Oliver Queen has a tendency to hang onto things. He lets the weight of the world rest on his shoulders so often it’s amazing he still has such great posture. And “Unchained,” both in its present-day and flashback scenes, is about Oliver coming to terms with the idea that he can’t control everyone else’s life. Try as he might, they’re still people in their own right, who are allowed to make their own decisions instead of letting the Green Arrow to decree the course of their lives.
Of course, Oliver has been facing this challenge since the beginning of the season and learning to make Team Arrow more of an actual team and less an operation focused solely around one person’s directives.
And that team receives a blast from the past when Roy arrives back in town in a fashion they certainly didn’t expect. The gang is out one night chasing a burglar who slips out from underneath them when Thea collapses and almost falls off a roof to her doom.
The rest of the group assume it’s another effect of the Lazarus Pit, especially since Thea hasn’t had to satiate that blood lust recently. Oliver is shocked by the very suggestion, realizing he’s been so focused on everything else (which, to be fair, includes his fiancée being shot and suffering a major spinal injury) that he hasn’t been keeping up with her.
The collapse takes Thea out of the field for a while, but her sickness has also brought Malcolm Merlyn back into play. He wants her to finally give in to the need to kill because if she doesn’t, it’s her own life that will be taken. To make the already-guilty Oliver feel worse, he receives a call about the burglar appearing once again, and with Thea’s permission, he heads out to track the guy down.
After an extended round of parkour, Oliver finally catches up with the man, only to discover he’s no random criminal. It’s Roy, who punches Oliver during his shock and flees yet again. (Roy’s return and actions shock everyone, but kudos to Laurel for suggesting it might be someone who has made himself look like Roy because, let’s face it, the idea of a Clayface-like villain isn’t all that strange compared to what they’ve faced.)
Felicity traces all the parts Roy has been stealing around town and realizes he’s assembling a web nuke, which could take out the entire Internet (it is just a series of tubes, after all) once constructed. But it would need one hell of a power source, which is something Palmer Technologies just so happens to be manufacturing.
Curtis’ revolutionary power cell has been put on a fast track to reality, with the company’s board pushing up the presentation date to…well, now.The cell is indeed what Roy is after, and he breaks into Curtis’ lab to make the grab. While the Palmer Tech employee holds his own for a bit, Team Arrow has to step in once Roy’s grabbed the power cell and chucked it out the window, where a friendly drone catches it.
The team has Roy surrounded, and on Felicity’s command, Oliver shoots Roy and knocks him down cold enough to look dead. He’s not, of course, but Oliver did want to make it appear as if Roy Harper was no more. Felicity noticed a piece of tech in one of his eyes, which the team removes back at base. Roy wakes up to fill them in on how someone is blackmailing him with the threat of exposing his true identity and livelihood unless he acquires all of the items for this nuke.
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The man behind it, who goes by the Calculator (a DC villain name up there with the likes of Calendar Man), now has everything he needs to build that nuke, but on Felicity’s search for a solution to their problem, she and the Calculator begin speaking via voice chat. His voice masked, the Calculator toys with Felicity, saying he’d rather make a statement by taking out a city, not the system.
The team takes this to mean he could potentially use the nuke to kill everyone in town, and with a little help from an old device Ray Palmer made, the battering ram, she’s able to break through the Calculator’s impressive virtual defenses to find the nuke’s location.
Everyone, including Roy, swoops into action, though Oliver has to be pulled away from another distraction. He actually has an opponent in the mayoral race, Damien Darhk’s wife, Ruvé Adams. He confronts her earlier in the episode in the hopes of setting up a meeting with Darhk (more on why in a bit). And just as Oliver is about to meet, he receives the call and decides to join the team in the fight against their much less alliterative foe.
And it’s a good thing he decides to lend a hand because he appears just in time to make a grand entrance, knocking down all of the mercenaries who have his team surrounded. As Felicity and the Calculator duel electronically from their remote positions, the team learns they’ll have to manually blow up the nuke to prevent it from activating. The only way to do that is to have someone close enough to shoot it and risk not making it out alive.
NEXT: Blasts from the past hit both Felicity and Oliver