**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!