Arrow S05E06: “So It Begins” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Wedesdays 8pm
Writers: Wendy Mericle, Brian Ford Sullivan
Director: John Behring
Essential plot points:
- Oliver and John are tracking down Tobias Church’s mobile phone as they attempt to find Prometheus. They track it down to a disused factory, where in fiery letters they find the words ‘SO IT BEGINS”.
- Lance is late for work, where Oliver is being interviewed by Susan Williams, who is waiting on him phoning her for a date.
- Thea wants to stage a music and arts festival, using her club promoting contacts, Lance’s links to the local sports stadium and some council cash to try and bring some good news to Star City.
- Prometheus starts murdering apparently random people in Star City – a young mother and a taxi driver – with his throwing star.
- Felicity steals the recovered throwing star from the desk of her detective boyfriend Billy
- Susan Williams reports on the throwing star killer after apparently being leaked the information – and Thea fears it could spark mass panic in the city ahead of the music festival.
- She’s right: someone starts shooting into a crowd at a local mall, thinking Prometheus is there. Oliver and the full team head there to pacify the crowd, after a false alarm.
- Thea discovers a half-drunk bottle of whisky in Lance’s desk after being unable to track him down during the panic.
- Afterwards Felicity and Curtis run a computer programme which works out what connects the victims: their names are anagrams of the people on Oliver’s list from his return to Star City, forcing him to explain it to the new recruits.
- They’re left shocked and not trusting Oliver, most especially Evelyn, who is angry Oliver would not let her get revenge on Ruve last year.
- They run a check on the list to try and find any potential victims whose names are also anagrams, finding six, one for each of the team.
- Thea confronts Lance at home after she discover he’s not quit drinking after all, and wants to take him to an AA meeting.
- Evelyn breaks comms with the rest of the team as she continues to rage at Oliver, but Prometheus is going after her target – a train-driver. She battles to stop him alone, and injures his arm, before Oliver manages to intervene.
- As Prometheus escapes, they discover he planted a bomb on the train — and Oliver, Evelyn and the train driver barely escape with their lives. Evelyn apologises for not trusting Oliver, and he does likewise for not being the man she thought he was.
- Felicity apologies to Billy for stealing the evidence from his desk, and reveals she’s been working with the Green Arrow. She also discovers the throwing stars are made from the melted down heads of all the arrows Oliver has fired over the years.
- Meanwhile Lance comes to at his apartment from his latest drinking binge, with an unexplained gash on his arm… and an arrowhead on his table.
- And in flashback, the Bratva send Oliver to blow up a bar owned by Konstantin Kovar in revenge for him trying to hit them, but he is captured and his colleague killed by a gangster in a tuxedo, who reveals himself to be Kovar…
The idea of Oliver’s past coming back to haunt him is one with bags of potential, not least because the earliest days of Arrow – when the show was still trying to be Christopher Nolan’s Green Arrow Begins and Oliver was murdering his way round the villains of the city with gay abandon — feel so far away from the current version of the show as to be a foreign land.
Making the revelation to his current, fresh-meat team that Olly had a list, was checking it twice, and then firing an arrow through your heart if you were naughty or nice, is a great way of exploring not just how much the character, but the show, has evolved.
It’s something you could do over weeks, indeed over a season — his team having to relearn how to trust him, to understand the purpose of the list, and Oliver confirming to himself that he’s no longer the total psycho he was five seasons ago.
Or you could do it this way, and wrap the whole damn thing up in 41 and a half minutes, where the nearest you get to a character arc and redemption is someone looking pouty for a couple of scenes then blaming themselves for not sympathising more with Oliver’s pain.
Talk about a squandered opportunity.
It’s not that this is a bad episode in any way. In fact, it’s a pretty solid piece of back and forth action that feels, in many ways, like a second season premiere — especially with the surprise exit of Tobias Church last week, the focus on new villain, and the new direction of the flashback sequences.
And with Arrow’s 100th episode — and the four-night cross-over – rapidly approaching, it’s understandable they want to avoid too many ongoing storylines that would have to pause while the big “Invasion” takes place. Yet there’s also a sightly feeling with “So It Begins” of a good few weeks’ worth of potential plot or subplot being burned off.
Nowhere is that more obvious than the climax, as Quentin Lance discovers enough evidence to suggest that he is the new big bad — presumably a fake-out, because giving away that kind of revelation really WOULD be burning off plot-lines too quickly. But something that could have been teased out over a couple of weeks is instead the big cliffhanger.
It doesn’t help “So It Begins” that Madison McLaughlin’s performance as Evelyn is… somewhat disengaged. There’s little sense in the performance that she really feels angry or betrayed by Oliver, and as a result her claim that she “was a jerk” to him feels legitimate, even though frankly she’s got every right to be annoyed at the Green Arrow’s hypocrisy.
But like we said, this isn’t a bad episode, and there are some lovely moments in there — especially Willa Holland’s scenes with the ever reliable Paul Blackthorne, and the heart-to-heart between Diggle and Oliver. The opening with the Daredevil-esque flaming writing, and the climactic fight in the train carriage are especially noteworthy, the latter taking the ‘big fight in a warehouse’ issue Arrow regularly has and squeezing it into an unfamiliar, claustrophobic environment.
Ultimately, a perfectly serviceable episode of Arrow. But six episode into a very patchy season, we’d like a bit more meat on these bones now please…
- Hurrah! It’s Dolph Lundgren playing Konstantine Kovar. The former Ivan Drago, He-Man and Gunnar Jensen’s had an up-and-down career, but is pretty good value. And let’s be honest, the guy’s hard as nails, holds a masters in chemical engineering and used to go out with Grace Jones. He also hasn’t done a tonne of TV in his career so getting him on Arrow’s something of a coup.
- We get to see Oliver busting out the “shooting tennis balls” gimmick from the earliest days of Arrow, a nice nod to the fact that his history is starting to come back and bite him.
- Right, the parachute trick arrow was stupid when we saw it the first time at the start of the season. But now a parachute arrow that can support the weight of THREE fully grown people? Come on now.
- The new Scooby Gang really don’t get a lot to do in this episode. Admittedly it’s because of Oliver deliberately sidelining them, but it also shows just how much Arrow is at its best when its Dig and Olly without the rest of the squad.
- So Curtis is up and about but being chided about it by Felicity after being stabbed last week. Apparently everyone’s forgotten the internal bleeding and serious injuries he got from being ragdolled by Damien Darhk at the end of last season too. It’s amazing he can even cough, frankly…
And The Random:
- John Behring, one of the most prolific directors in the Arrowverse, returns to take charge of the episode. He’s been involved with the show since its sixth episode, and oversaw both last season’s finale and the mid-season cliffhanger.
- So, Konstantin Kovar does indeed come from the comics, where in the DCU he’s the father of Teen Titans’ Russian superhero Red Star.
- “And So It Begins? Who knew Prometheus was a Babylon 5 fanboy?” says Felicity at the start of the episode, warning Oliver “Don’t judge until you’ve seen it.” Ms Smoak, we refer you to Spaced, season 2 episode 2…