It’s amazing to see just how good an episode of The CW’s Arrow can be with a little bit of focus. When the writers aren’t trying to juggle sizable side-plots in addition to the main Villain of the Week story and the season-long arc, episodes suddenly become more cohesive and coherent; go figure. Tonight’s hour, “Lost Souls” focused 99% of its effort on the rescue of Ray Palmer from the season’s big bad, Damien Darhk. That precise attention resulted in one of the series’ best episodes ever.
As a testament to how good “Lost Souls” was, even the flashback sequence actually had some substance tonight. You’ll remember from last week’s episode that John Constantine famously made an appearance on the island of Lian Yu in Ollie’s past in order to liberate a magical bit of spellwork from an underground bunker. Well, Ollie had to show his overseers Reiter and Conklin that bunker once Constantine “escaped”, which paved the way for the “very religious” Reiter to reveal his true intentions for being on the accursed island. It turns out that he’s not interested in drugs at all but rather a “message from the ancients leading to a very special gift: a heart of water.” I have no idea what this is, but at least we have a reason for revisiting well-trod grounds.
Though we’re a long way away from finding out just what this artifact is, we’re getting closer to a showdown between Oliver and Conklin, who knows that Ollie’s working with someone on the outside. So while the mercenary’s plan to kill Oliver by coercing Vlad the Worker into an assassination attempt failed, he’s definitely going to try again. Hopefully Ollie’s new lady friend on the island will help him out of the jam.
Now before we get back to the current timeline, I should mention that this episode opens with a brief reminder of what happened to Ray six months earlier. While testing his miniaturization technology on his suit, a huge explosion leveled the top floor of his building but didn’t destroy him as everyone had assumed. Instead, it shrank him down to size and apparently flung him into a nearby construction site where he got an up close and personal look at cockroaches. Entomological interests aside, we learned that Ray was very much alive but was being held captive; by just who remained to be seen.
Felicity has spent every waking hour (without a shower or a nap) attempting to solve the mystery of where Ray is, who is holding him captive, and how to help him. Though Curtis is helping as best he can, it’s Oliver’s assistance that rubs Felicity the wrong way. (It also doesn’t help that he thought it was a bright idea to invite her mother Donna into town to help smooth things over.) As the relationship between Felicity and Oliver gets rockier, they learn that Ray is micro-sized, is being held in a polymer cube on a table, and is being imprisoned for access to his technology. By who, you ask? None other than Damien Darhk.
Complications due to Donna Smoak’s arrival aside, the team has a tough task ahead of them when they’re forced to break into Palmer Technologies’ competitor, Kord Industries in order to steal a necessary device to restore Ray back to his normal size. The whole team attempts to sneak past the highly advanced security – including both Canary Sisters now that Sara’s back in action – during which Green Arrow gets to do a pretty cool rope slide and upside-down hanging trick in order to hack the security system. Despite their efforts, Kord’s own response team has gotten an upgrade, which leads Team Arrow to having to fight their way out. Thea manages to steal the necessary equipment, but Sara nearly satisfies her bloodlust by killing a guard. The others should probably keep a close eye on her.
While Darhk is busy using threats against Felicity as leverage to get Ray to cooperate with him, Oliver is attempting to survive a poorly planned dinner date with Felicity and her mother. There are two great relationship scenes that take place here and they provide great emotional resonance within the episode. While it’s clear that Felicity and Oliver are going through a rough patch, I love that these difficulties actually help to bring Diggle and Oliver closer together (and I love that they get to share a moment of on-screen bro time). Even more delightful is the scene between Felicity and Donna in which we learn more about the heartbreaking story of Mama Smoak and hear her sage advice to her daughter that strongly suggests patching things up with Oliver. They’re sweet moments embedded within an action-packed episode that actually make sense within the context of everything, and use guest star Charlotte Ross just enough to be effective.
Back to the action! While Lance lures Darhk out of hiding, Diggle is able to track the villain back to his headquarters, which just so happens to be a highly secure facility. The only way to bust inside is for Green Arrow to let himself be captured by a disguised Diggle (who gets a new code name because Curtis Holt is temporarily a part of the team) so that all of them can rescue Ray from the inside out. What follows is one of the best action sequences in Arrow history.
