The past pops up in the present for two of Original Team Arrow – Felicity and Diggle – in the Wednesday, Jan. 27 episode of “Arrow,” 411, “A.W.O.L.,” one of the best episodes of the season. Can Felicity still be a member of the team in the wake of the shooting? Can Diggle trust Andy when Lyla’s life – and then his own – is on the line?
The flashbacks have been a letdown this season on “Arrow” (save for the ones with Constantine), but fortunately, that is not the case here. That’s probably because they aren’t of Oliver on the island with people that are impossible to care about (let alone learn the names of). Instead, they’re long overdue flashbacks to Diggle’s time in Afghanistan with his brother, and they go a long way in making Andy someone you want to see John develop a relationship with again in the present. Their commanding officer, Joyner, approached them about making money off of the drugs they seized, but John was pleased to see Andy decline instead of falling back on old habits.
However, later on, Diggle saw Andy talking to Joyner again and assumed the worst, fears that his brother squashed with a reasonable explanation. Since he’s keeping up his end of the bargain, it’s time for John to do the same and treat him like his brother again (a point that comes up again in the present). But in the final flashback of the episode, Andy received cash as a token of Joyner’s boss’ appreciation – and that boss was none other than Reiter, with a map of Lian Yu.
Joyner comes back in full force in the present, as the leader of the Shadowspire soldiers who first kill three ARGUS agents responsible for taking them down three years ago. The team is pulled right into it when Lyla is approached by one of the agents in the middle of date night with Diggle, and they can’t stop him from being taken. His body later turns up, with signs of torture and one eye missing, which is how Shadowspire is able to later infiltrate ARGUS – and take Lyla hostage.
They saw the world differently, Andy tells him. John saw it as something he could fix, while he just saw it as broken. It’s Andy’s offer to help that leads to him getting a new cell, this one in ARGUS, so that he and John see on the monitors when Shadowspire takes over. He was right that the war profiteers are all about misdirection; the team is waiting for them to steal a shipment of weapons when this goes down. Fortunately, by this time, Felicity’s back with the team (and with a codename of her own – Overwatch, since Oracle was taken, Oliver says), and she can guide the others into ARGUS and lock Lyla out of the system when Joyner, fresh off killing Amanda, orders her to give him the codes to access Rubicon, something that they really don’t want getting out.
While Diggle has had problems reconciling the brother he knew with the brother he’s been told about and the brother he sees in front of him, he has to decide whether or not he can trust him with his wife’s life on the line. Because of that, it’s a bit too obvious that it’s part of the plan when Shadowspire soldiers find Andy in his cell, he’s taken to Joyner, and he tells his former CO where to find his brother. Andy strikes, Oliver joins the party, and the Green Arrow and the Diggle family take care of Shadowspire.
Meanwhile, after the midseason premiere focused too much on how Oliver was handling Felicity’s injuries (and really nothing about how Felicity herself was dealing with being told she would never walk again), that changes with “A.W.O.L.” It also results in some of the best work from Emily Bett Rickards thus far on “Arrow.” And after not going to see his fiancée and instead hitting the streets (and ghosts) in an attempt to find Darhk in “Blood Debts,” Oliver is there for Felicity (saving the city, his mayoral campaign and Darhk aren’t as important as her recovery, he tells her), carrying her down the stairs, getting her her medication and a blanket and leaving dinner in the fridge for her to reheat. He’s there to remind her that her superpower is her mind, but all that doesn’t mean that she’s ready to come back to the team, especially with everything on her mind. She doesn’t feel like she’s the one they should be trusting in a dangerous situation and she’s not even ready to leave the loft.
Instead, she sees her college hacker goth self, taunting her with reminders of what she used to be (a strong, confident brunette) and what she’s become. She’s wasted it all to play superhero, Goth Felicity says, and look where that’s gotten her. Her former self’s voice even drowns out Oliver’s when he tries to assure her that she can still be part of the team, that she just needs time and she’s the strongest person he knows and the team has her back like she has theirs. It results in Oliver thinking that Felicity’s telling him to shut up and leave her alone, and so he does, falling back on what he knows: feeling guilty.
Oliver admits to Laurel that he thinks that what happened to Felicity happened because he didn’t listen to Barry’s warning following the time traveling. The only person responsible is Damien Darhk, she insists. One of the best things “Arrow” may have done is forgetting about these two romantically (and putting Oliver and Felicity together) and letting a friendship form between them this season. There’s no stupid love triangle to get in the way of anything, and instead, there can be scenes like this, ones that end with Laurel reminding him that Felicity makes her own choices and she’ sure that’s one of the reasons he loves her so much.
As much as Felicity may want her Goth self to leave her alone, she doesn’t, instead reminding her of the changes she made when Cooper “died,” the decision she made then to not rely on anyone else for help. Stop pretending this is the real you, she says. People wear masks to hide who they are, and that’s what she’s been doing for five years. Look where trying to be a hero got her. But rather than let her former self get to her, Felicity realizes that this is who she is now. She wanted to be part of the superhero adventure because she wanted to help people, a far cry from what the old her did. She used to be so angry at the world, but that didn’t accomplish anything but more anger (and bad personal style choices). And she knows that Oliver’s blaming himself, but she echoes what Laurel told him: only one person is responsible, and that’s Darhk. They’ll stop him because it’s what they do, who they are, not out of guilt or vengeance or regret. Oliver and Felicity (and Stephen Amell and Rickards) really do bring out the best in each other. It’s nice to see that in the midst of everything (though it would probably be nicer if Oliver wasn’t keeping the big secret that he has a son from his fiancée).
The end of the episode is about letting go of the past and accepting the present (and hoping for the future). Felicity shows Oliver a photo of her from her goth days before burning it. The old her would’ve released the Rubicon plans as a political statement (and the old him would’ve killed Joyner), but they’ve both grown. And when she thanks him for being on her side, he assures her there’s no pace he’d rather be. While they can’t live in denial about her condition, he points out that they live in a world where people super-speed, shrink, fly and come back from the dead. He’s not going to stop searching until they find a way to make her walk again.
As for the Diggles, John brings his brother home with him, a first step. Not only is Andy getting his favorite meal for dinner, he also gets to meet his niece.
“Arrow” season 4 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 11 “A.W.O.L.”?