UK TV recap: Arrow Season 5, Episode 12
Trip to Russia6
Matthew Turner | On 18, Feb 2017
Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
Episode 11 of Arrow Season 5 is a little odd. On the one hand, there’s plenty of juicy character development, a refreshing change of location (sort of), and another generally successful attempt to link the present with the flashbacks. On the other hand, it feels like the show kicking its heels when it should be barrelling into the back half of the season, arrows drawn. To that end, there’s a general sense of missed opportunity and the nagging sense that things could still all go horribly wrong, the way they did in Seasons 3 and 4.
The episode starts briskly enough. Team Arrow decide that they all need to go to Russia (not you, Rene) to stop General Walker from selling a nuclear bomb to Markovian terrorists and, boom, even before the opening credits have finished, Oliver’s getting punched in the face by Anatoly in Moscow airport. Not quite the reunion he was hoping for.
So, time is of the essence and the team need to find Walker asap. Oliver knows he could ask the Bratva for help, but he doesn’t want to have to owe them a favour again, plus they’re already pretty narked off with him as it is. While Oliver is wavering, Diggle and Felicity both turn to their respective dark sides, with Felicity posing as a Russian badass and using the Pandora’s Box flashdrive she got from hacker group Helix to flat-out extort a Moscow tech dude for access codes to a network Walker is using. Diggle, meanwhile, seems fully in favour of violently beating a prisoner until he gives up Walker’s location and starts doing exactly that – but Oliver stops him.
When Oliver realises what’s happening (although he doesn’t yet know anything about Pandora’s Box), he decides to suck it up and return to the darkness of his past (helpfully illustrated by the flashbacks), rather than have Diggle and Felicity cross their respective lines on his behalf. So, um, he and New Canary (that’s what we’re calling Dinah Drake for the time being) go off and hurt some people for Anatoly, in return for Walker’s location. New Canary, incidentally, doesn’t have any qualms at all about duffing people up for quid pro quo purposes and she even tells Oliver to stop whining about it. Which, incredibly, he does. (We’re starting to like this New Canary.)
When they arrive at the location (a drab-looking airplane hangar, for a change), Diggle’s story gets nicely rounded off when he almost murders a defenceless Walker in cold blood, but decides not to, because of Oliver’s pep talk earlier about how much he believes in him. He’ll probably come to regret that later, as no good comes of leaving evil dudes alive on this show, but let’s burn that bridge when we come to it.
They’re not out of the woods yet, though. During all the fighting, Walker sets off the nuke countdown, which Felicity then accidentally accelerates while trying to defuse it. Rory makes everyone run out of the hangar (to avoid a nuclear bomb, like that time Jack Bauer avoided a nuclear explosion in 24 by hiding behind a rock), believing that he can use his powers to smother the explosion. Which, to be fair, he does, except he loses his rag-powers in the process.
Now that he’s just an ordinary dude, Rory decides to leave Team Arrow 2.0, but he does promise Felicity he’ll be back, so we probably haven’t seen the last of him. It is a bit of an odd decision, given that the only person with actual powers on Team Arrow 2.0 is New Canary, but the team was getting a little crowded and they’re obviously not ready to lose Curtis or Rene yet, so Rory presumably drew the short straw. He’ll be sorely missed, mostly because of the way he combined grounded reasoning with likeable humour, but also because of his evolving relationship with Felicity this season. To that end, this feels deliberate – Rory has effectively been her conscience during her turn to the dark side and now that he’s gone… well, we’ll have to wait to find out. Character development, see?
Back in Star City, Quentin returns from rehab (hurrah!) and gets straight back into the Deputy Mayor job. The first order of business is an interview with Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams and Oliver asks Rene not to go to Russia, but to stay and help Quentin prep for the interview instead. It’s a bit of an unusual pairing (Rene is no Thea), but Paul Blackthorne can generate chemistry with anybody, so the pair end up bonding rather sweetly, after Rene tells Quentin that he put him on the right path many years ago, when he caught him graffiti tagging a public building and didn’t send him to jail. (They also fall out before that, though, when Rene baits him with questions about Laurel that Williams might ask during the interview.)
And speaking of Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams, she and Oliver finally do the deed this week (we’re spared the CW version of the act itself, but we do see them adopting post-coital poses in Oliver’s bed), which means that a ramping up of whatever she’s up to isn’t far away. Sure enough, the episode’s cliffhanger has her studying some footage of The Hood’s appearance in Russia five years ago and concluding – gasp! – that Oliver Queen must be the Green Arrow. Slow clap for Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams, who must be literally the last person in Star City to work that out.
Meanwhile, back in Flashback City, Oliver continues to train with Talia al Ghul, learning some nifty arrow tricks and offing bad guys for target practice left, right and centre. She chastises him again for messing about in Russia, when he ought to be back in Star City crossing people off his dad’s list. As luck would have it, a Star City drug dealer pops up in Russia, so Oliver gets to do the whole “You have failed this city” bit and officially crosses off his first victim.
As with last episode, the flashbacks serve an important purpose, because they remind us how different Oliver is now to the man he was five years ago. (His hair is shorter and everything.) There’s a lot of repetition about blood oaths and being Bratva for life (yo) that overlaps nicely between the flashbacks and the present day sequences.
But here’s the problem – while this is an entirely decent episode, it ultimately has no real consequences for any of the main characters (Rory aside, but no-one else seems all that bothered that he’s lost his powers – hell, they’re not even that grateful that he saved them from freaking nuclear destruction). And if Oliver doesn’t seem especially compelled to respect the blood oath stuff, then there’s no real tension set up for whatever’s coming up, and therefore no real reason for them to have gone to Russia this early at all. At the very least, it would have been nice to uncover more of Sexy Evil Journalist Susan Williams’ oft-hinted-at Russian connection. In other words, it feels like Arrow has blown its present-day Russia episode too soon, without a clear idea of what it was supposed to achieve. Also, did we already know Anatoly was alive in the present day? Because if not, that’s killed off a pretty major source of suspense, now that we know Anatoly’s not going to get killed in a future flashback sequence.
All in all, this is an above-average episode, but the Russia trip never really delivers on its promise. After all, everyone knows that you don’t do a “school trip” episode of a TV show without something pretty major happening. Anyway, tune in next time, when Vigilante pops up again and Arrow indulges in a little bit of politics.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Still no Thea. This is getting beyond a joke now, Arrow – kindly bring back Thea immediately. If she’s not back on the show next episode, there are gonna be murders. Murders, we say!
– Needless to say, there is no sign of Prometheus this week either. We feel like he’s earned a weekly check-in at this point. And now we’re amusing ourselves at the thought of Prometheus mounting a sneak attack on the Arrow Cave and getting annoyed when he realises they’re not there. They’ve missed a trick there and no mistake.
– Also, it’s a shame we never get to see Rory amusing Oliver and company with an awesome Mumm-Ra impression. Another wasted opportunity.