Arrow Recap And Review — Season 4, Episode 12: Unchained


Roy Harper returns to Arrow. Hooray! But Colton Haynes has already hinted that something bad will happen to him. Boo!

On “Unchained,” we’ll learn why Arsenal is back in town, and if it has anything to do with the new menace of the Calculator. We’ll assume he’s not the version that used to dress like a man-sized graphing calculator.

Plus Nyssa al Ghul is back in the picture, which could mean a headache for Malcolm Merlyn. Wait, would that be bad? All that plus more Damien Darhk, I’m sure, as we learn who or what is “Unchained.”

On-the-Mark Recap: Nyssa al Ghul hasn’t been eating while being held captive in Nanda Parbat, but a female who brings her a pepper says she really needs to try it. There’s a knife inside it, and Nyssa immediately puts it to good use of the stabby variety. She’s breaking out.

Next up is Team Arrow vs. a parkour burglar! Speedy finally catches the guy after a rooftop chase, but she suddenly feints and it about to fall off the roof before Green Arrow catches her.

Oliver blames himself back at Arrow Lair 3.0, with both Felicity Smoak and John Diggle echoing the thoughts of fans everywhere while noting that he always does that. Felicity doesn’t have much time to stick around, as she has to attend a dry run of the presentation of Curtis Holt’s supposedly game-changing tech.

It doesn’t go well. After asking Curtis if he can have a moment with Felicity, one of the Palmer Tech board members explains that the future of the company hinges on this product, so maybe it would be better if someone else gave the presentation — as in someone not in a wheelchair. Jerk.

Oliver goes to check on Thea and finds Malcolm Merlyn is already there. Ever the ray of sunshine, Merlyn explains that the problem is Thea’s Lazarus Pit-related blodlust. If she doesn’t sate it, the bloodlust will kill her. Ollie asks why Sara Lance wasn’t affected the same way, and the answer is apparently John Constantine. Thea finally tells her brother about the effects Damien Darhk’s powers had on making her better, which of course leads Oliver to say they need to catch him and make him cure Thea permanently. Malcolm is just about to rain on his parade again when a call comes in about another tech burglary.

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For some reason, Oliver decides to chase the thief down in street clothes, and after a merry chase, he gets a big surprise. He unmasks the burglar to find that it’s … Roy Harper? Yep, and Roy punches him in the face before running off.

Despite skepticism from his teammates, Oliver insists it was really Roy. He’s quickly called away by his campaign manager, Alex Davis, who drops another bombshell: Ruve Adams is running for mayor. That’d be Damien Darhk’s wife. Green Arrow tracks her down outside her campaign office and asks her to set up a meeting with her husband.

Felicity has been working on figuring out why Roy was stealing certain high-tech components. She theorizes that they could be the parts to a “web nuke,” essentially a device for taking down the entire internet. It would still need a major power source. Like, say, the power cell that Curtis has been working on …

Roy’s already figured that out, but Curtis puts up a surprisingly good fight against the erstwhile Arsenal. Ironically, Holt gets taken out by one of his own T-Spheres thrown back at him. Team Arrow arrives, but Felicity tells them something is wrong with Roy, and she tells Green Arrow to shoot him.

Settle down everyone, it’s just a tranq arrow. Once Roy comes to, they find a super tech-enhanced contact lens and take it out. Turns out Roy was being blackmailed by a villain called the Calculator (self-named, as it turns out). Unwilling to expose his friends in Team Arrow, he couldn’t even turn to them for help. Oliver says that of course they will help him with his problem now.

Back across the world we go, where Nyssa tells her helper that she must approach the shrine they’ve found alone. There’s a familiar face guarding it: Tatsu, in her full Katana garb. She’s there guarding a lotus of some sort, and when Nyssa says she’s there to get it, they start a swordfight. After they realize they’re too evenly matched, Nyssa says her quest involves Oliver Queen and wonders if Tatsu will listen to her now.

Roy becomes the third person this week to point out how Oliver is always carrying the weight for everyone else. What is it now? Roy finds out when he goes to visit Thea, who has tons of questions for her ex-boyfriend but also is obviously sicker than before. The wound on her chest from Ra’s al Ghul reopens, but Malcolm calms her, telling her it will pass. It eventually fades away in extra-creepy fashion.

