Stupid Cupid

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.07 of Arrow, “Draw Back Your Bow.”**

I want to take you back to a simpler time, a time when we were all so excited to learn new and wonderful things about Felicity Smoak. We got to learn about her “hacktivist” days, about the relationship she has with her mother, about her deep grief over the death of her first love. We got to watch as she defended herself and her mother, as she kicked some serious former-hacktivist ass, as she admitted that she’s a lot tougher than she’d previously realized. That episode happened only two weeks ago. I was overall very glowing in my review, and I remember being very optimistic, even hopeful, about Felicity’s writing going forward.

Well, forget all of the character development you think you saw in that episode. Say goodbye. Put it in a box and ship it to Lian Yu. Get it a nice dank cell next door to Slade Wilson. He’ll sit there and whisper-snarl at Felicity Smoak’s Forgotten Characterization Box, and he’ll swear vengeance for himself and the beautiful blonde girl he once held hostage. “I keep my promises, kid! And one of those promises is the guarantee that I will restore Felicity Smoak’s characterization come hell or high water! I keep my promises!”

I’ll stop beating around the bush: This was a terrible hour of television. I mean, it was truly awful. I’m trying to come up with something to compare it to, and all I can think of is the How I Met Your Mother series finale. I really hate to say this, but I think this episode fell apart on nearly every single aspect — writing, characterization, stunts, acting, pace, even casting — except, weirdly, for Thea’s storyline. Which was barely a plot for her, it was more of a gentle reminder that she exists in the city and she’s reopening her nightclub. Perhaps this episode’s single saving grace is that Laurel wasn’t in it, not because Laurel is inherently bad, but because she comes with her own set of problems that would’ve exacerbated these.

I’ll start with the two bits of good news: Maseo didn’t die thanks to his kickass wife, and Thea hired a DJ.

 

Bask in that for a minute. It’s all downhill from here.

I went into the episode dreading Cupid herself, because “I’m Cupid, stupid” was not the greatest entrance. But Kari ended up being pretty great, writing aside. It’s nice that she didn’t die, and it’s also nice that she’s not running around all wild-eyed and free like Helena Bertinelli — as we speak, Kari’s probably making crazy eyes at Deadshot while they train on the Suicide Squad. She was a bit of a bright side in this otherwise terrible episode, because the acting really elevated the meager writing for the character (a run-of-the-mill Personality Disorder, coupled with Oliver having saved her life) and she played vixen with a side of stalker really well. Unlike with Helena, I might actually enjoy when they bring Cupid back. I’m open to the idea.

But we need to talk about Ray Palmer because with all the Sara, Laurel, Roy, Oliver/Felicity, and flashback stuff going on, I just haven’t had the inclination to pay attention to Ray, other than to call him “punchable” a few times. Showing up on a helicopter, which he landed on the roof of Queen Consolidated, did not give me a very good first impression. Wanting to change the name of the city to rebrand it? Sounds kind of stupid, cupid. Buying a company to basically stalk a blonde-ponytailed executive assistant?

… That’s creepy, right?

Why aren’t more people talking about how creepy Ray is? The writing is so bad for him that I’m pretty sure on any other show, he’d be the Explicit Villain. He showed up at Felicity’s work, he bought the company she worked for, he showed up at the hospital, he showed up at her house, he bought her a whole bunch of things she didn’t ask for, and he’s continued to do it through last night’s episode. That’s villainous behavior. Imagine Slade Wilson or Malcolm Merlyn behaving this way toward a woman. Creepy. So why is everyone, including the writers, acting like this is normal behavior for Ray? Is it just because they thought we were desperate for a love interest for Felicity and we’d take whatever they threw at us? I’d rather she stayed single! Or kept going back to Central City to kiss Barry a few more times! I’d take anything compared to the travesty we got last night!

We started with our eyes being assaulted with a shirtless Ray Palmer working out in his office. Where he’s supposed to work. When he knew Felicity would walk right in. If that wasn’t insulting enough, he was working on a salmon ladder, because these writers don’t know how to make subtle comparisons anymore. And just when you think it’s bad enough — just when you’re thinking, “Well, Felicity’s sharp, she’ll see right through this, she’s awesome like that!” — nope, she just mutters to herself, “I have a type.” And that type apparently only consists of salmon-laddering and being shirtless. (Needless to say, and I never thought I’d be making this point, but Oliver never subjected people to his shirtlessness at his place of business. Even Oliver knew that was over the line.)

From there, it really just goes from bad to worse. Ray says, and I’m not kidding, “BTW, are you free for dinner tomorrow night?” He says all three letters. Then asks her to dinner. Not romantically, mind you, it’s just because he has to talk to boring people and Felicity’s brand of Not Boring is perfect for this! (Actually, he threatens to slice his wrists open if he has to go alone, but it’s played as a joke so I just have to let that one slide or else I’ll be ranting about everything. But seriously, that wasn’t funny either.)

Essentially, he talks to Felicity like she’s the specialest snowflake in the entire world, and Felicity, in a stunning lack of awareness, falls for it. Oh no, wait, she doesn’t just fall for it — she allows herself to be bought. With a couture dress. “Which I’m pretty sure is French for ‘expensive,’” he says, douchily. And she agrees to go, “Only so that I can wear this dress.” That was pretty much when I knew this episode was going to be bad. And that was only five minutes in.

Oliver and Diggle watch as Ray Palmer, with Felicity by his side, renames the company Oliver’s father had built, the company his stepfather had run for the five years he was gone, the company his mother had run for six months, the company Oliver had run for a year. Just like that, Queen Consolidated is now Palmer Industries, and Felicity stood there all smiles and sunshine, not acknowledging what this means to Oliver, even after she’d so recently accused him of not having feelings.

She shows up to log in some Arrow hours looking for Kari and helping Oliver suss out her background, but in the end she asks him for time off to go to the Oh So Boring Dinner with Ray, and Oliver makes every single clenched-jaw jealousy expression imaginable as he mutters, “Do what you want.” You did this to yourself, bud.

