Review: ‘Arrow’ Tries to Get ‘Underneath’ Its Most Polarizing Relationship
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Underneath”:
A minor point of holdover from last week’s Arrow: “Dangerous Liaisons” opened on the hilariously elaborate note of Adrian Chase coding himself into an arcade game as a taunt. So while not impossible that he might have orchestrated Oliver and Felicity becoming trapped in the bunker by an EMP blast, tonight’s “Underneath” never circled back to whether Chase was an active threat on-scene, as Oliver seemed to think in the opening minutes. My presumption last week was that Helix double-crossed Felicity with a bogus drive, not Chase, and there were no other Chase traps the two ran afoul of to clear that up.
I suppose the how of locking Oliver and Felicity in the bunker doesn’t matter so much as the why, in which case “Underneath” was very much Arrow’s effort to marry a bottle episode with a Poseidon Adventure escape, and simultaneously sort out lingering relationship drama between the pair. In that way, tonight offered something of a litmus test for Arrow fandom. If you’re actively invested in the relationship between Oliver and Felicity, “Underneath” provided appropriately intense means to hash out everything unsaid about Oliver keeping a secret son last year, as well as Felicity betraying the team last week. If not … well, this was an odd way to spend an episode three hours removed from the finish line.
As I mentioned last week, the “Olicity” relationship was never necessarily part of the original five-season plan, but rather a wonderful surprise of chemistry between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards that soured on fans by the time Season 4 made it an integral part of the series. Arrow itself more or less jettisoned soapier relationship aspects after Season 1, and “Underneath” feels almost like an attempt to revisit that brand of heavy melodrama as the series comes full circle. After all, Oliver and Felicity hashing out* trust issues in a dimly-lit bunker was only half the puzzle, as Diggle and Lyla shared some of the same arguments upstairs, amidst the team’s desperate efforts* to save their leaders.
*If there’s one thing “Underneath” couldn’t sufficiently articulate, it was the escape itself. Methane leaks prevented the team from torching into the elevator, but how did Curtis get the T-Sphere downstairs, or blow open a brick wall? I couldn’t keep straight half of why Curtis needed to turn the vents on and off, or if the bunker itself is now permanently inoperable.
Revisiting the Season 4 drama around Oliver’s son also felt like it ignored the larger schism between Felicity and the team last week, reducing what should have been a lasting conflict to Oliver’s deeper reasons not to trust her, or even his own judgment. “Underneath” did better in its effort to revisit Chase torturing Oliver into believing himself a true killer, especially in its reminder that Oliver has now been battling demons for ten years, regardless of what foundation that crusade was built upon. Amell and Rickards really poured everything into making those revelations land, and it’s a shame the most Diggle and Lyla’s side mustered was “well, I guess we should blindly trust one another sometimes!” There were major consequences looming about last week, and “Underneath” disappointingly never ran with them.
Overall, Arrow Season 5 has done well with ambitious one-off episodes like the message-heavy “Spectre of the Gun,” or tonight’s near-literal dark night of the soul. Were it earlier in the season, I’d probably feel more open to a deep dive of Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, but “Underneath” marks two episodes of the final five (after a monthlong break) with limited presence for the major villain, and no explicit endgame in sight. Maybe now wasn’t the best time to get introspective about one of Arrow’s most consistently polarizing pairs.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- If I have one legitimate gripe with Arrow, it’s that the series never gave any real weight to Felicity losing the ability to walk. Here, it’s just an added physical challenge for Oliver that’s hand-waved away immediately after their escape.
- Hey, flashing Peter Stormare’s Count Vertigo onscreen and dealing with him offscreen is cheating, man.
- Speaking of, this is also the second week without a genuine flashback to Oliver’s past. They are not going to miss that device next year.
- Don’t tease us with Curtis and Rene as a couple if you’re not going to follow up next season.
- Let’s be real, this whole episode was one long love-letter to the Salmon Ladder.
- Should William look that much older already?
Arrow Season 5 will return on May 10 with “Honor Thy Fathers,” airing at 8:00 P.M. on The CW.
Check Out 100 TV Facts You May Not Know!