Arrow S04E04 “Beyond Redemption” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Beth Schwartz, Ben Sokolowski
Director: Lexi Alexander
Essential plot points:
- Captain Lance asks Team Arrow to help investigate when two detectives are found shot, as budget cuts leave him without the resources to do so.
- But the good Captain’s not impressed when Oliver announces he’s running for mayor. Team Arrow is also left stunned by the news, wondering if Oliver knows what he’s getting into.
- Oliver introduces the team to their new base: Sebastian Blood’s old lair, which has been refitted by Cisco and Felicity into a high tech Arrow Lair.
- The team track down a sim card from the crime scene to a storage locker containing an armoury… owned by Star City PD’s anti-vigilante task force, which is responsible for killing the cops and stealing drugs around the city
- Curtis has been trying to work out who is sending messages to Felicity’s phone and recognises the code as being that used by Ray Palmer before his death.
- Oliver tells Lance his cops are corrupt, and they set a trap for the task force; Thea buys a large amount of drugs to lure them out. But the task force is too well-equipped with anti-vigilante equipment. Worse, they recognise Lance at the scene.
- In her basement, Laurel is keeping the resurrected Sara chained up. Sara still doesn’t know who she is, and when Captain Lance sees his resurrected daughter he’s heartbroken.
- Lance asks Damien Darhk what to do, given his knowledge of the Lazarus Pit, but Darhk says the best thing Lance could do would be to put kill Sara for her own sake. Unfortunately, his conversation is overseen on CCTV by Oliver and Felicity. An angry Oliver confronts Lance at his home, saying he looked up to the cop.
- Lance goes to Laurel’s basement, but can’t bring himself to kill Sara and breaks down in tears. As he walks out, he’s captured by the Task Force, who take him to the police contraband locker where they intend to steal the confiscated drugs and money before escaping the city.
- Team Arrow turns up and takes out the task force, but not before Warner catches and threatens to kill Oliver. Lance talks her out of it, giving a moving speech about wanting to save the city.
- Lance plans to turn himself in to the police for his corruption, but Oliver convinces him to become a double agent and help them spy on Darhk as the two, for the first time in years, make a kind of amends.
- Thea forces a wobbling Oliver’s hand after a heart to heart talk on his running for Mayor issue by hiring a campaign staff (well, getting interns, so it’s not costing anything…) and writing an inspirational speech for Oliver to announce his candidacy for Mayor.
- Curtis asks Felicity for the password to unlock Ray’s computer, which recorded his final moments, in the hope it might unlock the mystery of the messages to her phone. At first she doesn’t want to, because of the painful memories it will bring up, but eventually she enters the password.
- In the flashbacks to Lian Yu, Oliver tries to convince the skeptical Conklin that he killed the slave worker from last week, who has been hiding out in the cave Oliver used to lurk in with Slade. He does so after putting her in a suspended animation state with his nerve pinch trick, but as he leaves, Conklin discovers the parachute and communications device Oliver arrived back on the island with.
- And Lauren enters the basement to bring Sara her dinner… only to find that Sara has somehow escaped!
After the frenetic pace of the first three episodes, Arrow drops down a gear with “Beyond Redemption” as the repercussions of the first few weeks begin to be felt across Star City.
Series regular writers Schwartz and Sokolowski are between them responsible for some of the most important episodes of the previous three years, which perhaps explains why this episode feels so strong. There’s a lot going on here, some things more obvious than others, but still with the same sense of advancement in series four, and just enough subtle foreshadowing to hint at what’s to come.
The key plots continue to progress nicely, with Darhk and Team Arrow dancing around each other, and poor Captain Lance caught in the middle, while the resurrection of Sara as part of the set-up for Legends Of Tomorrow continues to unfold. But there’s some interesting stuff being set up in the background, not least the increasingly more astute Thea, who is not only recovering from her blood lust but recognising something’s not quite right with Oliver and Felicity (since Oliver hasn’t proposed yet).
Likewise the nice, if slightly obvious, touch of Oliver’s speech announcing his candidacy being a variation of the opening titles monologue from the first three years works well, but to have it come from Thea’s hand rather than his is a genuinely clever touch which comes at the end of an episode where Willa Holland, no longer having to play crazed blood-lusting Thea, turns in a brilliantly light performance, especially in the scene where Oliver reveals his doubts about running for Mayor.
But the real standout is Paul Blackthorne, who absolutely blows everyone away in a story which puts poor old Captain Lance through the emotional ringer. Faced with the betrayal of his officers, evidence of his own moral failings and the resurrection of his dead daughter, it’s a wonder he’s not dead or insane by the end of the episode; the script even lets him make a joke out of the way Oliver constantly surprises Lance in his apartment, pointing out, “Don’t you know I’ve a heart condition?”
Blackthorns’s performance is full of emotion and torment, and is utterly convincing at every step – most especially in the scene where he goes to “put down” Sara and can’t bring himself to do it. He might not have had a lot to do so far this season, but the production team make up for it here in spades.
