Synopsis of 4×17: Trapped inside Palmer Tech, Felicity and Thea rush to save the board from a returned Bug Eyed Bandit, who wants a piece of Felicity’s miracle cure. Curtis joins the team to help save Felicity.
It’s bizarre to compare Flash and Arrow as both shows get closer to the ends of the season. With constant, escalating tension, a number of telegraphed, but well executed twists and a threat who feels genuinely threatening, Flash is using the episodes it has left to push its protagonists and its villains into increasingly elaborate, desperate situations.
Compare that to Arrow, which uses one of it’s final episodes of the season to, well, bring back a little-remembered villain from the last season of Flash and then sort of just, dick around, gently pushing its major characters into new positions.
At least this week’s episode, “Beacon of Hope,” does something with a single Felicity. Stuck inside Palmer Tech after the Bug Eye Bandit takes over, her, her mother, and Thea flee around the building, trying to save the company’s board while the Arrow’s team attempts a rescue mission. The “Die Hard” comparisons are inevitable and all-but-commented on but, for the most part, it works pretty well.
The first half of the episode is almost painfully slow but things start to pick up as Curtis enters the bunker and starts leading the team. He’s a fun replacement for Felicity, with all the nerves and awkwardness that made her first appearances as charming as they were. Felicity meanwhile gets to set her own course. She’s trying to lead, trying to assert her authority now that she can walk again and has some sway with the board. It’s a compelling way to broaden the character, even if it seems unlikely to stick, but it’s much better than last week’s option of leaving her as just the heartbroken ex.
Like a lot of episodes of this season of Arrow, “Beacon of Hope” is all about exploring the illusion of change. It spends almost its entire hour trying to set up the idea that Curtis will or could replace Felicity on the team while Felicity is phased out, maybe to become more of an auxiliary character but it backs off in its last minute, reinforcing the status quo with Curtis rejecting the role to his husband and a conversation between Felicity and Thea that reaffirms the importance of both of their roles on the team.
There’s nothing really theoretically wrong with this. Felicity’s a great part of the show and I can’t imagine there are many viewers really thought that her sabbatical from the team was going to be permanent. I just wish the show would use these temporary changes in the status quo to illuminate or at least broaden the characters and their roles over each shift. While I still don’t love this arc, I do wish Arrow would use the removal of Felicity from the team to establish exactly who she is as a character and what it is that she brings to the team and this show.