Warning: This contains spoilers.
It surely can’t be just a coincidence that Episode 5 of this season features a guest appearance from a D.C. Comics character off a cancelled TV show (in this case The Human Target), when Episode 5 of the previous season did the exact same thing with John Constantine. If they continue this trend, maybe we’ll see Adrianne Palicki show up as Wonder Woman in Season 6. Hell, I’d settle for Michelle Ryan as the Bionic Woman, who admittedly isn’t a D.C. Comics character, but, hey, a man can dream.
This week’s episode begins right where you’d expect, with Temporary Big Bad Tobias Church torturing the hell out of Rene / Wild Dog. Oliver and Team Arrow 2.0 manage to rescue Rene, as Church is making him dig his own grave, but – ruh roh! – it turns out Rene has already given up Oliver’s secret identity. You would think that would be quite a big deal for Oliver, but, remarkably, he takes it in his stride and Rene doesn’t even get so much as an “I’m disappointed in you” face. I think this might mean Oliver has grown as a person or something.
To be fair, the information is kind of wasted on Church. Rather than, say, sell the information to the highest bidder or leak it to the press and flat-out end Oliver’s political career, he merely uses it for his own assassination attempt. Oliver cunningly foils Church’s plan (we’ll get to that in a minute) and then hands him the mother of all beat-downs, kicking his ass in about 20 seconds flat. Oliver leaves Church alive (a dangerous decision, considering what Church knows), but luckily, Prometheus shows up and kills him anyway, as he’s being driven away in a police van. Well, I say luckily, but Church gives up Oliver’s secret identity just before Prometheus kills him (he’s pretty terrible at bargaining – he just blurts it out without a second thought), so it’s more of a case of out of the Church-shaped frying pan and into the Prometheus-shaped fire.
So, Church is officially out of the picture, which pretty much ends the speculation of just how long the show was going to keep him around as the nominal villain. The obvious assumption at this point is that he was just a placeholder for Prometheus, but given the rate at which the show is advancing its various plots at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if an even bigger Big Bad is waiting in the wings for the back-end of the season.
As for Oliver foiling Church’s assassination attempt, that’s all down to the deployment of special guest star Christopher Chance, aka The Human Target (played by Wil Traval from Jessica Jones). Once Oliver finds out that he’s likely to be assassinated, Diggle says, “Hang on – I know a guy that might be able to help us out…” and brings in Chance, whose not-very-well-explained ability (really, if they were assuming we’d all watched both seasons of The Living Target, then they assumed too much) involves putting on a magical mask, assuming the entire personality of the person he’s imitating and then taking a bullet for them, but not dying.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not the same Diggle who was freaked out by a guy who could magically run really fast just a few seasons ago? And yet he’s fine with a guy who can a) become anyone he wants, and b) die and come back to life. Whatever, scriptwriters. Someone needs to have a quiet word with your continuity person.
Anyway, so Chance shows up, doles out a few life lessons to Oliver (some fairly on-the-nose stuff about making peace with himself) and then, off-screen, becomes Oliver and effectively replaces him in the story at a certain point without the audience knowing about it, so that when “Oliver” gets shot, we’re momentarily shocked, before it’s revealed – to both the audience and the people of Star City, during a WTF press conference – that no, it’s all fine, Oliver’s still alive, because reasons.
The nature of the reveal means that the person we see doing all the Oliver stuff as the Mayor (including flirting with reporter Susan Williams and getting one over on a corrupt city official who was trying to stonewall Oliver’s city zoning plans – the fiend!) isn’t actually Oliver at all, except it kind of is, because Chance explains that the way his power works is that he basically becomes the person he’s imitating, so his choices are still Oliver’s choices, it’s just Oliver doesn’t know about them until Chance fills him in later.
This actually works as quite a clever way to let Oliver know that Felicity has a new boyfriend, because the pair meet (off-screen) while Chance is Oliver and then he lets it slip later, forcing Felicity to come clean. This is a shrewd move on the writers’ part, because it shows how little interest they have in dragging out the Oliver / Felicity relationship this season and they’re obviously very keen for everyone to move on with minimal fuss. (Personally, I’m fully in favour of this and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the Oliver-dates-Susan subplot they’re obviously positioning.)
The Thea / Quentin friendship continues to be one of the most interesting elements of the show and that gets a little check-in this week, with the pair doing a spot of problem-solving regarding Mayoral issues. Other supporting characters fare less well – we got next to nothing on Ragman, Artemis and Curtis, for example, other than the fact that Curtis still hasn’t fully recovered from his stab wound.
What we do get is the proper return of Diggle to Team Arrow, complete with a subtly-designed new helmet that makes him look a hell of a lot cooler and a lot less like Magneto. Even better, Diggle forms a strong bond with Rene, connecting over the fact that they’re both disgraced military veterans haunted by their past mistakes. The actors have strong chemistry too, so Diggle acting as Rene’s de facto mentor seems very promising for future episodes.
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, not that much happened, other than one particular Bratva member not taking kindly to Oliver being made a member and setting him up for a beating, only for a disguised Chance (unseen by Oliver, but apparently hired by Anatoly) to show up and rescue him without him realising. I really don’t think Chance works as a character at all, and shoe-horning him into a very weak flashback sequence feels clumsy as all hell. That said, the main point of the flashback sequence is to make trouble for Oliver in a future episode, because somehow, Pesky Reporter Susan Williams sees a photo of Oliver in the Bratva and realises he wasn’t on an island for five years like he said he was. Dun-dun-daah! Etc.
Leaving aside the fact that the Chance stuff is under-explained and never really works, this is, otherwise, a pretty solid episode, helped considerably by some stylish direction from episode helmer Laura Belsey. There are a couple of stand-out decisions, in particular: firstly, the sequence where Diggle persuades Rene to meditate to see if he can remember anything that Church’s men might have said in front of him, while he was being tortured, and secondly, the decision to keep the camera inside the police van, focused on Church and his terrified police escort, as Prometheus kills everybody outside. And on top of that, there are just lots of lovely shots and camera angles all over the place tonight. So come back soon, director Laura Belsey.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– I said a while back that Oliver becoming Mayor is fully in line with his comics-ordained destiny to become a socially progressive voice for Star City, and the zoning ordinance sub-plot comes pretty close to that. I sincerely hope there’s more to come, although I don’t expect Oliver to still be Mayor by the end of the season. Hell, I’ll be delighted if he makes it to the mid-season finale.
– Comedy highlight of the episode: Felicity putting on Christopher’s Oliver mask and doing the voice, coupled with Oliver’s reaction. If that’s not already a GIF, then the internet isn’t doing its job properly.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.