This episode. My gosh, this episode. I’m saying it now, this is getting a 5/5, and is easily one of the best episodes of the season, if not one of the best for Arrow all time. “Unchained” did a magnificent job of balancing numerous storylines, and numerous returning characters. All the while adding depth and consequences with each one. THIS, is what superhero storytelling should be.
Let’s just start with what happened in the first ten minutes, shall we? Nyssa staged a mutiny in the League of Assassin’s, Thea became very ill, and Roy was discovered to be stealing high tech equipment! First. Ten. Minutes!
Thankfully, Roy’s return wasn’t marred by a “he went bad in our absence” kind of thing, as he was being controlled by DC Comics villain The Calculator (worst villain name ever!…not really, there are worse). Though I did love Felicity’s numerous cracks about it. I can’t tell you how good it was for Roy to be back in the game, even if only briefly, it was almost seemless how he integrated back into the fold. Even how he talked with the others felt oh so natural. It made it almost a crime that you knew he had to leave again.
That being said, he made the most of every scene, from his time with Oliver, to his numerous scenes with Thea, it was beautiful. That ending scene was heartwrenching, because these two DO belong together! Yet because of the story, they can’t be. Dang it writers! Why do you torment us so?!?!!?
One of the interesting things about The Calculator story was that it came dangerously close to “paper villain” territory. But then, at the end, when you saw him at Felicity’s press conference, you knew something was going to give. And the “Dad…” reveal? Though predicted by some fans who knew the character, was very fun. And, it sets up a possibly major story arc for Felicity in the back half of this season.
Felicity actually had a really good arc in this episode, and touched upon a rather forgotten story in the form of Palmertech’s financial situation. With Ray timehopping and pretending to be dead, it was up to Felicity and Curtis Holt (making his return after a noticeable hiatus) to save the company. But with the focus on Darhk in the last 6-7 episodes, the focus had been taken off of that. Thankfully, not only did we get to see the result of their off-screen work, but it led to Felicity not only showing her true leadership qualities, but her and Holt having some true bonding moments.
Then of course there was Oliver, who was put in a familiar yet still very tragic situation with Thea, as her bloodlust condition decided to start killing her. While possibly forced, it played out well for all involved, including Ollie setting up a meeting with Darhk, only to break it off when the others needed him most. Him supporting Thea’s decision is big, and while i still don’t think she’ll die (for reasons I’m about to get to), it is good to see Ollie accept something instead of truly fighting it to the end.
And then…there’s Nyssa. Dear gosh…I missed Nyssa. Another almost forgotten thread that led to some very fun developments. From her mutiny within the League of Assasins, to her battle with Tatsu!!!!! That alone was so epic. To her reveal to Ollie that there is a cure for Thea…IF…he kills Malcolm Merlyn. Which is funny, because the two had just truly bonded over Thea’s decision…and now they have to fight to save her. Oh family squabbles…lol
The flashbacks were complicated. On one hand, they brought back Shado via a “vision”, but it’s unclear how this will affect Ollie long term. Because they say he needs to rid himself of the “Darkness’ within him…and yet in Arrow Season 01 he’s a murder machine. So…what’s the point? On the other hand, he did admit to killing Elena’s brother, which is good, cause now they can move on. So I’ll call it a wash.
In the end, “Unchained” was Arrow at its finest. Numerous returns, surprises, and stories led to this being a shining example of what Arrow can be, as well as how good superhero episodes can be. Arrow Season 04 is on fire, and with the setup for next week being already epic? It might just get even better.