There’s an inside-baseball aspect to covering shows like Arrow day-in and out, most often at the expense of certain twists and returns landing quite so well as they should. The advent of binge-watching in particular has changed the way we discover new series, and I can imagine Roy’s return registering much more surprise in a different context, just as tonight’s major reveal of “The Calculator” as Felicity’s father felt especially telegraphed.

Keeping any character’s parents a mystery often precipitates a more integrated return (Supergirl pulled this card in an oddly-similar fashion with Winn’s father), and Felicity in particular has had this card on the table for years now, sparking fan theories at every turn. The moment Tom Amandes was announced for the role of an antagonistic super-hacker, it seemed especially likely what we were in for, and it didn’t help that advance photos placed the character at Felicity’s presentation in such a telling manner.

"She gets the handsome-man innuendos from my side."

“Unchained” even seemed to go out of its way to imbue its godly tech antagonist with more personality than usual, leaving just enough ambiguity of his deeds to keep a redemption arc on the table, and I only wish that the end result had perhaps been given time to work its way into the story more organically. Felicity’s mother wasn’t revealed to have any particular connection to Oliver’s world, and I understand the temptation to then play that card with her father, but Arrow’s use of “Sins of the Father” (not un-coincidentally next week’s title) may need retirement at this point.

The good news is that “Unchained” left us with plenty more time to flesh out that particular dynamic, as tonight overall raised more questions than it settled. Too much, in fact, that all the storylines competing for time tonight never quite drew enough connections between one another, especially adding up return arcs for Roy, Nyssa, Katana*, and improbably, Shado. The reason for Nyssa’s quest in particular only became apparent within the closing moments of the episode – a solution to Thea’s bloodlust in exchange for Oliver killing Malcolm – that the story might better have been served in shorter bursts over two or three episodes.

*Thankfully, Katana’s appearance at least broke Arrow’s streak of killing off shared characters with the Suicide Squad movie, although it makes the appearance all the more questionably needed.

This week’s flashbacks had it even tougher connecting to anything of the present day, bizarrely shoehorning Oliver into some sort of torture-induced fever dream to explain Shado’s return. The running idea in past and present seems to have been Oliver’s ability to let go of things he can’t control, but Arrow seems more and more to lose sight of any ability to draw thematic parallel. Remember, the Oliver of the past has to move closer to a determined (if slightly altruistic) killer, not someone looking to let go of his internal darkness, or perhaps find love with another island companion (a suggestion with especially shaky groundwork this year)

All of the above represents enough for one hour to explore, let alone throwing in additional conflicts for Oliver, Felicity and Thea, that Roy’s return feels much more of an afterthought than perhaps it could. One the one hand, “Unchained” does well to keep Felicity upbeat and involved post-paralysis (even if no less than three characters awkwardly point this out), and I’m always for at least some insight into the long-neglected corporate threads of Queen/Palmer Tech, but the introduction of her father upstages any real resolution beyond Curtis delivering a quick pep talk to his boss.

The decision to sideline Thea felt like an odd one as well, given how much real estate the “bloodlust” threat has taken up over the last season, and more-so to frame it around a revelation for Oliver to let things go. It might have been an interesting lesson for Oliver to follow Lance and The Flash’s Harry in making a deal with the devil, but the decision to respect Thea’s wishes was almost immediately undercut by Nyssa providing an alternate solution anyway.

Sadly, it involved little-to-no flips.

I hesitate to dismiss “Unchained” as one of Arrow’s weaker hours, as the latter half of Season 4 still feels much more focused without any Legends of Tomorrow world-building. Still, the hour made a point of reminding Oliver how much guilt and sacrifice he endures for all those around him (without finding anything of substance to say about it), that it’s only natural “Unchained” end up so overburdened as well.


  • You know, you’d think they could give the imprisoned master assassin like … one chain, within that cell. Also, it’s been awhile – is Nyssa still that upset about Sara’s resurrection? Last time we checked, she seemed to be doing just fine.
  • Extended parkour is extended. WHERE WERE THE FLIPS, THOUGH?
  • The less we remember of Roy Harper’s “death” working as cover of Oliver’s identity, the better.
  • So … the rock from Oliver’s hallucination was real? The whole encounter was poorly explained.
  • Honestly, that whole data farm sequence with Calculator’s Ghosts henchman whizzed by way too quickly, with some awkward staging of Oliver’s arrival to boot.
  • Roy nudging said henchman to escape before the explosion is a hilarious addition to this universe’s long history of bizarrely ambivalent murders.

Arrow Season 4 will return February 10 with “Sins of the Father”, airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.

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