 

Of course, Diggle’s continuing his grand tradition of being out-of-character this season, so he takes it upon himself to go up to Felicity at her place of business and tell her that Oliver’s “all twisted up in knots” over her dinner with Ray. She rightly points out that this was Oliver’s choice, but Diggle insists, “It’s messing with his head, Felicity, and that’s really dangerous.”

I talked about how Oliver’s “And you know how I feel about her” comment was unfair, but it came from a pure place. This, though, the way Diggle’s basically laying the responsibility at Felicity’s feet? That’s patently wrong, unfair, and downright cruel. It’s not something I would’ve ever predicted Diggle would do, and that scene, more than any other scene in the entire episode, has me fuming. How dare he? How dare anyone blame Felicity for this? For moving on with her life? Sure, we as the viewers know what’s really going on, that Ray’s being gross and stalkery and Felicity’s only a couple episodes away from an “it rubs the lotion on its skin” situation, but all Diggle and Oliver see is Felicity spending time with Ray. Where does Diggle come off telling her that she should go run and fix Oliver when it’s a choice he made?

{Fix Diggle now, writers, because I’ve been saying for weeks that the more you mess up Diggle, the more you break the foundation of the show. Recalibrate. NOW.}

There’s a terrible sense of loss when Diggle leaves her office. At the beginning of the scene, when he walked in all casual with his street clothes and his leather jacket, it was refreshing to see these two being friends outside of the foundry. Then Diggle had to go and be out-of-character, and that forced Felicity to be a little bit harsh and say Oliver should be the one talking to her. To his credit, Diggle took his cue and left, but her morose little “Goodbye” as he walked away was heartbreaking. Remember “because you’re irreplaceable”? Remember when she went to his apartment in 1.21 to try to talk him back onto the team? Why is this happening?

The hits never stop coming, though, because Ray further “buys” Felicity with a $10 million necklace. She never questions it. She never looks freaked out. She just looks flattered and stunned. So the real question is, at what point did Felicity turn into a Disney princess? Did I accidentally turn on an episode of Once Upon a Time? Why isn’t she running as fast as those heels can carry her?

*Psycho music plays in the background*

Oliver finally admits to Diggle that he’s not happy with Felicity being out with Ray, but he mans up and takes responsibility for the situation. As he should.

  

That’s when I got a text from a friend: “When did Diggle become everyone’s marriage counselor?” When, indeed.

Oliver insists that he needs Felicity’s help on this case, but she’s busy being Ray’s arm candy. No, scratch that — she’s busy being his trophy wife. She’s got the diamonds, the couture, and the updo, now all she needs to do is be the closer. That’s how this works — the man has all the power and status, but he brings the trophy wife to dazzle everyone else and charm them into selling their Nevada mine holdings. And Felicity plays right into it, again, giving them empty words and promises based on the nothing she knows about Ray. And she really does know nothing about him. She’s been too distracted, either by Arrow stuff or by the things that Ray constantly showers over her.

She’s back at the foundry in time to overhear Oliver telling Kari that he has to be alone, which feels so contrived that it’s almost insulting. Of course that’s what she gleans from that exchange. If this was some kind of elegant and subtle parallel between Kari and Ray, then that heart-shaped arrow of storytelling completely missed the mark, because Felicity never got the message. She sat there and listened to Kari declare her love and stalker-y ways to Oliver, and Oliver’s patient explanation that this isn’t going to work, and all Felicity heard was Oliver saying “I have to be alone.” She didn’t realize how closely Kari’s behavior mirrors Ray’s. She didn’t make any connections at all. She just got hurt, went back to the office, and kissed Ray like it was some hugely romantic moment and not the single creepiest thing I’ve had to watch on TV in a while.

 

So inevitably, at the end of the first episode where Oliver doesn’t sleep with the femme fatale of the week, Felicity and Ray share a kiss. Unfortunately, Oliver witnesses this after yet another ill-conceived pep talk from Marriage Counselor Diggle, and it sends him back to the foundry and, once he spots Felicity’s love fern, he goes into a rage. Roy’s there, though, still grappling with his murder revelation from last week, and that’s when Oliver shows another unexpected bit of character growth: he takes Roy under his wing, and they go to a late dinner at Diggle and Lyla’s.

And the team is together without Felicity.

Ray claims he intended for this dinner to be platonic, but the couture and diamonds say otherwise. That’s okay, because he tells her, “You deserve all those things, and more.” Good thing Felicity is a material girl this week! It’s also a remarkably bad kiss, even the lighting is bad, but hey, it ends quickly, and he takes off, leaving her standing there confused. He goes and looks at his Atom prototype (DC Iron Man?) and we’re supposed to believe he’s gonna be a hero, I guess, but either the actor isn’t great at his job of, you know, acting, or Atom’s gonna be a villain in this universe. (Except no, he’s not, because the Arrow writers kept retweeting praise of Ray and his hotness/adorability during the live broadcasts, roundly ignoring the rampant negativity surrounding him.) It’s been seven episodes and I still can’t figure out what the hell is going on with him.

I’m being very harsh on Felicity but it’s mostly from a writing standpoint than a character one. None of this is overtly unfixable, but it’s building itself into a real problem. There’s never any clear indication of where she’s reacting to Oliver’s rejection, where she’s reacting to Sara’s death, and where she’s just being Felicity, but this entire episode felt like it didn’t belong in any of those categories. The main sticking point for me is that she’s just not registering Ray’s behavior as creepy. Would she have accepted this behavior in Oliver? Would she have been flattered if Oliver bought her things and showed up unannounced at her doorstep and acted like he belonged there? None of her relationship with Ray feels earned, because besides the so-called chemistry that the producers insist they have, we haven’t seen anything tangible between them in seven episodes besides the THINGS he keeps giving her. When did she become that girl?

And I’ll pose a serious question here: What is their endgame with Ray/Felicity?

