In this Damien Darhk-centric season, “A.W.O.L” is a welcome breather from Team Arrow’s fight against H.I.V.E. Instead, the focus of this episode is on Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and John Diggle (David Ramsey).
To be frank, it’s been a pretty terrible couple of weeks for Felicity. An ambush from Darhk’s Ghosts left her unable to walk. Finally out of the hospital, she’s adjusting to life in a wheelchair. In typical Felicity fashion, she uses humor to de-stress the situation, but in reality, she’s scared, depressed, and unsure what her future holds. Interestingly, Oliver (Stephen Amell) plays the optimist saying that her mind is her superpower, and that’s hard to argue against. She’s Team Arrow’s ace in the hole if you think about it. Her hacking ability’s on par with the engineering prowess of The Flash’s Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). Felicity is the virtual eyes, ears, and brain of Team Arrow.
Felicity’s doubt in her future comes from within, and manifests itself as a vision of her younger self. More specifically, the rebellious black clothes and pale makeup-wearing Felicity from her college days that we met last season. “Goth” Felicity tries to discourage real Felicity from living a superhero’s life.
Her vision tries to discourage her even more after a mistake almost costs Oliver his life. Oliver contacts Felicity to help them on a mission, and everything goes smoothly until Felicity accidentally traps Green Arrow in the containment unit. She’s unable to free him, and Green Arrow simply has to blow up the wall to escape. Afterwards, Felicity begins to let her vision’s words get to her and even shocks Oliver with an out-of-character outburst.
However, Felicity’s desire to help people far outweighs her nagging self-doubt. After digging down and finding her inner strength, she arrives at the Arrow cave unannounced and lets Oliver know she’s ready to get back to work. It’s extremely fortuitous timing for Team Arrow to regain one of their most important members, as it’s just in time to take on the mysterious Shadowspire organization.
In addition to Felicity getting her swagger back in “A.W.O.L.”, we gain new insight into the relationship between Diggle and his brother Andy (Eugene Bryd), a former Ghost Team Arrow keeps imprisoned. The flashbacks in this episode show us what exactly transpired between them years before in Afghanistan. After a heated battle in which Andy both plays hero and barely makes it out alive, he’s approached by a shady organization that exists within the military: Shadowspire. Andy brushes them off, and Diggle’s happy to see his brother sticking up for himself instead of doing anything to earn an extra buck.
Back in the present, Shadowspire has turned up again and have killed Alan Chang (Kevan Ohtsji), an old A.R.G.U.S. associate of Diggle’s wife Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson). Later, Team Arrow discovers they’ve captured and killed two other A.R.G.U.S. agents, and stolen a shipment of powerful weapons. Andy, however, has information to help with Shadowspire because, as we learn in another set of flashbacks, he actually went behind his brother’s back and signed up with the organization.
Unsure of Andy’s current status as a former Ghost and Shadowspire member, Diggle delivers Andy to A.R.G.U.S. When secured in his new A.R.G.U.S. cell, Andy reveals that Shadowspire’s known for their diversionary tactics. Their real mission, as we find out when Shadowspire troops rush into the facility, is to infiltrate A.R.G.U.S. for codes to a project named Rubicon. Shadowspire appears to mean business when their leader, Lieutenant Joyner (Erik Palladino), shoots and kills Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).
Diggle tries to take out two Shadowspire soldiers but instead ends up captured. Joyner threatens to kill Diggle unless Lyla gives up the Rubicon codes. She eventually capitulates, but Felicity, who returned to her post in the Arrow Cave right before Shadowspire invaded A.R.G.U.S. headquarters, blocks computer access to the Rubicon codes remotely. When Joyner tries to shoot Diggle, Andy stops him, and then Green Arrow arrives in time to help defeat the remaining Shadowspire soldiers.
“A.W.O.L.” might not be classic Arrow, but it feels like an important episode due to the amount of crucial developments throughout its plot. Additionally, it’s nice to see an episode tapping into one of show’s major strengths: its supporting characters. Felicity and Diggle have been both recently been wounded, literally and emotionally, but in “A.W.O.L”, the healing process finally begins in earnest.
NUGGETS AND TIDBITS
Apparently, Diggle has a codename: “Spartan”. But more importantly, Felicity has one now too: “Overwatch”. Shortly after Oliver came up with it, he dropped a pretty satisfying Easter egg for DC Comics and Batman fans by adding, “I was going to go with Oracle, but it was already taken”.
As I mentioned in last week’s review, it seems possible that the show is slowly setting up for Felicity to at some point regain her ability to walk. Oliver tells her that they live in a time where people can fly and be brought back from the dead. So, it’s not that farfetched for Felicity to find a cure for her injury.
The death of the Arrow-verse’s Amanda Waller feels like another act of cleansing DC’s TV offerings of Suicide Squad characters before the film drops in August. Arrow already offed their Deadshot (Michael Rowe) last season, so I think this puts a final nail into the coffin of TV’s version of the Suicide Squad.