Arrow: “Underneath” Season 5 Episode 20 Review

There’s some heavy stuff going on on Arrow right now. Our occasionally murderous hero is dealing with the pleasure he gets from the power he has to end one’s life. There’s a complex ethical debate between a clandestine bureau and a member of a vigilante group in the context of a marital argument. Arrow doesn’t have the means, whether it be through the writing staff or the intricacies of production, to explore either of these genuinely great ideas the way they deserve to be explored. But here we are with “Underneath,” an episode entirely devoted to exploring these ideas.

It does a pretty decent job exploring Oliver and Felicity’s issues, even with the haphazard reintroduction of their romance. If Oliver is going to pull himself out of this rut, he’s going to need Felicity’s help first and foremost. That help didn’t have to come in light of a rekindled infatuation, but it serves the same purpose having done so. Oliver and Felicity broke up because Oliver couldn’t stop keeping secrets from his then fiancee. It really was never talked about. But Felicity’s recent dealings with Helix pave the way for the discussion to open back up in a genuine enough manner. Trapped in the bunker by Chase’s bomb, “Underneath” gives these two a chance to work through a number of issues. Oliver must learn to trust Felicity here, as she rightfully argues that working with Helix is the same as Oliver calling on the Bratva to help with Prometheus.

But Oliver also has to face the secret Chase brought to his attention. Felicity argues that after a decade of hell, it’s a miracle Oliver isn’t more messed up. True, but a bit anticlimactic for how this whole idea was brought about. “It could be worse,” isn’t an interesting solution to this very interesting character flaw. I reserve judgement until the end of the season, but Felicity’s goals here seemed to be pushing Oliver in a direction where he merely strives to be better, rather than digging into the root of himself to solve his issues and reworking them to be fruitful.

Meanwhile, above ground, Diggle and Lyla spend the whole episode sending passive aggressive comments toward each other rather than trying to fix their marital problems. What’s most frustrating here is how they resolve things, with a simple “I trust you” after the success of their mission. Again we have a genuinely interesting character conflict downtrodden by a far too easy resolution. Compared to Oliver’s, this one is much closer to utter bullshit, but it’s not a good thing that Arrow thinks it can solve complex issues so easily. This was the crux of the problems with the significantly larger offender issue episode “Spectre of a Gun,” the show’s worst hour.

Still, there were successes in “Underneath.” And that cliffhanger is actually very enticing. Prometheus aims to attack Oliver’s personal life in a way he’s tried to shove away and pretend didn’t exist. Now everyone will have to face his problem to stop this villain, which should make for some compelling drama. Arrow does have a great track record for ending its seasons, so there’s still hope for this putrid fifth season to make up for some of its mistakes. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty


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