Season 4 of The CW’s Arrow has had its highs and lows. Here is Part 1 of this week’s breakdown of what in particular worked, didn’t, and needs to happen next for Arrow after the events of “Broken Hearts.”
What Worked: Cupid was mostly a plot device of a villain in “Broken Hearts,” but crooning a love song to a pair of captive lovebirds before killing them was a great entrance.
Arrow remembered that Laurel is a lawyer, which was definitely a positive for the episode. Arrow also happened to portray Laurel as a terrible lawyer who needed members of her vigilante squad to come up with witnesses for her, but at least she dusted off that law degree for “Broken Hearts.”
Laurel working as a lawyer also meant that Team Arrow only had three fighters in the field at a given time, and it worked so well that Laurel is welcome to hang up her leathers and go back to cooking the crooks that Team Arrow catches. She and Thea are the most replaceable field members, but Thea doesn’t have the same outside opportunities that Laurel does as a lawyer, and the show would do well to mix up the dynamic. On the whole, “Broken Hearts” was an episode that succeeded in making Laurel relevant, which is more than can be said for what the show has given her in much of Season 4.
Laurel had some lovely moments with her father. Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne play wonderfully off one another, and Laurel wanting to protect her father contrasted with Quentin’s need to serve justice gave them humanizing moments in an episode in which they were mostly figures in the B plot. For his part, Quentin was a big problem for Team Arrow around this time last year, so it’s nice to see him making up for his actions in the end of Season 3. This was a solid hour for the Lances.
Thea was undoubtedly the most fun element of “Broken Hearts.” Her fighting style is unique to her role as Speedy and is fit to her itty bitty size in the best way. Her obsession with celebrity gossip websites and the portmanteaus of famous couples was worth a laugh every time it came up, and she seemed like she was auditioning for bridesmaid duty when she went to help Felicity change out of her wedding finery. Thea felt like a 21-year old young woman and a vigilante, and her being on Team Arrow continues to be one of the best changes to the show for Season 4.
Warning: due to the heavy focus on romance in “Broken Hearts,” the rest of this review will be heavy on the Olicity.
Less fun but absolutely fantastic was the way that “Broken Hearts” dealt with the fallout of the Oliver/Felicity breakup. The previous episode broke them up in a brief sequence also crammed with Oliver’s goodbye message to William and Felicity regaining the ability to walk. Given how much Oliver and Felicity’s relationship had been built up from the beginning of Season 4, the first go at a breakup was shamefully brief. Luckily and somewhat surprisingly, Arrow shot their breakup to the forefront of the A plot to give the characters the chance to react realistically to the major change in their status quo as a unit. The character development in “Broken Hearts” was so good that even the bad things that happened were actually pretty great. Everybody made sense for the first time since the baby mama drama kicked off. Huzzah for everybody making sense!
The twist from “Broken Hearts” that is harder to give a “Huzzah!” for is Felicity leaving Team Arrow. Felicity leaving Team Arrow is cause for more of a “Where’d you get all that steel for your backbone?” than a celebration. As difficult as it is to imagine a Team Arrow without Felicity and a Felicity who would want to leave, it was the best narrative option for her character in an episode in which everybody was making sense.
Felicity had to leave Team Arrow for her own sake. The poor woman was progressively failing at treading water throughout the whole episode; by she end, she had to get the heck out of there to catch her breath before she drowned. Emily Bett Rickards portrayed a Felicity who was utterly spent by the emotional overload of what the Cupid case brought out in herself as well as in Oliver. If she stayed, Oliver would have kept trying to get her back, and she would have had to keep saying no because that’s what she has to say for her own well-being at this point. She can’t save him if she’s struggling to stay afloat herself, and she’s not obligated to enable him. Their lives became so entwined over Season 4 that one of them was realistically going to need to take a break from the team, and Felicity is the one with the outside means to help the city without resorting to vigilantism.
The show is called Arrow and not Overwatch. Felicity shouldn’t be blamed for checking out to get her bearings. It’s not her job to compromise herself for the sake of an optional relationship, no matter how much she loves him. Life isn’t a Beatles song, Oliver, and love isn’t all you need.
Felicity also needed to leave for Oliver’s sake. He made enough declarations of “always” in this episode to make it clear that he was not going to be letting them go if she was still on his radar, and their relationship is not what Oliver needs to work on. Oliver needs to work on himself, and losing Felicity might be major enough a shock to the system to throw him for a much-needed loop. Oliver is a good man with a good heart, but he’s a work-in-progress, and he needed a swift kick in the pants to keep on progressing instead of reverting.
Picking an MVP for “Broken Hearts” wasn’t easy. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards nailed their performances. Both Oliver and Felicity misbehaved in certain ways throughout the episode, but the actors made it possible to sympathize even when Felicity’s zingers got a bit too snippy and Oliver shamelessly took advantage of the fake wedding to try to win her back. The characters weren’t at their best, but Amell and Rickards were.
Emily Bett Rickards manages to edge out Stephen Amell for the MVP thanks to the scene after the ceremony when Oliver is practically glowing with hope and Felicity is trying not to make him think that she’s changed her mind about their relationship but also trying not to break his heart in the hallway of a hotel with a legion of paparazzi around. The chemistry that always sizzles to the surface whenever Stephen Amell turns on the Gaze Of All-Consuming Love was definitely in play, but Rickards brought Felicity’s exhaustion and compassion without setting up a cheap “Gotcha!” for when Felicity dropped her bombshell and gave back the ring again.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. For a look at what didn’t work, stay tuned to Examiner.