UK TV recap: Arrow Season 5, Episode 2 (The Recruits)
Matthew Turner | On 03, Nov 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
After the efficient set-up work laid down by Season 5’s opener, Legacy, Arrow continues in a very promising vein, with the establishment of Team Arrow 2.0, which includes hockey mask-wearing vigilante Wild Dog (aka Rene Ramirez), Black Canary impersonator Evelyn Sharp (soon to be called Artemis), Curtis Holt (still not quite being referred to as Mr. Terrific, but we’re surely only a few episodes away from that) and a new addition in the form of Ragman (aka Rory Regan), an established D.C. Comics character, whose origin has been retconned for the show.
Having assembled the team, Oliver sets about training them by, um, beating them all up, in a team-building exercise he learned from his time in the Russian Mafia. Needless to say, it doesn’t go down all that well with the recruits, so Felicity persuades Oliver that the team needs trust rather than having the stuffing kicked out of them. Oliver considers this and eventually unmasks, revealing his true identity. To Felicity’s credit, her plan works and Rene and Evelyn both decide to stick around. Curtis already knew the Green Arrow was Oliver, obviously, but he’s clearly relieved he doesn’t have to keep that to himself anymore.
It’s a busy week for plotlines, with at least six different things happening at once. Alongside Oliver training the new recruits, the main story revolves around new, super-powered vigilante Ragman (played by Joe Dinicol), who’s targeting the CEOs of a company that Mayor Oliver is trying to get to sponsor one of his new initiatives. It turns out that one of the CEOs is selling arms to new Big Bad Tobias Church, so Ragman is actually one of the good guys.
After testing Ragman’s personal values (by putting himself in danger), Oliver asks him to join Team Arrow, whereupon we learn that he’s the last surviving citizen of Havenrock and he got his powers (short version: spooky animated rags that can do all sorts of things) by wrapping himself in ancient Egyptian rags as the town got nuked by Felicity last season. Cue massive guilt trip for Felicity that will no doubt be addressed next week.
Speaking of Felicity, her new boyfriend is revealed as Star City cop Billy Malone (played by Tyler Ritter, son of John Ritter), who she goes to for help in analysing one of Ragman’s rags. Thankfully, we’re spared any additional relationship angst, as Oliver still doesn’t know, but that’s obviously on the horizon, because Billy complains that he still hasn’t met any of Felicity’s friends. Anyone want to bet that Billy will turn out to be a wrong’un? Or that Felicity ends up getting him killed somehow? Either way, it seems a safe bet that he’ll be out of the picture by the end of the season.
One of the most promising plotlines of the season (at least as far as this recapper is concerned) takes a further big step forward, with the continuing, mutually supportive friendship between Quentin and Thea. Realising that Quentin is still drinking and depressed, Thea decides to give him something to stay sober for and offers him the job of Oliver’s Deputy Mayor, without consulting Oliver first. It nearly backfires, when Quentin’s lax security allows Ragman to stage an attack on the company CEO, but Thea sticks by her decision and Oliver duly endorses Quentin as his Deputy by the end of the episode. (I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing Quentin and Thea working side by side, as Paul Blackthorne and Willa Holland are two of the show’s best actors and they play off each other well. Let’s just hope the writers keep their friendship as a father-daughter surrogate thing, rather than push them in a more romantic direction. After all, this is a CW show – I wouldn’t put it past them.)
The attack on the company party serves a triple purpose this week: it introduces Ragman, it advances Quentin’s sub-plot and it also allows for some character development where Wild Dog is concerned, as he disobeys a direct order from Oliver to rescue a child and ends up with a crucial bit of evidence. It seems clear the show is grooming Wild Dog as a sort of replacement for Roy, at least as far as his relationship with Oliver is concerned. (He even gets in some parkour moves, although they’re nothing for Roy to worry about.) The unfortunate effect of this is that poor old Evelyn is more or less relegated to the side-lines, but hopefully, the show will find time to focus on her in an upcoming episode.
Just in case anyone had forgotten about possible Big Bad and new dark archer Prometheus, he pops up again to beat up Tobias Church and warn him that if anyone is going to kill Oliver, it is going to be him, Prometheus, and don’t you forget it. That’s about all we get of him, though, other than officially learning his name.
We also pay a visit to Diggle, who’s having a rotten time in Chechnya, coming up against corrupt army types, who are trying to steal something or other. The episode doesn’t end well for him, which means there’s probably a Diggle-centric plot coming up in the very near future. Oh, and if, for some reason, you don’t watch The Flash, you’re probably wondering why Diggle now has a young son (John Jr.) instead of a young daughter (Baby Sarah). Well, that’s because Barry / The Flash messed with the timeline and then put it right again and John has a son instead of a daughter now, as a result. So far, Felicity and Barry are the only ones who know. Yes, it’s all very confusing and you have to wonder if the show is going to address this at any point, because otherwise, it seems like a very odd thing to do. Still, let’s wait and see, eh?
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, Oliver trains with the Russian Mafia (hereafter referred to as the Bratva) in a game that’s a bit like British Bulldog, but with extra beatings. The idea is to get past a bunch of bash-happy bruisers and ring a bell. Oliver figures out that the recruits need to work as a team to distract the bruisers, so that one of them can ring the bell and it works like a charm, only then Anatoly ends up killing everyone that isn’t Oliver and tells him that the lesson he needs to take away from this is to never trust anyone. Um… okay. It is a little bit weird that Oliver re-purposes this exact same bell-ringing scenario for his own training exercise in the present day, but hey, at least the flashbacks have some relevance this season – and, thanks to Anatoly, they’re also a hell of a lot more fun. (They’re only going to get better when Dolph Lundgren shows up as the head Bratva bad guy.)
All in all, this is a fun episode that balances a lot of storylines and continues the show’s promising, more grounded approach (i.e. the focus on vigilantes, rather than superheroics and magic). It’s also heightened by some exciting, well-choreographed fight scenes, courtesy of director James Bamford, returning for a second episode after directing the Season 5 premiere. Here’s hoping the new season continues to improve.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– It turns out that Rene hates his comics-ordained codename Wild Dog. Whether this becomes anything more than a running joke remains to be seen.
– The salmon ladder makes a glorious return this week, much to Felicity’s delight and Curtis’ bemusement.