It will go one of two ways: he’s a villain and he leaves her feeling violated and scarred, or he’s a hero who, once his Not Iron Man suit is ready, ends up having to make the exact same choice Oliver had to make in 3.01. It’s not nuanced. It’s not compelling. It’s not even good.

Is this really what they wanted when they killed off Sara Lance? Are all of these characters behaving the way they should be? Are all of the failed parallels worth it? Do we even have an intriguing arc going on? Is it worth what’s happened to Laurel, or Roy, or Oliver? Is it worth losing Felicity from the team? Is this really what we gain from losing Sara? What a waste. What a terrible and nearly unwatchable waste.

In two weeks: Arrow vs. Flash, apparently, and I was really excited for this before “Draw Back Your Bow” aired, and now I’m apprehensive. Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell usually make for some pretty entertaining scenes, but both of those characters are in a bad way right now, so we might just be in for two hours of Superhero Angst, and man, since Sara died, I’m so tired of watching that.

Also, Captain Boomerang showed up at the end of this episode, but I’m not sure whether he’ll be appearing in the crossover or not.

Project Tahiti

***Warning: This post contains spoilers for ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 2.07, “The Writing on the Wall.”***

The majority of the episode dealt with the Tahiti Project and Coulson’s drawings. It turns out the other people who had been drawing the same things Coulson had been drawing were the first volunteers for the project. They had been agents who were going to die, and agreed to be test subjects. The results seemed to be great at first until they started drawing and slowly started to go insane. The doctor told Coulson they would be better if they got rid of the memories of the patients and gave them new ones. That is when they showed the creepy machine from last year. I never want to see a machine playing with someone’s brain again.

In the end, Coulson is back to normal (I hope), but only after he went crazy by locking Skye up and going after one of the patients to find the answer. He was able to get the answer. The answer being they are looking for a city. It does leave me questioning why craziness is now over. They still haven’t found the city, but the need to draw is now gone. I’m glad he finally told his team what he was doing over the past months.

Coulson’s main team is loyal, but I’m glad Mac started questioning Coulson. Someone should be asking the questions, even if I fully trust Coulson.

Mac played an interesting role in this episode. I got the feeling him and Jemma are not necessarily getting along. Part of it is because of Fitz. Mac seems very loyal to Fitz, and he is seen helping Fitz out by handing him a game controller.

Another interesting part is Mac picked up on what Fitz was saying about brains and files. I have a feeling Mac will try to get Fitz to explore a route in getting Fitz fully operational again.

Finally, there was the dealing with Grant Ward story line. I keep thinking they need to do a body count every time Grant Ward kills another person. I will say Brett Dalton has done his best work on the show when he is playing the bad guy. It is one of the reasons why I don’t want a redemption arc for Ward. However, dissing Mockingbird? Not cool. I still really want all the women to gang up on him and kick his butt for the misogynistic comments from last season.

It was great to see May, Triplett, Hunter, and Morse in a van together, and I really wished Triplett and May had rolled their eyes at each other while Morse and Hunter bickered again.

Don’t Trust a Telenovela to Keep a Secret

***Warning: This post contains spoilers for CW’s Jane the Virgin Episode 1.05, “Chapter Five.”***

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the truth from secrets and lies always come out on a TV show. This week’s episode of Jane the Virgin seemed to evolve all around people not telling the truth, and past lies starting to come forward. Nothing less should be expected because this show is a parody of telenovelas. It is one of the reasons why I have fallen in love with it. What makes this show even greater is you come to care about the characters. I felt for Jane’s mother throughout the episode while she was suffering the consequences of having not told Jane the truth about Jane’s father.

One of the things that made it better was Rogelio trying to help mend the mother-daughter relationship. Yes, the man can be quite a shallow idiot at times, but it is clear he cares for Jane and sees how valuable Jane’s relationship is with Xiomara.

At the end of the episode Jane does return home because secrets never stay that way for long. Not only does Jane find out about Michael’s past criminal activities from Michael himself, but then she also stumbles across the information of Michael knowing Petra was having an affair with Zazo before Jane told him. This is what happens when you let your fiancée live with you, and leave your case files lying around. Especially when she has already looked at one of the files while she was in the car with you. Michael should have known better. If someone is acting like Veronica Mars, their inner detective does not turn off.

Meanwhile Petra’s scheme for staying married to Rafael has failed due to her own lies, but since this is a telenovela she and her mother have concocted another with portraying Rafael as abusing Petra. Petra’s mother is crafty, and I’m pretty certain she is able to get out of her wheelchair.

While all the lies happening there were some people who were able to tell the truth. Rogelio told Jane he would not have been the best father when he was younger, and Rafael told Jane he was divorcing Petra. Rafael has been pretty honest with Jane throughout this series so far. Of course he doesn’t tell her everything like him having sex dreams about her. Jane has definitely left the sister category in Rafael’s head, and Rose has figured it out.

My favorite part of the episode was seeing what was going through Rafael’s and Michael’s heads while they were talking to each other. I am a sucker for seeing internal thoughts on Tumblr (I get extremely giddy every time I see a new one of Oliver Queen’s internal thoughts of Felicity). It made my night seeing it actually happen on my TV screen and the internal thoughts did not disappoint. I hope the show will continue with this format.

With Great Nerds Comes a Great Movie

***Warning: This contains spoilers to Disney’s Big Hero 6***

I am in love with Big Hero 6. To be honest, I probably fell in love with it during the Disney panel at New York Comic Con…at least I became deeply infatuated with it. The clips they showed with the cast and crew discussing the film had my nerdy heart needing to see this film, and the movie did not disappoint.

