Arrow: “Penance”

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Jim’s Thoughts

It was more of the same from Arrow this week. I don’t want to go through and pick out all the same things I’ve harped on the last few weeks, so instead I’ll try to take a broader angle on why I think the show is spinning its wheels in mediocrity

The new recruits are weighing the show down. I was most optimistic in the season debut when it brought us back to just Ollie patrolling the streets. Now we’re dealing with a bunch of new faces that we’re supposed to care about, and I just don’t. Ragman wouldn’t be a bad character, but funneling his tension through Felicity is a tiresome way to keep her character relevant. Artemis disappears on screen. She’s trying to serve as the good angel on Wild Dog’s shoulder, telling him to play by the rules and listen to Oliver, and it’s reduced her to an annoying Jiminy Cricket type. Wild Dog himself is annoying because he’s constantly running ahead of everyone and mucking things up. We get it. He’s too much like Oliver, too stubborn for his own good. That’s not new, and it’s not interesting because we’ve heard that argument for weeks now. When they try to show progress, like the message is sinking in with him, he runs off and gets himself captured this week. That’ll lead to more lectures about teamwork, and angry stares between Oliver and him. I understand. Message received. If Wild Dog were any more of a Maverick, they’d be ripping off conversations from Top Gun. Can we move on now?

Tobias Church is back. Okay, I guess so. Where’s Prometheus again? I’m sure he’ll show up right around the time Church starts gaining momentum as a villain again. How can the tension ever build with all this stuttering between the sources of it?

Another hammer we’ve been bludgeoned with is Oliver’s decision to kill. That’s been going on for a while now. First he was a killer, then he was a vigilante with a no-kill code, like Batman. Now, I guess they’ve settled on him killing sometimes, sorta? Okay, too hard, too soft, just right. They’re being Goldie Locks about it. I can live with that, but here’s the thing that’s cropped up for me. In the flashback sequences, Oliver has been killing pretty gratuitously. I realize it’s nothing the show hasn’t established before, but as the body count goes up in Oliver’s past flashbacks, it makes him a different character in the present. It’s one thing to know he’s killed before, and will again if he needs to, but seeing him snap some guys neck in a holding cell in Russia seems particularly icy. It makes it hard to believe killing would ever be a moral difficulty for him again.

There’s plenty more to talk about, but I’ll leave it at that. Again, this isn’t a terrible show. It’s much better than last season so far, but it isn’t the course correction I wanted.

Kyle’s Take

Arrow this season has suffered from the same major issue as Flash: taking several steps back and slow development.

We’ve seen Arrow use the plot devices of training new recruits, flashbacks that show Ollie’s sordid past and mirror what’s happening now, and breaking a falsely accused person out of prison (but the prisoner in question has guilt about a crime they did commit). “Penance” is lather, rinse, repeat.

Before I get into detail with Arrow’s déjà vu, I’ll take a moment with Felicity. How did she know how Diggle reacted to Lyla’s escape plan without Ollie telling her? How did Diggle know Felicity would’ve had a problem with Ollie breaking him out of jail without the knowledge that Ollie even told her? These two moments were so rushed that they didn’t make sense and they were two more examples of injecting Felicity into a story thread she had no reason being a part of. I get that she’s a fan favorite (for some), but the writers’ insistence of shoehorning Felicity into everything Arrow makes me want to rip out my hair and with little hair on the top of my head, I’ve had to start pulling from other areas. It hurts. Stop it.

The flashbacks have been undercutting what’s happening now for the reason Jim mentioned, but the ones in “Penance” undercut the present for a different reason; dialogue and scenarios were copy and pasted from the flashbacks. The new DA spouted the same lines as Ollie. At one point, I shut my eyes and didn’t need to see a scene to know what would happen and how the characters would behave. It’s as if “Penance” wasn’t long enough, so Arrow padded the episode.

Speaking of the new DA, his character serves as a stand-in for a young Captain Lance. Remember when Lance viewed the Hood as a menace? Yeah. That’s this new DA. Both Flash and Arrow are covering too much familiar ground.

I’d also be okay if Ollied patrolled the streets on his own. It’d be a great throwback if Arrow could do that, but I’m sure we’re too far along with the concept of Team Arrow that Ollie will always have a bevy of sidekicks. Enter the ubiquitous new recruits. Ollie has taken a new vigilante under his wing every season and this year he’s got four. These new characters don’t hold my interest.

This season doesn’t hold my interest as much as I would like. The reason Arrow hasn’t settled on an arch villain may be that it’s planning on shaking up everything after the midseason break; Flashpoint could have a huge ripple effect. Everything Arrow has done to this point feels like it’s probationary. Whatever sticks, sticks and they’ll scrap items they don’t like on a whim. The fifth season of Arrow has been a lot better than last season, but that’s not saying much. Let’s see what happens at the break.

Thanks for reading.

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