Warning: This contains spoilers.
After the disappointments of the previous two seasons, the current run of Arrow has done a terrific job of getting back to basics and although it’s still relatively early days, Season 5 is on course to be the show’s best season since Season 2 (Arrow’s acknowledged high point). This has been achieved by some conscious re-setting of the characters, the committed exploration of some promising character dynamics and a deliberate stripping back of the threats faced by Oliver and company.
Tonight’s episode continues to pursue that general course of improvement, introducing a new threat (or possible future ally) and raising the stakes with the sort of cliffhanger that’s been sorely missing for a few episodes now. The show also continues its rock-solid character work, in a way that makes me very excited for the rest of the season.
The main plot revolves around the appearance of a new costumed vigilante named… um… Vigilante, who’s basically taking pages from the Oliver-Queen-of-Season-1 playbook and flat-out killing anyone he deems to have failed this city. As the episode opens, his primary targets appear to be people-traffickers, so you can’t exactly argue that he’s not making the world a better place, but Oliver decides to confront him anyway.
Gloriously, Diggle decides that the best way to lure Vigilante into the open will be for Team Arrow 2.0 to commit a crime, so they rob a bank. Felicity even wears a mask and everything. Sure enough, Vigilante takes the bait, but Curtis nearly ruins everything by getting captured. (You can practically feel all the other characters tutting and going, “Curtis, FFS…”) Luckily, Oliver frees Curtis by shooting an arrow at Vigilante’s hand and we get an exciting, well-choreographed fight between Green Arrow and Vigilante, which Oliver actually wins… but Vigilante has booby-trapped his mask to release an explosive charge if anyone tries to remove it, which allows him to escape.
Given that Vigilante is a comics-ordained character and a simple trip to Wikipedia reveals that his secret identity is none other than – SPOILER ALERT – District Attorney Adrian Chase, it’s a little odd that the show doesn’t go ahead and reveal that. Are they planning some sort of double-bluff and Chase is going to turn out to be Prometheus instead? Or do they have something else in mind? Either way, the idea of the Mayor and the DA both having secret identities devoted to doing what they can’t do in their day jobs is ripe with possibilities, so let’s hope that gets explored pretty soon.
Vigilante’s other purpose is to continue the show’s exploration of the fact that Oliver has recently rescinded his No-Kill rule. (New rule: only kill when a. they really, really deserve it, b. they might expose your secret identity, c. there’s no other way to stop them, or d. it looks cool). It’s particularly effective this episde, as Oliver reflects that he’s been saving this city for four and a half years now and where has it got him? Evelyn, for one, doesn’t waste any time in calling out Oliver’s hypocrisy in wanting to take Vigilante down, when he’s doing the exact same thing Oliver was doing in Season 1.
As for the season’s nominal Big Bad, Prometheus only appears in the cliffhanger (we’ll get to that in a moment), but his actions from last episode (leaving Lance with a bloodied arm that he can’t explain) give Quentin and Thea some of their meatiest material so far. Quentin confesses that he’s been having black-outs, but the pair rightly dismiss the theory that he’s blacking out and becoming Prometheus. He offers his resignation as Deputy Mayor, but Thea remains supportive and persuades him to go to rehab, telling him that he’s like family to her and that family stick together. It’s all pretty emotional stuff, even by the soapy standards of the CW network. Anyway, Thea eventually tells Oliver that Prometheus is messing with Quentin’s head and Oliver works out that this can only mean one thing: Prometheus knows he’s the Green Arrow. Ruh-roh!
Episode 7’s other subplot revolved around Diggle going stir-crazy, because he’s still technically a fugitive, so he can’t see his wife and daughter, sorry, son (thanks a lot, The Flash). When Diggle nearly loses it while interrogating a bank robber, Wild Dog steps up and arranges a surprise birthday party for Diggle, Lyla and Baby
Sarah John. Diggle’s face just lights up and it’s all very sweet indeed. It also goes a long way to cementing the developing mutual respect / mentor-to-mentee relationship between Diggle and Wild Dog, which is currently second only to Thea and Quentin as the show’s most rewarding new pairing.
Plot-wise, there’s not a lot for Felicity to do here, but it’s fun to see her actually out in the field and allowed to join in with the bank robbery mission. I like Felicity so much more now that she’s not mooning over Oliver the whole time, and re-positioning her as a sort of den mother to the rest of Team Arrow 2.0 is paying great dividends. No doubt they’ll mess all that up once they start giving her cop boyfriend more to do, but for now, Felicity is the Arrow equivalent of her best self.
As for Curtis, well, he’s rapidly proving something of a liability, as his getting captured-slash-beaten up proves once again. I get that the writers probably have a more drawn-out evolution planned for Curtis, but it seems crazy not to at least give him a tiny bit of weaponry at this point, given that a. the character is a well-known gadgets enthusiast, and b. we already saw his comics-ordained T-spheres in action last season. He does at least have one good moment, quietly reminding Oliver that he likes to be called “Mr. Terrific” when in the field. This means he’s officially taken on the nickname Evelyn gave him a couple of episodes ago. I don’t know about you, but I could watch a whole episode’s worth of deleted scenes where the characters just sit around testing out superhero names. There was definitely a scene missing for Artemis becoming Artemis, for example. Are you listening, showrunners?
Speaking of Artemis, her character gains an exciting new dimension, when the episode’s cliff-hanger reveals that – gasp! – she’s been working with Prometheus the whole time! (Or, more likely, since she found out Oliver used to be a killer.) Evelyn has been rather short-changed in the screen-time department of late (especially compared to Rene and Rory), so this is a welcome development. I like the idea that Evelyn joined up with Prometheus because she wasn’t getting enough screen-time as one of the good guys, but that may be going a little too meta.
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, Dolph Lundgren continues to be all kinds of awesome, calmly shrugging off Oliver sticking a knife in his hand and besting him in a short, but brutal, fight scene. He also messes with Oliver’s mind in a really effective way, getting him to believe that the Bratva tricked him into murdering the guy in the prison a few episodes back – why the hell would they agree to let a rich American join their ranks anyway? In short, in the space of two episodes, Lundgren’s Konstantin Kovar is already one of the best villains the flashback sequences have had and it’s hard to believe he won’t be pulling a Slade Wilson and showing up in the present-day sequences at some point this season. There are definite hints in that direction too – just witness Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams’ pointed questions to Oliver about his time in Russia. That’s definitely where all this is headed, you mark my words.
All in all, this is one of the best episodes of Season 5 so far, with solid plot direction and character development all round, plus the usual satisfying blend of action, humour and emotion. Tune in next time for an alien invasion! (And the four-way crossover event.)
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Someone in the Arrow production office has definitely got the memo about using more gimmick arrows this season. In fact, I’m starting a new footnote feature called Gimmick Arrow Watch. This episode: Bullet-proof sheet arrow! Wrap-cable-around-bad-guy arrow! Both great, even if we’d seen the latter a few times before.
– Vigilante’s costume is a very faithful update of the comics version, if you like that sort of thing.
Arrow Season 5 is available to buy and download on pay-per-view VOD.