Arrow recap: 'Reversal'
Nice to finally meet you, Cayden James
Given Arrow’s history, there’s always reason to worry when it starts to focus on Olicity. It’s definitely fair to say it usually doesn’t bring out the best in the show; however, as last week’s episode showed and this one reaffirmed, the writers have really nailed how to explore this new-old couple without it dominating the story or becoming to melodramatic. While “Reversal” is about how both Oliver and Felicity are navigating their new dynamic (relationship plus Oliver not being on the team anymore), it’s mainly about Felicity and how she’s adjusting to everything that’s going on in her life, which is a nice change of pace.
When we pick up with Oliver and Felicity tonight, they’re enjoying a nice dinner date, which reminds both them and the audience of the first time they did this (see the season 3 premiere). Oliver continues to show how much he’s grown and acknowledges the fact that he wasn’t ready for this three years ago, but now he is. He also tries inviting Felicity to be his date to the fundraiser, but she says no because she has her hands full with the team and her new startup with Curtis. She still hasn’t come up with an idea for the startup and, as we learn later, hasn’t filed the article of incorporation either. While the date, thankfully, doesn’t end in a bomb going off, it does end prematurely because Felicity gets a call from the team and has to run off. “This is how it felt to be you, isn’t it?” quips Oliver before Felicity runs off.
Felicity was called away because Black Siren is causing trouble again. She seduced and eventually murdered a seemingly unimportant numbers cruncher at a bar. At this point, they have no idea what Black Siren is up to and just have to wait for more information to come through. Curtis, Arrow‘s resident Olicity ‘shipper, tells Felicity go back to her date with Oliver because he can hold down the fort in the meantime. Unfortunately, Felicity ends up getting pulled away from Team Arrow, and in her absence, Curtis acquits himself fairly well and is able to track Black Siren via her sonic scream. But it’s not enough, and Black Siren goes on to kill two more seemingly random and boring people.
What calls Felicity away from Team Arrow in this time of need? Her good ol’ friend Alena (Kacey Rohl). Alena shows up at Felicity’s apartment because she needs her help in stopping Cayden James, who is apparently planning something so terrible that it will result in the death of at least 4 percent of the population. (To put that in perspective, that’s double the amount of people who disappeared in the Sudden Departure on The Leftovers.) Obviously, Felicity questions Alena’s motives, but Alena says she’s a hacktivist and Cayden is crossing the line. Oliver shows up right as Felicity and Alena head out to get what they need to stop Cayden; he offers to join them, but Felicity says they don’t need his help.
Felicity and Alena head to some club, which looks awful, in order to secure something called a ghost drive. What does it do? No idea and it’s not important. What is important is the guy who has it, Amnesiac, suspects Felicity and Alena are narcs and has his men apprehend them. Unfortunately, a masked man bursts into the club and knocks out all of the guards. Surprise — it’s Oliver, who couldn’t resist his overprotective impulse and got worried when he saw Amnesiac’s men take them away. Felicity is justifiably annoyed; it was her turn to protect him. She didn’t want him involved because the FBI is tailing him. Nevertheless, Felicity gets the ghost drives she needs, and once Alena comes to, they head off to Helix’s old lair to gain access to the technology Cayden built and stop him. (Next: Cayden James menacingly enters stage left)
Meanwhile, Team Arrow returns to the bunker after failing to stop Black Siren for a third time. It’s not all bad news, though: Curtis discovers that each victim had a polymer on their hands that’s used to steal someone’s fingerprints. That’s when Diggle realizes that these people are purposefully boring — they must be spies or something. Unfortunately, they can’t crack these cover identities without Felicity, but Curtis tracks Black Siren’s canary cry and is able to find her base of operations, which conveniently has an operational security camera. They pull up the footage, and Diggle recognizes someone and realizes Felicity’s in trouble.
