TV

Arrow: Season 4, Episode 12 - "Unchained"

Richard Giraldi

In a jam-packed episode, the most startling development is Oliver learning to let those closest to him make their own decisions.


Arrow

Airtime: Wednesday, 7pm
Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy
Subtitle: Season 4, Episode 12 - "Unchained"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-02-04
Amazon

There’s a lot to unpack in Arrow’s latest episode, “Unchained”. Roy (Colton Haynes) returns, a new enemy matches Felicity’s (Emily Betts Rickards) hacking skills, and Thea’s (Willa Holland) bloodlust is slowly killing her. But in reality the aptly titled “Unchained” is about Oliver (Stephen Amell) again coming to terms with the fact he can’t control everyone’s lives, even if he has good intentions. For Oliver, giving up control is difficult, but he’s learning that he has to let those closest to him make their own decisions.

“Unchained” begins with the surprise return of Roy Harper (a.k.a. Arsenal), who we last saw in season three taking the rap for Green Arrow and then going into hiding. Unfortunately for Roy, his situation hasn’t exactly improved. He’s stealing high-powered tech from all around Star City. After he attempts, and successfully, heists an ultra-battery from Palmer Technologies, Team Arrow catches up to him, and Oliver subdues him with a tranquilizer arrow. Back at the Arrow Cave, we discover Roy is being blackmailed into committing these robberies. Someone’s threatening to reveal his true identity, which, if released to the press, would ultimately show that he’s not the Green Arrow, with fingers left pointing toward Oliver Queen.

Roy’s predicament becomes more peculiar when he drops that the person threatening him calls himself the Calculator (Tom Amandes). After examining the tech stolen, Felicity determines it’s being used to build something called a “web nuke”, which can destroy the Internet. Honestly, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at that premise, and the Dr. Evil-ness of it all, but Team Arrow takes their web nukes very seriously.

Since it’s technology that’s the target, Felicity takes point and hacks into the Calculator’s mainframe. This leads an exchange of words between her and the Calculator, who appears to be equally adept at computers, technology, and hacking. Though their conversation is brief, Oliver and Felicity decipher that the Calculator isn’t going to destroy the Internet, but instead he’s going to use the web nuke on hospital and city computers, which would lead to the death of everyone in the Star City. Later, Felicity uses some cyber security tech called a “battering ram” to penetrate the Calculator’s firewall only to discover that his henchmen are installing the web nuke at Flint Hills Data Farm facility.

Team Arrow rushes to the facility -- including Roy in his classic red Arsenal garb. They take out the Calculator’s henchmen, while Felicity and the Calculator himself engage in some hacker smack talk that feels decidedly different from any of her previous interactions with baddies on the show. Eventually, Team Arrow come to find out the only way to stop the web nuke is to blow it up, and shooting an arrow directly at it will do the trick. But whoever shoots the arrow might not make it out alive. Roy makes a pretty courageous move by volunteering to destroy the web nuke while the others escape. Oliver tries to talk him out of it, but Roy counters, “I’m the one who brought this maniac into your lives. I need to do this. This is my choice. It’s my life”. And with that, Oliver grimaces but nods in approval. Fortunately for everyone involved, Roy blows up the web nuke and makes it out of the explosion alive.

Roy isn’t the only one to have to unchain himself from Oliver in this episode. Thea isn’t in very good shape as we learn that her bloodlust, which was temporarily relieved though Damien Darhk’s (Neal McDonough) magic, is returning. This time, however, if she doesn’t kill, she will die. Oliver is convinced the only way to save her is to find Darhk and have him use his magic to heal her permanently, but Thea doesn’t want Oliver to be in Darhk’s debt. Oliver wants to do everything in his power to ensure Thea survives, but she informs him that it’s not up to him. “I have to try,” Oliver says. “No, you don’t. It’s my life,” Thea responds. Even Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Thea’s father, knows he cannot force her to kill someone to quench her bloodlust because “…it’s her life. It’s her choice.”

At the episode’s conclusion, we see a tearful goodbye between the ailing Thea and Roy, who decides its best for him to leave Star City again. Both of them have shown that they want more control over their own lives, but that control still doesn’t mean they can be together. Their love story is once again put on hold.

“Unchained” might be one of the most densely packed episodes this season, as it briskly moves from scene to scene with little room for the viewer to catch their breath, but somehow Arrow’s writers make it work -- quite well, I might add. It’s a wild ride, but when it all comes together, “Unchained” makes for some fantastic storytelling.

NUGGETS AND TIDBITS

After being MIA the previous few episodes, Curtis Holt/Mr. Wonderful (Echo Kellum) is back for a brief cameo. His biggest contribution is a pep talk to Felicity after a deflating company presentation. The longer the season goes on, the more it’s starting to feel like Holt was never meant to be much more than a background character.

If you couldn’t tell by their quippy hacker battle, Felicity and the Calculator have history. After Felicity second go around running Palmer Technologies presentation goes very well, the Calculator approaches Felicity and she greets him with “Dad?”

The major shocker in ”Unchained” comes at the episode’s conclusion when Nyssa Al Ghul (Katrina Law) emerges from the shadows and reveals herself to Oliver at Thea’s bedside. Nyssa tells Oliver about an elixir called the lotus that can reverse the effects of the Lazarus Pit. The kicker is that she won’t give it to Oliver unless he kills Malcolm Merlyn. Should set up for some interesting developments next week!

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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