Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
With only four episodes left, Arrow gives fans a gripping “bottle episode” that utilizes the shows greatest strengths: Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). When Prometheus (Josh Segarra) traps Felicity and Oliver in the Arrow bunker with time and air running out. Arrow’s latest episode entitled “Underneath” centers on the shows strongest characters in possibly the best character centered episode for the series.
This season, Arrow has given us countless new characters. In the midst of essential reinventing the series, Arrow strayed from its original characters. Our favorites were thrust to the side in order to build up new characters like Rene (Rick Gonzalez) and Curtis (Echo Kellum). Diggle (David Ramsey), Oliver and Felicity were no longer the stars, but rather side characters. It became hard to watch, especially for a show that has kept fans interested in part thanks to Original Team Arrow. For an entire season almost, Arrow pushed characters apart, especially Oliver and Felicity.
Last season of Arrow was not the strongest. With the introduction of magic, the show stopped looking like itself. In order to compete with other superhero shows, meta humans and magic flooded into Oliver’s vigilante world and it wasn’t a good decision. You can have all the magic in the world, but without strong characters, it’s hard to care about storylines. We want to see our characters fight together. A show is only as strong as its characters, so earlier this season, Arrow wasn’t strong. It floundered as characters were the shells of their former selves.
It’s safe to say that Arrow is a split fandom when it comes to Oliver and Felicity’s relationship. You either love them or you think they’ve ruined the show. This season, Arrow took a step back from Felicity and Oliver. They avoided each other in the bunker, were thrust into new relationships and frankly, didn’t feel like Felicity and Oliver. Ultimately, it proved detrimental to the show. Without a Felicity and Oliver friendship, Team Arrow felt fractured. Felicity and Oliver’s relationship is great, but their friendship, their work dynamic is Arrow’s strongest asset, whether you ship them or not. So, to finally have the two of them back together is a warm welcome.
“Underneath” is the perfect storm. Featuring strong writing, directing and stunts, Arrow creates an episode that feels a lot like season 2, which is a good thing. The episode feels raw. The only detriment to the episode is that it didn’t come sooner in the season. This episode shed light on why Felicity and Oliver have been avoiding each other. It’s an important episode so we can understand their current dynamic. So, why hold it until the bitter end of the season? For the entirety of season five our main criticism is that we don’t know why Felicity and Oliver don’t speak. Now, we understand and the whole season seems clearer.
Trust. That’s the theme of Arrow this week as it propels two couples to a place of understanding. Both Felicity and Oliver and Diggle and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) have to learn to trust each other and this episode sets up the perfect storm that allows them to chat. The theme of the episode brings about some incredible moments, most notably from Amell and Rickards.
Once again, Amell and Rickards prove that they thrive in the small moments, but also the large one’s. A long awaited episode centered on Oliver and Felicity, Amell and Rickards fell right back in sync with each other. It’s hard to imagine two people that work better together than these two. Every time they share a scene, Arrow suddenly makes sense. This week’s Arrow episode not only featured Oliver and Felicity fighting for their lives in present day, but flashbacks revealed a surprise hook up in the Arrow bunker eleven months ago. In both timelines, Amell and Rickards prove why they work so effortlessly together.
If there is one thing Arrow has taught us, it’s that Emily Bett Rickards is a force to be reckoned with. With every scene she takes part in, she’s molding and creating the best version of her character. This week, Felicity must fight for her life, but also fight for Oliver to trust her. It’s a battle she’s been fighting since moment one. Oliver needs to learn to trust Felicity, not just Overwatch. Rickards brings her A-game as she allows Amell to shine in the major stunt sequences, but also the quiet moments.
Personally, the quiet moments are always Amell and Rickards strongest. Whether it’s a single tear down Oliver’s cheek as he tells Felicity he may enjoy killing, Oliver gently lowering Felicity down from the Salmon Ladder or even a tender hand hold when they make it out alive. It’s these moments that prove just how talented Amell and Rickards are. Alone they’re immeasurable talents, but together they create a spark that allows Arrow to have a weapon no other DCTV show has.
Even the large stunt sequences make Arrow very enjoyable this week. With Felicity’s spinal implant not working, Oliver’s left to do all the heavy lifting. Oliver literally carries Felicity on his back for most of the episode. It may not be the flashiest stunt Arrow has accomplished, but it packs the greatest heart wrenching punch. Oliver would rather suffer, exert himself and bleed out then leave Felicity. This is most apparent at the end of this harrowing hour when Felicity almost falls to her death. She begs Oliver to let her go, but with a single hand he hoists her back to safety. Amell and Rickards work tirelessly in this episode. While Green Arrow might not be running around in action, the stunt work this week is thought out and shows the true nature of each character.
By the time the hour draws to a close, Felicity and Oliver have realized they never truly understood what the other was going through. While they aren’t back together just yet, they’re on the road to recovery. Diggle and Lyla also learn to trust each other, making this an important step forward for both fan favorite pairing.
Arrow may thrive in the flashy moments, but it’s episodes like these that make us realize why we love Arrow. It’s for the characters. The relationships that have been built and tested. It’s about seeing two actors making you feel like their characters are each other’s whole worlds. Felicity and Oliver do that on Arrow. While they don’t have to be romantically together to make a good show, Arrow shows its hand this week proving that Felicity and Oliver are better together than apart. Amell and Rickards shine brightest in an episode that continues to make the final episodes of the season some of their best.