Everyone already knows a genius is more than capable of becoming a hero with the Iron Man franchise, but this film showed nerds who are more relatable becoming super heroes. Four out of the six heroes in this film are science students who each have there own quirks. Then there is Fred, the mascot who is a science enthusiast.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Disney or comic book story if there wasn’t some sort of tragedy. It can’t be just a simple tragedy. It has to make the audience become empathetic with what is happening to the characters on the screen. If the audience is only sympathetic, then it is not a great film. This film tore at the heart strings, but what was also beautiful was the science nerds rallying together. No one needs to suffer alone, and the lovable robot, Baymax, comprehended this. It was one of the many things which made him so lovable. He was made to be a healthcare robot.

Will this stabilize your pubescent mood swings?” – Baymax

However, Baymax became this character so easy to love because Tadashi created him, and it felt as if a piece of him was imparted in this robot. Baymax not only helped with the physical pain, but the emotional pain as well.

It is all right to cry, crying is a natural response to pain.”- Baymax

The story and characters were fantastic, and one of my favorite elements was how it embraced the comic book scenario. Fred is not just a science enthusiast but also a huge comic nerd. He is the one who points out it is like a comic book. He is all for this becoming the group’s origin story.

“A lunatic in a mask just tried to kill us.” – Go Go
“How cool is that? I mean, it’s scary, obviously, but how cool?” – Fred

The animation was amazing. It was awesome to see how the animators were able to combine both elements of San Francisco and Tokyo together fluidly. What made it even better was the feeling of stepping into a world that comic books hold. There were many times I felt like I was watching a comic book come to life on the big screen.

All I can say now is don’t always follow Fred’s own lifestyle choices especially when it comes to underpants, and even though you may be satisfied with your care it may still hurt afterwards.

“You’re just another weapon in his arsenal.”

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.06 of Arrow, “Guilty.”**

Oliver Queen does not give up on people. If you take nothing else away from last night’s Arrow episode, which was a Ted Grant episode disguised as a Roy episode — you should at least glean that about Oliver Queen. It’s one of the few things he did not pick up from the island; it’s deeply embedded in his DNA. It probably started, once upon a time, with Tommy Merlyn, but we never got the backstory of how they became friends or their adventures in getting arrested together. So instead, we look at the first demonstration of Oliver’s deep belief in people: the loyalty he displayed to Yao Fei on the island. No matter what happened, no matter what dire stories Slade told Oliver about betrayal of trust, no matter what kind of evidence pointed to Yao Fei working for the enemies, Oliver was relentless in his attempts to save Yao Fei from Edward Fyers. It was played off as childish naivete, mostly because Oliver was a little whiny back in those days, but ultimately he was right about Yao Fei.

The list continues, straight through the flashbacks and into the present day. He believed in Slade until the Slade he knew was gone. He believed in Diggle. He believed in Felicity. He believed in Sara. He believed in Quentin. He believed in Walter, and he even believed in Moira, though a few too many secrets drove him away for a while. Remember all the fights Oliver would have with Diggle about Moira’s true nature? That’s because Oliver simply cannot function in a world where the good doesn’t outweigh the bad — that for every villain he stops, a truly good person is saved.

He believes in Roy in the same way he believed in Sara, that their motives and their hearts outweighed their past actions. That might be why he’s being so obstinate about Roy this time around, when everything seems to incriminate him, because in his mind, Roy and Sara are intrinsically linked. Sara wanted to kill Roy when he was on Mirakuru, and Oliver had the same argument with Sara back then that he had with Diggle tonight: he can’t give up on Roy. It’s not in his nature.

 

Roy is pretty sure he killed Sara. He’s been having vivid dreams about throwing arrows at her on that rooftop, of watching her fall, but he doesn’t remember being there or having a motive. He confides in Felicity that he worries about traces of Mirakuru still being in his blood, but Felicity checks his blood and he’s clean. When he finally reveals his nightmares to her, Felicity gravely points out that the trajectory of the arrows in Sara’s body don’t match the trajectory of arrows shot from a bow; she also says the DNA on the arrows came back inconclusive for a match. She seems frightened on Roy’s behalf, but he can’t take it anymore and tells the group the truth, unfortunately while Laurel is present.

Roy makes his escape even as Diggle tries to stop him, and that’s when a very revealing argument ensues. Diggle makes a case for bringing in Roy, and Oliver asks, “So you bring him in. Then what?”

“Oliver, this crusade of ours, it’s supposed to be about justice, right? Well if that’s supposed to mean something, we can’t have two sets of rules: one for the bad guys, and one for us.”

“I’m the one who brought Roy in to this crusade.”

“Then maybe it’s time for you to cut him loose.”

“Are you telling me to abandon him?”

“Yes, Oliver. If that’s what it takes to find justice for Sara.”

Diggle’s being the soldier here, trying to stick to the arbitrary moral code that they’ve set for themselves. Maybe he turned a blind eye to Roy killing that cop last season, and Sara’s death is just the final straw. Either way, everyone in this episode seems to be forgetting that Oliver (aided and abetted by Diggle) killed a ton of people in the first season. (Lance’s line to Ted about seventeen murders, “That’s more than the Son of Sam!” was particularly laughable considering I think Oliver’s body count more than doubles that.) It wasn’t until Felicity came onboard, pointing out the families and loved ones of the targets and refusing to partake in some of the missions, that Oliver started questioning his own methods. It wasn’t until Tommy found out his secret and displayed deep disgust over Oliver’s body count that Oliver really started to doubt himself. And it wasn’t until Tommy’s death that Oliver finally vowed to do whatever he could to avoid killing in the future.

But Diggle is right, Oliver can’t willfully and arbitrarily protect people who fall under his umbrella of affection. This is in line with Digg’s character, too, as he’s had this argument with Oliver about Laurel countless times, and he was even dubious when Oliver brought Felicity onboard. Diggle is a hard sell, and even if he really likes Roy, he’s probably standing there wondering, “What if it had been me or Felicity?” They were a team, after all. But I don’t know. This seems abrupt and extreme even for Diggle.

(I’ve thought about it for hours and I’m still not sure how abandoning Roy brings Sara any justice, so I’ll just chalk it up to the writers trying to add in a line that sounds good for a sound bite, otherwise I’ve got nothing.)

