Arrow 3 x 01, 02
“The Calm” and “Sara”
This was never supposed to happen.
Over the summer I was looking to take on a new show to recap (because I am a masochist and clearly we don’t do enough recaps on this site). I pondered doing one of the new shows…but was hesitant to commit to a show by merely reading its pilot description on paper. To recap a show, you have to truly love it and connect to it…which takes a few episodes, to be honest.
And then Arrow happened.
I was fully aware that many of my friends on Twitter were mega-Arrow fans…but still I held out from watching it. I was thoroughly burned by Smallville back in the day (after marathoning the first 4 seasons on DVD only to have the show start to SUCK Season 5) so I was incredibly hesitant to commit to another superhero origin series. Then Stephen Amell was announced for NYCC…and I STILL held back, thinking there was no way I would have time to watch 2 seasons before then (HA!!). Finally, after much prodding from my friend Beth (who just liked to send me pictures of Amell’s face and abs), combined with the fact that most of my Timeline was marathoning it (and I HATE feeling left out), I hit play on the Pilot episode on Netflix. I was immediately hooked…not just by the fact that Amell was shirtless in practically every episode (talk about knowing the audience) but by the characters and the writing and the emotion of it all. This show was actually GOOD and I was all in, constantly torturing Beth with texts about my feelings.
Amell’s face may have gotten me to watch Arrow, but I stayed for the feels.
A week and a half later…I had watched the first two seasons. Halfway through my binge, I texted Sage saying ” I think I have to recap Arrow. CRAP.”
So here I am…attempting to recap yet another hour-long drama all by myself. I have a death wish, clearly.
Because “The Calm” aired on the eve of NYCC, I’m combining it with “Sara” both for my sanity and the fact that I think the combination of these two episodes perfectly showcase the running theme of the season…the life Oliver wants vs. the life he chooses, both out of duty and of fear. In “The Calm” we see Ollie trying to embrace normalcy…crime in Starling City is at a low and Team Arrow is riding high thanks to their defeat of Slade. Everyone is shiny and happy. Oliver and Felicity have moved completely from the stolen glances and long looks to outright flirting in the span of time since we’ve seen them last. That “I love you…do you understand?” moment may have been staged for Slade’s benefit, but everyone knows that Ollie was speaking truth, no matter how much he denied it. Oliver and Felicity had always had very little concept of personal space, but they took to a new level in this episode. The flirting is blatant from Felicity essentially buying Oliver a love fern to Oliver’s joking that she should have bought him a bed instead. Have I mentioned all the casual touching? Oh YES…all the casual touching. Face pats, shoulder grasps…like I said, they’ve abandoned all pretense of not being into each other…which is why Diggle, captain of the S.S. Olicity, essentially begs Oliver to ask her out already (“You love her, you told her so.”), just so everyone can be put out of their USTy misery.
When Oliver does finally ask her out, it’s adorably awkward (“Like a DATE date?”) since it’s one thing to dance around each other with all the flirty banter but it’s an entirely other thing to actually ACT on the attraction. It’s precious and they both walk around with shit-eating grins after it happens. Ollie suggests Italian for dinner WHILE in the midst of a high-speed chase. He walks away from a meeting with Quentin with a giant smirk when he says “Got a hot date or something?”. He wears his freaking date suit under his Arrow Costume…and he walks in and sees Felicity sitting there in her beautiful dress, he’s completely dumbfounded. Honestly, I spent most of the episode screaming into my pillow. (Again…HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?) Oliver and Felicity are both predictably nervous when they first sit down…like I said, it’s because they both know that this is very real and it’s actually happening. Felicity babbles in her adorably awkward way (“I’ve seen you shirtless. All the time”) and her babbling is just what they need to break the ice. Then Oliver drops this truth on her:
“The entire time I was gone, I could never trust some one. And for the entire time that goes on, and you don’t see people… and when I decided to come home, I didn’t know how to turn that off. And then I walked into your office. You’re the first person I could see as a person. There was just something about you…”
Much has been said about this confession already, and there’s very little I can add to it to further explain how every single Olicity shipper felt in that moment. Me? I went straight to my Ultimate OTP when he said this…obviously I went to Mulder’s hallway confession to Scully in Fight the Future. “You kept me honest…you made me a whole person.” Felicity has been that person for Oliver from the moment he came into her office the first time. (“I was chewing a pen.” “It was red.” #leavemeheretodie) She is Oliver’s heart and she MAKES him want more…which terrifies him. Oliver’s Hong Kong confession was such a MASSIVE step forward for him, so because this is Arrow, naturally, a missile is fired into the restaurant not long afterwards. Oliver instantly flips their table and dives to shield Felicity with his body (SWOON) but she is still hurt. In that moment, Oliver starts to shut down. When he says to Diggle that he lost his focus he is essentially saying “Think you can have it all Oliver Queen? Not so fast.” (Also how fitting [and hot] was it that Oliver fought himself when he was drugged? THEMES.)
