There’s a running joke that no one stays dead for long on Arrow. Even Felicity makes a sarcastic quip about it in this week’s excellent episode, “Unchained.” But that doesn’t mean when a character who hasn’t died suddenly returns, it’s any less shocking.
At the outset of “Unchained,” Team Arrow is faced with a good old-fashioned burglary. It may not sound as exciting as an evil special-armed-forces unit, but, as with most things on Arrow, there’s more than meets the eye — literally, as we’ll later find out. While chasing down the hooded culprit (who’s after some technology thingy) on a rooftop, Arrow and Speedy start throwing punches and kicks. Speedy corners the thief on the building’s ledge. But before she can stop him with an arrow, she starts to faint and nearly falls off the ledge herself. Her big brother catches her at the last minute.
We learn that Thea’s fainting is the result of a failure to feed her bloodlust by killing others. (She found a magical bloodlust escape clause through Damien Darhk’s touch, but her body apparently doesn’t recognize that work-around.) Malcolm is at her bedside with Oliver and explains that, since Thea isn’t killing others, her own body is trying to kill her. (Malcolm is like a walking mystical Siri. “Siri — why is my bloodlust not quenched?“) While Oliver is with Thea, he gets a call from Laurel. The burglar struck again and, this time, he’s stolen a weapon.
Oliver, in his street clothes, heads toward the burglary site. He spots the thief outside the building, and then a playful, obstacle course–like stunt sequence ensues. Oliver and the thief try to out-parkour each other, leaping across a construction site. (At one point, it almost seems like the thief is about to start break dancing.) When Oliver finally catches up with the culprit, he discovers that the thief is none other than … Roy Harper! Before he can figure out what’s going on, Roy punches Oliver across his face. (I like to imagine that this fight is really about who is prettier.)
Team Arrow regroups and digests the news that Roy is back in Star City. Felicity surmises that the technology Roy is stealing will be used to create a “web nuke” — something that could wipe out the internet. But there’s one key ingredient missing from Roy’s cache: a substantial power source. Felicity thinks Roy might head to Palmer Tech, which has recently developed a new powerful battery. Felicity tries to warn Curtis, but it’s too late. Roy arrives at Palmer Tech’s laboratory and confronts Curtis, who’s holding the battery.
Roy: I don’t want to hurt you.
Curtis: I don’t want you to hurt me either.
Roy: Well, I’m going to need to take that.
Curtis: Oh … Well, I think you’ll have to hurt me then.
A messy lab fight breaks out between Roy and Curtis. It’s helpful that Curtis is a former Olympian — he can hold his own against the Vigilante-Formerly-Known-As-Arsenal, at least for a little while. Team Arrow bursts into the lab to help, but Roy manages to toss the battery out the window and onto to a waiting drone. Felicity, watching remotely from the lair, notices something odd about Roy’s eye and tells Oliver to shoot him. Against Diggle and Laurel’s wishes, Oliver does just that. (Because, let’s get real. It’s Felicity asking.) Turns out, Roy was under the control of a villain called the Calculator, who forced Roy to wear a special tech-y contact lens that monitors his actions. Back at the lair, Felicity removes the contact, and Roy is free.
Roy isn’t the only one who’s no longer a prisoner. Pre-occupied with Thea in Star City, Malcolm has left his minions to watch over Nyssa in Nanda Parbat. One minion brings Nyssa a “pepper” from the garden and suggests that she try a bite. Wink-wink. Nyssa opens up the pepper stem and pulls out a knife. She and the minion then proceed to take out all of the prison guards in a slick sword fight. (It really is commendable how often Arrow provides opportunities for women to shine in stunt work.) Nyssa and the minion join up with others, who are in on the plan. Nyssa’s starting a revolution, kids! Her first order of business is tracking down a mysterious “lotus” in Japan. That lotus is being protected by another blast from the past: Katana/Tatsu!
While Katana and Nyssa go sword-to-sword over the lotus, Felicity goes voice-to-voice with the Calculator, who discovered Felicity’s identity after she tinkered around with Roy’s tech contact. Using voice modulators, both Felicity and the Calculator trade barbs and hacking codes. There’s a lot of fun and chemistry between the two actors — an impressive feat considering they’re not even onscreen together. (Such is the power of Emily Bett Rickards.) The Calculator then reveals that he wants to use the “web nuke” to take out the city’s power grids, hospitals, and essential services.
