ARROW Season 4 Episode 11 Review: A.W.O.L.

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Margot Hitchcock carries us through the shenanigans of “A.W.O.L.”

We’re all familiar with the military abbreviation “A.W.O.L.” Yet this week’s episode of Arrow suggests a better interpretation might be “Awesome Women Owning Life.”

That’s right, folks. The ladies were killing it this week when it comes to being amazing. The CW definitely proved its ladies do much more than sit back & let the guys take care of things.

In fact, the first shot we see is A.R.G.U.S. vet, mother extraordinaire, & the powerfully-independent-despite-the-fact-that-her-husband-is-always-off-with-his-superhero-buddies Lyla Diggle reminding us that she can still hang with the big guns. When placed among the ranks of fan-favorite Felicity Smoak, Speedy sidekick Thea Queen & - yes, I’m about to say the unimaginable - the surprisingly loyal Amanda Waller, this episode is definitely filled with some Spice Girls’ worthy Girl Power (which reminds me that what this show really needs is a musical episode).

Let me back up and address the elephant in that last sentence (and no, it’s not the musical reference; although that would be pretty epic): Amanda Waller – the Queen of Resting Bitch Face – gave us all the feels. Not only did this stoic and often-cutthroat character prove her loyalty to her mission until the end, but she actually made me actually want to see her on screen again. Even if it would mean another drone strike on the city (lovingly reminisced by Felicity later in the episode).

Needless to say, RIP, A-Wall.

Yep, I said it. A-Wall. As in, Amanda Waller’s celebrity nickname would be “A-Wall,” a convenient homophone for the episode’s title.  Coincidence?

… I don’t believe in coincidence in the Arrow-verse.

So while we all had to deal with the fact that the uptight A.R.G.U.S. leader might actually have a soul, we also got to see a different side of fighting from Felicity. While superhero shows often focus more on external & action-packed conflicts because – let’s face it, who among us thinks angst-ridden reflection montages are more attractive than salmon ladders & Parkour tricks? – Arrow often toes that line of addressing the emotional baggage that accompanies trying to save the world every 48 hours. But it has yet to do it with such a seemingly carefree character as Felicity.

Was her drug-induced breakdown a little forced and unnecessary? I think so. But Emily Bett Rickards can nearly do no wrong in my book, and if anything, it’s been so entertaining to watch her absolutely own every acting challenge this show throws her way. She is the Jennifer Lawrence of Primetime television. #obsessed

On a similar note, it’s been great watching Willa Holland suit-up as Speedy & deal with her own demons alongside the rest of the team. While she originally owned the “Kid Sister that is Absolutely Oblivious” graphic tee, her interactions with the team, cat fights with her estranged father-turned-Head-of-the-League-of-Assassins, & now her struggle to balance her bloodlust & a new boyfriend have shown just what a diamond in the rough Thea Queen is. Not to mention the fact that her playful fascination with vigilante life is refreshing to those both on-screen and off, particularly when the rest of the team has been doing this stuff for literally years now.

Even (gasp!) Laurel had some good things to say this episode. Props to her for playing it straight with Oliver on how to have a good relationship. Although Laurel has yet to have a decent relationship since her sort-of fling with Tommy back in Season One, her sound advice is enough to convince the notoriously stubborn & equally secretive Oliver to cut himself some slack & let Felicity deal with her own demons.

Which, by the way, Felicity manages to do just that in less than one evening. Like, Oliver has been through hallucinations, trials, death, and four years of masked crusades trying to face his inner demons; Thea is still struggling with a Lazarus Pit hangover; Roy took a whole season to figure out his Mirakuru rage; and even Sara Lance had to leave Star City in order to find herself. But, no – the amazingly badass Felicity Smoak deals with her dark side in one episode. While in a wheelchair.

She is literally the best.

So while the gentlemen definitely showed up in this episode (particularly Andy & Diggle – we saw that brotherly love finally surface! Woo who!), the ladies walked away with the win. True, the flow of the episode confirms my suspicion from last week: this season’s second half is struggling to gain momentum, particularly when it comes to tying together the over-arching schemes of Damien Darhk. However, the characters (particularly of the female variety) more than carry us through the shenanigans of “A.W.O.L.”

Margot is a huge supporter of all things relating to "nerd culture," in particular those involving superheroes and Disney. She loves books, movies, music and working out, and currently lives in Athens, GA, with her rabbit, Gigi.

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