The thought of abandoning Roy never crosses Oliver’s mind. He seems to figure out pretty quickly that Roy’s having repressed memories from that time he killed the cop, but he still presses Felicity for more information about Sara’s body as he runs around on the Ted Grant case. Did I mention this is a Ted Grant episode? Yeah, I haven’t even gotten to him yet.

 

That is one of the best moments for both Roy and Oliver; Roy for displaying his vulnerability (remember how dudebro he was at the beginning, how he tried to push Thea away and act like he didn’t care about other people’s approval? Roy’s come a long way) and Oliver for still believing in him despite everything. Later, Roy tells Oliver what the other man had claimed: that he was just another weapon in Oliver’s arsenal. That’s when Oliver gently says, “Maybe that’s what we should call you.” Thus, Arsenal is born. But not without some bumps in the road.

 

After another unexpectedly emotional exchange, Oliver guides Roy through meditation, which helps Roy realize that he was conflating Sara’s death with the cop he killed. It’s very elegant, and I have to give props to the show for this: Roy looked up and saw Sara’s face in the broken face of the clock tower that night. That, plus the arrows in Sara, are the reason is brain cooked up this vivid non-memory of killing Sara. And in an even more elegant way, Oliver suspected this all along.

Roy’s not comforted by this news, not really. “So I didn’t kill Sara… but I am a murderer.” He’ll be too hard on himself, as he should be, because that cop was an innocent who was only doing his job, and he left behind a family who expected him to come home that night. If Roy had brushed that off and cried, “Oh, that’s a relief! Yeah, great, I’m famished, let’s get some burgers!” then that would’ve been alarming and borderline psychotic. But I hope Oliver works hard to help Roy cut himself some slack. He was drugged, he wasn’t in his right mind, and the fact that he can feel such deep remorse is a good thing. It’ll fuel his desires to protect the city and make it better. And after all… Oliver is a murderer, too. Or did literally everyone forget that?

But that’s enough about Roy! This was actually a Ted Grant episode. Turns out he’s an ex-MMA fighter who even fought in a few title fights (Diggle even watched one!) with the nickname “Wildcat.” Fitting! He’s also an ex-vigilante, which is an unexpected and neat parallel with Oliver’s story, is it not?

Ted’s being framed for sixteen murders of drug lords and other bad people in the city, all strung up with blood on the ground spelling “Guilty.” One is hanging in his boxing gym, which Oliver is investigating when Ted and Laurel show up fresh from their dinner. Laurel is Ted’s alibi, but Oliver’s hackles are up (“Just because Laurel trusts him doesn’t mean I have to”) and he tracks Ted to a storage unit where, surprise! another body is strung up. That’s when Ted reveals his past vigilantism and the frame-up, which Oliver takes with a grain of salt. (Also, the fact that Oliver broke a lot of his patented and practiced MMA fighter holds doesn’t bode well for Laurel’s training.)

 

Oliver never heard of him because Ted stuck to the Glades and was only active six years ago (doing the math, that would be the second year Oliver was gone… so while he’s battling Ivo and trying to save Slade, Ted’s running around the Glades targeting drug lords). He gave up vigilantism after one of his targets was beaten to death (he continually takes the blame until it’s revealed that his apprentice, and the man currently framing him, had actually killed him) and never told anyone about his storage locker, telling Oliver that he’s sure he has one just like it. “Mine’s bigger,” Oliver says, because he is a man and he can’t resist measuring.

He and Ted team up to try to track down the killer, but they’re cornered in their very next location when they’re ambushed by a man with a gun. A gun! A man using a gun on this, the show called Arrow. Only two people are allowed to use guns here: Quentin Lance and John Diggle. Everyone else is supposed to use outdated weaponry!

Anyway, the guy escapes with Oliver in pursuit, leaving Ted to get arrested. He reveals to Laurel that his apprentice was Isaac Stanzler, that he was the one who had beaten that man to death six years ago, and that he’s the one framing Ted now. That drops the charges, but he and Laurel are cornered by Stanzler in the alley and forced to drive him… I don’t even know where. She blindly dials Felicity (just like Oliver did last season) and they’re able to ambush him, with Roy doing the cleanup with Stanzler as Oliver and Diggle save Laurel and Ted from the wrecked car.

Oliver later hoods up and appeals to Ted to stop training with Laurel, but Ted politely declines to turn her away, saying it’s her choice. Ted then doles out some “hard-won advice” about being a vigilante, how it messes with people’s heads, and ominously tells Oliver to know when to cut Roy loose. Oliver, the MVP of this episode, has the perfect response:

 

The next day, Laurel shows up despite Oliver’s protestations and steps up her requests. She doesn’t just want boxing lessons; she wants vigilante lessons.

We really need to talk about Laurel, too, because she’s sort of all over the place again, just like she has been since Tommy’s death, but I think I get a little bit of the thread the writers are trying to follow here. She’s still angry, still looking for a way to let off steam, and the boxing is better than the booze, that’s for sure. But it’s still the behavior of an addict, she’s still taking hits (literally and figuratively) instead of trying to cope, that much is clear as soon as Roy reveals that he (might have) killed Sara.

 

He tries to apologize and she doesn’t let him, so he makes his escape, which leaves Oliver staring at Felicity and growling, “I thought he was cured?” Felicity admits that “what we know about Mirakuru is vastly outweighed by the things we don’t know.” Laurel lashes out at Felicity, “What does that even mean? That Roy killed my sister and it’s not his fault?”

She’s completely, utterly, totally paralyzed with inaction. She even steps to the side and cries, “I can’t process this right now.” Because her entire reason for being has just been snatched away from her. If Sara had been killed in cold blood by some nameless, faceless villain, that gives Laurel a reason to fight. But Sara (seemingly) died on accident — she died because one of her friends was still struggling with the after-effects of Mirakuru, which he was not aware of and couldn’t control, and she wasn’t prepared for the attack.

