[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Laura Belsey
Writers: Jill Blankenship and Rebecca Bellotto
Starring: Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, Echo Kellum, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Colton Haynes, Kirk Acevedo, Katie Cassidy, Vinnie Jones, Michael Jai White, Cody Runnels, Ben Lewis, Brendan Fletcher, Holly Elissa, Miranda Edwards, Michael Johnson, Ryan Jefferson Booth
While Oliver goes to great lengths to find more intel on Diaz behind bars, Felicity and Diggle clash on methodology when The Longbow Hunters reveal themselves to Team Arrow.
This episode breaks new ground in unfamiliar areas, while retaining what made the show work in more familiar areas.
One point of interest is the elevation of Felicity’s storyline pushed to the forefront. I think this is Emily’s year to shine on the show, considering she is the one person that is extremely determined to take down the man who cost her everything. This objective contradicts the methodology of everybody else on Team Arrow who are trying to keep their heads down and do their jobs. Specifically, this is a very good reexamination of her relationship with Diggle, with whom she has spent more time with on Oliver‘s team than anyone from the first year. They share a bond because they were the first version of Team Arrow, the three of them together. Out of everybody that has come and gone on this team, he was the one person who always had Oliver’s back, the closest thing to a brother he had. That being said, for her to see Diggle fall in line with ARGUS rather than go after Diaz is a slap in the face of everything his brother entrusted him with.
For Felicity, it is all raw emotion that is guiding her actions; Diaz violated her place of comfort and almost killed her and her stepson after everything that’s happened. Diggle, unbeknownst to her, has already been put under the microscope for his use of ARGUS resources and is only trying to do right by his family. Revisiting the moments from the season finale last year when Oliver gave John his own version of the Green Arrow suit was good on the writers part to tackle a loose thread. His reasons for not picking up the bow when Oliver put it down is very rational. He had already spent a short while wearing the hood last year when Oliver tried to quit. That stand almost cost him his life and his family as both a husband and a father, and its original owner suffered those very consequences right before his eyes.
Still, regardless of whether felicity understands his reasons or not, this episode showed the difference in methodology that has grown in the past five months between them, and therefore is counterproductive on both sides. This version of Felicity is trying her utmost to live up to the sacrifice her husband made for the entire team and their family, even if it involves burning bridges or making deals with the devil, like FBI Agent Watson. That moment during the train sequence where she has the opportunity to save both John and the weapon, but hesitates, was the deciding factor. The ARGUS way isn’t the Team Arrow way, a method she holds strong to.
As unrealistic as it is, she also holds strong to the belief that once they arrest Diaz, she will have both Oliver and William back. Based on the flash-forward sequences, her decision to send William away may have kept him safe, but may have also caused the very thing she was afraid of. (More on that later.)
The second episode also focuses on the turbulent relationship between Dinah Drake and Laurel Lance and answered a lot of lingering questions. Again, the writers respected last year and still put these two at odds over Laurel‘s actions when she was working with Diaz. They are not bosom buddies and never will be, even if Dinah finds a way to work with her. To Dinah, Laurel is abusing both the relationship she had with Quentin to her advantage even after his death.
Katie gives this version of Laurel more emotional depth then she has shown in previous seasons as Black Siren. Even though she is still snarky and argumentative, there is a softening in her character. Even her choice of battle clothes is more in step with the traditional Black Canary than Black Siren. Their team up against a member of the Longbow Hunters symbolically shows that they are stronger together than they are on opposite sides. Their differences are far from resolved, but it’s clear that the writers are trying to both redeem Laurel in the audience’s eyes and build on this partnership.
One strong element that was finally introduced in the series this episode was the Longbow Hunters themselves. Although unrecognizable for the most part, it’s clear that they are now tapping into the current DC line of characters, such as The Silencer. I had the opportunity to read a few issues of the initial arc of her solo series and it was a brilliant display of her ability to cancel out sound when pitted against two metahumans with sonic screams. The other two members of this elite squad – Red Dart and Kodiak – that Diaz has hired for his vendetta – were worthy of their reputations. The fight sequences involving the shield-carrying member and the woman with the darts was brilliantly choreographed and showed their prowess and mastery; they cut through whatever was in their path as easily as a walk in the park. It’s clear that Team Arrow, whether split up or united, have their work cut out for them with these antagonists.
Personally, I hope that the audience gets an opportunity to see The Silencer’s backstory.
Focusing on the flash-forward sequences now (which is what the network is calling them now), we get a better understanding of the now adult William, played by series regular Ben Lewis. Making him a member of the LGBTQ community was unexpected, but thankfully not a focal point. Roy Harper‘s new role as a mentor, whether he wants it or not, seems like a good fit. There is a sense that a role reversal has occurred; he is now the more seasoned veteran and William is very much the eager, driven, directionless young man he had been in the Glades. Colton has even gone so far as to grow his beard out almost the same way as Stephen’s to strengthen the visual parallel.
