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Arrow 4.12 Review – ‘Unchained’

February 3, 2016 | Posted by Anthony Falco
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Arrow 4.12 Review – ‘Unchained’  

[Warning: SPOILERS if you have not seen ‘Unchained’]

So ‘Unchained’ is leagues ahead of the last two episodes: specifically in terms of quality and overall entertainment value. At the same time, Arrow still has not figured out what to do with Darhk, as tonight comes across as filler. With this said, ‘Unchained’ serves as a nice springboard for the second half of the season, making me excited for the next few weeks.

Now, it all begins with Nyssa: after defying Malcolm, she has been imprisoned and pretty much forgotten about. Well, ‘Unchained’ begins with a bang, as her loyalists help her to escape, setting in motion a plan to remove Merlyn. The fight sequences are fairly entertaining: the one gripe has to be that everyone is wearing the same clothes, making it hard to see the difference between the League and Nyssa’s soldiers. Once she escapes, the show goes back to Starling, where the gang is chasing after a thief. As much as the opening choreography is cool, the fight between Speedy and the robber is fairly boring: as if they developed everything on the spot, forcing it to look clunky. However, once Thea finally captures the criminal, she collapses, resulting in him escaping.

So this leads directly into the major plotlines of the night: Oliver continues to blame himself for everything – it actually becomes a running joke tonight – and Felicity needs to overcome her fear. With the former, Queen blames himself for not keeping a closer eye on his sister: not answering her bloodlust has caused her to become sick, as she could possibly die if she does not kill someone. At the same time, Felicity is about to unveil Palmer Tech’s new invention: Curtis Holt has advanced battery technology and she has to hold a press conference about it. Unfortunately, she fails in her dry run, which results in a board member asking her to step down from the responsibility. Of course, she agrees, but the viewer knows the main storyline will end with her overcoming adversity and delivering that final speech.

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So when Oliver is dealing with his sister, he gets a call that the burglar has struck again, resulting in him chasing the criminal down. This leads to a lengthy foot race, ending in Oliver finally catching the masked man: and it turns out to be Roy. Worst of all, Oliver’s shock allows Harper to get away. Back at the base, Felicity figures out that by combining all of the stolen items, the result would be a weapon that could destroy an electrical grid. Also, she realizes that such a thing requires an unlimited power source, aka the battery Holt has been working on.

Now, this leads to probably my favorite portion of the night: Roy going after Holt, who can actually hold his own. Whether Roy is just rusty or Curtis has some training, the fight comes across as clumsy and is played for laughs, which it should be. Of course, Roy eventually wins – and he should – but the sequence is just downright enjoyable. Luckily, the gang is able to ‘sort of’ stop him anyway. In the standoff, he is able to deliver the battery, yet – on the advice of Felicity – Oliver shoots him with an arrow. As anyone could have guessed, the arrow was a tranquilizer: Queen needed to make it look real because Roy was being watched. The viewer soon learns that an unknown party called the Calculator was blackmailing the old sidekick: certainly a cheesy name for a fairly Bond-like villain.

While Felicity is attempting to reverse engineer some equipment to find the location of the Calculator, Roy and Oliver catch up: this conversation further mentions that Oliver carries the weight of the world on his shoulders – again, it is joked about here, yet has been overplayed this season. However, this leads to the Arrow telling Harper about Thea. The result is probably the most cringe-worthy moment of the night. Though the wound reopening on her chest is quite gnarly, everything from Arsenal’s entrance to the people’s reactions is horribly acted, taking me out of the situation. The finale works better because of Stephen Amell, but this stuff fails to make the viewer worry about Thea.

While this is all going on, Felicity is able to hack into the Calculator’s mainframe, resulting in a slight game of cat and mouse. Unfortunately, he disconnects before she is able to find his location. So she goes to work to grab some plot device tech, which will allow her to magically get out of the situation. There, Holt is able to corner her and give a pep speech. He says that there are two Felicitys: one is shy in the boardroom and the other is a crime fighter. She needs to be the latter and do the presentation: again, this whole episode is awfully cheesy, but this speech is delivered with enough passion to make it have merit.

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On top of this, Oliver is trying to convince Thea to do something about her illness: either she needs to kill someone or he has to meet with Damien Darhk – something he arranges with Ruvé Adams, his new opponent in the mayoral race and the villain’s wife. However, she refuses both options, making Oliver spiral out of control emotionally. But this leads to probably Malcolm Merlyn’s oddest moment in the history of the Arrow: he admits that this needs to be her decision, so if she chooses to do nothing, then they have to grant her wish. He has never been this selfless or levelheaded, making his speech quite jarring. Still, Queen goes to the meeting, yet is interrupted by Felicity, who has the location of the Calculator – he plans to hack into Starling City’s electrical grid and kill thousands.

So the gang races to the locationn, taking out the mercenaries that were tasked with setting the bomb. While some of the action looked really cool, the soldiers looked too similar to the Ghosts: unless it turns out the Calculator is working for Darhk, it is easy to confuse these faceless warriors with Damien’s crew. Now, while this is all going on, the worst part has to be the quips between the Calculator and Felicity: they are cheesy and oddly similar to one another, making the big reveal at the end quite surprising and fitting. After the vigilantes save the day – Roy has to manually blow up the C4, but not once did he ever appear to be in danger – Felicity delivers a killer speech at the press conference. However, the more important event is that the Calculator is in the crowd and happens to be Smoak’s long lost father.

As for the rest of the finale, Roy talking with Thea about her illness is a touching moment: especially when they profess their love for each other. On top of this, after Speedy is hospitalized, Nyssa promises that there is a way to save her – a fight between her and Tatsu, who is protecting a mystical device called the Lotus, is oddly placed in the middle of the episode. Supposedly, the Lotus can help those affected by the Lazarus pit, yet to acquire it Queen has to kill Malcolm Merlyn.

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
‘Unchained’ is certainly a step up: even the flashbacks, which brought back Shadow, managed to keep my attention. Still, this is far from the best of the series and is only building towards the eventual climax. On top of this, the stuff with Felicity and Roy – honestly, there was no real point to bringing Harper back – is both cheesy and cringe-inducing at times. Still, this episode did one important thing: it kept me entertained throughout its entire runtime, which is more than I can say about the previous two weeks.

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Arrow, Arrow Reviews, Anthony Falco