Arrow Season 6 Episode 18 Review: Fundamentals
What could have been a fascinating dive into Oliver's mind is marred by the show's unwillingness to hold him accountable
This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 6 Episode 18 Review
Heading into this episode, I was wondering how they could believably turn Felicity from Oliver’s biggest cheerleader to the latest person to leave his side. Welp, they found a way. Sort of. I’m glad they found a believable level of violence – if Ollie hit William or Felicity it would be too much of a departure, but his outburst was still scary and violent enough to warrant Felicity kicking him out of his own home and drawing some serious boundaries.
Unfortunately, Arrow didn’t have the guts to follow through on this, using the dosing of Vertigo to excuse Oliver’s outburst and to reverse Felicity’s (very much justified) kicking him out. If we’re being honest, it’s actually surprising Oliver has never had an outburst like this before. Oliver is a violent man. He has killed many people. He regularly injured his (former) teammates to teach them lessons. The show’s refusal to really engage with Oliver’s shortcomings puts serious limitations on its ability to succeed. If the hero is always right, always justified, the writing is both predictable and dishonest, with the eventual resolution feeling unearned.
The fact that Oliver’s the hero means the show tilts unfairly too far in his favor. Quentin – and the writers – are doing Oliver and the show no favors by telling him, essentially, to just ignore the haters. Some of Oliver’s best character beats in the last few seasons have been the times where he truly grew as a person, a hero, and a leader. Every time that involved some serious introspection, which will only work if Oliver (and the show) are honest about his responsibility here. I understand the narrative appeal to isolating Oliver, completely breaking him down to how he started this whole thing. But right now it looks like the show is heading toward another reset, and one that will involve everyone suddenly realizing that Oliver’s been right all along. That would be a mistake, a betrayal of all that has gone on this season.
I understand why Thea is gone for this part of the season – aside from the real world issues of contracts, there’s the fact that this story works better if Oliver is truly alone, and the writers wisely have no interest in fracturing his relationship with Thea. But what if she were still around and could talk through this with Oliver? Someone who loves him and see him how he really is, for the good and the bad, and won’t pull any punches. When the original Laurel appeared, I had hoped she could serve as some sort of conscience to help him talk through everything, rather than merely torture the guy with memories.
This season seems to be circling around the premise that Oliver is such a great man that it has made him a worse Green Arrow. Not only that, but this episode posits that the solution is for Oliver to get back to how he behaved in Season 1. While I’m sure we’re all missing the crackle of the show in Season 1, there are some very good reasons Ollie moved on from the way he used to do things. He’s better at saving the city with a team, murder is bad, and his father’s book set him on the path of vengeance, not justice.
Speaking of Season 1, in the fights that bookend the episode, Ollie is working solo and using some Season 1 tactics to do so. He separates his targets, using arrows to distract them and lead them off to a confined area where he has the upper hand. I know I should be sad that Oliver’s life is falling apart, and it is a bummer, but that fight was electric. The old school Ollie-and-Felicity escape was a great touch as well. The opening shot of Diaz with the camera weaving between row after row of beat cops on the take was spectacular, a great visual representation of Diaz’s metaphorical walls of corrupt protection, even if it turned out to be a complete and total fakeout, which is worse than a drug-induced hallucination.
A word about Raisa. This woman is almost entirely unseen, thanklessly raising Oliver’s kid in his absence. When she does it appear, it’s to get insulted by Felicity and stabbed in a hallucination. Come on now, Arrow. You can do better than that, especially considering she’s one of five people still on speaking terms with Oliver.
One thing I did enjoy was that Oliver finally had to at least contemplate the consequences of years of relying on illegally obtained intel from Felicity, if not actually face them. I also appreciated that Felicity made a point of putting on comfortable shoes when it was time to save her husband.
Speaking of her husband: Oliver’s issue isn’t that he’s such an amazing man now – it’s the parts of himself that still haven’t changed. He needs to be a better teammate if he wants to be a good leader. He needs to trust his team more, not less; he needs to value them and show them that. Going back to the old days of solitude and single-mindedness is a mistake, but Arrow’s bigger problem is that the show isn’t framing it as one.