Synopsis of 4×16: Cupid returns to town and starts killing couples. The trial of Damien Darhk begins and Laurel puts her father on the stand to bring HIVE to justice. Oliver and Felicity come to terms with their new relationship status.
Like all sane viewers of Arrow over the last four years, my favorite part of this often infuriating, frequently uneven, occasionally transcendently, stupidly entertaining show has been Felicity Smoak. A kind of audience surrogate, primarily designed to be there to make the squealing comments about Oliver Queen’s physique that a sizable percentage of the audience surely was, Felicity became more, usurping Laurel’s role as the de facto romantic relationship for Queen and becoming an integral part of both the personal and super heroic stories of Arrow.
I think it’s a testament to how charming both Emily Bett Rickards’ portrayal of the character is as well as some solid characterization and writing that made Felicity work so well for so long where many of the show’s other female characters have felt one-dimensional but Arrow now faces something of a problem of its own making. Breaking the relationship between Oliver and Felicity creates something of a hole in the center of her character and it’s one that I don’t know how the show can quite come out of.
“Broken Hearts” is all about exploring that hole, not filling it in. Cupid, one of my favorite auxiliary villains of the show, is back in Starling City with a new lease on life thanks to being released from Suicide Squad. She’s killing celebrity couples because, after Deadshot’s death, she thinks love is dead and, uh, y’know, what, I’m sure you see this coming, but the only way to stop her is for Felicity and Oliver to fake a wedding.
I was rolling my eyes from the minute this shows up. It’s so glaringly, brutally obvious that the episode sort of circles it for what feels like hours, bringing in new couples for Cupid to kill and more and more conversations about how Felicity and Oliver totally, completely, seriously, really aren’t a couple that it sort of feels like wheels spinning. We know the only way this can wrap up is if they at least pretend to be in love for a moment, so we’re just sort of waiting to get to that.
Oliver and Felicity’s speeches, about the healing and transformative powers of love, feel sort of hollow in that context. As clear as the resolution of the conflict was, it’s equally clear that this wasn’t going to be the episode to bring the two back together. Instead, it only creates more questions about Felicity as a character sans Oliver.
Felicity’s main conflict at at this point is that Oliver’s lies about his son are a bridge too far, the final bit of proof she needs to recognize that her beloved’s first instinct is always going to be to lie and conceal and I think theoretically that would have worked two seasons ago to keep these two apart.
I feel like I’ve gone on and on about Oliver’s less than even acceptable skills at being truthful or even caring to people in his life, particularly the women in his life and it just doesn’t feel right that only now does Felicity reject him. So much of the episode is about both of these characters being transformed and accepting new roles, both as single people, potentially a married couple, and Felicity stepping out of the wheelchair, but it fails to really say who either of them are separate from each other.
Who knows? Maybe it’s intentional. Both spend most of their dialogue in the episode talking about the other one and I think a smarter show probably would have had the characters recognize this but Arrow frequently isn’t that show.
All in all, it makes “Broken Hearts” feel somewhat light, a little incomplete and a little transitional. It’ll be interesting to see whether the show rushes to bring these two characters back together or not but this episode proves there’s a lot of work to be done making them operate as single people again.