In the least surprising twist, Black Siren shows up at Helix’s lair and attacks Felicity and Alena. I’ll admit, I thought Alena was trying to distract Felicity so Team Arrow couldn’t stop Black Siren, but it turns out she was actually telling the truth. The fact that Arrow didn’t take the cynical route is actually quite refreshing.
Obviously, Black Siren isn’t alone. Cayden James, played by the immensely talented Michael Emerson, is right behind her, and he’s disappointed that Alena, someone he believed had such potential, would betray him like this. Sure, it’s clear from Cayden’s cold demeanor that the character is a variation on what Emerson did on Person of Interest (an underrated great show) and Lost (another great show), but he’s such a compelling actor that it doesn’t matter. His performance is rather quiet, but he imbues every line of dialogue with a sense of menace. Team Arrow arrives in time to stop Cayden James’ men from killing Felicity, but alas, Cayden ends up escaping in the confusion of another exceptionally executed extended-take fight sequence. Alena also gets shot in the process.
Obviously, Felicity feels incredibly guilty because she’s reason Cayden James is out in the world creating chaos. It doesn’t help matters that she’s able to figure out what he’s after: The three people he killed are the only people on Earth who can open the top-top-top-secret vault that houses the internet.
Last week, Oliver and Diggle switched roles, and it was Oliver’s turn to give his buddy a pep talk, and the same thing happens here with Oliver, whose newfound self-awareness is one of the best things about the season. Felicity, who is struggling with not only her guilt but also the stress of everything she’s juggling, wonders how Oliver did it all those years by himself. The answer: He wasn’t by himself, and he had her literally in his ear the entire time. Now, it’s his chance to be there for her (the way he wasn’t there for her last season when she broke Cayden James out. This feels like the show is making up for that uneven episode). He tells her what she would tell him: Let go of the past and make things right in the present. Curtis calls with a location for the vault.
When Team Arrow arrives at the vault, Cayden James, his sidekick, and Black Canary have already accessed it. Cayden plans on overloading the vault’s system so it explodes, shutting down the internet and killing millions. He uses the vault’s firewall to lock Felicity out of the system, which means the only way to stop the vault from exploding is to access it directly. Unfortunately, Cayden’s men are all over the facility, and they’re armed. That’s where Oliver, who is back in the bunker in the Overwatch position, comes in. He uses the computers to guide her past the gunmen and to the terminal, allowing her to save the internet. After six seasons, this moment feels earned, and it truly does feel like Oliver is coming through for Felicity for once. Again, the most remarkable thing about this season is how it’s slowly moving away from Oliver’s point of view dominating everything. Unfortunately, Team Arrow is unable to apprehend Black Siren.
If you’re enjoying Team Arrow sans Oliver, don’t worry about that changing anytime soon because Oliver assures the team being Overwatch was a one-time thing. After debriefing at the bunker, Felicity visits Alena in the hospital, and Alena gives her an idea for her startup: mass-producing her spinal implant. Felicity also already has a name in mind for the company: Helix Dynamics, which is sure to win a Nobel Peace Prize. That night, Felicity and Oliver continue their date from the other evening, but it’s interrupted yet again by Slade Wilson, who calls Oliver asking for help.
Wall of Weird:
- This should be obvious by now, but Cayden James is the one who saved Black Siren from Lian Yu.
- It turns out Cayden only need access to the vault because he wanted to upload some code and needed Felicity to lower the firewall. He wasn’t actually trying to destroy the internet. However, this means Felicity’s tech-fingerprints are all over the vault now, which makes me worried that Agent Watson will somehow use this go after Felicity.
- Arrow did a really god job of showing, not telling, how Team Arrow functions differently under Diggle’s leadership. During the final fight, he tells the team to use “Delta Formation,” which is something, based on my years of watching fictional TV, you’d expect to hear in some kind of military unit. Given the fact that he’s an Army man, it makes tense that he’s brought some structure to the way they do business out in the field. I always got the sense that Oliver trained the team to fight and support him in the field and then just kind of set them loose.