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‘Arrow’ Mid-Season Premiere Review: “Who Are You?”

Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Co-Executive Stage Editor

Arrow returned this week with an episode that is the perfect balance of heart and fight. After a rocky beginning to season 5, Arrow seemingly lost its way. New characters entered and were not fleshed out while fan favorites lost their way. Arrow’s mid-season premiere entitled “Who Are You?” gives fans a glimpse back into the show they fell in love with while simultaneously pushing the new plot forward.

It’s been a long winter break for Arrow fans this year. The mid-season finale left fans with numerous questions as we finally hit a stride with the Prometheus storyline. The beginning of the season has been cluttered with new character introductions and it has made for a rocky season. While new characters breathe new life into shows, Arrow faltered by packing too many into the first half of the season. This caused some problems in storytelling for the long-time DCTV show. First, the abundance of new characters didn’t allow us to learn more about each one. Fans were unable to get attached thus causing some problems.

Second, because of the massive influx of new characters, fan-favorite characters didn’t get the storylines or character development they deserved. Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) Mayoral storyline isn’t striking an impactful chord, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is the shell of her former self and god even knows what Thea (Willa Holland) is up to. Arrow’s midseason premiere may not be perfect, but we are starting to see the show we all fell in love with five years ago.

Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode "Who Are You?" Photo Credit: The CW
Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode “Who Are You?” Photo Credit: The CW

During the midseason finale, Arrow dropped a major bombshell when Oliver walked into the Arrow Bunker to find Laurel (Katie Cassidy) standing there. It’s the cliffhanger that had everyone talking, but of course it was too good to be true. Unless you were really in denial about Laurel’s death, “Laurel” actually being Black Siren shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone. While Oliver and Felicity are thrilled to see Laurel again, it almost makes her fake return less believable when Thea and Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) are notably absent from the episode. With Quentin still in rehab and Thea away on business, there’s no way Arrow would’ve brought back Laurel without the two of them. Also, what’s with leaving two main characters out of an episode? 

Before we get into the negatives of the Laurel fake out, we have to give credit where credit is due. Katie Cassidy exceeds all expectations in this episode. First introduced in an episode of The Flash last season, Black Siren is the perfect addition to the Arrowverse and is a great example of an Earth 2 counterpart. Cassidy always played Laurel extremely well, but her work as Black Siren is simply extraordinary. She defies expectations and makes us miss Cassidy’s presence on Arrow even more. From the moment she reveals herself as Black Siren, Cassidy owns the episode.

Cassidy and Amell have always worked great together and this episode is no exception. Oliver drastically tries to hold onto the little bit of Laurel he can, while Black Siren screws with his head even more. While Amell does suit up as Green Arrow in this episode, his moments as Oliver Queen are more impactful. From the moment “Laurel” reappears, something clicks in Oliver. He’s back to his younger self who would do anything to protect Laurel.

Even with Felicity warning Oliver not to get his hopes up about Black Siren, Oliver does. He can’t bare to lose the piece of himself that Laurel represents again. Amell and Cassidy fall right back into sync, but this time it’s interesting to see the Oliver/Black Siren dynamic take shape. Rarely do actors get to play the polar opposites of their characters and Cassidy does so with ease, especially in her scenes opposite Amell.

Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode "Who Are You?" Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW
Emily Bett Rickards in the Arrow episode “Who Are You?” Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

This episode may be about Laurel’s return and the aftermath of Green Arrow fighting Prometheus, but Felicity Smoak is the shining star. Emily Bett Rickards is back and better than ever. After sitting on the sidelines for the first half of season 5, it’s refreshing and a long time coming to have Felicity back in the action. Right off the bat, Felicity is the only one to see through Black Siren’s fake Laurel facade. Rickards builds Felicity’s character back up in a single episode of Arrow and it’s simply extraordinary to watch.