Lexi Alexander’s direction is unflashy but carries a sense of style, not least in the reveal of the new Arrow HQ, giving the place a real sense of scale. It’s her first time out on the show but hopefully not her last; she brings a cinematic eye to the proceedings which Arrow deserves, particularly in the very creative use of lighting in scenes.
The only slight disappointment is how easily the task force, which we see completely shrug off Team Arrow earlier in the episode, get dispatched with the big climactic fight sequence at the end. It just feels like there’s a scene missing somewhere, where Oliver and co find out more about the equipment and tactics the task force use and how to overcome them, because we go from them being routed to running riot in just a few minutes.
But that’s a minor quibble in a great episode filled not just with great performances but wonderful moments of lightness among the sheer emotion being wrung out of everyone. Arrow’s always had a good dark/light balance, with a cast that can play comedy well, so it’s good to see them given the chance to play to their strengths.
It’s also pleasing to have an episode that’s not a DC-villain-of-the-week or guest metahuman affair and that feels important without being a huge arc plot moment. In that respect “Beyond Redemption” feels almost like a traditional episode of Arrow, dealing with the human repercussions of a city on the brink. And with a certain cocky British sorcerer popping up next week, it’s nice to have a bit of normality…
- Captain Lance’s speech to convince Warner to change her ways and not kill Oliver is almost Jeff Winger-esque, and gives the episode its title: “Living in this city, dealing with what we’re dealing with right now? We’re all desperate. We’ve all been made to do desperate things. Terrible things. But I got to believe that we are not beyond redemption. And I got to believe that this city can still be saved, cause once we stop believing that, that’s when this city really dies and us, us, right along with it. Maybe, just maybe, we start saving our home by saving ourselves first. And that means facing up to our mistakes. That means facing justice. You put on that uniform ’cause you believe in justice. Ask yourself, Warner… Is that still the case?”
- Guest star Rutina Wesley, probably best known as Tara in True Blood, gives a brilliant performance as troubled cop Warner. She doesn’t meet an untimely end and hopefully this means a future appearance for the character.
- The final moments, as Oliver unveils his campaign speech while flash scenes show us tantalising moments elsewhere – Darhk receiving a mystical-looking box, Felicity activating Ray’s password – is brilliantly effective, with a sense of danger, and sadness, unfolding over the uplifting speech. And just what is in that box…?
- The Curtis and Felicity show continues to be great fun, with even Felicity being outnerded (“This must be what it’s like talking to me…”) but also with a touch of solidarity in tragedy as Curtis reveals he lost his brother to cancer.
- Felicity not being used to her new chair in the Arrow Cave – something every office worker forced to swap seats will sympathise with.
- There’s some horribly leaden dialogue in this week’s episode. The “You took a bullet for me” bit at the end just about works thanks to Ramsey and Amell’s performance, but some of the other supposedly banter-ish lines really don’t land.
- I know it’s kind of the joke, but given Curtis is supposed to have used every trick in the book to break Ray’s old password, you’d think the fact it’s still set as PASSWORD would be less of a hindrance…
- Shouldn’t someone who’s just been stabbed in the back close enough to their spine to threaten paralysis look a little more uncomfortable than Olly does? He’s been quite the human pincushion this season…
- Admittedly they sort of address it on the show, but if I were a Palmer Technology shareholder, and the company was in the financial dire straits we were told earlier in the season, I’d not be impressed with the Chief Exec splurging money on her boyfriend’s Mayoral campaign. Or, indeed, buying a truck full of drugs for her future sister-in-law’s party…
- I feel like I’m ragging on Katie Cassidy’s performance every week, but she remains hugely unconvincing as Laurel at the moment. She just feels disconnected from what should be a hugely emotional storyline. If as a performance decision it’s going somewhere then I’m happy to stand corrected but for now, it’s just not working.
And the Random:
- It’s time for the new Arrow Lair, referenced last week, to be finally revealed. Perhaps asking for trouble, it’s under Oliver’s campaign HQ and Captain Lance is shown round within a day of it opening, but it’s a very elaborate, high-tech set. And one with the Salmon Leap fitness set-up, for those of you who’ve been missing Stephen Amell doing pull-ups…
- We’re told the systems in the new base were set up by Cisco. And they keep breaking down. The implication’s meant to be that it’s The Flash’s Cisco Ramon that’s responsible, but you can’t help but wonder if it’s a joke at the expense of computing giant Cisco Systems…
- Director Lexi Alexander takes charge of her first Arrow episode. She previously helmed the bizarrely award-winning football casuals film Green Street (you know, the one with Elijah Woods as a West Ham-supporting hooligan) and underrated Marvel sequel Punisher: War Zone. She’s also a champion martial arts expert.
- If you aren’t aware yet, next week Arrow has off its first big crossover of the new season. But it’s probably not with the show you were expecting…
Review by Iain Hepburn.Listen to his podcast now at Fromthesublime.com