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– by Mark Cook

Last week was another strong showing from the Arrow brand.  Of course it has its issues, but the season has brought back the excitement with the new route it has taken.  Will Oliver escape prison?  Will Talia come back to help?  Will more be revealed with the flash forwards?  Read on to find out!

Payback — Diaz doesn’t take betrayal lightly.  Anatoly picked Oliver over Diaz last season, and now The Dragon wants payback…or something in return.  He is torturing Anatoly in order for him to agree to take down Oliver Queen with him.

Back To Level 1 — Due to Level 2 being shut down by the hands of Oliver and Talia last episode, Oliver is back on Level 1 when he gets a visit from Laurel in order to tell him that she will be taking over his case.  Oliver is obviously skeptical and doesn’t hold back in telling Laurel that she is nothing like the real Laurel and that she never will be.  Ouch.  The comment actually looked like it bothered her. Another good character dynamic.  The odd way to bring back Laurel in the form of Black Siren is actually getting somewhat interesting.  Oliver hates her, yet Felicity needs her. Oliver goes to great lengths to get his good friend Stanley out of the hole, which Stanley curiously seems to know everything Oliver did even though he was “cut off” from the rest of the prison.  Could Stanley be working with Brick and Co.? Maybe even Diaz?

Flash Forwards — They’re back!  Dinah revealed that Felicity was killed because she took up the moniker of The Calculator (like her father) and got in with the wrong people.  William wants to continue the journey that Felicity started for him. Roy tells Dinah that there was a message left in Oliver’s bow, yet neither is sure how it got there.  Both seem not only suspicious, but put off at the mention of Oliver’s name.  The flash forwards are great!  I honestly can’t figure out what they are doing and I love it. Roy, William, Dinah, and Zoe all get locked into a room that is on a timer to explode when Roy goes old-school to save the day shooting at holograms much like the tennis balls Oliver used to practice his shooting with in Season 1.  It was a nice nod. The group finds a plan that reveals the leveling of the city.  Was Felicity behind these plans?

The New Team Arrow — Felicity and Laurel track Diaz and the Longbow Hunters to a warehouse (shocking).  Inside they find a bound Anatoly as Rene, Dinah with the PD and Diggle with A.R.G.U.S. (how did they all know about this?) come as well and find a bomb planted.  The team is clearly dysfunctional, and realize they are all working with people behind everyone else’s backs.  Felicity is interestingly the only one who wants Laurel to stay and help. So it looks as if Anatoly will be working closely with Team Arrow, but can he be trusted?  I am glad they are still using Anatoly.  He somewhat reminds me of the role Malcolm Merlyn used to play.  He flip-flops sides so often that it’s difficult to tell which way he will end up at the end.

Poor Anatoly.  Not only has Diaz been torturing him, but now Felicity has threatened him as well.  The guy can’t win.  Especially when he tries to retrieve data from…another warehouse…and Anatoly gets his butt kicked.  Diggle tries to go in and help, but all Felicity cares about is that the data is retrieved.  She also alluded to this “new” Felicity being able to get things done.  Could this be what the future Dinah was referring to?  Is this the beginning of Felicity’s downfall? What is interesting this season is to see how the team works without an actual leader.  As much as some of the team hated Oliver last season, this season has showed exactly how much they need him and depend on him.  They lack a cohesive direction without him.

Anatoly has a conversation with Felicity and urges her to embrace her new role, and to not look back.  Is this what Diaz wants?  The team has to work together against the Longbow Hunters who have planted a bomb in a natural gas plant (I’ll count it as a warehouse…that’s three in one episode!).  I was about to comment that even though the focus on the team has been interesting, I wanted to see some Green Arrow.  Ask and you shall receive.  As the team is fighting the Longbow Hunters, the Green Arrow shows up to help take down Diaz much to his surprise! The mysterious appearance leads to Diaz being captured and put into prison.  Well…that was…kind of quick.  He seemed so difficult to find and catch then boom, Green Arrow shows up and he’s locked up.

Laurel’s New Role — Has she actually turned a corner?  She seems to honestly want to help Felicity and Oliver.  Has she realized her wrongs?  She looks as if she just wants to be accepted.  Unfortunately, her appeal for Oliver is denied.  She wanted to take revenge on the judge who denied the appeal, but Dinah stops her letting her know that she can tell Laurel wants to change.  This was a big move seeing as Dinah wanted to kill Laurel last season for killing her former partner/love.  This season is really focusing on the psychological changes for many characters.  She eventually gets the judge to look into prisoner abuses and tells Oliver that she isn’t the old Laurel, and doesn’t want to be.

At the end of the episode, in the police department, Felicity pulls a gun on Diaz, which I thought for a split second that she may use.  She didn’t of course, but Laurel made a deal that Oliver would be released if he helped with the case against Diaz.

I like that they are still using Diaz from last season.  He was an interesting villain during the second half of last season, and that has continued into this season.  I still think that there is a larger villain that will appear somewhere closer to the middle of the season, but the pacing and character balance has been much better this season.  Next week’s episode definitely looks a bit like Arkham Asylum where Diaz will be breaking into the prison and causing chaos for Oliver! What’d you think of this week’s episode?  Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!

Arrow returns next Monday at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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