Arrow made up for not having Felicity in last week’s episode by featuring her in this week’s episode. And there was much rejoicing.
We get more of Felicity’s backstory than we’ve ever gotten before and for the most part the flashbacks were handled well—they did slow the pace of the episode a tad, but it’s Felicity getting the flashback treatment, so I’ll overlook this shortcoming. This self-contained story gives viewers a breather from the usual last episode built off of the episode before it and now this episode builds off the last. Arrow hasn’t had a self-contained story, and while I enjoyed that aspect, I thought they could’ve gone somewhere more exciting with Felicity’s ex-boyfriend. Him coming back from the dead felt canned, and the final confrontation fell flat.
Just because the main conflict in this episode gets tied up in a nice bow doesn’t mean that other elements Arrow’s played with up to this point don’t show up. In the beginning of the episode we catch Arrow training with Arsenal, Thea sparring with Merlyn, and Laurel flailing at her boxing instructor Wildcat. Everything introduced in these training sessions comes back in satisfying ways—for the most part.
Arsenal isn’t at his best. He claims that he hasn’t been getting a lot of sleep. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll have a strong reaction to how this seemingly minor detail returns.
Thea reconciles with Ollie. She cuts out some of her lies but keeps the biggest one from Ollie—she’s training with Malcolm Merlyn—and we see Merlyn stalking Ollie and Thea. Creepy much? I’m not sure of the entire relationship between Thea and her father. Ollie does call Merlyn’s fortune blood money, so it’ll be interesting to see how Thea behaves in future episodes. And Ollie calling her Speedy felt odd. Sure, he’s called her that before, but it felt forced here. Yes. We know that Thea’s training will eventually turn her into the character Speedy.
Then, Laurel comes clean with Wildcat—not her father—about Sarah’s death. I’m still not on board with this. Is it worse for Captain Lance to find out that his youngest daughter’s dead, or that his youngest daughter’s dead and his eldest daughter has been lying to him about it for months? He will find out eventually.
Laurel’s confession prompts Wildcat to offer her a gi: one red, one black. Guess which one Laurel picks. The black one—definitely black—as in Black Canary. I don’t see Laurel jumping from rooftop to rooftop until at least the mid-season break, so I might have time to wrap my head around this.
Taking a cue from other DC Comics shows this fall, Arrow drops some nice Easter eggs.
1) Felicity’s boyfriend from college wears a Starro t-shirt. I’m wondering if Starro won’t be the first Justice League movie villain. He was the team’s first foil in the comics.
2) The episode’s name is “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak,” when DC Comics has a tradition of entitling their comics “The Secret Origin of…”
3) The watch Ray Palmer gives to Felicity’s mother is more like a mega-computer, complete with its own wi-fi signal. It may be a stretch, but is this watch the beginning of Ray Palmer’s (a.k.a. The Atom) miniaturization technology?
4) In the comics Brother Eye is a self-aware satellite with connections with the character OMAC. Should we be expecting an appearance from OMAC? Brother Eye and the OMAC Project served as major antagonists in stories like Futures End and Infinite Crisis. And The Flash has already had a tipping of the hat to Infinite Crisis. Furthermore, in the run-up to Infinite Crisis Blue Beetle Ted Kord—the character Arrow had in place of Ray Palmer before rewrites—died attempting to stop Brother Eye after discovering that Checkmate—an organization with ties to Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S.—was abusing the satellite. This seems way too convenient to be coincidental.
5) Felicity says (about the super-virus she created), “I wrote it five years ago.” Futures End takes place five years into the future, so everything that happens now happened five years ago for that story line.
6) Lyla’s not around to take care of baby Sarah because she’s in Santa Prisca, which just happens to be the fictional South American nation where Bane was born in prison.
7) Felicity’s ex-boyfriend’s name is Cooper Seldon, which sounds an awful lot like Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory.
8) Felicity’s natural hair is black, just like in the comics.