And… on some level, I get that. Countless families and loved ones of people who died in freak accidents will ask these questions for the rest of their lives. They’ll wish they knew why. They’ll wish there was someone to blame. As someone who watched a loved one die slowly from cancer, I know what it’s like to wish you can channel your anger on one thing, just to relieve yourself from the grief and wondering why. We all have our ways of coping, and my point is, I don’t think Laurel’s doing that. Boxing is her booze — she goes right back to it, even after Oliver begs her not to, even as she still believes Sara’s death was an accident. It means Sara’s death didn’t actually have to mean anything for Laurel after all.

There’s still something not quite right about Laurel’s characterization or the story transition from Sara to Laurel as the Canary. I think once again, the writers made a mistake by having her too close to the team; if she hadn’t been there for Roy’s big non-confession, we never would’ve seen her pathos exposed for what it is. Laurel as the Canary isn’t justice for her sister after all; it’s just another addiction.

 

It seems to be something else Oliver intuitively knows, and probably part of the reason he refuses to train her. After he questions whether she knows Ted at all, he asks Laurel if she’s told him why she’s training. She says she has told him about Sara, but not that she intends to follow in her footsteps.

“You’re playing a very dangerous game, Laurel.”

“I can handle it.”

“No, you can’t. Because you haven’t realized that it’s not actually a game.”

I wish Diggle had been better written in this episode, then I’d feel better drawing a comparison to his “War changes you, it chips away pieces of your soul” speech from 1.04 again. Oh well. Anyway, a Canary/Wildcat team could be intriguing, but again, I still don’t like where Laurel’s motivation is rooted. I still think this whole thing would be a lot better if she hadn’t been there for Roy’s misguided confession.

It’s crazy to think that with all of this happening, there was still time for flashbacks, but oh, there was! And I haven’t talked about them much because not a lot’s been happening besides that time Tommy showed up. We don’t have a lot to root us to this storyline because everyone we had grown attached to, save Oliver, is dead or gone now, and Oliver himself is once again more interesting in the present than he is in the past.

However, I really like Maseo. He’s done a great job of really expressing himself in the limited screentime he has, and he’s even built up credible goodwill with Oliver in the limited flashbacks we’ve had. I said during the episode that I like Maseo enough that I hope the storyline gets interesting soon. With his wife, Tatsu, playing a more prominent role in this episode, I get the feeling things are about to ramp up. She teaches Oliver about meditation and memory techniques, but she seems singularly unfazed by him. It’s refreshing! After Shado and Sara on the island, it’s nice to finally have a female around who seems immune to Oliver’s charms.

The end of the episode brings another twist, have any of these season 3 episodes ended without a cliffhanger? Stanzler is being transferred to jail via the same alley where he’d cornered Laurel and Ted (you’d think they’d have secured it by now) when the two guards are shot in the legs with arrows. Stanzler looks shocked and asks who’s there, and lo and behold, it’s Cupid. Well actually…

 

Why didn’t this happen in February? The world will never know.

P.S. Olicity shippers, never fear! Tumblr has your back:

If that looks overwrought and emotional, it’s because it is, but they’re talking about Roy, not their undying love for each other.

Next week: Thanksgiving looks like Valentines Day! I guess it’s because Thanksgiving already happened in Canada. Seriously, the promo almost looks like some kind of pink-tinged fever dream, and Roy’s had enough of those, thank you very much.

“I have learned that I am a lot tougher than I thought.”

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**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.05 of Arrow, “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak.”**

I hate that this episode has been dubbed a “filler episode.” Technically, it is. It didn’t forward the Who Killed Sara Lance arc at all (it seemed, for one breathless moment, that Laurel was going to tell Quentin, but alas) and there was barely any mention of Sara at all. Instead, the whole thing was contained to Felicity’s origin story, which ended up being tightly written, well-acted, and perfectly paced. I hesitate to call this a filler episode because it’s about a crucial member of Team Arrow, one of the Original Three, and the entire team was actively involved in the main plot.

It was also messy in a good way — in the way that life is messy and it gets in the way. Sometimes your little sister is really close to breaking into your lair. Sometimes your mother comes in town unexpectedly. Sometimes you have to bring your baby to a basement full of arrows and weapons because your wife is out on assignment and the nanny called in sick. These were neat little details that we’ve been dying for (seriously, how long have we been begging for them to address Thea being completely unaware of a lair underneath her nightclub?) and I’m glad they got addressed.

 

The episode opened with a fight sequence, switching between Oliver and Roy in a stick fight, Laurel and Ted mixed martial fighting, and Thea and Malcolm swordfighting. Thea’s the only one that get’s an A+ from her teacher — Laurel is “just lashing out” and Roy seems distracted. Roy’s really distracted, y’all. I’ll talk about that later.

 

Normal people named Felicity Smoak wake up at a normal hour, do some crunches, then brush their teeth before drinking their coffee. But hey, it’s not too early to be creepy-stalked by your boss! Ray Palmer shows up at Felicity’s apartment like it’s a totally normal thing to do. And Felicity is just irritated and surprised by this, she’s not downright alarmed! That’s stalker behavior, Felicity! Stranger danger! Do you really know anything about this guy?

Luckily Mama Smoak appears in the nick of time, in an amazing blue dress that embarrasses Felicity, but at least she’s not a stalker! She’s just here to see her daughter! She’s charmed by Ray Palmer (who I guess does Watches, like he’s the Steve Jobs of Watches, or maybe the Steve Martin of Watches) who gives her the new prototype for the Not Google Watch like it’s nothing. This guy is playing a long con! I don’t trust him!

“Mom, to send a text, you actually have to press ‘send’ on the text.”

Things escalate later while Oliver’s visiting Thea at her amazing new apartment bought with actual blood money from Malcolm’s estate. Thea doesn’t see the issue with using the money to set herself up, but Oliver doesn’t know that she’s in contact with Malcolm. The power goes out thanks to the Eye of Sauron, and Oliver disappears off of Thea’s balcony right before he picks up a stranger and uses his body to keep her from getting hit by a car. It’s pretty great.

