TV Recap: Arrow: “Dark Waters”

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During an event for Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) mayoral campaign, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) attacks civilians in an attempt to make him withdraw from the race. However, Oliver responds by outing him as the head of H.I.V.E. instead. Not to be outdone, Darhk appears at Oliver’s Holiday Party and takes Thea (Willa Holland), Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) hostage.

Well shoot. Full disclosure, I walked into this week’s Arrow ready for a fight. While talking with our The Flash recapper, Matt Kelly, about last week’s Flarrow crossover, I briefly mentioned Oliver’s illegitimate child, but I’ve spent every day since that episode quietly stewing with anger because of that storyline.

I still believe what I said then: the idea in and of itself makes sense and is fertile ground for story. Pre-island Oliver was a ho and it’s just a statistical fact he’d have a kid somewhere. It also makes sense that he’d want to get to know that child and Amell excelled in the scenes with and about William. Likewise, Rickards absolutely killed it in her character’s break-up scene (now erased from the timeline thanks to Barry) with Amell. The problem is that the plot contrivance that got them to that point in their relationship makes no damn sense.

Let’s start with Samantha’s (Anna Hopkins) demand that Oliver keep his newly-discovered fatherhood secret. How long does she really think that could last? William is somewhere between 7 and 9, it’s not going to take him long to figure out that this guy who sort of looks like him and shows up to hang out periodically but isn’t dating his mother is his father. More importantly, Oliver’s life is filled with people who not only expect him to keep secrets but are good at finding out the truth—most of all Felicity Smoak. One of the first things she ever said on this show was, “I hate mysteries…They need to be solved.” Judging from that contemplative look on her face at the end of the crossover, she’s already trying to figure out what Oliver’s hiding and she’s too sharp not to soon. She figured out Oliver almost proposed from an offhand comment about dessert for Christ’s sake.

One could argue that Oliver–despite the progress he’s made the last few years–would still default to keeping secrets. After all, a few months ago he was still hiding his plan to infiltrate the League of Assassins from his closest friends and partners. But even that argument is specious. Oliver knows Felicity can keep a secret. So why in God’s name wouldn’t he just tell her the truth about William and make it clear that she could not under any circumstances tell anyone else? The reason is simple: the show needs to create drama and doesn’t care about providing a logical justification for it.

Instead, by making Oliver act counter to his current state of mind via a plot contrivance that doesn’t make sense, the writers have essentially made everything that happens between Oliver and Felicity from here until she finds out the truth, irrelevant. Everything is predicated on a lie that we know (and Oliver knows through Barry, which makes his decision even harder to understand) Felicity will see as a major betrayal of trust. It’s a lazy, disappointing piece of writing in a relationship that has been treated with a maturity unique for TV the rest of the season. So, I was ready to dislike this season until that story was resolved. But then this episode was so smart in handling the Olicity relationship that I almost forgot my anger.

We’ve known since the season premiere that Oliver wanted to propose to Felicity and tonight–thanks to Charlotte Ross’s wonderful Donna Smoak–she discovered that too. Arrow is far from joyful, but Rickards treated this episode like she was starring in a rom-com, mining humor and emotion from every beat. Having Felicity wonder if she somehow did something to change Oliver’s mind about proposing or arguing that their dangerous lives shouldn’t stop them from actually living, THAT’S the right way to complicate the relationship. It’s real and complex and it made the moment where it looked like Darhk was going to poison her (and Thea and Diggle) all the more upsetting. While she (and they) escaped that fate, the final moments of the episode and the promo for the next suggest she’s in the grave in the flashforward. However, I’m still unconvinced.

This is the winter finale, people. This time last year, they “killed” Oliver, but guess who’s still here. Felicity is the red herring meant to make the eventual death more surprising.

So, here’s where Arrow Death Watch stands going into the hiatus:

Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne): 10%

In my mind, his death wouldn’t have enough impact, but that might be precisely why the writers choose him. Still, I think his relationship with Donna is too enjoyable to destroy—if only because I want him to become Oliver’s father-in-law via the Smoak girls.

John Diggle: 30%

There’s a reason he was in the suffocation box along with Felicity. He’d be almost as devastating a loss for Oliver, but there are better options.

Thea Queen: 80%

Of the people in the suffocation box not named Felicity, she would be the most devastating kill. The only thing that might save her is that she’s given Team Arrow their only possible means of defeating Damien Darhk. Regardless, Star City could stand to lose a hero and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) wouldn’t have the same impact.

William Clayton aka The Lost Queen Child: 50%

Listen, I’m not going to wish for the death of a child, but you have to admit this would be a great move story-wise. Everyone else in Oliver’s life chooses to put themselves in danger, but William is an innocent bystander. Oliver’s progressed a lot toward believing he could live a normal life and this would be an incredible way to destroy/complicate that. I’m just saying, if I were writing this show, that’s who I’d kill. Anyway, Happy Holidays, everyone.