Arrow recap: A.W.O.L.
The Diggle brothers learn to repair their bond while Felicity grapples with the demons of her less fashionable past
You didn’t think Arrow was just going to leave Diggle’s brother in a cell all season did you?
Yes, eventually Team Arrow’s imprisoned house guest had to come into play, and it’s only fitting he does so in the Diggle-centric “A.W.O.L.” The yearly exploration of Diggle’s backstory comes into play, revealing a bit more of how he and his brother reached such a distrustful place in their relationship, while also setting the stage for their eventual, perhaps inevitable reconciliation.
Diggle isn’t the only member of the team whose past comes back to haunt them in some form during the episode. Felicity is now back at home but confined to a wheelchair due to her spinal injury. And though she’s trapped inside the apartment for the time being, the real prison is the one her mind is creating for itself as she’s begun to hallucinate a vision of her college-aged hacker self, questionable style choices and all.
Hacker Felicity is a manifestation of Felicity’s doubts and worries, taunting her for only playing a part and not admitting to her true self. She’s not a superhero, and playing pretend has gotten her into this position, and the initial impact of this hallucination is enough to pull Felicity out of the game for a short while.
Felicity keeps her struggles to herself initially, though, while the immediate physical threats befalling Diggle and Lyla call the entire team into action. Lyla’s old associate appears and informs them he’s been compromised. He wants them to tell Amanda Waller something, but what that is remains a mystery as a van of armed men appear and kidnap him.
He later shows up dead and missing an eye — he’s clearly been tortured for information. Diggle and Lyla venture into the depths of A.R.G.U.S. to ask Waller just what this life-or-death situation is all about, but she says she’s unable to help.
But actions speak louder than words, and Waller slyly hands Lyla a USB drive with information about a group called Shadowspire, as well as two other connected A.R.G.U.S. agents.
Shadowspire just so happens to be the group Andy rolled with when he and Diggle were in Afghanistan. Their commanding office back in 2005 offered them the chance to make some money on the side by doing more than just guarding confiscated drugs. At first, both the Diggle boys refuse, Andy seemingly maturing into the responsible man John wants him to be.
But he later sees Andy regressing, buddying up with their officer. Although he plays it off as nothing more than giving him some friendly advice about playing cards, Diggle is worried his brother is backsliding into his criminal tendencies.
Of course, in the present day, Diggle’s mistrust of his brother has been quite obvious, and he holds nothing back when interrogating him about Shadowspire. Andy eventually offers some help while holding his ground that he and his brother traveled such divergent paths because of their different worldviews.
He isn’t so cold-hearted, though, as to not let Diggle know that if Spire is in town, the group is probably using a free port as a base of operations.
Oliver, Diggle, Thea, and Laurel head out to just such a spot, hoping to find the other two implicated A.R.G.U.S. agents. This mission proves to be the first test of Felicity’s mettle as her hacker self goads her darker side out, and in her scattered attention she accidentally triggers security measures that almost put Oliver and Diggle in the way of serious harm.
They find both agents dead, and they also find Diggle’s old commander, Joyner, is in town with Spire. They luckily all make it out alive…well, except for those agents, of course.
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Diggle, Andy (in cuffs and eventually a cell), and Lyla head back to Waller to get a clearer picture of what exactly is going on. Those agents were on a completely off-the-books assignment concerning a shipment of rail guns.
But the heavy, potentially city-threatening artillery is not what Spire is interested in acquiring. As Andy explains, Shadowspire is all about misdirection, and their real goal has little to do with the weaponry.
That fact is proven when Ollie, Thea, and Laurel head out to watch the shipment, only to find the area completely empty. Instead, Spire is infiltrating A.R.G.U.S., where they’ve come for some secret special project called Rubicon.
Diggle is stuck in a backroom with Andy in a cell, but he can see video feed of the main A.R.G.U.S. control room, where Lyla and Waller are under threat from Joyner and his men. He’s going to start killing Waller’s team one by one until she gives him the codes he needs, but after she lets her workers die, Joyner soon realizes Waller won’t crack.
