Arrow TV Reviews

Arrow: Reacting to “Penance” (S5:E4)

What does Team Arrow look like without Oliver? It’s a question the show has asked before, most notably two seasons ago when he was “dead” for a couple of episodes and then a pretend bad guy for a couple more episode. Back then, it turned into a real team-building exercise for Diggle, Roy and Laurel. Now, in “Penance” it was Felicity, Wild Dog, Curtis, Evelyn and Rory’s turn. However, every time Oliver is removed from the equation the show must ultimately come down on the side of “yeah, but the team still needs him.” After all, it’s his freakin’ show. He can’t have his sidekicks all banding together and flourishing without him. Barry would never let him live that down. As such, without Oliver in “Penance” Team Arrow got the job done, but they left a man behind (hang in there, Wild Dog). Meanwhile, Oliver was just a little busy busting Diggle out of prison, causing him to flashback to that time he killed a dude in prison as part of his first mission for the Russian mob.

Favorite Moment(s): Obviously, this:

“Was he waiting for an entrance line?” / “No, he’s just that cool.”

Oh, bullshit. Oliver was totally standing around the corner waiting for an entrance line ala Tony Wonder on Arrested Development:

tony-wonder-arrested-developmentCurtis getting that knife in the back caught me completely off guard. The show managed to surprise me by almost following through on the episode’s mission statement: “you can die out there.” We heard that so much it lost a bit of its impact, that is until Team Arrow’s mission turned out to have some actual consequences, not that I expect Curtis to remain hobbled over for long or for Wild Dog to still be Church’s prisoner beyond next week.

Plus, Felicity’s continued annoyed response at being called “blondie” by Wild Dog actually made me laugh out loud as did the moment when the person executing the break-in of Palmer Tech turned out to be Oliver.

Also, it’s always nice to see Oliver and Diggle reunite after their latest falling out, and fun to see Oliver’s public life colliding with his private life what with Thea meeting the new Team Arrow for the first time.

Least Favorite Moment(s): All the foreshadowing with the new District Attorney, or, if you don’t know his comic book history, just the general “why are you trying to make us care about this guy?” vibe.

Biggest “Haven’t We Seen This Before?” Moment: It’s hard to nitpick here when the show does it for you. Yes, we’ve already seen Wild Dog step out of line multiple times, but now even the rest of Team Arrow finds it annoying, with Evelyn particularly treating him like that one problem child at school who ruins things for everyone else by not following instructions. Moreover, yes, Oliver’s unilateral decision to break Diggle out of prison is hypocritical and a sign of how little he’s changed, but Felicity calls him on that first part and he repeatedly calls himself out on that last part.

Shipper’s Delight: Other than Diggle and Lyla reuniting, there was nothing remotely romantic going on here, although for the Olicity crowd there was at least a fair dose of Felicity and Oliver arguing, albeit about procedure and ethics, not romance. Plus, I suppose someone somewhere probably just started shipping Felicity and Rory because, look, he got her that cup of coffee and forgave her. Also, Rory is just so pretty, looking quite a bit like Ezra Miller (aka, the DCEU’s other Flash).

Theories About the Big Bad: Potential candidates: Felicity’s new boyfriend, an escaped Deathstroke, the DA, Tommy Merlyn (resurrected by Lazarus Pit, or never died somehow because of Flashpoint). If you don’t know, the new DA is based on a superhero simply known as Vigilante in the comics, and the show has been dropping Vigilante-related easter eggs left and right in recent weeks, tonight included. However, they already have so many vigilantes on this show. Why add yet another when you’re starting to run short on villains? What if scary eyes DA is the actual Big Bad?

Off the Mark (aka My Nitpicks): Um, since when is Evelyn Artemis (aka, one of Young Justice‘s most memorable characters?) Did I just miss that somehow? In last week’s review, I was still referring to her as the new Black Canary. When exactly did she stop being the girl with her own sonic choker and start becoming yet another archer, not that we actually saw her use those skills at any point this week?

Wouldn’t that reporter from last week be poking around the mayor’s office right about now, not for a single second buying Oliver’s “I have a bad case of gout” explanation for his sudden absence?

Also, not a nitpick necessarily, but that part with the plane in the prison escape was a total Dark Knight rip-off, right?

Hope Going Forward: I’m tempting fate here because one of season 5 strengths is the way it has refocused the show by largely cutting out any hint of domestic storylines as a means of minimizing the soap opera, but I would be up for some actual hint of what Wild Dog and Evelyn’s lives are like away from Team Arrow. Like, for example, where does Evelyn live? Is she still in high school? Last season, we learned she lost her parents at 16, and took up the Black Canary guise after being inspired by Laurel in person. This season, we’ve learned…um…she’s at least open to dating? We are meant to be getting to know these people through their actions, their heroic natures coming out as they work together in the field to save the DA, Quentin and a bunch of cops because it’s the right thing to do. But we are eventually going to have to get to know them outside of such extreme situations. Like, for example, that one single scene of Rory in his workshop told me so much more about him, far more than we currently know about either Wild Dog or Evelyn.

You’re Schmacting is Showing: Last week, I criticized Rickards’ acting in the scene where she told Rory the truth about, you know, nuking his hometown and family, mostly because I’ve never found her dramatic crying to be anything other than awkward. However, to be fair it is next to impossible to know how to properly play a scene in which your character’s big secret is she killed literally 10,000 people to save the world. You play the emotional truth of the situation, but there’s no way you can actually fathom the stakes involved. She’s been doing her best with that, and to her credit her apology speech to Rory in this episode was sneakily effective, again playing the truth (I did this horrible thing I have to live with every day for the rest of my life) and pretending to get the stakes (I killed a small town with the stroke of a button). In fact, this was a uniquely strong episode for her, the jokes kept to a minimum as she seized a leadership position on the team and then struggled with the consequences of that decision.

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