‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 18: ‘Eleven Fifty Nine’
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.
On this week’s “Eleven Fifty Nine,” the conflict with Damien Darhk comes to a head as the evil former HIVE leader stages a prison breakout. Magic comes into play, and not everyone makes it out alive. The episode was directed by Rob Hardy, and the script was by Marc Guggenheim and Keto Shimizu.
Matt: Allow me to preface this with a big old spoiler alert. Anyone reading this who hasn’t seen the episode should click away before reading any further, because we’re going to have to talk about the big ending twist in this one, which (seemingly) reveals who is in that grave the show has been teasing since the season premiere.
And I’m really of two minds about it, Chris. On the one hand, the cast played the last three minutes or so of the episode really well. It felt the most real that any character death on the show has felt (remember when Amanda Waller died and everyone just kinda shrugged?). Stephen Amell looks like he’s really in shock. David Ramsey busts out the manly single tear. Emily Bett Rickards explodes with sadness. And then Paul Blackthorne shows up and his body gives out on him he’s so sad. This is the third time one of his two daughters has died, after all.
On the other hand, nothing much has really been pointing to Laurel at all this season until this episode, when everything points to Laurel. She gets offered the district attorney job by the new mayor, Ruve Adams, who also happens to be Darhk’s wife. For reasons that are explained in convoluted exposition, this would keep Laurel from being Black Canary any longer, at least after tonight’s big mission. She is literally one night away from retirement, Chris. This is the story they told.
Chris: My immediate question has to be: Does anyone actually think she’s dead? Because I do not believe it for a second. You don’t cut away from a scene where a character is alone with another character asking them to “promise” to do “one thing” and then have them suddenly die with no medical explanation.
Matt: I think she might really be (as dead as someone can be on a comic-book show, anyway), for a couple reasons: First, there are only four episodes left in the season. They’ve got to actually have time to resolve the who’s-in-the-grave part, right? If this is a fake-out, it’s a last-minute one.
Two, there was so much buildup to it. Not only did we get the “one day ‘til retirement” trope, we also got the “Ollie, you were always my true love, even if I wasn’t yours” speech, which is TV Death 101. This despite Laurel not having mentioned their relationship for like two seasons and seemingly having moved on from Ollie entirely. Her character went from whatever it was to “person who is destined to die” at breakneck speed.
Chris: I will not believe it until we know what she made Oliver promise her and she doesn’t show up again for the entirety of the next season. I have no problem speculating that this was a way to make sure Darhk couldn’t hold anything over her father again, etc. The old hero "faking their death to protect their loved ones" trope. Ollie’s reaction as he leaves was one of realizing what he’s going to have to put everyone through by lying to them about her faking her death and the weight of all the things that have happened and what she’s just told him.
Matt: This does make a lot of sense. Also, we know Ollie is terrible at lying, so the whole “I--- I don’t know what happened” thing plays about right.
Chris: Speaking of the things she told him, why did she have a copy of the same picture of her that he had on the island? I thought she was going to have a picture of him that was perhaps the other half of that photo he had, but nope. She keeps an old photo of herself with her when she’s out on patrol.
Matt: Chris, if you don’t love yourself, who will?
Chris: I guess I’ll never know. I used to keep a wallet sized photo of a clown in my wallet so when people I knew looked like they were having a bad day I would say, “Hey, wanna see a picture of my dad?” Then I’d show them the picture of the clown and they’d laugh. And I know what you’re saying, “Chris, what does this have to do with Arrow?” To which I say, “You say that now, but just wait.”
Matt: I suppose one way they’ve been building to this all season was with Darhk constantly threatening to kill Laurel if Captain Lance didn’t do as he said. And I have to say, that did pay off. It’s one of the only times I’ve ever seen those kinds of supervillain empty threats actually come to fruition like this. What’d you think of that aspect, Chris
Chris: Did he really threaten it all that many times though? I feel like it only took like twice to keep… Chester? What is his first name? I know it’s something weird.
Chris: Starts with a “Q” like “quiver” which is what you keep your arrows in. Okay, I’ll remember this time. So, yeah, I feel like it only took once or twice for him to keep Quentin in line. Also, he threatened to kill Felicity and all of Ollie’s friends and family lots, so that dude is not short on death threatenings.
