Nanda Parbat, Sex Club

arrow320

Note: Apologies for not posting a recap last week, I had every intention and then I fell ill. 

**This post contains spoilers for 3.20 of Arrow, “The Fallen.”**

There have been rumors floating around my Twitter feed that season 3 is just one giant alternate timeline gambit, and that thanks to The Flash and his ability to time-travel, we will be hitting the reset button and reliving the entire season in a newer, brighter, League-less fashion. I don’t believe that theory, honestly, but I want to believe it, especially after this week’s episode.

When you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, you should always consult a reliable, trustworthy person to advise you and guide you in your time of need. Say you’re considering a move to a new city, or you’re choosing between your dream job and the love of your life, or you work up the nerve to tell your hairdresser, “I want blunt bangs!” You need someone there whose sage advice will help you make the right decision, to guide you through the process, or to put a comforting hand on your shoulder and say “Oh honey, no, you don’t have the face for blunt bangs.” This person will ideally be:

– 100+ years old
– a ruthless murderer
– a relentless bully
– an absentee father
– creepy
– unable to pronounce his own name
– owner of a fountain of youth
– questionable at interior decorating
– incapable of being in a long-term romantic relationship

If you think this is a ridiculous set of criteria for a wise advisor, well, you must think you’re SO MUCH SMARTER than Felicity Smoak, who is a certified genius. Surely if such a person is good enough for Felicity, he would be good enough for you! So next time your life partner decides to go head up a team of ruthless killers, just hop on over to Nanda Parbat, confront “Race” al Ghul, then stand there all silent and defiant as he doles out some unsolicited advice about love, life, and the perks of the one night stand! Nothing can go wrong!

And hey, don’t forget to drug your partner against his express wishes after the awkward sex, so that you can determine what is best for him.

Honestly, the promotion for this episode was 30% Thea getting healed and then leaping out of the Lazarus Pit, and 70% “OLICITY SEX!” with blinky lights and glitter bombs. And as a metaphor for the entire season, BOTH storylines fell flat in an almost spectacular fashion. Thea was momentarily confused, then disoriented, then sad. Malcolm was there. It was hot. A lonely gray couch. “Oh look!” cried Ned. And the kingdom was his forever, the end. (Sorry if you don’t get that reference… I’m a little punchy.)

So naturally, even though Thea deserved to be the main focus of her own death episode (Oliver got three episodes dedicated to his death and resurrection!) production saw fit to just wring out every last vestige of characterization from Felicity and Oliver. Her reasons for going to him were twisted and felt gross, since it was on dubious advice, and the scene itself was stilted and… A friend described it as almost “wholesome” which is not exactly a word you want to ascribe to a steamy sex scene. There was a distinct lack of passion, and it was one of the few times that the viewer can feel themselves watching actors portray characters instead of watching characters be themselves. This is not the Oliver and Felicity of seasons 1 and 2. This is awkwardness, or discomfort, or phoning it in. Maybe it’s on purpose. Maybe the reset button people were right.

And honestly, fandom should be more upset about Felicity drugging Oliver against his will. If the roles were reversed and he had drugged her, that’s all anyone would be talking about this week. As it is, if they were going to the extreme of having Felicity do something so out of character, they should’ve at least used the opportunity to have Oliver rethink his actions in the past. If he didn’t like having someone else try to dictate what was best for him, maybe he would stop trying so hard to “protect” his sister, or Diggle, or Laurel, or Felicity. But of course Oliver, Professional Agency Stealer, immediately forgives Felicity once he quickly and miraculously comes to at the right time, because her heart was in the right place. They’re just baiting me now.

Felicity goes and cries on Laurel’s shoulder, which actually feels like a more meaningful moment for Laurel than anyone else, until you consider the fact that Laurel deserved to be part of the proceedings as well. Why did she have to stay home while the team trooped to Nanda Parbat? Is she part of the team or not?

I can’t believe that a year ago, we were deeply mired in the Mirakuru plot. Episode 2.20 was when Moira was killed, and that was an amazing and tragic episode. Everything after that was full throttle, and we knew we were heading for an epic showdown. What are we aiming for here, exactly? Who is Oliver’s enemy? It should be Malcolm Merlyn, or “Race” al Ghul, but he’s teamed up with both of them right now. What is the endgame? What are we hoping for? Because everything I hoped for is gone — there is nothing left of the characters I once loved, the characters I once wanted to defend to death. There’s no good story to tell when your characters have been compromised in unchangeable ways.