The gist of the Crime of the Week is that Felicity’s ex-boyfriend, who went to prison for wiping out student loans (where were you when I needed you, bro?) is now back to… stick it to the man? Be evil? Steal money, but with a purpose? It’s never very clear, but it’s Felicity’s virus he’s using to manipulate the city, and he needs Felicity to re-route the armored trucks so that he can steal the money. Basically what I gathered from this is that five years at the NSA still didn’t make him any better than Felicity Smoak.

That’s all secondary compared to the wrecking ball that is Donna Smoak. She brought a new dimension to the entire team just by meeting them. Diggle, the great man that he is, Diggles the scene by glancing at Felicity first before shaking Donna’s hand. Oliver is beside himself with delight.

Seeing Oliver’s thrilled smile as he looks over Donna’s head at Felicity is bittersweet to watch. Only four episodes ago, he was telling Diggle that the family life is a life he can’t have, but here he is, beaming at the sight of Felicity’s mother. He’s instantly charmed by her, as much as he’s charmed by Felicity’s obvious mortification. It’s a relationship he’ll never understand, both because he’s a son and because Moira wasn’t that sort of mother. He learned control, secrets, facades, and restraint from Moira. Now, he sees where Felicity gets her exuberance, her slight flakiness, her warmth.

But Felicity is too distracted and overwhelmed to notice the way Oliver lights up like the sun. And he learns a lot about her — like the fact that she was a hacker activist (“hacktivists, for lack of a better word”) in college, and that her first boyfriend hanged himself in prison before his sentence came down. He has the nerve to ask why she didn’t tell him any of this — like goth-college hacking days just come up organically in conversation — and Felicity volleys back, “Do we even know a fraction of what happened to you the five years you were away?”

That’s what’s so interesting about this episode: Oliver and the audience are learning so much about Felicity, but while we have the benefit of the black-haired sobbing backflashes, Oliver only has the breadcrumbs Felicity is feeding him. The shoe is on the other foot, where she has the secrets and he has to do his strategic retreats and accept that he may never know the full story of her history. She routinely pushes him away for the entire episode, from the moment she tells her mother they aren’t friends until the very end, where he comes close to re-confessing how he feels about her and she says she needs to leave. She still has that ability, which is so so important at this stage, because otherwise Oliver would just walk all over her. He’d give her the smallest hint of a future and she’d jump on it, just to be heartbroken again.

It turns out Mama Smoak didn’t just randomly turn up in Starling at the right time. She was lured there with a free round-trip first class ticket. Felicity figures out that her mother was brought there for a reason mere seconds before she and Mama Smoak get abducted by Cooper (played by Nolan Funk, who is still the one murderer I actively detest from Castle, which means he’s really good at playing that role).

He talks at length about the NSA… MIT… prison… I don’t know, none of it really makes sense because he calls Felicity a sellout then says he’s after money, and he never says why. He also keeps grabbing Felicity by the chin which makes me wish Oliver was still killing people. She does the hack for Cooper in less than thirty seconds, and then surprise! Mama Smoak’s watch has wifi, so Felicity is able to use it to (presumably — it’s never explained) send a signal to Oliver, who arrives just in time to save her from getting a bullet to the brain.

 

But this is Felicity Smoak. It’s cute that Oliver took out all of those motion-detecting guns (machine guns?) but Felicity did the actual ass-kicking with an elbow to the gut and then a pistol-whip. We never find out why Cooper went so dark, or what turned him evil — maybe everyone at the NSA slowly turns evil? But he’s still alive so maybe we’ll revisit that in the future.

At the end of the day, Oliver and Felicity go through another role-reversal where he tries to be the light in Felicity’s life for once. He had to be on the sidelines through this whole ordeal — he didn’t even get to save her — and he watched her get torn down by her past mistakes. He knows she’s low, he asks if she’s okay, and he watches her sort of lie to him. She’ll be okay soon, but she’s not okay right now. So in a very “You’re not alone and I believe in you” way, Oliver says he’s glad for her past mistakes because they shaped the person she is today. “And you know how I feel about her.”

It’s that little morsel that I mentioned before, it’s a compliment and an attempt to cheer her up wrapped in a selfish little “I still love you!” sort of comment, and you can see where he’s coming from, but it’s still unfair to her. It’s a great scene, they both played it beautifully, and it ends the episode with Felicity and Oliver returning to the status quo.

Best scene of the night, though, has to be the fight between Felicity and Mama Smoak. Felicity is already emotionally compromised by the weight of her past, and she can’t believe Donna doesn’t understand that she has responsibilities — “It is so much more than work!” That’s where Oliver’s secret is still pervasive, because Donna will never be able to understand what her daughter’s really been through unless Felicity tells her the secret, and Felicity will never do that.

And then Felicity presumably projects a lot of her own insecurities on her mother, and let’s face it, we all do that. “I’m sorry that I’m terminally single, I’m sorry that I have a job, I’m sorry that I don’t dress like a porn star!” Ouch. The single thing is weighted now that we know she sorta blames herself for her first love’s death. And the job is something she’s been grappling with since 3.02, when she told Oliver she wants so much more than this. The porn star comment is awful and barbed and probably comes from a lifetime of being embarrassed by her mother.

 

And then Charlotte Ross delivers this beautiful monologue, punched up with tears and humility and just enough vulnerability that even if you’re not a mother, you feel how she must feel.

“I’m not as smart as you, Felicity, or your father. I know that. Even when you were six years old, I could barely keep up with you two. And maybe I wasn’t always the mother you wanted, but I was always there. I stayed, and I tried. He… He left me. He left us. But when I look at you, all I see is what he gave you. There’s nothing of me in you. You know, it’s so funny, I was always so afraid that one day, you were going to leave me, too. And now I finally realize… you already did.”

