‘Arrow’: “Penance” Spoiler Review

So far, season five of Arrow has been a bit of a hit or miss as it struggles to find its way with a mostly new cast. Considering last week’s fantastic entry to the series, it should come as no surprise that this episode was, unfortunately, mediocre, full of implausibility and conflict that didn’t add up to anything.

So far, season five of Arrow has been a bit of a hit or miss as it struggles to find its way with a mostly new cast. Considering last week’s fantastic entry to the series, it should come as no surprise that this episode was, unfortunately, mediocre, full of implausibility and conflict that didn’t add up to anything.

The episode opens with Team Arrow 2.0 in the midst of a training exercise as they attempt to stop petty criminal sporting a cheesy gold chain from committing a burglary. The scene does nothing but shows us that the trainees have not made any progress in their training from last week. At this point, the only members with a fighting chance are Wild Dog and Ragman. Evelyn and Curtis are going to get themselves killed if they don’t start improving fast. They are both sloppy and it’s impossible to buy them as formidable crime-fighting vigilantes.

While I’m not a big fan of Ragman’s look, Joe Dinicol’s performance at Rory is fantastic. Unfortunately, most of his scenes were bogged down by Emily Bett Rickard’s insipid performance. She just can’t play the emotion needed to bring the scene to life. Her acting feels contrived as she lacks conviction in almost all of her scenes. Even Rickard’s doesn’t seem to be on the side of her character when she’s arguing with Oliver for the sake of conflict. She really has no business telling Oliver or Lyla what decision to make and her attitude makes it extremely irritating. I used to be a huge fan of her character in the first and second season. I was even a fan of Olicity. But at this point, scenes with Felicity are tiresome and make me yearn for her exit from the show.

ar504b_0287b.jpg
Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak in Arrow. (The CW)

The flashbacks continue to slug along in Russia as we get four quick scenes dispersed sparingly throughout the episode. I would say that they were pointless and really amounted to nothing if it wasn’t for the fact that it was Oliver’s was finally accepted into the Bratva, something I thought actually happened when he passed the test last week. But no, we had to go through another few quick scenes to get us there. The problem with the flashbacks are consistent with the last two seasons. They feel generic and uninspired. You can tell it’s a chore for the producers to fit the flashback storyline into the script and the budget. They are just trying to skirt by with a serviceable storyline until it catches up to the first season and they are no more.

Tobias Church had the only clever storyline of the episode as he staged a burglary to smuggle in an explosive device into the evidence lock-up at the police station. Unfortunately, it all collapsed on itself as his motives were never clearly explained. I have no idea what he was trying to achieve. And did anyone see that goon in the sunglasses? Seriously, the costume design for criminals has always been whack on Arrow but this episode took it to all new heights. At least the ones who were wearing hats had hats that actually fit and weren’t cocked to the side like goofballs in previous seasons.

ar504a_0336b.jpg
Chadwick Boseman as Tobias Church in Arrow. (The CW)

Adrian Chase’s viewpoint that vigilantes are a superficial solution and that if it takes them to solve the city’s problems the criminal justice department isn’t doing their jobs well is accurate, however. His turning point felt organic after he was rescued by the rookie superheroes of Star City, making him realize the ones who wear a mask can be an effective force for good in a crime-ridden and corrupt city such as theirs. While I still can’t buy him as a future crime fighter, the motivations are most certainly falling into place.

ar504a_0412b.jpg
Joe Dinicol as Ragman, Echo Kellum as Mr. Terrific, Madison Mclaughlin as Artemis, and Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog in Arrow. (The CW)

The prison break was fun but a bit underwhelming. There just wasn’t enough action and Oliver sneaking in through the laundry was totally silly. The immature and unprofessional prison guard didn’t help either. But it did bring us a fantastic scene between Oliver and Diggle that reminded me of the brotherhood that the two share that made this show so excellent in the first place. Diggle still has a lot of healing to do after murdering his brother, but it seems Oliver – as his new brother – got through to him, making him realize he can still find redemption resuming his crusade as Spartan. Unfortunately, the silliness reached an all-time high when Lyla flew a military cargo plane over the prison and extracted the two from the prison yard much like skyhook program used by Batman in The Dark Knight when Batman extracted Lao from China. Considering the show’s budget, I think they reached a little too far with that one.

ar504b_0002b.jpg
David Ramsey as John Diggle and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in Arrow. (The CW)

Ultimately, this episode got the job done breaking Diggle out of prison and getting him one step closer to returning to Team Arrow. His presence in the Arrow cave is sorely needed especially given all the new mentees Oliver has taken on in his struggle to keep Star City safe. Episodes like this only highlight why 23 episodes per season are far too many. As we see with shorter seasons, they allow for a tighter more compelling and engaging narrative that doesn’t feel like it wasted our time, which is exactly how this episode made me feel.

