By Josh Melo
‘Arrow’ Review – S4 Ep.12 (Unchained)
Unchained opens with an epic breakout sequence featuring Nyssa Al Ghul retaking Nanda Parbat from the conniving Merlyn. And then it promptly forgets about it. Shifting through multiple storylines, Unchained lacks any meaningful identity and ends up acting as filler while we wait for Damien Dahrk to return from vacation.
In addition to the return of Nyssa, almost every other missing character sees some action this week. Malcolm Merlyn takes time away from his sinister dealings as head of the League and Roy comes back for a one off appearance after being blackmailed into stealing a bunch of tech for a elderly computer hacker. On paper, seeing all of these fan favorite faces again seems like a great idea, and at certain points it is, but with no real focus or direction, they all just kind of show up to leave again. Having already mentioned Nyssa, let’s start with her.
As previously stated, her opening prison break scene brings immediate adrenaline to the proceedings and sets things up for a great League centric adventure. She even encounters Katana in the middle of a forest and gets into another cool sword fight. After stating that she needs “the Lotus”, she disappears for the rest of the episode only to show up in the final seconds stating that she has the cure to the magical disease Thea’s been suffering from… that only started showing itself this episode… that Nyssa wasn’t around for (makes sense). I understand wanting to include fan favorite characters in important storylines, but shoehorning them in for no apparent reason reeks of lazy writing. How did Nyssa know Thea was dying? Who the hell were the people helping her escape? It’s all too convenient for me and the sudden urge to have Merlyn killed seems like a rushed attempt at introducing more conflict.
You have the best villain you’ve had in years with Damien Dahrk, yet you sideline him for months at a time? If this was the plan all along, why not have Merlyn play a more active role throughout the season to make Oliver’s decision to kill him, or not, emotionally relevant?
In any case, it was a mishandled story thread that will inevitably end with Thea surviving and either Merlyn of Nyssa leading the League of Assassins. Running parallel to the Thea stuff was the surprise return of Roy Harper and the introduction of the new villain, The Calculator (who also happens to be Felicity’s father). Seeing Roy back in action was a lot of fun. His style is instantly recognizable, even amongst all of the other acrobatics, and his personality is a pleasant diversion from the all too occasionally glum atmosphere the crew normally exudes.
That being said, it’s a shame he’s already gone again. His final moments with Thea offered a sense of closure that fans never got with his initial departure. Willa Holland and Colton Haynes’ chemistry was back in true form and on full display. The emotion emanating from the two characters felt genuine and I may or may not have had something in my eyes at the time.
Tying in the return of Roy with the emergence of Felicity’s father was an interesting play. It brought up forgotten emotions between certain characters while introducing us to a whole new family dynamic concerning Felicity and The Calculator. We only learn of this connection at the tail end of the episode but the similarities between the two are unmistakable. It was fun watching the two talking smack to each other from behind computer monitors and how they could both foresee the others moves before they even made them. We have yet to see how integral Felicity’s father will be moving forward but spending this much time away from the main narrative without so much as referencing it (what happened to the death corn?) is a poor decision.
While Felicity is playing hacker with her father, she also has to run her business (I had almost forgotten that she was the CEO of Palmer Tech). With her sudden need for a wheelchair, her typically overflowing confidence has been slightly dammed. Having to introduce a new product with the potential to change her company’s fortunes, as well as those of the city, her nerves get the better of her. Bringing in Curtis, who also experienced a bit of an absence recently, to remedy her poise was a nice touch. Curtis was a likable character from the start and his chemistry with Felicity has been a lot of fun. But once again, how this fits into everything with HIVE and Damien is unclear. The newly introduced power cell will more than likely return as a mcguffin for later episodes, but right now, Dahrk is nowhere to be found and these stories, while fun, seem ultimately unnecessary.
Lastly, Damien Dahrk’s wife is running for mayor. No elaboration or details, she just shows up to announce her campaign and scurries back into the “dahrk”ness (that should be the official term for wherever the writers keep Neal McDonough).
Isolated, each story has its moments. Together, they fail to create anything of import. Nyssa and Thea’s storylines felt rushed and incomplete. Roy’s return was fun but short lived and Felicity’s father showing up distracts from the main villain. Merlyn, Dahrk and the Calculator are all working together in some ingenious plot, this episode acts as poorly conceived filler.
Overall, Unchained gets a 6/10.