Besides John Diggle running around being all amazing all the time, there’s literally nothing else to talk about from this episode. Oliver is officially becoming the next R’as, and we’re supposed to be excited about that. I will say that the stunts were better in this episode, don’t say I can’t find a silver lining!

I can’t wait for this season to limp into the hiatus. I hope they spend that time getting their act together.

Bonus: Tumblr has a sense of humor about it.

Advertisements

Quentin Lance Wasn’t a Very Good Detective After All

arrow318

**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.18 of Arrow, “Public Enemy.”**

In the three years since the Arrow has appeared in his city, Quentin Lance, detective-turned-beat-cop-turned-captain, hasn’t figured out his true identity. This is besides the fact that the Arrow’s sidekick was Oliver Queen’s bodyguard, that his other sidekick was Queen’s executive assistant, that his daughter Sara Lance, aka the Canary, was dating Queen when she ran around saving the city, and that his other daughter Laurel, aka the Black Canary, has taken over that mantle.

I’m not sure how we can interpret this other than Quentin being a colossal idiot who is terrible at his job, but hey, at least he probably knew it on some level. Sigh.

It really undermines the incredible pathos that Paul Blackthorne puts into Lance’s storyline in this episode. He’s on a rampage to get to the Arrow because he’s grieving, he’s hurt, and he believes he’s lost everything. He’s reacting irrationally, but in a way that makes sense — he can’t trust Laurel because she burned that bridge, and he’s similarly angry at the man under the hood. In his mind, neither of them did anything to protect his daughter, and they spent the intervening months lying to him about her true fate. It’s awful that his inability to figure out the truth about Oliver has clouded this otherwise compelling story.

Lance is captured by “Race” al Ghul, who not only reveals the Arrow’s identity, but also tells Lance that Sara spent some time on Lian Yu. He announces the Arrow’s identity to the entire city, effectively shutting it down and forcing Oliver to turn himself in. Oliver tries to do it in exchange for immunity for his team, but none of them are thrilled with letting Oliver take the fall.

 

Ray, meanwhile, saves Felicity’s life or whatever. He ends up in the hospital and he’s still SUPER boring there, even on his literal deathbed, as he talks about his “teeny tiny robots” which can break up a blood clot. Then he goes from boring to psychotic in a teeny tiny robot second when he tells Felicity that he loves her. You know. Less than a year after he lost his “beloved” fiancee during Slade’s Mirakuvasion. This is definitely manipulation on his part.

It’s all gonna be okay, though, because Mama Smoak is back! “Hey! At least you finally have a boyfriend!” (Literally my mother. Like. Seriously.) Felicity confides that Ray said he loved her, and Donna lays it out for her: “You don’t love Ray, because you’re in love with Oliver.” She sweetly tells Felicity that it’s time to make a choice.

Roy abruptly goes off the deep end, consumed by sudden and random guilt over everything he’s done. It almost reads as out-of-character until we get to the end of the episode, when he dons the Arrow leathers and reveals that HE, in fact, is the Arrow. (Nice try, Roy, but are you saying that YOU saved YOURSELF from that man on the train back in season 1?)

“Race” al Ghul is still trying to bully Oliver into taking on his mantle, and make no mistake, this is actual bullying. Stephen Amell can tweet his faux-excitement to be “the next R’as!” all he wants, it’s not gonna fool me into thinking this is actually a good turn for him. This show needs a huge reset button for this storyline and I hate that they’ve driven me to the point of actually wanting time travel or Lazarus Pits or anything that will get rid of this stupid “Race” al Ghul storyline once and for all.

By far, one of the best scenes from this dismal season is the one between Lance and Oliver in the back of that van. “Well, was it worth it? All the pain and misery you brought back from that island? Merlyn, Slade Wilson… wouldn’t it be better if you just died there?” Then he goes on a heartbreaking list of the casualties of Oliver’s war: “Tommy. Hilton. Your mother. My daughter. And now you’re set on killing Laurel too.” It’s not fair for him to put all of this on Oliver — Tommy and Sara’s deaths aren’t on his hands, especially as Oliver chose Sara over Shado on Lian Yu — but it really punctuates Lance’s actions in this episode. None of this is fair, but we can see the thread of logic that runs through it all. Oliver IS the common denominator even if he’s not the instigator, and Lance, in his grief and anger, has boiled it down to its most simple solution.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done, huh? What you’ve done to all of us, to the people you claim to care so much about? You’ve made us criminals! You’ve made us liars and victims! You, Mr. Queen, are not a hero! You’re a villain.”