6.5 – WASTE OF TIME

‘Arrow’: Season 5 Premiere “Legacy” Spoiler Review

Five months after the death of Laurel Lance—A.K.A. Black Canary—Oliver, Felicity, and the former members of Team Arrow are still mourning the loss of their friend. The theme of the episode is moving forward as it deals mostly with the team coming to terms with how things have changed and the fact that they will never go back to the way they were.

The premiere kicks off with Oliver disarming four bombs rigged together by Anarchy. It’s a great scene that has the flavor of season one and two flowing through it. The action, tone, and music is all there. Complete with Blake Neely’s rhythmically building strings and that awesome synth as the music ramps up to the series’ main title card.

Cuddy is back on the streets. Chadwick Boseman (The Walking Dead, The Wire) makes his debut as the villainous Tobias Church. Boseman is an incredibly talented actor and he should make an excellent addition to the series, however. His performance in the episode is unremarkable. He wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t that good…

As far as we know, his goal is a bit generic. He wants to kill the Green Arrow and he’s putting together all of Star City’s major criminal organizations to do so.

Little does he know the Green Arrow is about to give them a run for their money as he puts together not only an anti-crime unit, but Team Arrow 2.0 as well. It’s kind of weird that the anti-crime unit is only comprised of four officers though. I mean what is this, Baltimore?

The promise Laurel asked Oliver to make just before she died was revealed in this episode and it didn’t disappoint. It actually got me on board with Evelyn Sharp when she was sprinting the streets of Star City last season, calling herself Black Canary. The Black Canary is a symbol of hope that drives fear into the criminals of Star City and it needs to live on. I would imagine Oliver will say something similar later on to the son of John Diggle, Connor Hawke, who will become the next Green Arrow.

It’s nice to see Oliver actually being the Mayor. The show has tended to breeze over the politics in past seasons with Oliver and his mother, Moira, in their political campaigns. At least they are dealing with it now even if the the plots main source of conflict is being the Mayor itself.

But then comes Oliver using Laurel’s death to rationalize killing. Thea was right. Putting killing back on the table is a huge step backwards and it dishonors Laurels memory. Team Arrow stood for something better than that. Hopefully Oliver will stop guilt tripping himself and move on. Not everything is his fault. Laurel knew what the consequences of being a vigilante were when she joined the team back in season three.

The flashbacks were… the flashbacks. We finally get to see Anatoli again and even Oliver’s book which contains the infamous list from season one but other than that, there really wasn’t much to it. All we know is that Oliver is beginning his initiation into the Bratva and he wants to kill Kovler. Okay, cool…

Legacy

The season five premiere is the third episode directed by series stunt choreographer James Bamford. Arrow has always had fantastic fight choreography so you expect an episode directed by Bamford to push the envelope and it did. This show is produced very fast so they try to move the camera a lot to limit the amount of setups they have to edit together. The episode featured some impressive camera operation but what was most impressive was—you guessed it—the action. The stunt choreography was great and we even got some zip line arrow action, however. It was visual effects supervisor Armen Kevorkian who took things to the next level when Oliver jumped out of a window and fired a cable arrow, attaching himself to Church’s helicopter and going along for the ride. The parachute arrow was a nice trick as well.

Overall, the episode did an okay job laying the ground work for the season. It featured a powerful exchange between Oliver and Lance at Laurel’s statue—even if the Russian proverb was just another excuse to rationalize killing— it was well written and well performed and would have gotten me to buy in to Oliver being a killer again if it wasn’t for the fact he was still being a baby, making it about himself. While Thea stepped up to the plate as she donned the Speedy suit again, it was only temporary. She won’t be returning to Team Arrow… yet. Diggle—who is off on assignment in eastern Europe—had a small but impactful scene as he skyped with Oliver helping convince him to form a new team. Unfortunately Wild Dog only made a brief appearance and Evelyn Sharp was completely absent. If Team Arrow 2.0 is going to be such an important component for the season, the beginning of its formation should have closed out this episode.  Instead we got to learn that Felicity already has a new man in her life (Seriously, who cares?) as we went into the ominous closing tease for Prometheus, the main antagonist for the season but like Team Arrow 2.0, we’ll have to wait until the next episode to learn more about him.

7.5 – GOOD

arrow-season-5-poster