Eventually, Felicity learns that the Calculator’s weapon is going to be set off at a power station. While they try to outmaneuver each other in the cyber-realm, Team Arrow is fighting off the Calculator’s hired goons, who must shop at the same place as Shadowspire and H.I.V.E. (Seriously: If Oliver ever wants to stop all crime in Star City, he should just find out who’s buying all the black military onesies.) To save the city, Team Arrow has to do something to the weapon that involves setting off … some kind of explosion? I couldn’t quite follow the tech logic in this scene, but it was very fun, so it doesn’t really matter.
Team Arrow eventually determines that they need to set the charge of the explosion manually, which means someone might get blown up into little pieces. Arsenal volunteers, and I am livid about it. How dare he come back only to die! But Roy insists that he can set the charge (via an arrow) and still make it out safely before the explosion. Roy insists that it’s his choice to take the risk, and Team Arrow reluctantly agrees. After they exit the building, Roy pulls back his bow, and the arrow triggers the kaboom. As Team Arrow watches a big fireball rise into the sky, we can just barely make out the silhouette of a petite vigilante as he zip-lines to safety. Roy is alive!
Thus ends the Calculator stand-off. Or so we think. Later, Felicity is at Palmer Tech giving a presentation on the company’s new battery. Oliver is in the audience, admiring her brilliance as he ought to, when it’s revealed that Oliver is sitting right next to the Calculator. (Team Arrow never saw his face, so they’re all oblivious to this connection.) After Oliver leaves Palmer Tech, Felicity turns and bumps into the Calculator. “Dad?” she says, in disbelief.
The Calculator is her father!
Meanwhile, Roy saved the day, so it’s time for him to move on. There’s a sweet and touching good-bye scene between Thea and Roy, wherein they both hold back tears and wish each other the most normcore of existences with mini-vans and children. Unfortunately, Thea is not likely to get her happy ending anytime soon. Her bloodlust sickness gets worse, and she ends up comatose in the hospital. And while Oliver watches over her, Nyssa arrives. She tells him that a magical “lotus” can save Thea.
There’s a catch, of course. In exchange for the lotus, Nyssa wants Oliver to kill Malcolm.
A world of nope. The Shado-vision felt unearned and lazy.
- The stunts team brought their A-game this week. The Roy-zipline-explosion was gripping and visually stunning. It’s one of those rare “I-can’t-believe-this-is-the-CW” moments.
- The return of Bunny Oliver!
- Curtis to the wheelchair-bound Felicity, before her big presentation: “Break a leg!”
- Felicity to Oliver, after he expresses concern about her hacking plan: “My pride that you understood what I am saying is slightly undercut by your lack of faith in me.”
- Malcolm, to Oliver, on his sources: “I know how to put my ear up against a door.”
- Nysssssssssssa! I’m so glad she’s back. Katrina Law always delivers.
- Malcolm’s face when Oliver goes to shake his hand.
- The looks Roy and Oliver exchange about Roy being shot. YOU HAVE DISTRACTED FROM MY CREATIVE PROCESS.
- I like the choice to turn Lady MacDarhk into Oliver’s political nemesis. Also, the name “Ruve” may have been inspired by the real-life wife of Darhk’s Neil McDonough.
- Oliver’s face when Laurel suggested it’s just someone who looks like Roy. Tee hee.
- It’s nice to have Echo Kellum’s Curtis back. While Kellum is reliably funny, he also handles quieter moments nicely, like his presentation pep talk to Felicity.
- Glad to see the show explore more of the Felicity-as-CEO story line.
MISSING THE MARK
- I’m guessing Arrow will kill off Katana soon, à la Waller and Deadshot. It’d be a real bummer if the show lost such great actors and characters simply because of the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.
- A plain-clothes Oliver chased Roy. Roy was wearing the special contact. Does that mean the Calculator knows Oliver hunts down thieves?
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 1/8 (Sad trombone sound.)
Find me on Twitter and tell me how pissed Thea will be if Oliver kills her dad.