Last week’s “Broken Hearts” allowed for great character development, but overall it was an understandably gloomy affair. “Beacon of Hope” is less concerned with relationship dynamics, and, thanks to a fun villain-of-the-week and prime Curtis screen time, the episode zaps a little needed energy into the series as it gears up towards its season finale.
The villain is Brie Larvon (The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney), who previously went hacker-to-hacker against Felicity in season one of The Flash. At the beginning of “Beacon,” Brie hacks her way out of prison (naturally) and shows up at a Palmer Technologies board meeting looking for Felicity. But it’s not for revenge because Brie doesn’t know Felicity was the hacker who put her behind bars. Instead, Brie’s there to get her hands on the spinal implant prototype that’s currently sitting at the base of Felicity’s spine and that Palmer Technologies is trying to monetize.
To make her request for a meeting with Felicity more persuasive, Brie’s brought — what else? — an army of robotic bees with chemically enhanced stings. The bees have surrounded Palmer Technologies and effectively trapped all of its employees inside. Kinney plays Brie as hyperfocused and intense as her insect of choice. Brie’s black-and-gold outfit is even bee-inspired, as are her puns (e.g., “beeee-havior”). She definitely gives off a campy Flash villain vibe, but it makes for a nice change of pace from the usual Star City gloom and doom. (Speaking of fun villains, where’s that Anarky fellow?)
Thea and Mama Smoak just happen to be with Felicity in her office when Brie’s bees attack, so they have to band together to find a way out of Palmer Tech. Mama Smoak is visiting to get the dirt on the B-R-E-A-C-K U-P, while Thea is there to ask Felicity about offering missing-in-action campaign dude Alex a job. (Oh, Alex, you live on only in a series of unseen texts. On a related note, I’d like to think that Ted Grant is out there, occasionally posting to Laurel’s Facebook page.)
The other bright spot this episode is Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum). Curtis, home sick from work, is worried about Felicity being trapped at Palmer Tech. He uses a special tracker phone Felicity gave him during his last Team Arrow mission and accidentally stumbles into Team Arrow’s secret elevator. He takes the elevator down and unintentionally interrupts a Team Arrow mission meeting. Curtis’s joy at discovering everyone’s secret identity is pretty infectious, as is his enthusiasm for Felicity’s computer setup. (We also learn the most important thing of season four so far: Team Arrow calls their hideout the “bunker.” Foundry. Lair. Bunker. I can’t keep up!) Curtis’s scenes in the — ahem — bunker provide a welcome balance to the usual serious discussions taking place there.
Curtis quickly finds himself stepping into Felicity’s shoes on Team Arrow. He hacks into Brie’s bees (say that five times) and manages to get a message to Felicity that the Green Arrow is on his way. (I liked the Curtis-as-the-bee reveal. It was a fun way to connect everyone.) Felicity and company rendezvous at the meeting place, but a swarm of bees puts a damper in their escape plans. Worse, that swarm of bees turns into a large “Bee Man” (hat tip, Mama Smoak) who shoots, well, bees. Not only does Bee Man make it impossible for Green Arrow to rescue his teammates and once future mother-in-law, but one of Bee Man’s robot bees gets inside Oliver.
The bee is wreaking havoc on Oliver’s insides, but it’s doing wonders for his outside, as Oliver lays shirtless on the bunker table. Team Arrow huddles over him trying to figure out how to stop the bee. (Laurel, for some reason, seems to be holding up a phone over his chest. I thought for a moment she might be taking pictures of Oliver as he twisted on the table, and I’m like, same.). The team learns the bee is multiplying inside Oliver. To deactivate them, Curtis uses Laurel’s Canary Cry to disrupt their frequency. It works, and Laurel smiles.
That smile sealed it for me: Laurel’s in the grave. In this episode, she saves Oliver. She also has two heartfelt scenes with Oliver about his pain and not giving up on hope. These two characters haven’t had a friendship, let alone a meaningful connection or conversation in forever, and now they are all of a sudden tying up emotional ends? Plus, to make these conversations seem like a natural occurrence, the writers literally had to separate Oliver from Felicity and Thea with an army of bees. She’s a goner, folks.
