Arrow S05E02: “The Recruits” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- The Green Arrow interrupts Wild Dog chasing down a drug dealer, stopping him from falling off a building before challenging him to show up at an address he leaves him.
- At the lair, Oliver warns Curtis he’s got the most work to do to convince him he’s ready to fight on the streets with the team.
- Meanwhile in the day job Oliver convinces Amertek CEO Janet Carroll to support a new clinic to help provide medical treatment for kids and the vulnerable in Star City after a spate of hospital closures over the last couple of years.
- The recruits – Wild Dog, Curtis and teenage Black Canary imposter Evelyn – show up at HIVE’s old base to be trained. Oliver bests them, after challenging them to get by him to ring a bell, and they quickly start to get disillusioned.
- Carroll’s assistant is attacked by a mysterious figure wearing rags, who appears to have tentacles coming out of his gear. Amertek threatens to pull out of the event until Oliver agrees to indemnify them from any risk. He promises extra security, and plans to provide it himself as the Arrow as he doesn’t think his new team is ready yet.
- After realising the attacker might be a metahuman, Oliver deploys the recruits as extra observers at the centre. Thea also arranges for Lance to help, but in his drunkenness he leaves his post — allowing the mysterious ragged figure to break in and attack Carroll. Oliver as the Green Arrow tries to stop him, but Wild Dog’s attempt to take down the ragged man only lets him get away.
- A furious Oliver tears a new strip off the recruits, who quit — but not before Wild Dog reveals he managed to get a piece of the rags. He gives it to Felicity, who has her police detective boyfriend run forensics on it and discovers it’s radioactive — and connected to nuclear weapons Amertek developed.
- Thea finds Carroll doing a deal with Tobias Church to sell him $100M of weapons, with Amertek about to go bankrupt. Both Arrow and Ragman break up the deal, with Ragman allowing Carroll to escape in order to save Arrow from being killed by Church.
- Afterwards he offers Ragman, who gained his powers from an ancient cloak after being in the Genesis Day nuclear attack, a place on his team, and apologises to the recruits, revealing his true identity to them. Thea recruits Lance as deputy mayor to help him get over his alcoholism and pay tribute to his daughter.
- Outside his club, Tobias Church is attacked by the mysterious dark archer from last week, who seriously injures the gangster before warning him off killing the Green Arrow, revealing himself to be Prometheus…
- In a parallel strand, Diggle is sent on a mission to retrieve stolen nuclear weapon’s technology in Chechnya, but finds it’s an ambush set up by his own CO – and he’s being framed for it.
- And in flashbacks to Russia, Oliver tries out for the Bratva through the same training method he puts his new recruits through — only with far more brutal results…
Two episodes in and the show can, at best, be described as solid. Nothing about the opening two episodes has been anywhere near as explosive or attention grabbing as this time last year, but nor has it been on particularly shaky ground.
What we get is effectively part two of the origin story for the new team members started last week – and more, albeit thin, set-up for new villains Church and Prometheus.
After making such an impact last week, Chad L Coleman’s Tobias Church is largely sidelined this time out, reduced to a couple of scenes that help establish his character a bit more, without fleshing him out too much. Indeed, much of what we learn – he takes over cities by controlling gangs, he leads from the front – was established last week.
Likewise our new recruits. Curtis we already know well, obviously, but Rick Gonzalez’s Rene Ramirez – Wild Dog – is already being reduced down to headstrong and Evelyn Sharp has so little to do it’s daft.
The weird bit is that she, of all three recruits, is the one you’d expect Oliver to want to train least– so much of the background themes in the opening episodes has been about living up to Laurel’s legacy and Evelyn showed she was more than capable at that last term as the faux Canary.
Meanwhile the Diggle storyline is an oddity. At times it almost felt and looked like one of Arrow’s flashback scenes, rather than a parallel storyline. Where it’s going is hard to judge – is this to make Dig a fugitive, a pressure point, or to being him back to the fold? The idea of him re-enlisting was daft enough but someone with his record and reputation being set up as a patsy for stealing WMDs is stretching things.
