Arrow is back! Fear not, friend, your days of worrying are over. Your favorite white male gritty title character is not, in fact, dead. Everyone is very surprised.
But real talk. Arrow returned to the CW on Wednesday, January 21st with its newest episode, “Left Behind.” This slow-build, contemplative episode was a nice change of pace for the action-packed show, exploring where our heroes stand without their titular hero.
The episode opens with Roy, Diggle, and Felicity sustaining the illusion that the Arrow is still in Starling City. It soon becomes apparent that Team Arrow are also sustaining the illusion of Oliver’s survival among themselves, an illusion that Malcom Merlyn does his best to shatter.
The episode’s emotional approach was its strength, though it suffered (as Arrow episodes usually do) from an excess of flashbacks. However, if you ignore the flashbacks, the rest of the episode was an exceptionally tight, clean story that perfectly addressed the question at hand: Can Team Arrow could survive without the Arrow himself?
The results were inconclusive. The team worked well together, but it was their (understandable) hang-up on Oliver that kept them from working to their maximum potential. Every time they gained momentum in their crime solving, something about Oliver’s disappearance stopped them in their tracks. It was frustrating, to say the least. It is possible that Team Arrow could function without Oliver. It is not possible while they are drowning in uncertainty and grief.
Probably the best part of this plotline was Roy’s rare moment of insight: “Doing this without him while we’re waiting for him to come back, it’s one thing. But doing all this without him. Without him? That’s a whole other situation.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether the team can function without Oliver in the long term. They don’t believe they can, so they will never be able to.
“Left Behind” was a graceful, leisurely unpacking of the team’s reliance on Oliver. It becomes very clear to the audience that, without Oliver, the team will fall apart. We get a better look at some of the cracks in the team, like Diggle’s symbolic discomfort in Ollie’s suit, Roy’s loss of purpose, and Felicity’s morally-grey willingness to cut loose a few bad guys to protect the remnants of her team.
Cue some much needed sit-downs and some long-overdue conversations between Roy and Diggle and Felicity, Ray and Felicity, Laurel and Felicity…
Are you sensing a trend? Because I am.
There were a few treasures in this episode. The OMAC nod was one, Ray Palmer backstory was another, and the last and most gleaming…
Specifically, Emily Bett Rickards. When the episode flagged from flashbacks or plot, Emily was always there to bring the emotional immediacy home again. Whether Felicity was in denial about Oliver, or trying to talk Ray out of vigilante work, or closing a gate to save her boys, she was the most compelling person on screen.
She was the natural choice to unpack the collective baggage of Diggle, Roy, Ray, and Laurel, and her own slow decline was absolutely heartbreaking. In short, Emily Bett Rickards was the emotional powerhouse in this episode.
So there you have it. Team Arrow suffers withoutaOliver. And this whole show would suffer without Felicity.
Tune in next week, when Ra’s al Ghul will obviously use the Lazarus Pit to revive his daughter’s lover. Obviously.
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