbreaking, but also probably true—Arrow did lose track of who Felicity Smoak was for a while there. It turned her into a kind of (heh) smoke detector, but for Oliver’s terribleness instead of fire. Wait—Oliver’s being sulky and egotistical again? But how will we know unless Felicity cries about it???
But “Lost Souls” digs its way out of that pattern by giving us a Felicity-driven episode. There’s no way you could argue that Oliver is the protagonist of this episode—and that ends up working very, very well.
Anyway, to rescue Ray, Team Arrow (now, including Sara!) steals some fancy “quantum manifold” science from a rival tech company. It’s a fun heist scene, with a big team doing lots of quipping and joking and snarking at each other! Everything goes pretty well, except for when Sara goes a bit overboard and beats a guard to a bloody pulp! Oops!
Later, Oliver has some sad feelings about how Felicity sorta wants to break up with him, so he retreats to his feelings basement Arrow Cave to drink whiskey with Diggle. They have a nice, manly talk about how cool strong women are, and how it’s important to trust the people you love to come back to you. Much like the rest of this episode, the substance of the scene sounds very serious, but it ends up being very positive and endearing onscreen. That’s “tone” for you, I guess. Digg and Oliver tease each other, nobody’s lying to anyone else, lots of jokes are cracked, and people don’t glower and cry at each other for 45 minutes. Like I said: tone!
Armed with their new tech, the Team storms Darhk’s H.I.V.E. headquarters. Two fun heist team-ups in one episode! And the second one’s got even more fun stuff, including:
- Tricky double-crosses!
- Base jumping!
- Curtis Holt helping out Team Arrow in the field!
- Two Black Canaries!
- Funny bad codenames!
- Oliver trying to shoot arrows at an immortal magic guy!
Everything goes great, except for when Sara totally murders a guy. (Oops!) Curtis and Felicity re-embiggen Ray, and Sara decides to run away from her problems by
starring on a spin-off TV show “starting again” in a new city.
Overall, “Lost Souls” is about re-assembling a big, inclusive Team Arrow. And it also affirms how great this show can be when it embraces its big, likable cast as an ensemble, and not as peripheral satellites orbiting Planet Oliver.
In the end, Donna advises her daughter not to be afraid of falling hard for Oliver: he’s a good guy, and Felicity’s strong enough to be her “bajillion-dollar CEO” self and in love at the same time. Felicity and Oliver make up—and make out—and Felicity says, “We found ourselves in each other.”
And some other people find each other, too! After all, there’s nothing like a little romance to enliven our gang of sad, traumatized vigilantes. Thea agrees to go on a date with Oliver’s campaign manager, and Donna and Quentin share a drink at a bar—ironically, without realizing just how much they have in common. It’s pretty cute.
So, overall, Arrow hits its mark this week—and I think it solves some of the show’s tonal problems. The secret, as it turns out, are lots of jokes, a little romance, and spreading out the show’s more serious subject matter throughout its ensemble cast.
Image courtesy of the CW
Mad Moll Green writes in Los Angeles and Vancouver. She loves horror movies, comic books, and ironic spandex.