Speaking of weapons of mass destruction, it’s nice to see the fallout – excuse the pun – from last year’s nuclear missile attack actually being dealt with. They kind of brushed any survivor’s guilt issues off last season, with Felicity being somewhat busy saving the world, but as we said at the time, her character of everyone in Arrow is the most likely to be traumatised by being involved in something like that, and with Ragman’s origins in this universe being tied into Genesis Day it makes sense to start and unpick that side of her.
Emily Bett Rickards does her usual exceptional job in her performance around that moment, trying to hide her obvious guilt and grief when speaking to Oliver and when overhearing Ragman tell his story.
As for the Bratva stuff… well, it’s there. Normally the flashbacks end up having some tie-in to the theme of the current day stuff in Arrow but this was as on point as it gets.
It’s nice too that the resolution isn’t just another big fight in a warehouse – something that’s become one of Arrow’s biggest clichés and burdens – but is more about the emotions of the characters. Of course, we do still get said fight, but it feels almost listless. None of the big action sequences this week are blowaways – a surprise given director James Bamford’s track record – but that’s also more in keeping with the low-key nature of the episode.
Indeed, with so much to do in terms of setting up the new rules for Oliver’s world – the new team, new villains and his new role as mayor – it’s perhaps understandable that the production team is looking to pace itself.
But now we’ve got all that done… bit more accelerator, bit less clutch next week, please?
- Nice to see the impressive, split-level HIVE set from last season being put to good use as the Arrow’s training base for his new recruits.
- The effects for Ragman’s powers are really nice and surprisingly subtle,
- Finally! The significant side-effects of dropping a medium yield nuclear weapon on West Virginia are being looked at. Albeit slowly…
- “You need to decide if you want to be a man in a hockey mask, or if you want to be someone else…” Hiya Casey Jones. Hiya!
- Church’s gleeful, “Where you at?” as he realises the Arrow is attacking his men.
- Poor Curtis, mocked for not being physically strong enough to be a hero, or indeed even do the Salmon Ladder. Except the character is an Olympic level athlete — even if this Curtis got the Bronze at Beijing 2008, that’s still an amazing feat of endurance. Show some respect and stop treating him like a comedy nerd.
- With Diggle at the centre of this episode, it’d have been the ideal time to start having some of “Flashpoint”’s changes to the Arrowverse come up (see The Flash 3.02 “Paradox” for more…). Yet it seems the show’s pretty divorced from what its younger brother is up to. Shame.
- They’ve retconned the weapon used on Havenrock as a KM08 built by Amertek. Except, as we discussed at the time, it was in the show an RDS-37 (an old Russian-style nuke) that was in play. Pedants? Us?
- Wasn’t the mayor’s office badly damaged by Damien getting his power last year? They’ve rebuilt that quickly…
And the Random:
- And so Ragman joins the pantheon of DCTVU heroes – albeit with a radically different origin story. In the comics he’s Rory Regan, who dressed in rags from his father’s junk shop to fight crime after absorbing the skills of some of his old man’s pals. After “Crisis On Infinite Earths” it was retconned so that each of the patches on his outfit comes from the soul of a villain he’s defeated. The character is Jewish, hence the nod to the Hebrew book of Devārīm being from when Arrow’s Ragman’s outfit dates.
- If Amertek sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been mentioned a few times in the show before; it’s a major military industrial player. In the comics, it’s also where the superhero Steel worked as alter ego John Henry Irons. You know, the one that was turned into a bloody awful film staring Shaquille O’Neal.
- Felicity has been working out! Check out the guns on Emily Bett Rickard as her and Curtis are talking in the Arrow Lair. She’s been posting pictures all summer of her training regime and, along with Ecko Kellum and Katie Cassidy, sparred with UFC fighters Stephen Thompson (currently number two ranked welterweight in the world) and Ultimate Fighter winner Elias Theodorou.
Review by Iain Hepburn