UK TV recap: Arrow Season 5, Episode 4
Oliver vs Team Arrow6.5
Matthew Turner | On 17, Nov 2016Reading time: 8 mins
Warning: This contains spoilers.
We’re now four episodes into Season 5 of Arrow and there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. The writers are wasting no time in moving the various pieces into place (a different show might have spread out the assembly of Team Arrow 2.0 over several episodes, for example) and there are a number of interesting long-term elements in play, even if we don’t yet have a proper idea of where the season is headed overall. To that end, tonight’s episode makes a few key advances in terms of character development and plot direction, while delivering the usual, satisfying blend of action, emotion and humour.
The main plot is split into two separate strands, which could have gone horribly wrong and left the episode feeling unbalanced, but it’s seamlessly written and edited, with minimum interference from smaller subplots that might have slowed things down. Indeed, economy of story-telling is very much to the fore tonight and it’s a welcome trend.
Picking up from last week’s cliffhanger, the episode begins with Lyla persuading Oliver to help her break her husband out of jail, even if Diggle himself doesn’t actually want to leave, preferring to stay in prison as penance for killing his treacherous brother, Andy, last season. Oliver, of course, jumps at the chance, realising that this means there’s a good chance a newly freed, fugitive Diggle will readily agree to being Spartan again and maybe even wear the mask full-time, if he’s wanted by Johnny Law, although he doesn’t say any of this out loud.
However, there’s a snag. Felicity overhears what Oliver and Lyla are planning and she objects, vociferously. She persuades the new members of Team Arrow 2.0 to physically confront Oliver over the decision, as he’s leaving on his mission and Oliver, hilariously, trounces them all without even breaking a sweat and leaves them lying in the middle of the road for their troubles. Felicity is all, “Um…whoops. I totally thought that would work. Sorry, guys…”
Anyway, with the Team’s objections dealt with, Oliver and Lyla are free to attempt a good old-fashioned prison break. I don’t know about you, but I love a prison break, and this one delivers handsomely on both the conventions and the pleasures of the genre. A plan is put in place? Check. Something goes unexpectedly wrong? Check. Someone comes up with an ingenious solution? Check. Something else goes wrong? You guessed it. They nearly get caught? Oh, yes. But in the end, Oliver persuades Diggle to come with him and there’s an emotional reunion between Diggle and Lyla. Plus, imagine how happy he’s going to be to see
Baby Sarah sorry, John Jr. again?
The second strand of this week’s main plotline involves the resurgence of ganglord Tobias Church, with actor Chad L. Coleman continuing to bring charisma and menace to the role. His plan involves stealing a bunch of high-powered weapons from the SCPD lock-up facility and then mounting an attack on Star City’s newly-formed anti-crime unit, headed by Adrian Chase.
With their leader off on his own mission, an already battered and bruised (yeah, thanks Oliver) Team Arrow 2.0 are forced to go it alone against Church and his goons and they duly get their collective asses handed to them. Curtis, in particular, takes a particularly nasty knife to the back, so I’m guessing his ‘Fair Play’ jacket will be getting some sort of armour-based upgrade in the very near future.
However, what is great about this whole sequence is the way in which it showcases both the bravery and the heroism of the characters. Wild Dog, Artemis (I’m still annoyed that we never had a name-choosing scene for Evelyn – or a scene where she takes up archery, come to that – but let’s not go into that right now) and Curtis (and Ragman, but we’ll get to him in a minute) all knew that there was a chance they’d get seriously hurt without Oliver in the field to back them up, but they join the fight anyway, because that’s what heroes do.
This actually leads to some seriously impressive character development for Rene. He’s been written as quite a scrappy, anti-authority figure so far, maybe a little impulsive for his own good, occasionally even a little irritating (or, at least, you often sympathise with Oliver when the pair clash). So when he squares up to Church, you initially think, ‘You idiot’, before realising that he knows exactly what he’s doing, and that he’s actually sacrificing himself (as far as he knows), so that Evelyn can get a stabbed-and-bleeding Curtis to safety and save his life. Sure enough, Church brutally beats Wild Dog and takes him prisoner, intending to torture him, which doesn’t bode well. (I sincerely hope they’re not going to kill him off just so that Oliver has something (else) to feel guilty about. I guess we’ll find out next episode.)
