Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor
In a season filled to the brim with standout performances, the latest episode of Arrow blew every other episode out of the water. From direction by Rob Hardy, writing by Marc Guggenheim and Keto Shimizu and outstanding performances by the entire cast, Arrow pulls off its best episode this season and reminds fans what made them fall in love with the show in the first place.
This week’s episode entitled “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” returns to the Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) storyline that has been prevalent all season. With Darhk in jail and Team Arrow guarding his idol (the source of his mystical powers), the team begins to speculate when Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) will attempt to break him out of prison and steal the idol. This looming threat launches every actor into some standout performances.
One of the biggest storylines this week is shared between Oliver (Stephen Amell), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Andy (Eugene Byrd). Andy was last seen on Arrow saving Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) after an attack on A.R.G.U.S. Several months have passed and it appears Andy may be back working for HIVE, especially when he tells Dig about a mysterious meeting with a man “with perfect teeth and a missing hand.” Cue suspicious Oliver who is now doubting Andy’s allegiance. Of course, Diggle wants to believe his brother has moved away from his sinister past. Some of Ramsey’s best acting this season has come from Dig’s desire to want Andy to be good. It’s interesting to watch Ramsey play a naive side to Dig when it comes to Andy’s actions. When a mission to stop a missile shipment from getting into Darhk’s hands is too easy, Oliver begins to have his suspicions about Andy.
With the boys intercepting the missile shipment, Thea (Willa Holland) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) are left to guard the idol back at the Arrow bunker. Of course things don’t go smoothly when Malcolm and his stealthy band of League of Assassins members come dropping in. The stunt team on Arrow continues to be the best on TV. The sleek fighting style presented in this episode went above expectations. As Laurel fends off League of Assassins members, Thea and Malcolm duke it out in an epic dad/daughter matchup. Arrow’s stunt department shows that you don’t need explosions to make a fight scene memorable. Thea and Malcolm’s sword and hand-to-hand combat sequence is one of the best on Arrow this season. Barrowman and Holland continuously push their father/daughter relationship to new heights and seeing it reach this combat stage is legendary. The amount of anger and frustration behind both character’s expressions makes the fight epic. The best part maybe the split second hesitation Thea exudes when she places a blade to Malcolm’s throat. Holland’s ability to play two sides to Thea in this one moment is notable. Of course with Thea’s hesitation, Malcolm overpowers her and makes away with the idol.
Even though the idol is gone, there’s not much Malcolm and Darhk can do with it considering a crucial piece has been hidden by Team Arrow. This revelation leads fans into several great Diggle/Oliver scenes. Oliver’s suspicions of Andy reach a new height when he finds him rummaging through Dig and Lyla’s apartment. Green Arrow steps in to confront him and what ensues is a classic Green Arrow intimidation scene. This season, Amell has not showcased the angry side to Green Arrow much, but that changes in the latest episode. A major callback to season one Arrow, Green Arrow roughs up Andy and wants more info on why he was snooping around. Amell has done an incredible job at playing the softer side to Oliver this season, however it was nice to see the unyielding Arrow return. Of course, things can’t go right for Oliver and Dig busts in on the scene. In pure brotherly instinct, Dig pulls a gun on Oliver saying, “I know exactly what that kevlar won’t protect.” Once again, Amell and Ramsey work perfectly together and pack an emotional punch.
Following the incident, Dig confronts Oliver in the Arrow bunker. This confrontation leads to one of the best moments on Arrow this week. Oliver tells Dig that he doesn’t believe people can come back from the darkness. He admit that he never fully came back from Lian Yu. He says, “I am who those five years away turned me into.” This small revelation truly showcases how far Amell has grown the character of Oliver. Season one Oliver was secluded and didn’t let anyone in for fear of hurting them. He may not think he ever returned from the Island, however being able to admit that to Dig shows he has regained some of his humanity. Dig then dishes out one of the most hurtful lines on Arrow ever when he says, “Some of us change. Some of us grow. Some of us evolve. You are stuck… That’s why Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) left you.”