“We have to talk” is the WORST thing to hear from the guy you like (I MEAN LOVE) which is why Felicity keeps putting it off as soon as Oliver brings it up. She knows him too well…she knew as soon as she woke up bloody in the Foundry that Oliver would back away from her, whether it be from fear for her always being in danger if she is WITH him or the fear of truly giving in to her. What’s WONDERFUL about Felicity as a character is that she has enough self-respect to call Ollie out on his bullshit. When they both go to see Diggle and Lyla and their newborn daughter (DADDY DIGGLE THOUGH) it’s like seeing the life they COULD have laid out before them. While that moment fills Ollie with sadness (Let’s take a moment to appreciate Amell’s acting…he’s SO pretty, but he’s also SO good at conveying all his thoughts in one look. It’s actually not fair that he is that pretty and that talented), it fills Felicity with determination. It’s not enough for Oliver to plead “Don’t ask me to say that I don’t love you” (HE LOVES HER AND IT’S REAL) and for him to kiss her (inhuman noises) and essentially ask her to keep waiting. “Stop dangling maybes,” she insists. She knows that she deserves more from him and just knowing isn’t enough anymore. They made things real by going out on a date and now that she KNOWS that he loves her, she has the strength to ask for more from him. And when Oliver doesn’t give it to her, she walks away. The events of that hallway scene drive her actions throughout “Sara”. More on that later.
Throughout “The Calm”, Oliver is faced with the people in his life telling him he can have more than what he’s allowing himself. Felicity does it. Diggle does it, both in his words and in his actions when his child is born. And Sara Lance does it. “We are not our masks,” she tells him when she sees him on the roof after he leaves Felicity. “We need people in our life that don’t wear one.” I think it is incredibly important that she is the one that says that to Oliver and I think it’s incredibly important that she died not long after telling him that.
There was a massive uproar on the interwebs in the moments (and days) after “The Calm” aired. Sara’s death was horrible and it was unexpected (that it happened so soon anyway…I always felt like she was doomed) and it rocked the fandom and the show to its core. I hated losing one of Arrow‘s incredibly strong and complex women just as much as everyone else did. But here’s why I think her death was important and essential to the arc that Arrow is taking this season: Sara was the one most like Oliver. She wore a mask and she took on the mantle of being a hero in Starling City. More than anyone, including his own mother, this was the death that cut to Oliver’s very soul. Because it very easily could have been him that fell off the roof with arrows to the stomach. Because it always has the potential to BE him…and that’s truly what terrifies him and makes him shut down emotionally. He sees the pain that Laurel is in, that Felicity is in, that all of Team Arrow is in and he doesn’t want to be the one responsible for causing them more pain in the future. He DOES hide underneath his “burden” of being The Arrow, as Felicity points out to him. But he does it because he is afraid of all the emotions he feels for the people in his life. He is afraid of them all choosing to love and support him and take up his cause with him. He chooses to isolate himself despite how his friends have constantly proven that they will be there for him. (“You couldn’t be more wrong.” – Saint John Diggle)
Oliver is all business after Sara dies and throws himself into tracking down her killer. He channeled all his grief (because you KNOW he was feeling it, again, you see it in his face. He’s BARELY holding it together on the roof with Diggle.) into his quest, and it came off as very cold. But I think he reacted in the only way he knew how. He WAS right when he told Felicity that SOMEONE had to keep it together for the good of the group…but he also used that as an excuse from truly giving in to his grief.