As we knew she would, Felicity has traced down the components of Roy’s contact lens and actually makes contact with the Calculator. She gets him to spill a bit of his plan, which involves not taking down the internet but taking down a city. He could shut off the power grid, cause hospital equipment to fail, blow gas mains and generally kill a lot of people. Felicity is worried but wonders if something Ray Palmer invented called a battering ram might help.

She finds it at Palmer Tech, where Curtis marvels at the way she’s whipping around the place. He says that he feels there are two versions of Felicity, one who has self-doubts and one who kicks ass. The second Felicity could save the company.

Oliver returns to Thea’s side, promising not to let her die. She argues that it’s not his choice to make, that it’s her life and her decision. Malcolm stops Oliver in the hallway and echoes those thoughts, saying that sometimes when you love someone, the best action is no action.

The battering ram works, allowing Felicity to hack the Calculator. She figures out where he’s going to install the web nuke, sending a message to Oliver. Will he answer it or keep his meeting with Darhk?

Team Arrow hits the scene, sans Green Arrow but bolstered by Arsenal, who admits that he missed this. Felicity learns from the Calculator that the web nuke has to be removed on site, a task which looks grim when the heroes are surrounded by armed mercs. Green Arrow arrives in the nick of time, but there’s another problem. The web nuke needs to be blown up, and the Calculator is preventing it from being detonated remotely. Roy volunteers to shoot the bomb with an arrow and try to get out in time, giving a very similar “my life, my choice” speech. Okay writers, we get it. Arsenal makes the shot and ziplines away to safety. “Just like riding a bike,” he says.

Alas, Roy can’t stick around, and will probably have to go even deeper underground now. Felicity at least gives him a hand by removing all traces of his identity from the Calculator’s servers.

Oliver is in the house for Felicity’s big presentation at Palmer Tech, which goes well. But wait, isn’t that guy in the audience near Oliver … Nah, couldn’t be.

Before leaving town, Roy visits Thea and says he almost decided to stick around despite the danger just for her. She replies that nothing would make her happier than for Roy to find someone, settle down and have a normal life, and he says if he could do it all over again, he’d do all those things with her. “I love you’s” are exchanged, and the feels are all too real.

Oliver congratulates Felicity before returning to check on Thea. As the elevator closes, Felicity turns and sees her dad. HER DAD IS THE CALCULATOR?

No happy ending, though, even after Oliver thanks Malcolm for his advice. Thea has sunken into a coma, and the nurses say her prognosis isn’t good. Nyssa sneaks in and says there’s only one thing that can save Thea: a lotus extract that she has. She’ll happily give it to Oliver, but only on one condition: He needs to kill Malcolm Merlyn.

Meanwhile, (Back) on the Island: Reiter is torturing Ollie, asking why he wanted the maps of the island. Our hero is surprised when Reiter is shot by an arrow by Shado. But she’s dead, right?

Yes she is. This Shado is just a vision, though a chatty and helpful one. She wonders why Oliver won’t go back to his family, and he answers that he can’t as the man he is now. Better start changing, says the vision. The only way out is through, I will help you, and maybe a few other clichés.

Oliver meditates with Vision Shado, who feels that his guilt over taking lives and his love for Taiana is weighing on him. Once his fever breaks and he snaps back to reality, Oliver confesses to Taiana that he lied to her and that he killed her brother. That might change their relationship a bit.

Burning Questions:

  • Has Thea now taken the lead in the “Who’s in the grave? polls?
  • If Malcolm really loves Thea as much as he claims, wouldn’t he just sacrifice himself to save his life?
  • They didn’t really just bring Roy back for one episode, right? Right?

Next: Arrow Recap -- Season 4, Episode 11: A.W.O.L.

Final Thought: Just when this looked like a Villain of the Week deal, the writers threw us a nice curve ball in this one. It ended up an effective blend of moving the overall season arc forward while telling a fun self-contained story, and there are plenty of plot threads to pick up going forward. I liked it.