Last night, The Flash missed a molten opportunity to tie an interesting villain into the episode’s plot; tonight, Arrow took an otherwise uninteresting villain, put him at the center of a fast-paced story, and threw a monster twist in at the end that affects everything going forward. Yeah, it looks like Team Arrow is definitely taking the win this week, and they did it with an episode that featured a villain named The Calculator. But before we tally up the final score, let’s take a look back a few years with tonight’s flashback sequence.
When last we left him on the island of Lian Yu, Oliver was back in the clutches of Baron Reiter. On tonight’s episode, Ollie was being tortured by Reiter in order to force him to give up information on the maps that will eventually lead the villain to the MacGuffin he’s been looking for all season. In the midst of this, Oliver is apparently saved by Shado/Mei (Celina Jade), but it turns out to be a hallucination on Ollie’s part. Essentially, Shado convinces Oliver that he has to push through his personal darkness, come clean, and emerge through on the other side to forgive himself and eventually get back to his family. The first step in doing that, after waking up, is to admit to Taiana that he killed her brother. It’s a good thing they’re not in an awkward situation like being locked up in the same cell oh wait nevermind…
Now, let’s get to the cold open for tonight’s episode, an interesting sequence that served as the first half of bookends for the hour. Remember that Nyssa is currently imprisoned in Nanda Parbat by Malcolm Merlyn, aka Ra’s al Ghul. But it seems Nyssa is not without supporters inside the stronghold because one busts her out with the help of a very dangerous pepper. The assassins fight their way through the few guards that were left behind in a fight sequence that isn’t as tight as they normally are on this show, but is still a nice change of pace. The same can be said for Nyssa’s eventual one-on-one sword battle with Tatsu, aka Katana. It seems that Nyssa is in search of some sort of mysterious lotus flower … but to what end? We’ll revisit this in a bit.
While Damien Darhk and his ilk are laying low and with Shadowspire apparently out of the picture for the moment, Team Arrow is back to tracking down what appears to be your run-of-the-mill Parkour-trained burglar. Not only has the thief managed to outwit and outrun the team – including leaving an exhausted Thea nearly dangling off the edge of a high roof – he’s stolen a couple of high-tech devices that can be combined to create a “web-nuke”, which is capable of either “killing the internet” or at least controlling a lot of computer-linked utilities in an effort to cause chaos and death. What sort of dastardly mind would come up with such a thing? Wait, Roy Harper?
Yeah, it seems ol’ Roy (Colton Haynes) is back in town after spending the last few months in Hub City. When a devious hacker by the alias of The Calculator (Tom Amandes) blackmails Roy into stealing tech for him – otherwise he’ll expose Roy’s true name and cast suspicions back on Oliver as the Green Arrow – the team must race against the clock before the lunatic’s plan to kill thousands of people can be put into action.
At the same time, Thea is laid up due to what she thinks is exhaustion, but is actually a side effect from her resurrection by the Lazarus pit. She’s no longer being controlled by her bloodlust, but without taking lives to slake that thirst, the curse is taking her life instead. Her condition deteriorates more and more towards the episode’s end with Oliver and Malcolm looking for a cure in everything from murdering pedophiles to making a deal with Damien Darhk. But there might be another way…
And in another side plot that’s perfectly woven into the main story, the board of Palmer Technologies has pushed Felicity and Curtis’ timeline on their cutting-edge tech up a few months. Just as Oliver is stressed out by his mayoral campaign (and his new opponent, Ruvé Adams), Felicity is stressed with this new threat to the city and the mounting pressure on her to save the company. Curtis, who gets in on the action in a brief fight with Roy and also gets to refine his terrific tech in this episode, eventually gives Felicity the pep talk she needs to not only stand up to the board members, but to take on The Calculator head to head.