NEXT: Felicity faces her inner demons
Lyla tells him as much, saying Waller doesn’t really take the sanctity of human life into consideration in her line of work. Joyner, coming to terms with Waller’s lack of help, decides to divert his attentions to Lyla, hoping she’ll give up the codes instead. And he proves he’s serious by killing Waller. (Gee, it’s so sad to see another major DC Comics character killed off the show. It’s almost as if another actress will be appearing as Waller in a movie this year or something.)
Diggle, realizing he’s running out of time, leaves his brother cooped up to climb through the ventilation system of A.R.G.U.S. and surprise Joyner. Sadly, the Spire team finds Andy first, who alerts them to Diggle’s plan. Everyone is eventually gathered in the main hub, and with Diggle’s life under threat, Lyla decides to give up the codes. But they run into a problem when someone from the outside is blocking her access. Yes, Felicity has come around and is doing her best to keep whatever Rubicon is securely locked up.
The rest of Team Arrow is on the scene (Diggle was able to transmit out a feed of A.R.G.U.S.’s security cameras to the Arrow HQ), and just as Joyner prepares to shoot Diggle, Andy stops him, and Oliver drops in to enter the fray. They and Lyla take out the Shadowspire team and keep Rubicon safe and secure several floors below them. Andy and Diggle had planned the former’s supposed betrayal in an effort to have them both taken alive to the control room (though they probably could have thought of a plan that didn’t involve Diggle being hit in the face so many times).
The team returns to base, toasting Waller’s memory (momentarily ignoring her whole attempted drone strike back in the day) and restoring some semblance of peace to the Diggle brothers’ bond.
Rather than continuing to keep Andy cooped up in a cage now that Diggle believes he can once again trust his brother, he invites Andy to stay with him and Lyla. There, Andy meets his niece for the first time, returning to a family Diggle assumed his brother would never know. Of course, there’s still his wife and son to address, but Andy’s going to take it one step at a time.
And while the Diggle family achieves some peace in the midst of a harrowing time during Star City’s history, Felicity, too, finds her sanity restored by the end of “A.W.O.L.” All throughout the episode, hacker Felicity is sowing the seeds of doubt in Felicity’s mind, hoping they’ll take root and sprout to bring about this older version of herself.
Her fight against it, which she keeps private, causes her to inadvertently lash out at Oliver, a frustration that continues to make Oliver blame himself for her injury. At first, she gives into this inner monologue’s words, believing she has to quit. Hacker Felicity drives home the idea that Felicity is just running away from her true self, and it’s time to stop pretending.
But Felicity takes a stand. She’s not running or pretending to be someone else. This is who she is. She helps people. That rebellious, former self is just that — the former Felicity, and she reassures Oliver that she’s finding peace with who she is. She doesn’t want to quit, she wants to do what she’s meant to with him and the team, whether that means helping them save Lyla and the Diggles now or stopping Damien Darhk in the future.
So Felicity overcomes this manifestation of her doubts, successfully stopping Rubicon from being unsealed and banishing this other self from her mind. (She also gains a new code name in the process, Overwatch, mostly because, as Oliver points out in a nice bit of meta-commentary about what DC names can and can’t come into play, Oracle was already taken.)
She needs to do one more thing to move on, though. Revealing a picture of how she once looked to Oliver, she decides to burn the photo, make sure the past stays where it belongs — in the past. She’s accepting who she is, including her current predicament. And though Felicity and Oliver both want to remain realistic, he promises not to stop looking for a cure, especially in a world where they’ve watched a friend come back from the dead.
But as much as Team Arrow wants to move on from the past, it seems their old lives are more intertwined than they know. In a final flashback, Joyner’s boss behind the drug selling is revealed to be Baron Reiter, who at that point in time only had Lian Yu as a glint in his eye.