You see in Roy’s eyes the pain he’s trying to hold back from infecting William. The symbolism of digging up Oliver’s buried gear and burning that message is not lost on the audience, nor is the image of William holding his father’s bow in a similar manner as Stephen in the pilot. It will be interesting to see how far the writers take this direction with Arsenal’s character. We have never seen, not in comic form or in TV form, the idea of Roy being a teacher as opposed to being the eternal student and rebellious ex-partner of Green Arrow. This will prove an interesting direction for the character and will hopefully answer other loose threads from last season. The biggest: What happened between he and Thea when they left together? Further, given the sacrifice of both his parents, how did William get from Point A to Point B?
Oliver’s odyssey in prison continues, and thankfully does not disappoint from the premiere. In keeping with the need to break new ground, allying with Brick’s crew strikes at the core of the character who is willing to do anything and everything to get back to his family. This Oliver is different from the one audiences saw in the first chapters of the premiere episode last week. This Oliver is done being passive and keeping his head down; he has a new purpose and has to exploit this new environment to his advantage. Although not as aggressive and reckless as his wife is being on the outside, he still being just as strategic and precise it his methods. His wrestling with the notion of killing his prison guard, Peter Yorke, who is innocent and a family man but despite being a prick, shows prison hasn’t hardened his heart. At his core, he is trying to do the right thing with the resources available within ethical boundaries.
To get the information he needs from Brick on Diaz, he knows he needs to get his hands dirty, and he doesn’t have a Morgan Freeman in his company to make getting things easier (see The Shawshank Redemption to understand that reference). Thankfully he has the self-designated “Green Arrow Guy” Stanley to play off of.
His final play is pure Oliver; endangering his own life and implicating the guard was the only way he could think of to avoid an unnecessary death. Stephen’s subdued deliveries do him credit; his lines are delivered with a slight whisper, but still as blunt as a tack. His interactions with Yorke, who is maintaining the boundaries, shows a man that is trying to save someone’s life even if it’s unnoticed or unappreciated. He is pleading with the guard without letting him know the details, and Stephen does this brilliantly. Yorke clearly has a bias against Oliver based on his upbringing; his is a character that is cut and dry, black and white, right and wrong. This clashes with the methodology of a man who does whatever he has to in order see justice done. The vigilante and the statesman.
Although antagonistic, this guard is not Clancy Brown (again, see Shawshank); he is just doing his job, and as long as he is not physically abusive, he feels that he is within the boundaries of the law. Yorke is a good person that does not know that he is being targeted by the inmates he oversees. Although a throwaway character, his role in Oliver’s stay in prison is an example of how complicated this new battleground is. The writers are doing a great job so far with this and it’s almost a shame that they will be doing away with prison in time for the crossover.
Even though the Longbow Hunters are cool to watch, you can’t help but feel that, in the case of Kodiak, they may have borrowed from Marvel’s Captain America in both how he fights and the sounds the shield makes with every movement. True, he’s not slinging the shield off of corners, but you get a sense that you’ve seen this before. As for The Silencer, given she has no dialogue whatsoever in this episode, are the writers deviating from her comic book counterparts by having her be mute? I sincerely hope not. Also, as Curtis intervenes at the last second in spite of Felicity’s reluctance, I’m surprised that the writers did not have these two engage in an argument over methodology.
In the case of the adult William, I’m not sure if making him a member of the LGBT community was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. The CW network, overall, is trying to emphasize inclusion of all minorities, which is exactly what the US needs considering who’s in office. I just don’t feel that throwing this characteristic in was necessary, given that the community is already represented by Curtis, and several others throughout the Arrowverse. Then there is the question of the timeline; given that this is five months later, which pushes the clock past the current point that The Flash is in, how is this going to work for the crossover coming up?
I give this a solid five out of five in spite of the minor criticisms. This episode is perfectly balanced in that it focuses on all three major points of conflict and sets up some interesting situations that would like a converge as the series progresses this year. Again, I truly feel that this is Emily Bett Rickard’s year to shine in her character’s arc this season. This is Felicity Smoak-Queen unleashed and God help anybody who gets in her way.
Also, seeing the main character behind bars and cut off from all points of resources is truly testing Oliver Queen in a sense that he is now on a new island and unknown territory with every corner a threat. Having villains like Bronze Tiger, Brick, and Samson as his only ironic source of salvation is a masterstroke. I have not been this anxious to see the next episode of Arrow in a long time, and I’m hoping that the show can deliver these kinds of intense story lines every week and that they don’t burn themselves out early like the Toronto Maple Leafs before the playoffs (yeah, I’m Canadian, guys, and just want to see the Buds get one cup before I shuffle off this mortal coil). Dropping the mic!