Arrow 5A faltered on multiple levels and we can’t help but think it could be because Felicity was barely recognizable. Her storylines felt rushed, she barely even looked at Oliver, let alone talked to him, and she just didn’t seem like the independent character we love. This week, Arrow thrusts Felicity right into the middle of the Black Siren fight and it gives us some kickass work from Rickards, but also falls into an exhausting TV trope.

Yes, seeing Felicity go head to head with Black Siren (and punch her) is the highlight of the midseason premiere. Felicity vs. Black Siren is the fight we never thought we needed, but were happy we got to see. While the two badass female character go head to head, we can’t help but wonder if this is another way to pit Laurel vs. Felicity. It’s no secret the shipping wars on Arrow have created some massive tension, but Arrow can’t seem to let it go.

Arrow turns to the women vs. women TV trope this week. A trope that should’ve died years ago, better yet, never have happened. Felicity and Laurel can’t seem to be friends in any universe, which is sad as a fan because Cassidy and Rickards work effortlessly together. Female friendships are rare on TV, especially in the DCTV universe. Thea and Felicity’s friendship is something we would LOVE to see, but all of their bonding happens off screen. Laurel and Felicity had moments, but they were never as important as moments between Oliver and Diggle (David Ramsey), their male counterparts. While Cassidy shines as Black Siren, we wish she could’ve shown up on Arrow without having to fight Felicity.

Speaking of ships, a positive in Arrow’s corner this week is they’ve finally recognized that Oliver and Felicity are indeed friends. Shocking, we know. During 5A the Arrow writers seemed to have been struck with a severe case of amnesia, unable to remember that Oliver and Felicity not only dated, but were engaged. Rickards and Amell fall back in step this week and it’s as if nothing has changed. Their shared moments in the Arrow Bunker are something to celebrate.

Rickards brings her A-game while Amell feeds off her every movement and word. This is something that we missed in Arrow 5A. We missed the banter, the heart to heart moments in times of need. While Felicity and Oliver aren’t together right now, that’s not the point. The point is they are friends first and foremost and Arrow finally allows fans to see this. Rickards and Amell work flawlessly together and it’s good to see them do so this week. Arrow needs to continue to play to its strengths and allows fan favorite character to flourish once again. 

David Ramsey in the Arrow episode "Who Are You?" Photo Credit: The CW
David Ramsey in the Arrow episode “Who Are You?” Photo Credit: The CW

The storyline we are most excited about on Arrow is Diggle’s. While we miss Diggle on Team Arrow, it’s refreshing to see him have an independent storyline. David Ramsey is already becoming a leading male character in his own right. With Diggle behind bars, Ramsey is playing another side of this fan favorite character. Diggle’s hit his lowest point and as he struggles to climb back, Ramsey is making the biggest impact. This week may not have shown a lot of Diggle’s prison struggle but the storyline will only grow from here and we can’t wait to see where it goes. Ramsey is a veteran to the DCTV universe and it’s storylines like this that make us truly stop and appreciate everything he has to offer and everything he’s created with the character of Diggle.

While Arrow is filled with new characters right now, this week Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) finally gets some much deserved screen time. Last season, he stole our hearts as the lovable scientist and now he’s turning heads as Mr. Terrific. This week, Curtis struggles with finding where he belongs on Team Arrow. He’s lost so much already and can’t seem to grasp his role in all of this. Kellum brings the character to life more and more as he fleshes out Curtis’ backstory and it’s a joy to watch him do so. In 5A, Curtis was seemingly pushed aside for other members of Team Arrow, but now that they’ve all been introduced he’s back in front. Kellum is an important, multifaceted asset in Arrow’s corner and we’re glad to see they’re utilizing him more and more.

Arrow comes out of the gate swinging in the mid-season premiere “Who Are You?” Between Cassidy’s brilliant turn as Black Siren to Felicity Smoak getting her groove back, we are already holding onto hope for 5B. While Arrow is still cleaning up the sloppy mess in the first half of the season, we have some renewed faith that our favorite DCTV show is ready to make a splash once again.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW

Overall Grade: B+

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