Arrow returned from its hiatus with an hour light on plot but rich with character development, as Felicity’s divided loyalties finally come to a head.
Life without Arrow is kind of a drag. Apologies to all the shows I keep saying I mean to check out, but I missed Star City and its vigilantes so much during the month-long hiatus that I resorted to rewatching early season 1 (verdict: it’s better than I remember and makes for an interesting companion to season 5).
Fortunately, the hiatus has come to an end. We got a new Arrow episode last night, and it didn’t miss a beat.
“Dangerous Liaisons” picks up a week after Adrian Chase turned fugitive. He continues to evade capture, despite the combined efforts of the SCPD, A.R.G.U.S., and Team Arrow, and the city is on edge. Journalists grumble about authorities’ refusal to disclose details about the investigation, while the families of Prometheus’s victims demand justice.
Running out of patience, Felicity asks her new friends at Helix for help. Helena works her magic and traces a call that tipped off Adrian during the latest failed arrest attempt to an A.R.G.U.S. phone. Evidently, the top-secret agency isn’t immune from corruption. But they don’t have time to worry about that. For now, all that matters is that they find Prometheus.
Helena has an idea. Cayden James, founder of Helix and, according to Helena, the best hacker in the world, is currently being held by A.R.G.U.S. If Helix frees him, he could finish working on a biometric tracker capable of locating any heartbeat on Earth. Of course, you can’t just waltz into A.R.G.U.S. After Damien Darhk, Lyla beefed up security; access now requires two keys. Helena manages to steal one from an agent, but while doing so, she accidentally kills the agent.
It doesn’t take Felicity long to figure out what happened. She first chastises her friend, but the prospect of finding Prometheus proves irresistible. Helena hires mercenaries to obtain the second key (“One casualty is enough for this girl’s conscience”). When Team Arrow intervenes, Felicity persuades them to let the man with the key escape.
Just like that, her secret is out. Felicity hopes her teammates will understand her decision; after all, Oliver and even Diggle have made their share of moral compromises over the years. But they insist there are other ways to stop Prometheus; Felicity doesn’t need to use Helix any more than Oliver needed to use the Bratva. In truth, though, their resistance seems less the product of doubt or concern than disappointment. If not even Felicity can maintain some sense of integrity, what hope do the rest of them have?
In Oliver’s case, there’s also an element of guilt. While he acknowledges that he can’t “protect [her] from having to make tough choices”, he feels responsible for Felicity’s growing cynicism. “You’re willing to sell your soul to stop a threat I created,” he observes during a confrontation in her apartment. This is yet more evidence to support Prometheus’s claim that Oliver ruins the lives of all those around him. Felicity suggests that sacrificing her own humanity allows Oliver to rediscover some of his, but he doesn’t buy the argument.
Felicity isn’t the only one willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her goal. Lyla earns Diggle’s condemnation when she reveals that Cayden is being detained without due process. Just because he hasn’t been charged with a specific crime, Lyla argues, it doesn’t mean Caydon isn’t a danger. If let go, he could release all sorts of sensitive information, including the identities of A.R.G.U.S. agents. Diggle compares her to Amanda Waller, whose clumsily executed demise I’m still a little bitter about. Although it points to an interesting direction for Diggle and Lyla’s relationship, this plot point would have been more effective if we actually got to see Lyla change.
Anyway, Felicity and Helena break into the A.R.G.U.S. black site where Cayden is being held, using the stolen keys to disable a laser fence that serves as the primary security measure. A clash between Team Arrow and Helix ensues, inevitably culminating in Felicity having to choose a side. She chooses the latter, activating the laser fence to prevent Oliver from pursuing the fleeing van with Cayden inside. In a season full of devastating moments, this betrayal perhaps hurts the most.
The change doesn’t last long, though. In a video message, Helena tells Felicity that she can no longer participate in Helix because her connection to the Arrow is too great a liability. But unlike Oliver and Anatoly, they part on an amicable note. “Meeting your heroes turns out not to be so bad after all,” Helena says. She leaves a gift: Cayden’s completed biometric tracker.
Back at the Arrow Cave, Oliver finds Felicity working on the tracker. Fleetingly, it seems like they might reconcile and things will return to normal; she mentions that Helix froze her out, and he expresses sympathy (“I thought you were never going to lie to me again,” Felicity deadpans). To Felicity, however, Oliver’s unwillingness to support her dealings with Helix signals a lack of trust. As she points out, she supported many decisions of his that she didn’t agree with. So, the rift remains.
Their discussion gets interrupted when the tracker pinpoints its target. Prometheus is… in the Arrow Cave? Before they can fully process this baffling development, the computer explodes in a fiery blaze. This isn’t good.
In other news …
Quentin reunites Rene with his daughter, Zoe, and convinces him to fight for custody with the help of Curtis’s still-unnamed lawyer friend. Compared to the other storylines, theirs feels rather lightweight, but it’s endearing to see the mismatched duo bond over fatherhood. At the end, the camera pans to a framed photo of Quentin and Laurel, because Arrow is cruel.
Only halfway through did I realize this episode had no flashbacks, which makes it a first (not counting crossovers like “Invasion!”).
Diggle to Lyla when she argues that A.R.G.U.S. makes the world safer: “It might be safer, but it’s not better.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.