Green Arrow takes on the most dangerous mission: allowing himself to be captured and strung up by Damien Darhk. Darhk tosses the vigilante’s weapons away and revels in the slow torture of the Emerald Archer. Though Oliver manages to flip out of his chains before Darhk can unmask him, Darhk deflects the arrows he fires with a flick of his wrist. He then magically wraps chains around Green Arrow’s throat in a casual reminder that he’s very, very powerful. Green Arrow’s flashbang grenade gives him chance to break free and flee from Darhk.
As the rest of the team battles the security force, Felicity and Curtis parachute off the roof and crash though a window together into the melee. Despite a setback that prevents the team-up from re-sizing Ray directly, some quick thinking on the genius’ part (using the security camera’s power supply to direct the beam’s energy) solves it. A.T.O.M. is back and he’s full-sized again!
The battle back in the main hall is going well for Team Arrow, right up until Sara snaps the neck of a fallen guard, giving into her bloodlust once again. Back at their apartment, Thea tries to talk Sara down along with Laurel, but Sara says she has to handle things differently. She decides to visit their mom in Central City and then spend some time traveling around (through time, perhaps?). Sounds like we won’t be seeing Caity Lotz again until Legends of Tomorrow’s crossover debuts.
Once the team is done bringing Ray up to speed on the evils of Damien Darhk and Hive, Felicity clears the air with Oliver back at home (which is tough for her since he’s lying in bed shirtless). It turns out that they share a lifetime of dysfunctional relationships, but Felicity says that they’ve found themselves in each other, echoing her mother’s words. Seems like the arrival of Ray is no concern for their relationship after all.
Speaking of relationships, how about that smooth-talking Captain Lance! Despite the fact that his twice-resurrected daughter is leaving town once again, he’s more than happy to chat up Donna Smoak at a bar (don’t worry, he’s drinking club soda). This is one of the best meet-cutes on the show, but could lead to some awkwardness for their kids should the relationship continue. But that’s not all! It seems like Thea and Oliver’s campaign manager Alex Davis will also be hitting it off as they’ve already arranged their first date…which everyone could see coming from the time he was first introduced on the show. Good for them!
With such a solid episode, I was expecting the final stinger to be on the lame side. Instead, we get another glimpse of that mysterious box that made Darhk so happy to see a few episodes ago. He opens it up and lays its sides flat on a table as one of his technical lackeys says that he’s managed to salvage some of Ray Palmer’s technology. Apparently, they’re going to use this knowledge to power the symbol-laden grid, but to what ends remains to be seen.
Honestly, I was not expecting an episode of this caliber at this point in the season. When other series are enjoying the mid-season lull and relying on filler episodes before the big ramp up to mid-season finales, The CW takes the opportunity to connect dots, shore up character relationships, and bring ever-increasing levels of kick-ass action. It’s episodes like “Lost Souls” that make this show so much fun to watch each and every week.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Ray Palmer: “Why can’t anything ever work the first try?” Explosion!
Ray Palmer: “I’m alive, and I’m in trouble.”
Curtis Holt (to himself): “You’re married, he’s straight. You’re married, he’s straight.”
This is the first time the flashbacks on the island have actually been interesting so I’m curious to see where this “Heart of Water” goes. (It’s not a D&D nod, is it?)
Tiny Ray Palmer in a Glass Cube is the new hot item this holiday season.
Things that Felicity thinks Ray is the size of: Tater tot, Cheetoh.
Felicity: “Chatty Kathy, you’re up.” Arrow: “Chatty Kathy?” Felicity: “It’s your new code name.”
Diggle gets a rare moment to be in on a joke when he’s caught up between Felicity and Oliver arguing over whether or not the latter should be making dinner plans with the former’s mother.
Darhk (to Tiny Ray): “Don’t make empty threats, it’s … small.”
Felicity: “I lost myself in you, and I was never that girl, a girl who loses herself. That is not who I am.”
Olicity may be on the rocks, but Oliviggle takes their Tennessee whiskey neat.
Felicity: “You’ll never find another guy that hot again who cooks.”
Diggle finally gets a code name! Spartan! What do you think?
Ray: “You can open it with five years and an NSA-grade computer.”
Green Arrow: “Good to see you, Ray.” Ray: “Nice suit!”
Oliver: “Damien Darhk is in an evil organization called Hive.” Ray: “Like ‘Spectre’? Cool!”
Sara: “I love you, sis. Always and forever.”
Darhk: “Just because I understand science doesn’t mean I’m not bored by it.”