This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 4
The past two episodes of Arrow have been focused heavily on building a team of newbies to help the now solo Oliver Queen in his ongoing quest to save Star City. The latest episode, “Penance,” was no different, except for one key thing – Fun.
So far, these fresh young faces have been the functioning plot drivers of Season 5. Comprised of the terrific Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), Rory “Ragman” Regan (Joe Dinicol) and Rene “Wild Dog” Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), this new team has been a little lackluster thus far. It’s not their fault, they’re undergoing Oliver’s rigorous superhero training, which he apparently learned while joining an infamous Russian mafia the year before he came back to Star(ling) City – but more on that later. This has led to a lot of discouragement and excuses for Stephen Amell to play his best grumpy dad. This week, however, things changed when Oliver picked up a controversial side mission.
With the main hero off breaking a ton of federal laws to stop Diggle from being stupid by electing to stay in jail – Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) was left to take control of the team, since Thea (Willa Holland) is apparently still refusing to help (which at this point is borderline irresponsible). This served to give the newbies each more to do than just stand in front of the Green Arrow’s fists all day. That injected an element to this group that was sorely missing, fun. Honestly, I know Arrow is supposed to be the dark and gritty installment in the DC TV universe, but Oliver’s first line this episode was shutting up playful banter by shouting “Quiet, any time you’re out in the field you could die!”
You’re functioning masked vigilantes, it’s OK to enjoy yourselves.
That’s a growing problem in Arrow Season 5. With the increase of Oliver having to play the paternal role, the show’s main character is more of a fuddy duddy than an action hero. Right now, the only time he’s not being a bummer on screen is when he’s entering frame as the big guns to put down the bad guy and save his new cohorts.
As such, removing him from the narrative a bit this episode it some much needed stakes as it was just expendable and flawed hero versus expendable and flawed villain. WIth this season’s secondary big bad, Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman) launching his big attack on Star City’s anti-crime unit, the team found itself outgunned and relying only on their miniscule talents for the first time. Even the characters took a moment to acknowledge that this operation wasn’t going to go their way, and for characters you’re invested in, that kind of talk is scary.
This stage setting episode was vital and something that should have happened earlier on in my opinion. So far the only that’s bonded the team has been being present while Oliver does something impressive.
This episode alone saw our heroes straight up lose fights three times, the worst of which being when Wild Dog decided he had what it took to square off along against Tobias Church. Just when you thought it was getting a little irksome to watch this kid constantly make the wrong decision, you suddenly found yourself worried about him by the last frame of the episode. That probably couldn’t have happened if Oliver had been around the whole time to fire arrows of clunky dialogue at him to convey the message “Follow Orders.” So is The Green Arrow himself the big bad? These aren’t the right questions for an audience to be asking.
Speaking of new characters squeezing their way into the larger narrative, Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra), who was offhandedly introduced earlier in the season, came out to play in “Penance.” The gruff, New York cop-style District Attorney was at the forefront of a lot of dropping subtle hints about his philosophy on vigilante justice. He’s makes the valid point that the police and mayor’s office shouldn’t be relying on vigilante justice to solve the crime epidemic.
This is an interesting take given that, as comic fans and spoiler junkies will note, Chase is a character plucked from the pages of DC Comics where he operated as a character named Vigilante. Needless to say, the character has a complicated relationship with the role of law and order in his daily life. His story arc this episode, which saw him be rescued by the new band of vigilantes, was well done and subtle enough to not throw a monkey wrench into the episode’s momentum.
That segues us nicely into Felicity and Ragman’s story of the night, which was quite the opposite. I was excited to see the series pull at this thread, answering for the egregiously high stakes it roped itself into last season, when things got nuclear in Havenrock. Sadly, it took a deep dip in quality as things boiled down to a simple emotional speech that, I’m going to go ahead and say it, didn’t make a lick of sense. She’s sorry that she blew up his town, but he should understand what it’s like to have big decisions on his shoulders since his dad was the previous Ragman? Whatever, the team’s most powerful player is no longer off the team, so that should be fun.