Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “Keep Your Enemies Closer” (S2/EP6)

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

Keep Your Enemies Closer

THE PLOT

From Russia With Awkward Love –

Remember Lyla, Diggle’s inside woman at ARGUS last season that routinely flirted with him and returned two weeks ago to do so again?  Yeah, that’s his ex-wife.  He clearly doesn’t like to talk about it, but they married young and divorced shortly thereafter. Well, she went and got herself locked away in a Russia prison while tracking Deadshot. Lyla’s boss at ARGUS, Amanda Waller, wants Diggle to rescue her since since ARGUS can’t due to bureaucratic incompetence.  So, Team Arrow (Diggle, Oliver, Felicity) depart for Russia, with Isabel Rochev tagging along since Oliver pretended it was a business meeting  for Queen Consolidated.

Oliver’s Russian buddy from his prison on the boat in the flashbacks is alive and well and a man of considerable influence in present day Russia.  He works with Team Arrow on a plan for Diggle to get imprisoned on purpose before breaking out with Lyla.  It gets a bit awkward when Deadshot – the man who killed Diggle’s brother – turns out to be a prisoner as well, and even more so when Diggle actually needs his help to escape.  While that’s all going down, Felicity tries to retrieve Oliver from his hotel room only to find that he has had a quickie with Isabel Rochev.  Talk about awkward. 

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Ultimately, it all turns out great except Oliver’s dalliance with ice queen Isabel has hurt Felicity in ways he didn’t expect, and Diggle gets his ex-wife back but also something new to obsess over: Deadshot was hired to kill his brother by an organization called H.I.V.E.

Meanwhile, On the Island –

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Sara tortures Oliver when her bosses are around, but has some fun catch-up with him when they’re not.  You know, your standard, “We both thought the other had died when the Queen’s Gambit crashed?  That’s so funny!”  However, Oliver foolishly trusts Sara when she appears to grant him an opportunity to try and contact Shado and Slade at their old hangout on the island and waren them about the ship.  But, no, it was a ruse designed to trick Oliver into giving away Shado and Slade’s location, Sara going along with it at the orders of her boss, Dr. Ivo.  Prior to that, we get a quick glimpse of Shado and Slade, discovering that Slade has suffered severe burns to half of his face.  Plus, Shado has far more affection for him than we realized.  Ain’t love grand.

Roy, Thea, Moira, Officer Lance-

Keep Your Enemies Closer

Roy gets arrested while helping Arrow, but gets out of it by giving Officer Lance the secret handshake (or head nod in this case) all honorary members of Team Arrow know.  However, it becomes known in the press that the daughter of Moira Queen is dating a delinquent which will not help her forthcoming court case.  On the advice of Moira’s lawyer, Thea breaks up with Roy before Moira calls them both to visit her in prison where she gives them a good talking to, insisting they keep dating as their happiness is the most important thing to her.  Awww.

Oh, where’s Laurel?  They just didn’t have anything for her to do so she wasn’t around, although maybe a week off from her being asked by yet another person if she’s doing okay is not a bad thing.  So many actors, only so much screen time I guess.

WHAT I LIKED

Keep Your Enemies Closer

-For understandable reasons, Arrow is a very Oliver-centric show meaning a supporting player like Diggle rarely gets the spotlight.  As such, it was nice to see David Ramsey anchoring his own episode.  The show even managed to make a “you’re a black guy?  in Russia?” joke kind of work.  Plus, don’t attack Diggle in prison.  He’ll straight up break your arm.  The emotional turmoil presented Diggle this week with his honor keeping him from killing Deadshot was well-played.  The notion that Lyla is actually his ex-wife feels somewhat retconned, but they had at least hinted at a past romance between Diggle and Lyla in her brief appearances last season.  

-It would appear as if patience with what the show is doing with Isabel Rochev has been thin. They cast River Tam from Firefly to mostly be an ice queen?  As such, it was fun seeing Rochev get some different emotional beats to play, revealing a bit more about her background in the process.  In fact, she got to smile.  That was nice…maybe a little too nice.  More on that below.  

-Oliver has a funny way of saying please.  It would be interesting to know what he was actually saying since anyone who understands Russian could translate.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

-What the hell was that hook-up with Isabel Rochev?  Felicity said it best when she described their pairing as making no sense.  This is a storyline which appears to have been concocted for three purposes:

  1. Pay off later when Rochev’s true, likely villainous, motivations are revealed.
  2. Introduce conflict with the Queen Consolidated scenes between Oliver, Felicity, and Isabel.
  3. Conceive of a method by which Oliver and Felicity will be forced to discuss their feelings, if any, for one another.

In the process, though, they forgot to have Oliver actually behave in a believable manner.  Would Oliver really hook up with Isabel at the same time he is minutes away from needing to leave to help save his best friend.  Their timing of it was meant to be humorous, as they quick-cut back and forth between Diggle in prison and Oliver bonding with Isabel.  The editing in that regard was masterful.  However, it was just too hard to believe Oliver would do that.

Now, what of the pairing of Oliver and Isabel, regardless of circumstance?  Does it make sense?  The parallel you could make is to Oliver’s fling with Huntress last season where they bonded over their shared grief and affinity for masked crimefighting just as he bonded with Isabel over…that they both speak Russian and are lonely?  You could say that Oliver must just have a thing for troubled women, but Huntress was the Catwoman to his Batman whereas Isabel is just a fun way to kill some downtime.  Oliver’s explanation for his actions is that he has apparently decided now to only engage in physical relationships with women with whom he has no emotional connection as that minimizes the risk for both parties given his life as the vigilante.   This is the first we’ve heard of this.

