This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 11
Although the CW’s Arrow is likely closer to the end of its run than the beginning, episodes like the fittingly-titled “Second Chances” give fans hope that the story of Green Arrow is still reaching its peak. With a huge reference to Season 1 and some of the show’s best action yet, this installment felt a lot more like the dawn of something new for the aging comic book drama than anything else.
I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about the ever-bloating cast of the show in Season 5. Since it began 11 episodes ago, fans have been forced to get to know four new series regulars (five if you count Curtis, who only achieved “regular” status with this season despite being a recurring character in season four). So, it’s surprising that an episode dedicated to adding another to the mix would end up being one of the year’s best. With the death of Laurel Lance an appropriate number of episodes behind us, Oliver took the promise he made to her more literally than he did earlier this year. He sought out a newcomer to take on the mantle of Black Canary.
Luckily, there just-so-happens to be a former Central City Police Department officer with martial arts skills that was given the exact same sonic powers as Laurel’s Canary Call device when the particle accelerator exploded – and if you can’t swallow a pill with that much coincidence in it, I question how you got to season 5, episode 11?
Tina Boland was the centerpiece of this episode as the gang went off to Hub City to recruit her in the middle of her scorched earth revenge plot. Time and again Green Arrow, and even Oliver Queen, tried to hook her into the role with the usual platitudes. Honestly, the amount of times each of the characters on Arrow has had to give an anti-murder monologue is so large that even the characters aren’t necessarily into them anymore. What made this episode special was how they didn’t work at all.
Boland is a meta-human who has been single-handedly taking down her villain’s operation for years. Pepper in the fact that her general attitude and outlook on life allow her to murder her enemies, and you’ve got a character that, for once, really has no reason to be into Oliver’s “good guy” sales pitch. This culminated in the climax of the night when the hero made the mistake of asking Boland what her dead partner/boyfriend would want her to do. He had barely spoken the last syllable and the villain had 5 in his chest.
After last week’s episode of the series unapologetically forced fans to get onboard with the Earth-2 mess that stems from the previous season of The Flash, it was nice to see Arrow make a move to separate itself. It’s a show that’s been there and done that with the black and whiteness of good and evil and is finding a way to live comfortably in the gray. In the end, what brings her to the team was not Green Arrow’s promise to help more people, but the concept that second chances can happen.
That’s arguably a well-crafted story arc for a fifth season show that’s seen as many ups and downs as Arrow (remember when he discovered magic is real and told no one?). However, this being a superhero show, all things are moot if we don’t have some good old fashion action to speak of.
“Second Chances” not only had its fair share of well-choreographed fights, but it turned things up to eleven by adding a freaking helicopter. The hero tethered himself to the chopper and proceeded to bomb, punch and shoot a bunch of henchmen on a rooftop before blowing his ride to pieces (breaking his “no killing people rule,” but let’s not poke holes right now). It’s moments like these where I have to put my hands up and confess that I have never seen something like that on TV before.
Still, while it was a heroic stunt, arrows to the knee, explosions ten feet away, and a few broken jaws just don’t match up with the show’s decidedly gloomy tone. We’re dealing with the concepts of murder and vigilante justice, and we need to see these characters get their hands dirty. Otherwise, they’re just sanctimonious jerks.
Enter the show’s most improved and most valuable player in Season 5 – the flashbacks.
It’s impossible to say something both negative and new about the Season 4 flashback story. It seemed aimless, it didn’t tie back to the main story well, and at times its appearance in the episode just felt perfunctory. Season 5 learned from those mistakes and has found a home for the grittiness and bloodshed that is so vital to this series’ tone. Speaking of great fight scenes, “Second Chances” made the smart move to house its best in the flashbacks, where Oliver is still allowed to murder people in cold blood without damaging his character. It was chaotic, it felt like a fight and not a dance, and can go down as one of the better moments in the show’s big battle scenes. It even ended with the “hero” bashing a helpless man’s face in with the butt of a gun. It turns out the intel from his new archer friend, Talia (yes, that Talia), was good. Sadly, she’s not on his side the way she said she was.
It turns out, she’s been following Oliver closely and believes he’s the man to carry out the crusade his father laid out for him in the infamous book. That’s when the episode gives us a long-awaited shot – the very first time Queen dons the original costume of The Hood. With a wink to Season 1, a pace and formula that does service to itself and character arcs that are genuinely showing fans something new, it feels wrong to say Arrow is on the way out. The truth is, if I could see more episodes like this, I’d be on board for us to get into Supernatural territory of episode quantity.