Recap: Arrow, “Draw Back Your Bow” (3×07)

After a decidedly ‘meh’, mawkish, and borderline nonsensical episode last week, “Draw Back Your Bow” is a welcome return to some of the best Arrow has to offer, and I’m not just talking about the salmon ladder. The flashbacks, the main villain of the week, and the character development all dovetailed nicely together to reinforce the same theme: who do we chose to connect with, or do we choose to remain on the outside – and what costs are we willing to accept for those decisions?

At one end of the spectrum we have the clingy and clearly insane Cupid (Amy Gumenick, Turn). The woman formerly know as SCPD SWAT team member Carrie Cutter developed a passionate attachment to the Arrow after he saved her life during the invasion of the Mirakuru soldiers. Her obsession drives her to become yet another copycat archer assassin, her trademark being arrows are tipped with cute little hearts.

On the other end we have Oliver, whose brain’s stubborn resolve to remain as unattached as possible is warring with his heart’s stubborn desire for Felicity, and it’s mucking up his focus. Felicity herself is trying to navigate the same waters. She may still love Oliver, but since Oliver told her he can’t be with her, she’s forced herself to close that door and entertain the idea of giving in to Ray Palmer’s dogged pursuit of her affections. After all, he’s a handsome, confident billionaire with secrets prone to making clever quips and working out on a salmon ladder. “Oh my god, I have a type,” laments Felicity when she walks in on Ray using the ladder in his office. Yeah, sweetie, you really do.

Cupid’s actually an easy enemy to find and neutralize, as she’s going to keep coming in single-minded pursuit of the Arrow. Her motivation for death and destruction is simple: Cupid has decided to kill the Arrow’s enemies in hopes of getting him to notice and fall in love with her. She WANTS him to come to her. After Oliver smashes one of her heart arrowtips with a hammer after seeing Felicity on television with Ray (because METAPHORS, everyone), he finds a slip of paper with the address of her lair, an apartment complete with creepy candles, newspaper clippings, rose petals and hearts. Later, she has a former CI track the Arrow’s response times to triangulate his hideout’s probable location – which was, dare I say, kind of smart?

But the Arrow’s pursuit of Cupid isn’t the real challenge. The real struggle is doing so while being forced to face the consequences of drawing an emotional line in the sand with Felicity. Oliver’s frustration mounts every time he turns around and Felicity isn’t there. He saves a mob boss from Cupid only to punch him out; he storms out on Diggle when Diggle calls him on his emotions; he puts Thea at risk by rashly heading to place he knows Cupid won’t even be in order to run from his feelings. He tries to tell Cupid the same thing he told Felicity – he can’t be with her, or anyone, because he has to be alone. His reward for his honesty is being handcuffed to tracks in front of a coming subway car, which is a nice reversal of the old-timey damsel-in-distress tied to the railroad tracks. Luckily, mopey Arrow can still be badass Arrow, and he breaks his own hand to escape the cuffs, catch the villain, and head off to get the girl.

But he’s too late. Despite Diggle’s efforts to point out to Oliver and Felicity that they like each other – flashbacks to junior high here – Felicity chooses Ray, at least for the time being, and Oliver walks up to her office just in time to see them kiss. Ray and Oliver may have their similarities, yes, but where Oliver demands, Ray gives. He courts Felicity, not only with expensive gifts but with a clear message that he desires and values her skills, her talents, and her company. Oliver is weighed down with the seriousness and self-sacrifice of being a hero, while Ray is a charming doofus who makes little twirly signs when he references his new logo during a press conference (which Felicity later emulates adorably when talking to Diggle). Felicity is trying to move forward with her life, and Ray seems the less complicated option, although the shot of his Ironman-esque ATOM suit tells us otherwise.

The flashbacks to Hong Kong are less of a plot point and more of a parable, telling a story of the toll a complicated relationship can have on the participants. Maseo and Tatsu are outsiders in Hong Kong, as is Oliver. The couple was forced out of Japan, and the danger of Maseo’s job with A.R.G.U.S. takes its toll on Tatsu. Up to this point, we’ve only seen Tatsu as a put-upon spouse, but when her husband is in peril, she refuses to stay put. She fights, revealing heretofore unknown prowess with katana blades (remember that weapon, folks). When she thinks Maseo is dead, she’s deflated and defeated, and when she sees him back at their apartment alive, she’s revived. Oliver witnesses the joys and devastation that a connection like that can bring, and he’s hesitant to visit those extremes on anyone else.

When Oliver stood in front of a happy family unit in Hong Kong, he turned and walked away, preferring to face laundry rather than figure out how he fit into that tableau. At the end of this episode, Oliver makes the opposite decision. Not only does he opt to go to dinner with John and Lila, he brings an equally anguished Roy along with him. Oliver’s making baby steps towards undoing his compulsion for isolation, a compulsion first forced upon him during his five years in exile and then willingly embraced when he took up the Arrow’s mantle. But the question is can do it before he loses his own chance at happiness?


Odds and Ends

-No Laurel and no Malcolm tonight. While I don’t hate Laurel’s storyline as much as some, it was a wise move to not try to shoehorn her into a story where she has no place.

-This is the second show this week to air an episode where a grown man can’t do laundry, after Schmidt’s revelation on New Girl’s episode “Teachers” on Tuesday. Stereotypes hurt guys too, you know.

-The “Thea and the Arrogant DJ” subplot was pretty much a dud, except that Thea’s emphatic declaration that “I don’t need saving from anyone” was a nice character beat. I may not frequent clubs like Verdant, but does two notes of a new song really bring everyone cheering to the dance floor like a One Direction concert? Still, I can’t help imagining the episode’s title in the same cadence of “Turn Down for What” now.

-Why has nobody made a webseries about a superhero therapist yet? This is the moment, quickly, before we succumb to total superhero overload.

-These tags introducing next week’s baddie are becoming a thing. Next up: Captain Boomerang! (No, really, guys – that’s his name in the comics.)