It all reaches the boiling point in a climactic battle at the deployment site of the web-nuke, where Team Arrow (sans Green Arrow temporarily) takes on The Calculator’s hired mercenaries in a fun physical battle while Felicity tests her mental acuity against the villain in a race to hack the other’s system. Felicity gains the upper hand (and manages to wipe all existence of Roy’s identity from The Calculator’s systems at the same time), but the villain forces one of the Team Arrow members to stay behind and manually detonate a bomb that will destroy the web nuke. Roy volunteers (because he’s the guest star) and despite the team’s reluctance, manages to shoot an arrow at the device, blow it up, and use a zipline to escape the ensuing explosion with a smile on his face. It was a fun, thrilling sequence for this self-contained episode in which the stunt team makes it all look too easy.
But that’s not all, friends! While Felicity finds the confidence to unveil Palmer Technologies’ new super-battery / power-cell to the shareholders, it seems she’s attracted the attention of The Calculator himself. Though Oliver and Felicity are unaware that this is the man they spent the previous night battling against, Felicity knows him by another name: Dad! Rarely do network TV shows catch me off guard, but this was one of those times. Hopefully this opens up a whole new line of awkward family gatherings for future episodes.
Speaking of family, Thea goes from bad to worse as she ends up in a somewhat cliche coma by episode’s end. While I hate that Willa Holland has to essentially sit on the sidelines after becoming such a badass as Speedy this season, her condition does tie Nyssa back into the proceedings. She shows up in the hospital room out of the shadows, as the League of Assassins members tend to do, and offers Oliver the healing powers of the lotus, on one condition: he must kill Ra’s al Ghul.
I’l concede that yet another battle between Oliver and Malcolm feels like we’re retreading the same old ground again, which means the writers are probably looking for a little bit of breathing room in this season. Keep in mind that the identity of the person in the grave has yet to be decided (except that it’s not Oliver or Felicity or Barry), so this new conflict will further complicate things. Will it be decided for sure on next week’s episode? Tune in to find out!
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Assassin: “This pepper came from the garden, a garden that grows strong even in your absence.”
Felicity: “How is it you always manage to blame yourself for everything?” Diggle: “That’s his super-power: guilt arrow.”
So that Parkour chase between Oliver and Roy was fun, but ridiculous. It looked like something out of Angie Tribeca.
Felicity: “First Sara, then Ray, then Diggle’s brother… Who’s unexpected return can we look forward to next?”
Green Arrow: “I want another meeting with your husband.” Ruvé Adams: “I’m not sure you would survive another meeting with my husband.”
Was it just me or did Baron Reiter’s electric-sponge torture scene remind you a lot of the one in Lethal Weapon?
Roy: “Man, I cannot believe you shot me.” Oliver: “Really?”
Shado: “The only way out is through.” Oliver: “That’s what Amanda Waller said. Through what?” Shado: “Through the darkness. Let it go, Oliver.”
Felicity: “My pride that you understood what I was saying is slightly undercut by your lack of faith in me.”
The Calculator: “Why would I want to take down the net? It’s where I work, and I enjoy funny cat videos.”
Guys, remember, Felicity’s not Oracle, she’s Overwatch, even though the “Identity Crisis” miniseries pit The Calculator against Oracle … just staying.
That wheelchair transition between present and past was quite possibly the weirdest thing they’ve ever done on the show, a show which has locked a resurrected bisexual assassin vigilante in a basement.
Malcolm: “I am the Demon’s Head. I have my resources … and I know how to put my ear up against the door.” I love Malcolm’s ridiculous lines almost as much as his bloodlust.
I’m not sure what that rock talisman is that Ollie’s holding, but I feel like he either just got it or has had it for a while and I just can’t remember what it is.
Spartan: “Just because you’re wearing red doesn’t make you The Flash, Roy.”
The Calculator: “She’s something else, isn’t she?” Oliver: “You have no idea.”
Roy: “I love you, Thea Queen.” Thea: “I love you, Roy Harper.”
If I heard right, Thea’s at a three on the Glasgow Scale, which doesn’t seem all that bad yet.