Arrow S05E05 “Human Target” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Church taunts and tortures Rene, while Oliver and Evelyn hit the streets, trying to track down their abducted comrade.
- In his day job, Oliver faces an important council vote that would allow him to fulfil his campaign pledge to provide low cost housing for the city.
- Rory and Evelyn hunt down where Rene was being held, and find that he’s been moved. Felicity is able to track the van carrying him.
- Church’s gang takes Rene out into the woods where he digs his own grave. Oliver comes to the rescue, but as Church escapes, Rene reveals while he was tortured he gave up Oliver’s identity to the drug lord.
- The team starts to cover Thea, Felicity and Lance, while Diggle says he may have a way of providing extra protection for Oliver.
- Diggle debriefs Rene after his abduction, with the two traumatised ex-servicemen bonding.
- Oliver tries to convince one of the councillors who is objecting to his plans to go along with the rezoning, but he refuses, pointing out Oliver’s family exploited a previous rezoning to develop the Queen Consolidated headquarters instead. The councilman is also being shadowed by Susan Williams, the journalist who did a hatchet-job on him a few weeks ago.
- Felicity enjoys a spot of lunchtime nookie with her boyfriend, who reveals he’s joining Oliver’s anti-crime unit at the police.
- She lies and tells him Oliver is fine with their relationship — despite not having yet told him about it.
- Prometheus visits Church and warns him not to attack Oliver. But Church has hired a masked bodyguard of his own.
- At City Hall Oliver and Thea confront the councilman and expose his own corruption: he’s part of a building consortium looking to develop the land targeted for low cost housing. As they leave City Hall, Church’s masked mercenary opens fire and shoots Oliver.
- Lance gives a press conference where he tells everyone that Oliver is dead. But Oliver’s watching back at the base — and it turns out he had a decoy, who is very much alive: Christopher Chance – the Human Target.
- Oliver is pretending to stay dead so Church will carry out his big plan. As Chance briefs Oliver on what he’s achieved, he lets slip about Felicity’s new boyfriend, and Oliver heads over to talk to her and tell her he’s fine with it.
- The team works out where Church is going to be and launch a raid, taking down his gang with the help of Chance and capturing Church.
- But Chance’s methods are discovered by one of Williams contacts — who is digging into Oliver’s lost years in Russia.
- Prometheus stops Church’s prison convoy and murders him — after Church reveals Oliver is the Arrow.
- And in flashback, Oliver is welcomed into the Bratva, but one of the gang bosses doesn’t trust him and sets a trap for him.
- He’s rescued by another Russian, who removes his mask as he walks away to reveal he’s Chance in disguise…
After the lacklustre last few episodes, Arrow finally finds something approaching a firm footing, digging into the quirkier realms of the DCU to set up a straightforward episode that does as much to drive forward some much needed character development as it does provide an entertaining plot.
The daft “Felicity won’t tell Oliver she’s boffing a plod” stuff gets resolved, we get a nice insight into Rene’s back story (discharged for torturing a terrorist), Dig’s back on board and dealing with his guilt… It’s taken five episodes, but at least we’re getting some sense of direction, if not actual momentum.
It helps too that we have a storyline that actually seems to have a proper purpose and flashbacks to Russia that (until the final seconds), seems to be setting up stuff for later in the season rather than just being an on-point, crowbarred tie-in to the current day.
That’s not to say there isn’t some crowbarring going on. Oh good, it turns out the journalist dissing Oliver at every opportunity has “an agenda”. Yawn… Still, at least the A-plot – with the new Scooby gang taking out Tobias Church’s evil drugs gang – has a bit of thrust to it.
Part of that is from the producers continuing to rake around for unexplored aspects of the *coughbatmancough* toy box for things to dig out.
And so we get a surprise appearance from Christopher Chance, the Human Target. Technically on his third outing, after a failed ’90s pilot and a two-season wonder on Fox six years ago, this has the feeling of someone remembering how they used John Constantine last year and thinking they’d give the same trick another whirl.
Amazingly, they get away with it too. The set-up works even, or perhaps especially, if you don’t know the character from the comics or the previous TV versions, although its notable they don’t bring in Mark Valley from the most recent TV adaptation to play the role.
It’s amazing the difference having David Ramsey back in the gang makes, not least because his presence helps validate Wild Dog a bit more. Pairing them together works; both having service backgrounds and recovering from suffering from trauma sustained in the line of duty, you get a nice contrast between the characters, and it gives a more solid base to the fleshing out of Rene’s character.
The feint at the end, as we have what looked to have been this season’s big bad Tobias Church dispatched in almost casual fashion, is an interesting move.
We’ve not been given a huge amount of time to get to grips with him and in some ways it makes sense — dealing with what’s basically a petty drug dealer and gangster in a show with metahumans, magic and monsters feels a bit small time. However, Chad L Coleman brought a huge amount of charisma to the role and his absence will be felt.
Now instead the focus switches back to Prometheus, and another mysterious archer stalking the streets of Star City. Forget Curtis’s Olympic bronze — with all these bow and arrow experts kicking about, it’s amazing the USA doesn’t win archery gold…
- A quick word about Laura Belsey’s direction, which makes great use of pulled focus and depth of field to give a subtly different look to the episode, especially in the flashback scenes in Russia. Arrow follows such a formula at times that minor changes to direction stand out, and Belsey’s little touches shine here.
- Wil Traval doesn’t get a tonne to do in his scenes as Chance, but he brings a lovely stillness to his performance. It’s such a contrast to his last comic book turn (see below), and it’d be nice to see him back in future.
- A new helmet for Spartan. Hurrah. Admittedly it looks like one of Ray Palmer’s ATOM suit helmets given a grey coat of paint, but at least it’s slightly better than Diggle’s old one.
- This week’s “big fight in a warehouse” is, in fact, a big fight in an aircraft hanger. It makes for an interesting visual backdrop and a definite change of scenery and lighting for Oliver’s Big Scrap™.
- So who the hell is the masked villain employed by Church as his back-up? He’s credited as Scimitar, and the producers claimed ahead of the episode he was “another big DC universe character”. But there isn’t a Scimitar in the DCU. There IS one in the Marvel Universe though, who’s a hired bodyguard and mercenary with a fancy helmet…
- So Curtis has recovered from being stabbed in the back, and Rene from being brutally tortured, enough that in less than 24 hours they can go out and hold their own in scraps with Church’s men? Aye, and the other one, pal…
- I know Arrow’s grasp of political intrigue is… shaky, but are we honestly meant to believe the city’s response to its mayor being announced as murdered, and then saying, “Surprise, it was a trick!” is to applaud? Impeachment is somewhat more likely…
And the Random:
- Laura Belsey makes her return to the Arrowverse after directing last season’s “Canary Cry”, the story which gave Evelyn her debut. After making her name with short films she’s been in demand on TV in the last year, working on the likes of Criminal Minds, Law and Order: SVU and NCIS.
- So, Human Target then. Apart from making him a friend of Diggle’s as a way of introducing him to the Arrowverse, they’re fairly faithful to the character of Christopher Chance, who’s been a part of the comics world since 1979. A private investigator and bodyguard, Chance protects clients under threat of assassination by disguising himself as them. Originally a back-up strip in Superman, he’s popped up in Batman and had his own Vertigo run by Peter Milligan. There was also a TV version in 2010 (although not featuring Wil Traval)
- If Wil Traval looks familiar, it’s because he played the slightly deranged cop Will Simpson on Jessica Jones last year.
Review by Iain Hepburn