While Oliver recovers from his bee invasion, Felicity and Thea help the board of directors and Mama Smoak escape Palmer Tech with a clever use of Curtis’s T-Sphere technology. But Brie’s not done with Felicity and Thea. Holding a gun, she demands that Felicity give her the blueprints for the spinal implant device or she’ll shoot Thea. Turns out, Brie has a spinal tumor and needs surgery that will leave her paralyzed. She wants the device to save her from life in a wheelchair. Despite Thea’s protests, Felicity turns the blueprints over to Brie.
But, like any good villain, Brie makes an unexpected return. Thanks to some familiar source code in Palmer Tech’s system, Brie makes the connection that Felicity is the hacker who sent her to jail. An angry Brie attacks Felicity with her bees. Luckily, the Green Arrow arrives before the bees can do damage. Not so luckily, the Bee Man also appears. A special “frequency” arrow knocks out the “Bee” part of “Bee Man” and he becomes just a “Man.” (It’s one thing to create evil bee drones, it’s another to make a man materialize out of thin air, but I’m trying to suspend my dis-bee-lief.) A fight breaks out in the room, and Thea and the Green Arrow both get knocked out.
Left to defend herself, Felicity breaks off the top of a lamp and zaps Bee Man with the lamp’s wires, until he disintegrates into a pile of bees. The Green Arrow gets up, only to be shot by Brie with a gun! What?! Almost immediately after that, Curtis does some techy-hack thing and makes all of the bees attack Brie! There is a lot happening in this sequence.
Post-fight, there’s a nice moment between Felicity and Thea about Felicity’s future with Team Arrow. Unlike Thea, Felicity wasn’t in the vigilante game for the thrill. She wanted to make a difference, something she realizes she can still do, only with Palmer Technologies and its spinal implant technology. I love that the show is exploring Felicity’s worldview beyond Team Arrow, even if I would love even more for her to rejoin the team.
Finally, we get a glimpse into Damien Darhk’s prison life. Malcolm Merlyn comes to visit him and tells Darhk that H.I.V.E.’s moving on with the Genesis plan without Darhk. To make matters worse, he’s getting beat up in prison by the lipless man from season three. There’s a convoluted scene about the lipless man’s grandma that I didn’t quite follow, except it seems that the lipless man works for some type of organization that Darhk wants in on.
Malcolm is working on his own criminal connections. He meets with an unseen man unrelated to H.I.V.E. — Darhk’s so-called “ace in the hole.” I have to admit I expected the reveal to show the mystery man to be Reiter from the flashbacks, but no, it’s not him: It’s Andy Diggle!
Reiter, having absorbed the life force of dead soldier guy, shows Oliver how powerful he is. Meanwhile, these flashbacks continue to absorb my life force.
- Oliver’s angry “I-can’t-believe-Curtis-found-my-secret-bunker” face. Curtis is a fun comic foil for Oliver.
- “You are a very scary man,” Curtis to Oliver.
- Donna removing her heels.
- Special effects/CGI is not always Arrow’s strong suit, but I thought the swarm of bees looked pretty cool.
- I liked the four-way baton training sequence. Plus, it’s totally believable that training would be Oliver’s coping method in the wake of his breakup.
- I like casual “under-criminal-investigation” Quentin, with his smoooooth blazer/T-shirt combo. I get it now, Mama Smoak.
MISSING THE MARK
- No need to beat the audience over the head with all of the “beacon of hope” lines.
- My Girl. Die Hard. Harry Potter. Panic Room. I prefer when Arrow makes less and more subtle pop culture references, like Felicity’s Godfather III-inspired line. (That said, “Die Hard with bees”? Tee-hee.)
- I give up. I am just going to accept that Malcolm can be anywhere at anytime and know anything. He’s totally Ra’s Al Ghul’d me!
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 2 (bonus points for table writhing!)
Come find me on Twitter and tell me if you think Curtis should be a permanent fixture in the bunker.