And then —

 

Mmm whatcha saaaay…

Other notes:

– Nyssa is still around! She gives Team Arrow the absolute minimal amount of help when she gives them Maseo’s location, but that’s enough for me! #TeamNyssa

– In the flashbacks, Oliver runs into Shado’s (long-lost, never-mentioned) twin sister, Mei. SUSPICIOUS. This raises so many questions, but until we find out from a third party that Shado definitely had a twin, I’ll remain suspicious.

“If your father were here –” / “He’d be arrested.” Bits of backstory on Felicity’s father.

“You, Harper, Sara, the freak in Central City, the Huntress, I got a new guy flying around the city!” I love Lance’s breakdown of the various Starling City vigilantes.

– I assume something happens to Akio in the flashbacks, prompting Tatsu’s present-day grief and Maseo’s alliance with the League, but they keep dragging it out and it’s getting tiresome. This whole show is tiresome.

TONIGHT: Felicity and the punchable Ray Palmer make appearances in Central City where huge revelations are made, and probably reversed thanks to time travel. So watch The Flash if you need your Felicity fix.

TAX DAY: I just watched the extended promo for this week’s Arrow and while I’m looking forward to an Oliver-and-Roy centric episode, it’s also gonna be heavy on Bootleg Iron Man, so my mental countdown for when Ray goes to his own show has already begun. SPOILER: Supposedly someone will die, too. The internet is rampant with theories from Roy to Diggle, but like I listed above… Akio, to our knowledge, is not alive in the present day. And presumably, his death or disappearance has to happen soon. I haven’t delved too deep into online (okay, Tumblr) theories but I don’t know why people aren’t considering Akio to be a significant death… since it sorta sets Maseo’s, and by extention Oliver’s, current storyline in motion.

Are you excited, or are you dreading it?

I, Raybot

arrow317

**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.17 of Arrow, “Suicidal Tendencies”**

Talk about a polarizing episode.

No really, someone talk about it, because I don’t even know where to begin.

Sigh. Fine. Here goes nothing.

I’m not happy with Arrow, and if you’ve been reading along, I think you’re aware of that. I keep trying to write about it, but it’s exhausting to be this angry over a TV show. It’s just a TV show, right? I mean, now it is. It used to be well-crafted and a real genre-buster, but now, it’s not even formulaic. It’s really not even basic. It’s bad. And no one is willing to listen to us.

I will grant that there is a very vocal and often irrational side to fandom that might drown out the constructive criticism of the show. There are fans of Oliver/Felicity that are so angry about their ship that they’ve taken to all platforms to rant and rage at anyone even remotely related to Arrow production. I understand that it might be easier to lump the entirety of fandom in with that group and pretend that we are all just screaming nonsensically, but at the end of the day, the showrunners are ignoring a very well-spoken and deeply concerned corner of fandom that is just wondering what happened to their once-great show.

I’ve made no secret of my allegiance to Oliver/Felicity — I would call myself a shipper, I think my videos speak for themselves — but on Arrow, I value the story over the ship. I’m willing to lose Oliver/Felicity for a while, to see them in other relationships or just apart, if it means they’re telling a good story. I’m willing to sacrifice romance and true love for characterization. I will always value the team — even including Roy and Laurel — over the ships. That’s because all I want, all I’ve ever wanted, is to watch a good story.

I was willing to watch Oliver choose to be alone, to watch him push Felicity away for her safety, and to watch her rebound with another guy. I’m actually a fan of slow burns in romance, and Oliver/Felicity is rife with so much angst that the slow burn could’ve been great. I was in complete agreement that Felicity deserved a break from the Oliver Queen Angst Show and that she should date a guy with less baggage. But they chose to saddle Felicity with the worst possible character in the history of television* when they brought in Ray Palmer, and all he’s done is dragged down her character and sucked the life out of her.

(*except for Chuck Bass)

I’ve covered Ray’s stalking, his manipulating, his general air of entitlement, and I think I’ve even mentioned that I think he’s dead behind the eyes. He carries himself like he’s handsome and suave but he actually seems like one of those humanoid robots that knows it’s supposed to feel emotions and does its best to manufacture them, but they’re always a little off and ultimately they just creep you out. So we end up watching scene after scene where Felicity should be acting out the plot to I, Robot and kicking Ray in the face Will Smith-style, but instead she’s actually flattered, touched, and flirty with the robot. The more she submits to his programming, the creepier and more upsetting it gets for the fans. In the most recent episode, “Suicidal Tendencies,” she even let him shame her for keeping Oliver’s big secret from him, like she somehow owes Ray her allegiance. She doesn’t. He’s never been completely forthcoming with her, and she’s never revealed Oliver’s secret to anyone unless Oliver’s life was in danger, so why would she owe Ray that truth? Why does he think he’s entitled to it?

