This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for yourself, please do not read further.
One of the biggest flaws with Arrow is the extended characters not getting enough time to explore their own stories, with much of what they go through just becoming part of Oliver's bigger story. Thankfully, with 'A.W.O.L.' we get an episode all about Diggle and Felicity, with actually very little screen time given over to the shows lead compared to normal.
Felicity's story this episode focuses on the fallout of her being injured by Darhk, taking the time to explore how the loss of the use of her legs is effecting her directly, rather and seeing this through Oliver's eyes.
Felicity doubts herself, she doubts her usefulness to the rest of the team and even considers giving up on her mission, a big step considering that she was the one who wanted to rejoin Team Arrow when she and Oliver had a new life for themselves. The kind and fun Felicity we'd come to know over the last few years was gone, at least for a while, instead replaced with someone who was having to face the serious repercussions of her choice to be a hero. She'd seen the fallout of Oliver's mission in the past, seen friends hurt before, but this time it feels like it finally hit her just how serious things can get taking on villains like Darhk.
Over the course of the episode Felicity faces these internal demons and finds the strength to rejoin the fight, finding a confidence and strength in herself without the need of Oliver or any of her friends to do it. Whilst some people will surely complain that things were resolved fairly quickly, that this story could have played out over the course of many episodes, or even the rest of the season, it was already fairly apparent just how dependent on Felicity Team Arrow had become and how much her absence would effect the show.
Sadly, Felicity coming to terms with the events of her attack meant that she was having hallucinations of her old self, the goth version of Felicity we got to know last year. I think her back story from the last time we saw goth Felicity was a pretty poor one, and this just reminded me of that. Plus, the younger version of Felicity didn't exactly feel like another version of Felicity, but more like a completely different character. This made the scenes where Felicity was hallucinating feel less like a character talking to themselves to find a resolution as Felicity just talking to someone else, and if the show runners wanted that the scenes could have been better served with Laurel or Thea in the hallucinations place.
Thankfully, 'A.W.O.L.' gave us two supporting character stories this week, and the second was definitely the stronger of the two. The evil organisation Shadowspire appears in Star City, and thanks to some shady goings on with ARGUS and Amanda Waller Lyla and Diggle get drawn into events.
We get to see more from Diggle and Andy this episode when it becomes apparent that the two brothers have a connection to Shadowspire in their military past, and this also gives us a break from the Oliver flashbacks too. Whilst the Andy/Diggle flashbacks aren't particularly illuminating as to the characters pasts, it just showing us things that we know about the two of them already from dialogue, it does bring up an interesting connection to Oliver's story on Lian Yu as it is revealed that Andy was indirectly working for Baron Reiter.
The Diggle/Andy story is a fun break from the overarching Darhk story and gives us some good development with the two characters, even resulting in Andy proving that he's out of Darhks control and can be trusted again, moving in to live with Diggle and Lyla. Getting to see Lyla again was also a welcome treat as she continues to be one of the better recurring characters the show has in its back pocket to bring out every now and then.
One character we did lose this week though turned out to be Amanda Waller. Whilst her death came suddenly and took audience members by surprise it was something that we should have really been expecting. With the upcoming 'Suicide Squad' film using Waller her departure from the Arrowverse seemed to be a long time coming, after all, they killed off Deadshot for the same reason. Might we be seeing Katana again just so that the writers can kill her too?
The inclusion of a codename for Felicity came slightly out of the blue this week too, after three and a half seasons without one the writers suddenly felt the need to give her a name to use in the field, Overwatch. The name's a bit lame if I'm being honest, and the fact that it came accompanied by a crappy joke about Oracle already being taken feels like the whole concept of the Overwatch name was done simply for those fans who would jump straight to the idea of her being Oracle simply because she's in a wheelchair and uses computers.
Whilst 'A.W.O.L.' is definitely a filler episode it's a thoroughly entertaining one, and one that gives some of the shows more loved side characters the chance to explore their own stories rather than having them squeezed into other episodes. Hopefully the series will continue to give it's supporting cast this kind of care and attention in the future.