9) This one isn’t as much an Easter egg as it is a question. We see Felicity’s mom, but they’re cagey about who her dad is. That leads me to believe that Felicity’s dad may be familiar to DC Comics fans, especially since he’s uber-intelligent. It could be a former leader of A.R.G.U.S.: Lex Luthor. Felicity’s mom did seem enamored by billionaires.
10) And tell me Felicity doesn’t look like Lady Death from Sandman in this promo picture.
I wouldn’t be upset if they cast Emily Bett Rickards for the part in the upcoming movie. Rickards! Rickards! Rickards!
Verdict: I love the idea of dedicating an episode to Felicity, and this is the strongest episode of Arrow so far this season. The predictable plot and disappointing final conflict furthers the show’s stumbling out of the gate, but it ends in a twist that has me intrigued. Plus, there’s plenty of fan service with all the Easter eggs.
Similar to the Arrow episode this week, Gotham focused on a couple of strong characters which is a good thing. To date Gotham has staked any watchability on the fact that they’re drawing from the Batman mythos, so they can roll out fifty or so characters in one episode, not even give lip service to any of them, and then add ridiculous plots and tortured dialogue to the mix. This episode may not live up to its name “Penguin’s Umbrella,” but it does an adequate job of slowing down the pace and building on a few characters.
The show revolves around Cobblepot’s elaborate plans to bring war to the city of Gotham. We get more of the halfhearted noir aesthetic in this episode with all its backstabbing, gun-pointing, and late-show flashback that fills in everything we didn’t know behind the scenes. We find out that Cobblepot’s been working for Falcone ever since he was caught snitching on Mooney. Even though the pacing is improved, it’s still clunky, and I don’t quite buy the plot. Why would Falcone trust Cobblepot so fully? I know they explained it, but their explanation sounds hollow and trite. Furthermore, it makes little sense for either Cobblepot or Falcone to keep Jim Gordon alive. The only reason to do so is that he’s Jim Gordon and has to survive. This is a testament to the show suffering from not having Batman in it. It’s handcuffed.
As always the performances are strong from John Doman (Falcone) and the stellar Robin Lord Taylor (Cobblepot). But I’m troubled by the portrayal of Cobblepot as the demonized homosexual. When Cobblepot gives one of his victims kiss on the head, his cohorts exchange a weird look. Mobsters give the kiss of death to a lot of people, so the glance was out of place. And besides, who cares if Cobblepot’s gay? He’s deliciously selfish, and his gait is perfect. I love the way he steals almost every scene he’s in with his awkward yet devilish demeanor.
We get more of the buddy cop banter between Gordon and Bullock. This makes sense as buddy cops work best when they’re up to their eyeballs in trouble. The two feel more like real people as they both invade Falcone’s home, but they do it for different reasons. I almost want to say that we see progress with that, but let’s not get too crazy.
Despite the fact that this is the best episode of Gotham so far, it has very little at stake—partially because of the show’s domineering mythos and clunky writing. I didn’t care that Barbara got caught by Victor Zsasz. Barbara’s an unlikeable character whose only goal is to complicate Jim Gordon’s character with her half-baked plotlines. We also get hit over the head with Montoya’s stilted line “Are you sure she’s safe?” when she talks with Gordon about Barbara in another low point of the show. Zsasz says “Please?” Bullock uses the term good guys. Is he eight-years-old? Please.
Some quick ones:
1) Barbara screws up everything by staying in Gotham, and the one good cop—who just happens to be a woman—on the GCPD gets killed by Zsasz. It sucks to be a woman in Gotham. Is Frank Miller writing this?
2) Mister Zsasz’s ring tone is “Funky Town.” Really?
3) Alfred takes down an agent. He’s so ninja.
4) Fish Mooney gives the most important word in the English language all the time and space it deserves. That word: Bitch.
Verdict: Despite its flaws, Gotham was palatable this week. But I won’t go so far as to say that it’s showing progress.