As for Church himself, it’s too early to speculate on his likely trajectory, but it doesn’t seem like there are too many places left for him to go, given his lack of powers. Also, Arrow seasons often start with a fake-out villain in the opening episodes, before revealing their eventual Big Bad and it definitely looks like that’s happening here, given what we’ve seen of Prometheus so far.
Another element worthy of praise this week is how quickly and maturely the show resolves the issue of Ragman’s conflict with Felicity over her having, um, nuked his hometown and killed everyone he knows. We learn early on that Ragman has decided, offscreen, to leave the team, because he can’t deal with looking at Felicity, knowing what she’s done. However, when it becomes clear that an Oliver-less Team Arrow are going to need Ragman’s super-powered help, Felicity tracks him down and makes a plea for him to rejoin the team. And, instead of yelling and screaming and door-slamming and making his rags go all emotional and dragging the angst out for another few episodes, he calmly considers what she says and rejoins the team just in the nick of time, during the climactic fight scene. There are some nice notes here for Felicity, too, since Ragman’s presence is a constant reminder of the guilt she feels over what she did. Is this the most emotionally mature and selfless Felicity has been in ages? I think it might be.
The mayoral storyline doesn’t get much airtime this week, which is a shame, as Quentin and Thea are easily my two favourite characters on the show, but at least we get to check in with them. It is a little odd that Thea doesn’t step up and take over for Oliver while he’s out of town, but, hey, you’ve got to respect the lady for sticking to her decisions.
Meanwhile, in Flashback City, we have one of those weeks where a parallel is drawn between Oliver’s actions in the past and whatever’s going on in the present, when he accepts a prove-yourself-to-the-Bratva mission from Anatoly that involves getting thrown in jail and then extracting information from one of his fellow prisoners. After getting what he needs, Oliver calmly snaps the guy’s neck, reminding us again of the person Oliver was back at the beginning of Season 1. The flashbacks are a lot of fun so far this season and I did not think I’d be saying that, what with two dud flashback storylines in a row. A large part of this is down to how enjoyable David Nykl’s performance is as Anatoly, and his interactions with Oliver. One niggling issue, though – despite what Oliver says, Anatoly doesn’t actually order him to kill the prisoner… does he? Unless that happens offscreen? Anyway, the whole thing represents Oliver’s final test, so I guess he’s a fully paid-up Bratva member now. See how quickly things are moving this season?
So, the episode ends on a sort-of cliffhanger, with Oliver returning to the Arrow Cave, just as Artemis and Ragman return with an injured Curtis and no Rene. Oliver vows to move heaven and earth to rescue Rene, because if his prison break with Diggle has proved anything, it’s that Team Arrow leaves no man behind.
All in all, this is an enjoyable, fast-paced episode that establishes significant character stakes for Rene (I genuinely hope he’s okay) and has a lot of fun with the prison break set-up (acid cutting through the floor!), alongside the usual team dynamics. Tune in next week for Wild Dog: The Rescue!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– For another example of pieces being moved steadily into place, we get to know District Attorney Adrian Chase a little better this week. As comics fans will know, he’s destined to suit up as Vigilante later this season and there are a few hints about his general attitude to vigilante justice. By virtue of being one the only two new male characters (that aren’t on Team Arrow, that is) introduced this season, he’s also in the frame for turning out to be Prometheus, alongside Felicity’s cop boyfriend. It would be a nice double-bluff for the show have Chase turn out to be two masked figures simultaneously, but let’s not jump the gun just yet.
– One area where the writers are moving surprisingly slowly is in the evolution of Curtis into Mr. Terrific. On the plus side, we get to hear Evelyn sarcastically nick-name him Mr Terrific this episode, plus a version of the mask and jacket are in place, but it seems odd that he hasn’t yet given any thought to weaponry, given that we saw him using his comics-ordained T-spheres last season (albeit by accident). Maybe the solid beat-down and back-stabbing he received this week will jump-start things in that regard.