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Recap: ARROW Watches Over a Housecleaning

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Episode 411 “A.W.O.L.”

[photos: Liane Hentscher /The CW]

This latest episode of Arrow demonstrates clearly just how disconnected the film and television universes are, and it also shows how Warner Bros. is putting the kibosh on the whole “shared universe” thing. As in, “We aren’t sharing our universe.”

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There are three objectives to this hour of Arrow:

  1. Giving Felicity her code name
  2. Starting Andy Diggle on a redemption arc
  3. Removing Amanda Waller from the TV sandbox

That’s it. It’s a straightforward story — Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) and John (David Ramsey) are out for a nice married-couple stroll when they get contacted by Allen Chang (Kevan Ohtsji), now a former ARGUS operative who gets nabbed by bad guys in the ubiquitous black panel van, only to turn up dead later, with clear signs of torture on the body.

And his eye is missing.

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There was a logo on the outfit for these kidnapper-murderer-hooligans, and John recognizes it as that of Shadowspire, a criminal organization that skimmed off the top in the drug trade in Afghanistan. So we get Diggle flashbacks this week, showing us his time in-country with little brother Andy (Eugene Byrd), both of them courted by Lieutenant Joyner (Erik Palladino), who apparently managed to get his hooks into Andy without John knowing about it.

Oliver (Stephen Amell), wanting to get Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) back in the saddle, asks her to track down the Shadowspire operatives, and she manages to turn up two more agents in the same boat as Chang, targets for elimination before they can rat out the organization.

This is where we get Felicity’s new code name: Overwatch.

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And it’s a stupid code name. But we’ll get back to that in a minute. Because in the haste to get Felicity back in the game, no one anticipated that her pain meds would cause her to hallucinate Goth Felicity in the apartment, and the two have plenty of back-and-forth that distract Felicity to the point where she trips alarms she shouldn’t ought to have tripped, and the rescue mission goes south — of course, it was already headed there when they found the two agents already dead, but that won’t make Felicity feel any better…

This has her questioning her usefulness, while the rest of the team stake out a shipment of rail guns based on information Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) handed Lyla on the sly. See, Waller can’t really acknowledge anything because John and Lyla are both former ARGUS agents, both former useful allies, and so don’t have the clearance for the “need-to-know” stuff. Only Waller also recognizes that Team Arrow could be useful in stopping Shadowspire, so hands off a thumb drive to Lyla just before kicking them out.

So, stake-out over a bunch of trucks belonging to Kord Technologies, which is just a thumb in the eye for those of us still smarting over the absence of Blue Beetle… but otherwise, nothing comes of it. Something Andy warned his brother about when they transferred him to lock-up in the ARGUS basement. Andy knows that Joyner is all about distraction, that the rail guns are just a red herring while Shadowspire goes someplace else.

That someplace being ARGUS, using Chang’s eyeball to get past the security perimeter.

Joyner is after something called “Rubicon” and will kill an ARGUS agent every twenty minutes until he gets it. Waller, of course, tells Joyner that she’s cold-blooded enough to let him kill everyone in the room before she’ll even think about compromising security. Lyla confirms this, and Joyner kills Waller, leaving Lyla ostensibly in charge. Now she’s got to give over the codes or have people die on her watch.

Andy and John come up with a rescue mission, with the elder Diggle hijacking some tech to get a signal to Felicity. This puts Team Arrow back in play as they launch a rescue mission while Felicity hacks the ARGUS system to prevent Lyla from accessing the Rubicon codes.

In the end, Andy is instrumental in saving Lyla and the Rubicon codes. Yay, Team Arrow!

So I’m wondering now if Andy is on a redemption arc that ends up with him wearing a mask. Which would be slightly annoying. He was more interesting when he was dead.

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There’s also a scene where Oliver is sparring with Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and is blaming himself for Felicity’s injury because he didn’t zig when he should have zagged a month ago when Barry time-traveled and warned him about the consequences to trying to change the past.. and oh, by the way, Barry can time travel.

OK. Let’s get to the 800-pound pink gorilla in the room: Overwatch.

From the beginning — as in, very nearly the beginning of the whole of Arrow — fans have been speculating that at some point, Felicity Smoak would get the Oracle treatment. After all, most of what we’ve seen play out in the show has come from the Batman mythology, not Green Arrow’s own history. Granted, some of the more interesting stories also involve Green Lantern, which would be a challenge, but still…

There have been a couple of times in the past where we thought, “This is it,” only to be spurned from our expectations when Felicity came out of a scrape pretty much unscathed. I had it pegged all the way back when the Clock King shot her in the shoulder.

Now, after reading interviews from producers that DC Comics has been incrementally allowing them to play with more toys in the sandbox, and after seeing Felicity get shot in the back, it was of course the expectation that when she came out of surgery, she’d be paralyzed and would assume the mantle of Oracle. After all, she’s doing the job. And she’s got a Black Canary on her team, and the Arrow universe has played fast and loose with some of these characters anyway. Remember, Felicity Smoak started out as a Firestorm supporting character…

But no. Producer Wendy Mericle said in an interview, that Oracle was off the table. So why even bother playing out Oracle’s story if Felicity isn’t going to be Oracle? Why do this to the character if you’re not going to fully invest in it?

My guess is that DC initially gave Team Berlanti the approval to run with it, and that Felicity was going to be Oracle. But at the last minute — maybe after seeing Jenna Malone’s performance as Gordon’s daughter in Batman v. Superman — someone decided Oracle was best left to the movies. Which means suddenly Arrow is playing out a story line they no longer have permission to conclude the way they had intended.

Leading to Oliver’s line in the episode: “I was going to go with ‘Oracle’, but it was already taken.”

This leads to two questions:

  1. Who has already taken the Oracle code name in the Arrow universe?
  2. Why was Oracle off the table in the first place if she isn’t going to show up in a movie?

This is what annoys me about Warner Bros.

Despite Geoff Johns calling this a multiverse, which means you can have more than one version of a character, WB doesn’t seem to want more than one version of a character. Why? Because the audience is too stupid to keep track? Because they feel like the TV version would threaten the success of the movie version? Because some people like Cathy Lee Crosby over Lynda Carter?

What is it with you people, anyway?

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As annoying as I found this particular Amanda Waller, I have no problem seeing more than one at a time, given the fact that WB has already said the film and television universes are separate and apart from each other. Personally, I think it’s the wrong decision, but it’s the one the studio has made, and whatever you may think about that particular decision, it does set up a boundary between film and TV, which means you can have multiple versions.

We had this issue when Deadshot was taken out of Arrow last season, because he’s in Suicide Squad, and it was only a matter of time before the same thing happened to Amanda Waller. The fact that the movie version trumps the television version indicates a particular mindset at Warners and DC, one that doesn’t respect the audience and doesn’t respect — or understand, for that matter — the intellectual property they own. Let’s face it, Warner Bros. approaches these film from a completely different starting point than Marvel approaches their films.

And it shows.

 

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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