Matt: Yeah, which made his threats against Laurel that much easier to ignore. LIke, who thought he’d actually do what he said on that? Plus, his wife has just offered Laurel a big position in her cabinet. It felt like they didn’t really coordinate this stuff.
Why would Ruve have offered Laurel that job, anyway, other than to create a weird dramatic circumstance? A “keep your enemies close” thing, I guess?
Chris: You could argue Ruve didn’t know yet. She seems to still be well connected with HIVE even though they’ve cut ties with her husband, so maybe they haven’t been in contact? I’d be surprised if the people running this show have thought it all through and aren’t just flying by the seat of their pants.
Matt: Even if she doesn’t know Laurel is the Black Canary, she’s the attorney who’s prosecuting her husband. Like, what’s the angle there?
Chris: Well, Ruve is acting like she’s not married to him, right? She’s acting like she’s a completely different person with no connection to Damien Darhk, right?
Matt: It’s hard to know because we’ve seen so very little of her. Like, we know Darhk is claiming he’s not Darhk at all, but as far as Ruve’s plans, who knows?
Chris: It seems like she’s still following through with HIVE’s original plan, and HIVE was happy to have Darhk out of power and locked up, but then he’s still talking about “Genesis”, which is HIVE’s plan, and it feels like maybe they just decided to drop the whole “HIVE is done with Darhk” thing. I don’t know. This is making my head hurt.
Matt: Yeah. For a show with 23 hours to kill per season, they have not laid any of that stuff out very well at all.
This episode did finally figure out a way to tie the flashbacks to the main story though. The idol that Darhk has been using all season is the same one that Reiter has in the cave on the island. I probably should have noticed that before now, but there’s not a lot that makes that idol particularly distinct, you know?
Chris: And what a pay off it was. ::side-eye emoji::
Matt: Did any of that make the flashbacks more interesting for you?
Chris: Not even a little. This week’s especially seemed like such an afterthought. I mean, they often do, but this week they did too. All of that said though, I didn’t dislike this episode really. I’d say it was okay, even.
Matt: Yeah. The acting wasn’t bad, generally, and it at least made an effort to bring season-long threads together, as frayed as they may be.
Chris: Yeah, everything moved along at a pretty nice clip. Everyone did a totally competent job, some even more than competent in a few scenes (Capt. Lance as usual, Ollie’s various emotional moments, Laurel’s important scenes). The flashbacks were brief at least. If we’re just grading on the scale of this show’s own internal quality levels, this episode was one of the better ones.
Matt: Aside from all that stuff, there was the main plot thread of the week: Andrew Diggle’s loyalty, or lack thereof. Ollie’s convinced that Andy is working with Darhk and Merlyn (who somehow still has some unaffiliated assassins working for him) while Dig really wants to trust him, despite being the one who was most suspicious of him earlier. Did they have you guessing on this one?
Chris: Well, they certainly had me guessing why John would be so ready to shoot Ollie when it took him weeks if not months to let Andy out of that 10x10 cage that didn’t even have a toilet.
Matt: We just complimented everyone’s acting, but I will say this episode made Dig look like a big dumb-dumb, because how could anyone not look at old sweatin’ Andy, turning over Dig’s apartment looking for the last piece of the idol, and not immediately know he was as guilty as the kid with his arm in the cookie jar?
Chris: I can’t believe he’d be stupid enough to think it was hidden in the couch of their apartment, but then as dumb as this episode made Dig seem, maybe it was just in the freezer or the hallway linen closet. Why not throw the damn thing in the ocean?
Matt: This was my big question throughout the episode. Why did they put the idol back together? And put it in the Arrowcave? Taking out just one piece is not a great method of disabling it. It’s only valuable to Darhk! Burn it! Throw it down a bottomless well!
Chris: And if you can break one piece off, why not smash the whole thing up?! Or at least break off lots of pieces?
Matt: It’s strictly for storytelling expediency it seems, much like the absolutely porous entryway to the Arrowcave. This episode even says outright that Dig has upped security for the cave after Curtis just walked in out of nowhere last week, and then Merlyn and his not-assassins... walk right in.
