**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.10 of Arrow, “Left Behind.”**
A friend asked me how I’d rank this episode of Arrow on a scale of 1 to 10. After thinking about it for a moment, I honestly told her, “I’d give it a 5, while I went in expecting a 2.” In a way, hooray for lowered expectations! But in another way, it’s just an ongoing trend of disappointments coming out of this show.
I won’t go into the reasons that I expected a 2 from the episode — I think at this point, that would be beating a dead horse — but I will say that the presence of Vinnie Jones plus some stellar work from both David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards really elevated the episode to the measly 5 that I’m giving it. There’s also the fact that Tatsu, wife of Maseo and the subject of most of the Hong Kong flashbacks from this season, is very much alive. I was more excited to see her than I was to see Oliver wake up at the end of the episode.
While Stephen Amell was exclusively shooting flashback scenes and then going on vacation, his coworkers were turning in some pretty spectacular work in the most emotional scenes we’ve seen on this show. The two big ones, of course, were Diggle and Felicity, who coped in their respective ways: as soldier and as almost-lover. If I had to choose between performances, I’d have to choose David Ramsey in this one, only because I think his character has been a bit sidelined this season, and this episode returned him to the spotlight where he belongs. There’s one line in particular that brought me right back to the beginning of the series:
“I know it’s silly, but I still like to think of myself as Oliver’s bodyguard. I just couldn’t protect him.”
Unlike Felicity, Diggle is prepared for the worst. In fact, we see the team on Day 3 post-Oliver, and Diggle looks like he’s already accepted the ugly truth. While Felicity exudes optimism and faith, Diggle’s seen and caused too much death to delude himself. His realism may seem heartless, but in fact, it demonstrates an even deeper understanding of Oliver than even Felicity has. While Oliver and Felicity shared love and trust, Oliver and Diggle shared that survivor and war mentality that Felicity could never understand. Diggle knows that Oliver would move heaven and earth to contact them if he were alive, and his continuing silence can mean only one thing.
It’s not Diggle’s scenes of acceptance and truth that get me; it’s the scenes where he tries to gently bring Felicity into some form of acceptance. He starts out slow, just telling her to prepare for the worst, but he backs off quickly when she stands resolute. It’s a scene that seems, on the surface, to be about Felicity, but the tight shots on Ramsey’s face reveal a depth of emotion that he injects into the words. It hurts him to say these things, to admit that maybe Oliver didn’t win this time. It pains him to be the voice of reason, to be the person who has to shatter that glass smile on Felicity’s face. He’s in pain, too. He’s lost without his boss, his friend, his comrade in arms. John Diggle was the first person Oliver trusted when he came back to Starling, and Ramsey didn’t let us forget that.
Felicity’s most gut-wrenching scene is when Malcolm Merlyn (who apparently knows the code to the door now) presents them with proof of Oliver’s demise: the scimitar with his blood on it. She goes running back to work for (ugh) Ray Palmer and slowly becomes unhinged. She begs him not to be a vigilante, then she completely freezes up during an operation and cuts off Diggle and Roy from being able to pursue Brick and retrieve the stolen evidence from all of their cases over the last eight months. It results in an even more painful argument where both sides make sense: Roy and Diggle want to continue their work, but Felicity can’t stand the thought of losing them, too.
She’s unwittingly taken on Oliver’s worst trait: his need to control all outcomes. She thinks she’s protecting the people she loves, but all she did was rob Roy and Diggle of their agency. She shouts that she made a choice, but they knew what they were getting into; they were okay with dying in the line of duty. She’s lost perspective, and that’s okay, she’s grieving, but I’m also not going to gloss over what she’s done here. I hate when people are robbed of their free will (and this season, the biggest victim of that is Thea) and even tiny bubbly blondes are guilty of doing that. Diggle and Roy are full of sympathy, though, even as they’re frustrated with her actions.
Diggle: “The point is, if we’re going to do this without Oliver, Felicity, we have to trust each other.”
Felicity: “You don’t get it. There is no this without him. It’s done. I’m done.”