Some of the immediate reactions I read after the episode expressed frustration that Oliver chose to comfort Laurel instead of Felicity throughout the episode (if you notice…all the casual touching that was in “The Calm” is completely absent from “Sara”). First of all…who WOULD have comforted Laurel if not for Oliver? She’s been so isolated from the rest of the team until now…so anyone other than Oliver would have rang false. Also with Laurel, Oliver can allow his grief to take the back seat. Sara WAS Laurel’s sister, after all, so he can comfort her and be the strong one thinking “My feelings are nothing compared to hers.” (Thanks for that, Sage.) But with Felicity…I think the minute Oliver touched her, he would have fallen apart. It goes back to his confession in the restaurant…she was the first person he saw as a person. Felicity is all heart so rather than comfort her, he pushes her away (not entirely though…he still makes sure that Roy is comforting her) and demands that she get her head in the game. Obviously, Felicity doesn’t understand this and she accuses him of being heartless. She accuses him of hiding under his mask, of hiding from all the people in his life. When Oliver says that one day it’s going to be him she throws “So you’re just going to wait down here to die?” back at him. And worst of all she then says she DONE. She’s 1000% done waiting around for him. She wants more and knows she DESERVES more…and knows she has people like Ray Palmer offering her more. I’m not even talking about that in a romantic sense…but it is telling that even Ray offers her more comfort in this episode than Oliver does. We’ve got a hell of a lot of angst coming our way, Olicity shippers. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy season.
Felicity DOES get through to him though, as we see in the final moments of the episode. Oliver sits despondently in the darkened foundry after the trail for Sara’s killer has gone cold. He is all alone (or so he thinks) and he finally starts to let the grief wash over him. But he’s not just grieving Sara…he’s grieving the life he thinks he can’t have as long as he’s the Arrow…the life he is afraid to allow himself to have. Then we see a kernel of fight bloom. “I don’t want to die down here, John,” Ollie says, realization washing over his face. “So DON’T, Oliver,” John replies. It’s that simple. Oliver just has to choose to live…and that choice makes all the difference.
One of the key lines in The Shawshank Redemption is “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I don’t think any other sentiment could apply more to Oliver right now. The question is though…what’s going to be waiting for him when he finally DOES decide to start living?
Odds and Ends:
– While it was infuriating for Oliver to bench Diggle in “The Calm”, had he not done so, Dig would have missed the birth of his daughter. So thanks, Oliver.
– Does Brandon Routh list “Professional OTP Cock Blocker” on his resume?
– At LEAST Ray Palmer is a good guy (at least he’s supposed to be). Also, Felicity has a type, and that type is superheroes.
– Guys, Tommy never stopped believing that Oliver was still out there and the INSTANT he had a lead on finding his friend, he went running. BRB crying forever over him.
– Surely they will tell Quentin at SOME POINT that Sara is dead, right? I know Laurel is worried for his health, but it would give her another person to truly grieve with.
– All of Oliver’s phone calls to Thea were heartbreaking.
– Speaking of Thea…just how villainous is she going to be??? BARROWMAN! (Also YAY Sassy Haircut!)
(Though I do agree with the internet chatter wondering just how Digg was able to convince Lyla, who had little to no relationship with Sara, to do this.)
I KNOW I skimmed over a LOT of the plot for these two episodes. Forgive me, dear readers. It’s always hard figuring out how to recap a new show, even one that you are madly in love with. I hope I’ve done it justice. Leave your thoughts in the comments!