To this point, all of Oliver’s love interests have made sense while serving a larger purpose for the show’s vigilante storytelling.  Most of it has all centered around Laurel, who is the symbol of his potential for domestic bliss and general happiness if not for his need to pursue vigilante justice via his alter ego.  Oliver and Isabel, even if just a one-time fling, certainly serve a larger purpose, vis-a-vis establishing a triangle with Felicity.  It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

-Roy and Thea breaking up.  The show didn’t seem to really commit this week to making us believe Thea’s breaking up with Roy was the type that would last.  As such, while the closing scene between Roy, Thea, and Moira was enjoyable and a testament to the unique warmth Susanna Thompson can sometimes bring to the role of Moira, the whole story line was difficult to get too invested in.  The idea of Roy’s past interfering with his present happiness with Thea is not a bad one.  It just needed something better than they gave it here.  

-I am still wrapping my mind around the fact that Arrow is now the type of TV show where our heroes will just go to Russia, pal around with the Russian mob, get imprisoned on purpose, and then break out while killing people left and right even though our hero isn’t supposed to kill anyone anymore.  If last season was Batman Begins, then this was their opening of The Dark Knight (you know, when Batman goes to China).  However, while Arrow is becoming a much bigger show it is starting to feel like a completely different show altogether with long-lost sisters/ex-girlfriends and never-before-mentioned ex-wives and secret organizations with names like HIVE, ARGUS, and The League of Assassins flying at us left and right.  They’ve maintained that their attempt is to always ground this show in reality ala Christopher Nolan, but I call bullshit at this point.  This year they are just fully embracing soap opera and the fact that they are a comic book show, and it’s had some encouraging early returns.  Is it changing too much too fast, though?

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Isabel-Oliver hook-up felt more like an instigating event meant to initiate conflict than an action Oliver would believably take, the Thea-Roy story  a good outline for a story that needed more screen time, and the Russia stuff took too much dramatic leeway.  Yet the episode featured perfect pacing and entertaining action scenes with solid performances from all involved actors (particularly David Ramsey).  What it adds up to is a technically accomplished, well-acted episode I still regard as being the weakest of the season to date.

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Amanda Waller, Task Force X & The Suicide Squad

First Appearance: 1986

Background: She’s your standard no-nonsense, tough as nails human working in bureacratic organizations which mean to either organize the actions of superheroes or provide the Earth a safeguard.  This is a fairly common type of character in super hero comics, but Waller may be the most badass of them all.  She’s a strong, overly confident African American woman who is generally used as an agent of conflict even though her motivations are normally pure.  She was most notably in charge of the Suicide Squad, a top-secret U.S. government squad of former supervillains working as mercenaries for the government in exchange for reduced prison sentences.  She has historically been drawn as being overweight, making her the rare female comic book character with a non-idealized body type.

Waller was played by Pam Grier on Smallville and Angela Basset in Green Lantern.  She was memorably voiced by C.C.H. Pounder on Justice League Unlimited. Cynthia Addai-Robinson played Waller in this episode of Arrow.  The commando guys that captured Diggle at the beginning referred to themselves as Task Force X, another name for the Suicide Squad in the comics.

2. Comics 101: H.I.V.E.

First Appearance: 1980

Background: They are a basic team of supervillains, counting Deathstroke, Talia al Guhl, and others among their members.  Many are likely more familiar with them from the animated series Teen Titans, which depicted H.I.V.E. as having its own Hogwarts-esque school for teenage supervillain-hopefuls.   Considering that Teen Titans was a kids show about teenage sidekicks of superheroes, this decision made complete sense.  In the Teen Titans version, the leader of H.I.V.E. was Brother Blood, who was hypnotizing everyone.  Later on, five students from the H.I.V.E. academy became a recurring group of villains known as the High Five for the Titans.  This has carried over into current show Teen Titans Go!

3. The Biggest Tease About Flash Yet

That STAR Labs experiment they keep hinting about – the particle accelerator one – just got its biggest “this is how Flash will get his powers” clue yet when Oliver and Felicity watched a news reported which argued the experiment could have cataclysmic consequences. .

4. Everyone Simply Assumes Felicity Slept Her Way to the Top, Duh

Isabel gave voice to an argument many, myself included, expected: that to the outside world Felicity’s promotion from IT girl to Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO makes no sense meaning everyone must assume she slept her way to the top.   However, hopefully we’ll get to see Felicity’s point of view on the subject, not just Oliver and Isabel’s.  It is, after all, Felicity’s professional reputation being dragged through the mud, and it is a direct result of her decision to devote herself to helping Oliver and Diggle fight crime.  Isabel’s dig at the length of Felicity’s skirts and Oliver’s meek defense was pretty great, though.

5. Did Deadshot see Oliver’s face at the end?  If not, how the hell did he miss it?

Keep Your Enemies Closer
Pretty sure you should be covering your face there, Ollie.

6. Did You Miss Black Canary?

Arrow Caity Lotz Black Canary

There are those who have argued the decision to drop Sara back in and then remove her for a while, isolating her to the flashbacks for a while was the right move.  It does not overexpose the character and gives an opportunity to come to know her even better making her eventual return in the present at some point later this season more enjoyable.  However, at the moment I am more interested to see where she is going and not how how she got here, although her presence in the flashbacks is a welcome addition.

Count Vertigo will be back next week.  That doesn’t make any sense, but the same could be said for Deadshot having somehow survived Oliver’s arrow through his eye last season.

What did you think?  Like it?  Hate it?  Let us know in the comments section.

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