‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 16: ‘Broken Hearts’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
The show returns from a break this week with “Broken Hearts,” in which a villain we’ve seen a few times before, Cupid, changes her MO a little bit, major court proceedings get underway, and do we hear wedding bells? John Showalter directed the episode, which was written by Rebecca Bellotto and Nolan Dunbar.
Matt: Arrow’s back and so are we, Chris! And the episode to which we have returned is pretty much Arrow to a T. (It's frustrating as heck.) Seemingly moments after Felicity got up out of her wheelchair and walked out on Ollie, a perennial villain on the show, Cupid, had the instant realization she didn’t believe in love anymore (“Love is a bullet to the head,” she says on two separate occasions) and started killing young, famous couples. It was, to say the least, pretty on-the-nose.
What’d you think of Cupid’s return?
Chris: I’d forgotten how much I hate this show, but the little “Previously, on Arrow” montage at the beginning of this episode really did a great job of reminding me how awful it is! Kudos to whoever put that together for really getting to the heart of things in such quick fashion.
Speaking of getting to the heart of things, this was Cupid’s introduction for me, so she was different previously?
Matt: Yeah. Her big thing was that she had a crush on Arrow because he saved her one time, and she turned into one of those dangerous “I’ll have you or no one will” fans. Then she joined this show’s version of Suicide Squad for an episode. (This is how they explained her being released from ARGUS custody in this one.)
Now that everyone thinks the original Arrow is dead, she’s upset and doesn’t believe in love anymore. But she just conveniently showed up to make that statement the day after Felicity and Ollie broke up. She’s really into keeping the flow of the season going, I guess. (Also, it seems like she’d know that Green Arrow is exactly the same dude as the original Arrow just by looking at him --- she was obsessed with him, after all --- but nah.)
Chris: I’d like to point everyone back to my “Shovel Theory” every time something ridiculously stupid like this happens.
Matt: There seemed to be a lot of shovel moments in this episode. Like, why would Laurel go running into court with basically no evidence against Darhk? They can’t even bring the child he kidnapped to the stand because that kid skipped town. Why are Ollie and Felicity drawing Cupid out with what seems to be a full-on, real wedding when they could have just faked one? Did the officiant have a marriage license for them? What was even happening there?
Chris: I have no idea. Sometimes it’s fun to give this show a hard time for being so bad and making so little sense, but this week it’s all just kind of making me sad to think about. There are no happy answers for how this show could end up being the way that it is. It’s nice to be back complaining about it though.
Matt: The thing is, there’s like a kernel of a good idea in all this. Cupid is going after celebrity couples who are in the news for their secret weddings. That’s a thing. That’s worth pursuing. And hey, Ollie and Felicity are local celebrities of a sort, so they’re the perfect bait. But it’s all just so... muddled. It’s mega-forced because it all just turns out to be an excuse to push Ollie and Felicity into talking out their relationship problems. Cupid is basically an afterthought. She is defeated via platitudes delivered over piano music. Here, let me recount the dialogue from the climax of the episode:
Cupid: Love isn’t real! It’s a bullet to the head.
Felicity: Nuh-uh. It is real. Love is life.
Cupid: Well, dang. You’re right. Take me to jail.
Chris: Lolfrirl! You should write for this show.
Matt: I’m available. Producers, call my agent (me).
Chris: I’m trying to get a gig writing for Supergirl, so this could really be the start of big things for us!
Matt: People get writing jobs this way, right? Doing snarky recaps of shows? I think that’s true. I believe it in my gut.
Anyway, the whole Ollie/Felicity thing ends with her walking out on him again, saying that she just can’t handle breaking up their relationship and staying on Team Arrow. I felt like all the Felicity/Ollie scenes were... maybe a little out of Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards’ depth. It felt like they were floundering, trying too hard to make it weird. Does that make sense?
Our pal and fellow recapper Dylan Todd likes to describe arrow as “The Dark Knight written by soap opera writers,” and I think we got some soap opera acting in this one, too.
Chris: I think that’s part of the problem, but I don’t think it’s the entire problem. I don’t know if maybe the whole show isn’t just “the problem.” To be fair to this show, from what I’ve gathered just watching it progress as someone who wasn’t actually watching it before this season, I think it’s been asked to do a lot more than it was originally designed to. And to its credit, it’s tried or is trying to do and be all of those things. So, you know, that’s kind of commendable, I guess.
Do you think this Felicity/Ollie break-up thing is anything other than a way to fill time in the season?
Matt: I think it’s fan-baiting. Back in season two, there was a fakeout where Ollie professed his love to Felicity as a way to fool Deathstroke into coming after her, and fans freaked out. A lot of people wanted “Olicity” to get together. So they did that, and now it feels like they’re doing a lot of toying with the fans.
But it doesn’t help that the rest of this season feels pretty directionless. The trial stuff is... well, what is it?
Chris: Another question I have no answer for, but I do know that it’s not fun to watch. I don’t think this show can handle “courtroom drama”.
Matt: I wrote in my notes “this is one very weird episode of The Good Wife.”
