Felicity's latest tech-savvy rival has a silly codename but some major surprises

By Jonathon Dornbush
February 04, 2016 at 04:10 AM EST
Liane Hentscher/The CW
S4 E12
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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

Roy immediately volunteers — he brought this problem into their lives, and he wants to be the one to solve it — but Oliver initially won’t allow it. It is Roy’s choice, though, his own life to risk, and so eventually Oliver learns to let go and trust his teammate.vAnd as Roy’s parkour skills showed earlier in the episode, the guy knows how to slip out of a harrowing situation, so he’s able to both detonate the C-4 planted on the nuke and zipline out of the exploding building with his life intact.

But Roy knows he can’t stick around, even if Felicity has wiped the Calculator’s computer of all blackmail-relevant files. He does want to stay in town for Thea, who only worsens through the course of “Unchained.” Again, Oliver blames himself for many of Thea’s troubles, and so he’s willing to risk meeting with Damien Darhk, especially after learning that Darhk’s magic curbed her blood lust. He misses that meeting, of course, and Thea remains bedridden.

This illness is eating away at her so strongly that it sends Thea into a coma, forcing Oliver to bring her to the hospital. No normal medicine will do the trick to cure her, but Ollie is met with a surprising offer. Nyssa al Ghul appears in Thea’s hospital room, presenting Oliver with the idea of the Lotus, an elixir that can permanently cure the effects of the Lazarus Pit. Nyssa has traveled all this way after having broken free of her imprisonment at Nanda Parbat, fighting with and coming to an agreement with Katana, and procuring this elixir to offer the cure — with one request in return. Nyssa wants Oliver to kill Malcolm Merlyn.

But Thea isn’t the only one whose father is causing issues. Yes, Felicity’s father is eventually revealed at the end of “Unchained,” following her struggles against the Calculator and to retain her power at Palmer Tech. She is to give the presentation for Curtis’ power cell, and after a pep talk from Curtis, as well as the team’s success in keeping all of Star City alive, she turns a disastrous rehearsal into an impressive actual presentation to the board. Oliver is in attendance shortly before he goes off to see Thea, and a man happens to lean over to commend Felicity’s performance to him. Surprise! It’s the Calculator, but, wait for it… he’s actually a double surprise!

Once Oliver leaves, Felicity and the Calculator come face to face, but thanks to having fought each other in separate locations with some voice-obscuring software thrown into the mix, she has no idea he’s the man she just thwarted. Felicity does recognize him, though, because the Calculator is Felicity’s father.

Yes, the long-teased mystery of Felicity’s past has come back to haunt her in the form of what otherwise would have been a villain of the week. (I’ll admit, the twist never crossed my mind, though the casting of a recognizable enough actor like Tom Amandes should have been some clue that he was more than a garden-variety foe.)

The reveal comes at the episode’s end, and so plenty of secrets, from his villainous leanings to the state of Felicity’s mother’s love life, will likely be spilled in the episodes to come. But either way, it’s a nice jolt of energy to the show as it enters its middle stretch, as well as some insurance that the major change to Felicity’s mobility will not be sidelining her in the storytelling of the episodes to come.

On the Island

Oliver has also learned to work through his need to hold onto his guilt in “Unchained’s” flashbacks. Tortured by Baron Reiter, Oliver is saved by a mysterious friend, who shoots and kills Reiter. It is Shado, though Oliver initially mistakes her for her twin sister.

That would be because Oliver is dreaming all of this. He is hallucinating after his body has gone into shock from all the torture he has suffered. Shado does come to him on a mission, though. She wants him, as Amanda Waller once said, to find his way out through — through his darkness, more specifically.

She leaves him with a rock covered in engravings and a word of advice to admit how much he cares for Taiana, who is watching over him in the real world. When he wakes up, he does so asking for forgiveness, admitting that he killed her brother, not Conklin.

It’s the first step in a years-long process for Oliver, who even in the present on “Unchained,” proves he still has plenty to learn about learning to work through his darkness, his guilt, and his regret. Although we haven’t seen what’s to come, he obviously made enough progress to survive his time on the island, and he will likely have to continue to grow in his effort to put an end to Damien Darhk’s reign of terror.

Episode Recaps

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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