Although Amell and Ramsey deliver standout performances in the latest Arrow episode, it’s Katie Cassidy that goes above and beyond. After Ruvé Adams (Janet Kidder) wins the Mayoral election she swiftly offers Laurel a job as the new District Attorney. This moment sets Laurel on one of the best storylines she has had all season. The offer leads her to have several little conversations with Thea, Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and Oliver about whether or not to take the job, even if it means giving up the Black Canary moniker. The best performance during these discussions comes between Cassidy and Amell. The duo have always had a special bond on Arrow and that really shines through this week. Oliver tells Laurel that she should pursue the path she wanted to before Sara (Caity Lotz) died. He encourages her to be “a hero without a mask.” Amell and Cassidy have transformed their characters relationship on Arrow. What started off as romantic has turned into one of the best friendship and it’s refreshing to see. When Darhk arms other inmates and chaos breaks out in Iron Heights, Laurel decides to take the D.A job and suit up with Team Arrow “one more time.”
With orchestrated havoc breaking out thanks to Darhk, Team Arrow busts in to save the day. Team Arrow appears to be holding their own until Darhk gets ahold of a gun and point it at Andy, who has tagged along. In an Arrow twist that we are sure everyone saw coming, Andy has been working with Darhk this whole time and gives him the missing piece of the idol. If this betrayal wasn’t enough to cripple Team Arrow, Darhk activates the idol, freezes all of them and reveals that he knows all of their alter egos. If this wasn’t enough, Darhk says that he is interested in getting back at Quentin after his betrayal. As promised, Darhk hurts the only thing Quentin truly cares about: Laurel. In one swift motion, Darhk stabs Laurel right through the chest with an arrow, echoing Sara’s death in season three.
After being stabbed, Oliver rushes her to the hospital where Team Arrow, including Felicity, await news on her condition. She quickly comes out of surgery and what ensues is some of the best acting and writing Arrow has produced all season. Cassidy gives a truly heartbreaking performance as she delivers each line with a little more heart and anguish than the last. Laurel tells Team Arrow, “Going out there and fighting alongside you guys… It’s what makes me feel alive inside. I love you guys so much.” Between the tears in Cassidy’s eyes coupled with Rickards, Amell, Holland and Ramsey all fighting back tears of their own, it’s hard not to cry. The beautiful monologue written by Guggenheim and Shimizu elevates this episode of Arrow and adds to the heartbreaking nature of the hospital scene.
This group scene stands out in Arrow this week, however it’s the hospital moment between Cassidy and Amell that solidifies this episode as one of their strongest. Oliver and Laurel share a quiet moment where Laurel tells Oliver, “I’m really glad that you found Felicity. And I really hope that you find your way back to her.” If that wasn’t enough of a stab in the heart, Laurel reveals that although she may not be the love of his life, he was certainly the love of hers. Amell and Cassidy play off of each other perfectly. In particular, Cassidy gives a career-defining performance as Laurel. In the last few moments, Laurel asks Oliver for a secret favor and in the next split second, she has a seizure and with that Dinah Laurel Lance dies.
The final scene of Arrow this week gives Paul Blackthorne a final chance to shine. When Quentin rounds the corner and locks eyes with Oliver, that is enough to send fans into a sob fest. Blackthorne and Amell’s heartbreaking performance in the final scene doesn’t even involve an exchange of words. “Laurel’s dead” doesn’t need to be spoken, her death is already reverberating to every corner of the Arrow-verse. Blackthorne and Amell play off the silence in the hallway and it works flawlessly and brings Arrow to a tragic close.
Overall, Katie Cassidy has transcended expectation with her portrayal of Laurel Lance. Starting from the love-scorned, ex-girlfriend of Oliver, to a drug addict, to the Black Canary has been a beautiful arc for Cassidy to play and for Laurel to be on. The character of Laurel has touched each and every character on Arrow and her presence on the show will surely be missed. Cassidy has delivered a career-defining performance as the Black Canary and she will always be remembered within the Arrow.
In today’s age of social media, TV shows need to deliver bold storylines that will keep viewers on their toes and wanting more. Arrow does just that with this latest episode. With an entire season leading up to the big “Who’s in the grave?” reveal, Arrow does not disappoint. This startling death with surely thrust Arrow towards interesting and refreshing storylines for every character. How will Oliver deal with this latest loss? Will Diggle blame himself because of Andy’s actions? How will Sara react? This episode packs all the right punches and gives fans a bit of nostalgia for the Arrow they fell in love with. With this episode and the risks it takes, Arrow hurdles towards its final episodes of season four and it will surely be a wild ride.