I won’t lie, that brought me to tears. It was hard to watch because it was raw, because you could easily identify with both sides of the fight. And Emily really held her own, they were both so impressive that I just wanted that scene to last forever. But no worries! After their abduction, mother and daughter are able to make up. Turns out Felicity got her brains and skills from her dad, but her toughness? She got from Mama.

There are other things happening in Starling, though. Laurel realizes she needs to talk to someone about her grief and anger, and she chooses Ted. He’s happy now — he can teach her how to fight now that he knows where her anger is directed.

Thea makes a point to Oliver that they’re family and they should stick together, but he needs to meet her halfway. He does! He shows up at the end of the episode with a big bag of popcorn for move-in day, and Thea offers to let him move in with her. I LOVE THIS. I’m so happy they’ll be cohabitating again, and I’m also glad to see Oliver being an actual adult for an entire episode! Old Oliver would’ve refused in order to keep Thea at a distance, but now he’s welcoming the possibility of being close to her, of having roots. He’s really trying to grow!

Malcolm Merlyn watches them from a nearby balcony, unhappy with this development.

At the very end of the episode, Roy struggles to sleep. He’s been saying for weeks now that he’s having trouble sleeping, even Thea noticed he looked tired in Corto Maltese. But now we see why he’s been having trouble: He has nightmares of himself killing Sara on that rooftop. It’s horrible, he throws arrows and watches her fall and it’s all misty and red.

I’ll be mad if he did it. I don’t care if he was tricked or drugged into it, it’ll be terrible either way. But there’s a strong possibility that he’s still dealing with the after-effects of the Mirakuru, and that maybe his deep-seated guilt over killing that cop (remember when his RuRage made him kill a cop?) is manifesting itself in him halluci-dreaming himself up on that roof and killing Sara. Maybe this is just the show’s way of unlocking that backstory while also eliminating another suspect? And maybe it’ll mean Oliver takes another trip to Lian Yu to talk to Slade about after-effects of Mirakuru! I’m always down for more Slade Wilson on my TV screen.

Next week: Roy week! Probably.

“I’m Still Trying to Figure Out Where I Fit In”

Warning: This post contains spoilers from ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Episode 2.06,  A Fractured House.

You can generally rely on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be both heartbreaking and entertaining.

The biggest heartbreaking part of the episode dealt with Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz. It seemed like Fitz was getting closer to saying good-bye to imaginary Jemma when the real one turned up. Fitz is finally finding his place in the group, and has made a new friend with Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie. However, it hurts not to see the two brainiacs together, and previous episodes gave hints a reunion between the duo would not be filled with hugs. This episode proved the hints to be true,and the pain in both their faces was devastating enough.

Fitz made it clear to Jemma he hated the fact she left him, and then lied to him about where she was going. He rightfully should be hurt, but I can also see why Jemma lied to him. She lied to everyone about where she was going with the exception of Phil Coulson and Melinda May because the less people who knew about her infiltrating Hydra the better. Jemma went because she felt like she could make a difference. She did not believe that staying by Fitz’s side would be for the best; Mack confirms this at the end of the episode.

The scene hits you right in the gut. I blame it on Elizabeth Henstridge’s tears. I don’t believe anyone is immune to them. While it hurts to see the favorite duo not on good terms, I do believe it is good for both of them. As I have said before, Fitz is like the child of the group. He always had Jemma with him. In quite a few ways Jemma was his crutch. However, Fitz has been growing up this season. Yes, his brain might have been damaged, but he is beginning to shine. Mack is helping him by being his friend and being by his side.

 

It is also good to see how Jemma is progressing this season, and how her role is also expanding. Her interactions with Skye were wonderful, but the best part was when she steps in between Skye and Grant Ward as he is passing them, and she tells him she will kill him if she sees him again. It is important that it was Jemma who stood in between them. It wasn’t Coulson or May, who know how to take him out. It was Jemma, and the look on her face made me believe she can and will do it. Ward has hurt them all, and Jemma is protecting Skye (and Fitz) from being hurt by Ward again.

This scene also shows how much her character has progressed since season one. Season one Jemma would not kill someone much less threaten them. The one time she did hurt someone was when she shot Agent Sitwell with the Night Night gun (too bad it didn’t kill him then). I always believed Jemma could be the girl who looks innocent, but could be deadly force to be reckoned with. She has grown into this role. Earlier this season, we have seen her steadily handling a gun in her apartment when Coulson visited her. Yes, she still needs training, and it is my deepest wish that Bobbi Morse trains her as well as them becoming bosom buddies.

 

I applaud the show for not making this episode a beginning of a redemption arc for Ward. Ward is a bad guy who has done bad things. Yet, he still believed he was a part of the team. After killing members of S.H.I.E.L.D. like Victoria Hand, he still referred to himself as a member of Coulson’s team. Clark Gregg, as always, was amazing. He firmly told Ward he was not and will never be part of his team.

To Coulson, his team is family, and Ward hurt his family. I also believe Coulson doesn’t fully trust Ward’s brother, but it was the best move to protect S.H.I.E.L.D.

 

I don’t trust Ward’s brother, but I still don’t trust Ward either. Ward is the type who latches on to another person. He doesn’t have the ability to be single minded. He will find someone who he thinks is also destroyed and try to connect with them. For Ward he thinks Skye is also damaged, and believes she is like him. However, Skye is strong.


Finally, Melinda May went with two of the newer members of the group, Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter on a mission. It was entertaining to see May having to listen to the divorced couple complain about the other. To see Bobbi and Hunter argue while still being able to fight in sync with each other was enjoyable.

However, the best scene between the two of them was Bobbi voicing the same thing we have heard from others already with them not being sure where they belong now. Both Bobbi and Hunter are a bit lost. Bobbi doesn’t have the S.H.I.E.L.D. she used to know anymore, and Hunter his best best mate at the beginning of this season. Maybe these two will not be able to give the marriage another go, but I deeply desire them to become comrades.