She turns off the lights in a really obvious metaphor and then goes to resign from her vigilante work with Ray Palmer, and let’s talk about him for a second. I think I’m getting to the point that I have to stop talking about him. I can’t stand the actor, it’s one of those visceral things that I thought might go away once I got used to (or even grew to like) the character. I am capable of that, as I had a lifelong hatred of Chevy Chase until he was cast on Community, and while I still don’t like Chase himself, his character became one of my favorites on the show. I really thought maybe I’d grow to like Ray Palmer at least, but I think he brings nothing to the table. He’s trying to build the Iron Man suit with none of Tony Stark’s genius or charisma, his corporate persona is too close to Oliver’s but again with none of the charisma, he’s clearly there to serve as Romantic Interest Option B for Felicity, and unlike the showrunners and writers, I just can’t see the chemistry everyone keeps referring to. I can handle polarizing characters or characters with potential, but Ray is just there. He’s beige, he’s spare, he’s a human vanilla milkshake, and I just don’t understand the appeal.
Ray’s building a suit, he wants to be a new kind of vigilante, he yells at Felicity for begging him not to put himself in danger, and apparently they’re friends now, hence her concern. Oh, and he’s scared of clowns. None of those scenes resonated with me. I felt like those sorts of emotional beats — Felicity getting scared and begging someone she considers a “friend” not to go down the same path as Oliver — would’ve been better served in future scenes with Laurel. Imagine that exact dialogue, the crying and the pleading, to Laurel. Laurel, who so desperately wants to do something for reasons we already understand. Imagine how emotionally charged those scenes could’ve been. That, more than anything else, is why I think Ray Palmer is a waste of character, screentime, and space. This show is already crowded with much more compelling characters, and Laurel is a character that has already been criminally mistreated and abused by her writing team in the first place!
Speaking of Laurel, she’s still kicking ass in court but it’s all for naught thanks to Felicity’s knee-jerk fear reaction of trapping Diggle and Roy inside the warehouse, which means all the evidence went away. After she finds out about Oliver’s death (and rightly yells at Team Arrow for actually believing Malcolm Merlyn) she sees Sara’s mask and weapons laid out and dons them herself. She’s the Black Canary now.
It’s pretty clear that Laurel is the lone holdout as far as Oliver’s supposed demise. After her extreme reactions to her sister’s death earlier this season, plus her spiral into alcoholism after Tommy’s death, I would expect more emotion from her if she really thought Oliver was dead.
What’s not so clear is how long Oliver lays on that mountainside before Maseo rescues him. Obviously I don’t think he could’ve been dead three days, but I wouldn’t put it past this show to do a thinly-veiled Jesus allegory. Either way, he’s alive and well and there hasn’t been a mention of a Lazarus Pit yet, but it’s still a possibility.
The case of the week is actually the start of a three-episode arc involving Vinnie Jones’ character, Brick, who is orchestrating a takeover of the Glades with the help of the freshly-freed inmates. They made a point of saying that he freed everyone who had been targeted by Team Arrow since Slade was imprisoned, so I’m crossing my fingers that he has something to do with this! (Sidenote: Vinnie Jones is a damn delight of a bad guy. He pops up on all my favorite shows as various memorable characters,, but I’ll always refer to him as Bullet-Tooth Tony.)
Meanwhile, in the flashbacks:
That’s about it.
– “Who the hell are you?” was said two different times to two different people, but thanks to Vinnie Jones’ turn as guest star, I kept saying, “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”
– Roy reeled from his mentor’s demise as well, but his emotions only manifested in a scene with Thea. My brain turned off after that, because he lied to her just like everyone else, and that’s when my sympathy started to wane. I get why he did it, but Thea’s treatment on this show is such a sore spot for me that I get taken right out of those sorts of scenes.
– Also this:
– Laurel also has a very emotional scene with Diggle when she asks whether he’s still going to fight the fight or hang up his metaphorical hood. Remember when he deeply mistrusted her? And now he’s accepting hugs and comfort from her.
– As for the Malcolm Merlyn of it all — what are they doing with him? Was he really pretending to express remorse over Oliver’s death? Did he really pretend to care about Thea’s brother after he sent Oliver to his death? I hope he dies soon, which is a shame because if they hadn’t done this stupid, unforgivable arc, there was potential for him to get up to some comparatively fun shenanigans without him becoming a disgusting symbol of the treatment of women on this show. The episode ends with him telling Thea that they need to leave Starling, but let’s see how that goes. Poorly, I hope.
– I loooooved this shot:
– STOP. LYING. TO. THEA. QUEEN. Man, when she finds out the truth, there’s gonna be hell to pay! I won’t be surprised if this show ends with her killing everyone out of sheer frustration.
– We learn that Felicity is 25, which means she was 22 or 23 when she met Oliver, and that she graduated from MIT at 19. Go Felicity!
– Even if Oliver lives long enough to die of old age, is anyone gonna really believe he’s gone?
Next week: Black Canary week, and presumably, Stephen Amell continues his vacation.