Chris: One of them even drops down from the ceiling, and I laughed out loud, because honestly.
Matt: Back to Andy for a sec, I think it’s hilarious that the one big thing that everyone keeps bringing up as a reason to trust Andy is that he dives in front of a trap to take an arrow that’s heading for Ollie. As if that’s a commentary on Andy rather than Ollie, who allows his friends to be shot with arrows all the time (or shoots them himself). Watch Ollie in that scene. He doesn’t move an inch.
Chris: Hahaha! Yes! Even though they show that he sees the trap is about to be triggered!
Matt: He’s the biggest jerk on earth. Then he literally rubs it in by doing some enhanced interrogation on Andy, jamming his hand into the dude’s shoulder. If Laurel was real and I could talk to her, I’d tell her I’m sorry the absolute love of her life is a trash person.
Chris: I didn’t mind, because I knew Andy was going to end up being bad, otherwise things would be super-awkward between John and Ollie for the rest of the show.
Matt: Oh jeez, yeah. If there’s one thing that worse than a gloating Ollie who’s right, it’s a brooding Ollie who’s wrong.
Chris: I’ve seen plenty of brooding Ollie, both when he’s right and wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him gloat over being right about something. I’d have been super pissed at John for bringing Andy along and it getting Laurel hurt, especially after John got all in his face about it and said all that hurtful stuff, but Ollie just lets it go, because he already knows how mad at himself John is. He might not be so bad a dude.
Matt: I admit that my preconceptions sometimes get in the way of seeing Ollie objectively.
And then we’ve got the Thea/Merlyn stuff. All their fights --- the one in the Arrowcave when Merlyn shows up to take the idol, then the one at the prison --- have this father/daughter tension stuff that I thought for sure was leading up to some kind of big reveal that Thea was working with Merlyn all along. But nope, she’s just mad at him.
Chris: Yeah, that was a complete “who cares” for me. When he said that thing about her being cured of her bloodlust I honestly could not remember that having happened, so… I don’t know. This show has too much going on all the time for any of it to stick with you very well.
Matt: One thing that stuck with me was the very obvious stuntpeople in the fighting scenes, especially the ones with Thea and Malcolm. I know they must do that all the time, but it stuck out like a sore thumb this time. Stunt Thea looked like a foot taller.
Chris: You know who has stuck with me though? Curtis. His absence is what stuck out like a sore thumb to me this week. I know he said at the end of last week’s episode that he wasn’t going to be doing that superhero stuff anymore, but I kept waiting for him to show up and help out. Can he just hurry up and be Mr. Terrific already?
Matt: I don’t always keep up with the show’s casting news, but apparently he signed on for next season as a regular, so he’ll be back. Maybe he’ll get that Fairplay jacket yet.
Chris: Fingers crossed! I would like to give this episode credit for being almost Felicity free. They came so close! The other thing we’ve got to talk about, and I can’t believe it’s taken us eighteen episodes to mention, but why haven’t we discussed the fact that Arrow (and Flash and Legends of Tomorrow) all take place on the Paul Blart Earth? The Paul Blart-iverse if you will.
Matt: I’m a Paul Blart novice (a Blarvice) so you’ll have to explain.
Chris: Neal McDonough plays the exact same character in Paul Blart 2: Blarts On The Move.
I haven’t seen the movie, but from the trailer I can say it’s definitely the same character, so I assume that crossover episode is coming at some point. Blart was crucial in stopping his plans in Las Vegas, so I assume he’s the ace in the hole Team Arrow will need to take care of him in Star City. Or they’ll have to call in the King of Strong Style, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the Underdog from the Underground, Sami Zayn, if my other crossover dreams come true.
Matt: That’s quite a multiverse. Do you think he does magic in Paul Blart 2?
Chris: I’d be hurt if he didn’t.
Matt: Well, I guess we’ve got to watch it now. Yet another crime Arrow has perpetrated upon us.
But at least we have a couple weeks before Laurel Revenge starts up to check it out.
Chris: Join us next week as we review Paul Blart 2: Electric Blart-a-bloo-bloo-bloo in its entirety!
(This won't be happening.)