Arrow: ‘Underneath’ Review
Oliver and Felicity get trapped in a late filler episode.
Warning: Yes, there will be spoilers.
After weeks of praising the hell out of what seemed to be an unstoppable late season five of Arrow, a filler episode by the name of “Underneath” arrives late in the game to stretch things out in a somewhat unnecessary fashion. Plus, a certain relationship some fans weren’t crazy about is revisited.
We picked up exactly where we left off last week. Felicity used her newly acquired biometric tracker to find out exactly where Adrian Chase/Prometheus was in the city, only to find he was right on top of them in the bunker. He set off an EMP, trapping both Felicity and Oliver. When the last episode ended with this cliffhanger, I thought it was going to make for a suspenseful follow up with Chase setting booby traps throughout the bunker, taunting Oliver as he tried to free himself and Felicity. Sadly, as the episode played through, I began to see that this was kind of an unnecessary event in a season that’s near its end. It didn’t help that we didn’t see Chase throughout this whole episode until the very end where he would meet and most likely abduct Oliver’s son. That cliffhanger was kind of unnecessary too. That scene could have been a chilling opener for the next episode.
“Underneath” is the 20th installment in a 23 episode season. Even though it isn’t exactly a stand alone episode that strays away from the Prometheus arc, the situation with two of our main characters being confined into one space while the others spend their time trying to rescue them seems like a small setback for the season. Perhaps if this episode’s plot was used earlier when the team was still trying to figure out who Prometheus was and what he was capable of, it would have been more acceptable and even thrilling. But it just feels like it’s too late for this situation to happen. Obviously, this was a strategically move by Chase to slow the team down, and for that, I can see what they were trying to do here. I just feel there are more important things to be showing than our characters trapped in the bunker.
To be honest, I would have liked to see this as the season finale. The team is preparing to take down Prometheus once and for all. Then when they least expect it, their whole system goes down and they are all trapped in the bunker with Chase and his allies stalking and waiting to strike at Team Arrow. Of course it would be a much smaller scale finale then ever attempted, but that’s the beauty of it. It would have been more tense and more dangerous for the team.
There was also a lot of backtracking and silly conflicts going on between both Felicity and Oliver in the bunker and Lyla and Diggle on the outside. Felicity should really get over Oliver not fully trusting her. I was always annoyed how she broke off her engagement to Oliver because he didn’t tell her about his son, whom he himself barely knew about. That was revisited in the “Olicity” themed flashbacks (which we’ll get into later). Now she’s upset because he didn’t trust her with Helix. Last week, I thought she deserved her little moment of triumph for making the right play, but to see her harp on the trust issue is kind of annoying. Felicity should be happy that Oliver trusts her enough. With all he’s been through, anyone who’s earned any kind of trust from Oliver should consider themselves fortunate. On the flipside, Oliver really needs to learn to follow Felicity’s advise once in a while. If she says there’s a good chance Chase booby trapped the elevator shaft, you probably shouldn’t climb the damn elevator shaft. Because otherwise, you could set off a bomb and fall onto a metal rod. And look what happened. The point is, as much as I love these characters, they are both stubborn. This episode highlighted more of their flaws than their strengths.
Diggle and Lyla’s continued marital scrabble was much worse, I would say. As Dinah pointed out, some secrets are necessary, especially in the field they are in. They’re both soldiers with different methods of fighting evil. Diggle’s anger at Lyla for making morally compromising decisions is beyond hypocritical. I couldn’t believe I was watching these two bicker over this sh*t while the rest of the team struggled to free Oliver and Felicity. Thank goodness by the end of it all, they kissed and made up, making this issue feel so pointless and upsettingly familiar.
Fortunately, despite the episode’s pointless nature, there was still enough to make for passable entertainment. The performances and the cast’s chemistry is what smoothed over the flaws of this episode. This cast is so good at doing what they do, that even if they are directed to get involved in meaningless spats and put into foolish situations, they make the best out of it and pull through with impressive flare. Although the overall plot of “Underneath” did not advance the main arc too much, there were times I was in suspense. There were elements that raised the stakes for our characters. Felicity’s spinal chip was fried by the EMP, turning her back into a paraplegic. Oliver was bleeding to death after falling on the steel rod in the elevator shaft. There was a toxic gas leak the two had to worry about as well. So yeah, there were plenty of reasons to be on the edge of your seat. Diggle’s attempt to save the two was also quite exciting. So despite the lack of actual fighting, this hour did have some excitement. I also liked how Felicity assured Oliver that he was a good man. Admitting to Chase that he liked killing people was done mostly out of being tortured for a week. No, it does not take the power away from that revelation. There probably is some truth to it. However, essentially, Oliver is a good man who has always tried to do the right thing, even when faced with morally compromising situations.
Now let’s talk Olicity. Oh, I can hear the groaning from my desk. I am pro-Olicity. I have always admitted that. I like the two characters together, regardless of their disagreements and spats. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards have terrific chemistry. They always have. But for those who can’t stand the idea of these two hooking up, no doubt these flashbacks made you cringe hard enough to shatter your teeth if you weren’t careful. However, despite Curtis’ best efforts to get the two back in love with Chinese food and wine, this was more about one last fling and moving on. I don’t think the two are getting back together, and I’m okay with that. I moved on. To be honest, the show has put these two through so many better situations, that I no longer think about the two hooking up, which is an accomplishment, I’d say. That’s what makes this episode’s flashback so counterproductive. I enjoyed the humor behind them. I liked reliving the romantic chemistry between these two, but it wasn’t necessary. If they wanted to kill Olicity off, which Felicity makes it clear this was just sex and nothing else, then the producers should have never brought up the issue. I mean, there’s always a chance the two might get back together, but with there being so many naysayers against the relationship, I wouldn’t count on it. Either way, I bet the writers are probably getting a kick out of pleasing the shippers, and annoying the haters.
I’ll say it again, the biggest flaw of “Underneath” is being a filler episode in a stellar season’s final stretch. The show was on a roll, building up to some incredible showdowns. Then this episode came, and despite some good performances and suspenseful scenes, that smooth roll was met by a bumpy detour. I will say this though: If the show was going to make a misstep in the later season, better it be now than in the season finale. We don’t need another “Schism”.