Chris: Ha! You know, I should jump back a little bit and say, I actually thought Stephen Amell did a good-to-possibly-great job with what he was given this episode. His performance seems a little wooden at first, but I went back and re-watched the fake wedding scene and a couple of other moments and realized it seems like he’s actually playing it as kind of shell-shocked. Like, his life has fallen apart and he’s just kind of sleepwalking through it because he doesn’t know what to do. I could be giving him too much credit, but I’m choosing to have something positive to say here and giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Matt: I do think the wedding is when both Amell and Rickards do their best acting. That part wasn’t bad. It’s the bookends --- the moving out scene at the beginning and the leaving the Arrowcave scene at the end --- that seem to just not quite be there.
But speaking of good acting, I do want to say the courtroom stuff is almost single handedly saved by Paul Blackthorne, who goes on the stand and torpedoes his career and maybe his life by testifying against Darhk, who’s claiming to not even be Damien Darhk. That guy’s good when he really digs in, and I think he did here.
Chris: I think him being generally good is the only consistently positive thing on this show.
Matt: I think it’d be 100 percent great if the courtroom stuff wasn’t a total mess, plot-wise. Not only does Laurel (and presumably the entire DA’s office) go into the bail hearing totally unprepared, Laurel has also got a major conflict of interest going on with the whole thing. It’s bad enough when her personal friends testify against Darhk, but then when her dad gets on the stand and starts incriminating himself, she should be off the case immediately.
Add to that the fact that they have no evidence at all going into the actual trial; this was just a bail hearing and it almost went off the rails. This thing’s a fiasco. I guess that’s the point, but it (perhaps inadvertently) makes Laurel look like a bad attorney. This show is determined to make Laurel look bad at every turn.
Chris: Clearly you know more about the law than the people working on this show. I didn’t even realize she was supposed to be an attorney until this episode. When that first trial scene started, I was like, “Oh, okay, I guess they just couldn’t find anyone else to talk in this scene.”
This episode also had possibly the most pointless flashback bits I’ve seen so far. I did love that one scene where Dig asked Ollie what was stopping him from telling Felicity how he felt, and the camera cuts back to him and then fades to a flashback. It was as though Ollie was saying, “This flashback is what’s stopping me.” Like, literally he couldn’t tell her because the flashback was about to happen. If these characters all acted more like they knew they were on an awful show, I think it would be a lot more fun. For us. Maybe not for them.
Matt: I suspect the flashbacks must be building to something, but goodness knows what. There was that little tenuous connection to Shadowspire a few episodes back, and pretty much nothing has connected the past and the present since. I guess I admire the craziness to a degree. Reiter killing people so their spirits can go into his magic death skull is... pretty comic booky.
Chris: Sure. But how the hell do they expect us to care about the past or the present when it’s zipping back and forth like this? They try to inject these flashbacks with some kind of sense of tension as if we should be worried for Ollie’s safety, but it’s a flashback. We know he’s fine.
Matt: They’ve been doing these since the first season, and this is the first time they just haven’t felt tied into the ongoing plot in the present whatsoever. They at least attempted to line them up thematically in previous seasons. Here, it almost feels like a backup story.
Chris: You’ve told me that before, and every time I just think, “What an odd thing to tie themselves to.” This episode, and many others now that I think about it, have this problem where it seems like they’re trying to have so much happen that nothing ends up really happening. Does that make sense?
Matt: Yeah. When you’ve got 23 episodes to fill, that can definitely happen, but it seems to happen to this show more often than most others. Literally the only two season-long plot things that are left are the person in that grave and the mayoral race, and neither one is mentioned at all in this episode. We are floating in the ether here.
Chris: Hopefully this doesn’t hurt your chances of getting a gig, but I really don’t think the people running this show know what they’re doing.
Matt: Look, Chris, the only way I’m gonna weasel my way into this thing is if the people hiring me don’t know what they’re doing. That’s a feature, not a bug (at least in this hypothetical case).
So that’s pretty much it, right? A lot of nothing? Anyway, Asuka really kicked Emma a bunch in their match, didn’t she?
Chris: Oh man, thank you for bringing this up, because I am dying to talk about NXT! I thought I was going to have to say that Cupid’s costume looked like she was cosplaying as Sasha Banks in The Hunger Games to find a pseudo-reasonable reason to work it in. That Finn/Swann match!
Matt: If we can imagine a Hunger Games/Sasha Banks crossover, certainly Arrow could do an NXT episode, right? Stephen Amell has already teamed up with Neville at a pay-per-view. We’re halfway there. Just set an episode at Full Sail University, Arrow. Do this. For us. We’ve devoted so much time to you. You gave the Olicity fans what they wanted. Give us ArrowNXT: The Future is Now.
Chris: At the very least, has Cody Rhodes/Stardust not earned a one episode guest appearance as some D-List DC villain?!
Matt: Cody for Snowflame! Cody for Snowflame!
But alas, next week, we have a young woman in glasses who controls bees. If nothing else, it looks goofy as heck. I may be on board for that. You, Chris?
Chris: Oh, of course. I’m totally going to be watching this instead of that Samoa Joe/Bull Dempsey match they’ve announced for next week. Totally.