He does the same thing to Laurel later in the interrogation room, when he’s trying to tell her that Oliver is the Arrow. Laurel isn’t as susceptible to Ray, possibly she can hear the whirring of his machinery in the quiet of the interrogation room, and when she points out that Oliver was arrested under the same suspicion two years ago, Ray isn’t stymied — he immediately claims that Laurel is similarly compromised because of her past with Oliver. Laurel had demonstrated composure and professionalism with Ray during this conversation, but his first instinct was to treat her like an irrational woman, and he did it all with that smarmy look on his face that we are supposed to find — charming? Endearing? Handsome? (These are times where I find myself wondering, yet again, how differently this all would play out if they’d cast a better actor in this role.)

 

To add insult to injury, Ray shows up for his big fight with Oliver and immediately turns it into some kind of contest over Felicity. Oliver’s literally standing there in leathers with just a bow and arrows as his defense, Ray is standing a head taller than him dressed in metal and looking like a freaking idiot, and he’s crowing “show Felicity what kind of man you really are!” Like Felicity doesn’t know, after three years. Like Oliver’s even worried about Felicity’s opinion. Like Oliver’s not preoccupied with clearing his name, finding and fighting R’as al Ghul, and not letting Felicity’s boyfriend trip over his metal feet and kill himself on accident. This is a fight for survival for Oliver, just like it always has been, but it’s just a game to Ray — and the writers don’t seem to realize that that’s the message they’re sending about Felicity, too. She’s just a game for him as well.

It’s all very comical when Oliver simply disables Ray’s dumb suit, and instead of killing him and putting us out of our misery, he takes his hand and they forge some kind of truce.

Honestly, the writers should’ve course-corrected around the time Oliver fell off that mountain and decided to make Ray Palmer a villain. Screw canon. ATOM is dumb anyway, and Ray Palmer is no Tony Stark. If you can’t get your actor to actually connect with the audience the way you intended, then why not lean into it and pretend that this was your plan all along? Then at least all of his manipulations of Felicity would have pathos instead of just being “Oh tee hee that’s just Ray, he’s such a scoundrel! And also he’ll follow you back to your apartment so take the long way home.” Sure, he’d still be the lamest supervillain to ever supervillain, but… oh wait, no, we still have R’as al Ghul ringing in at Lamest Supervillain, so I guess Ray would get second place. My, how the mighty supervillains have fallen since Slade Wilson was in town.

I don’t even want to get into the lunacy involving Oliver actually considering becoming the new R’as al Ghul, but this show is determined to crash and burn spectacularly, I suppose.

But I have a silver lining for this cloud, and that is Deadshot. Poor guy suffered from PTSD and ended up in jail and losing his family, which is how HIVE got ahold of him and turned him into a sniper for hire. He and Diggle have an unlikely friendship that is downright fun to watch, and Deadshot’s interactions with Carrie Cutter were even better, because he saved her life so now she’s obsessed with him. That might be part of the reason he decided to sacrifice himself for the cause and got blown up with the hospital that the Suicide Squad was trying to save (and that storyline had some of its own WTFness going on) but I’m pretty sure Deadshot is still very much Alive-shot somewhere. It wouldn’t be the first time this show half-heartedly killed off a beloved character only to bring him back three episodes later, would it?

Other fun notes:

– Congratulations to Diggle and Lyla, whose second wedding happened in under three minutes flat! I hope they have a third one only because I wanted to punch their officiant in the face. Ray Palmer ruins everything.

– Diggle seriously Diggle’d this bit, and then Ray was absolutely terrifying:

 

You can’t tell me that second gif doesn’t look like a robot that is searching its programming for an appropriate response to a threat.

– This was not a good Felicity episode, no matter which way you slice it. I tend to be a huge Felicity apologist, I’m willing to forgive a lot of the little character lapses that happened along the Ray Palmer Douchebro Storyline this season, but her behavior in this episode was unrecognizable. The same Felicity that stands up to Oliver time and time again was basically cowering in Ray’s self-righteous indignation. I’m starting to wonder if they hired a writer who hates Felicity.

– Laurel’s trainer is “enthusiastic.” And I like the idea that Nyssa’s still in Starling somewhere, grocery shopping and drinking coffee at cafes.

– Maseo killed an innocent woman at the end of the episode, and his arrow was trained on Felicity before the screen cut to black. They’re raising the stakes for Oliver, that’s for sure.

– If Arrow‘s bumming you out lately, have no fear! Community is back on Yahoo Screen, and it’s actually really good!