Last night’s ARROW firmly established that this is no longer the show we all once knew and loved. I had really thought that things would get better after the first two episodes of the season – because those were actually pretty good – but last week’s episode and last night’s “Penance” only showed that they are trying to turn the show into something completely different from previous seasons. While change is good sometimes – this time it wasn’t.
Let’s do a quick recap of what the episode was about before we dive into why it didn’t really work.
As we saw last week, Lyla reached out to Oliver to ask for help in breaking Dig out of prison. And hey, I totally understand where they’re coming from and why they are doing this, but Felicity – God bless Felicity – was completely right. Sure, they are breaking him out of prison, so he won’t be locked up for a crime he didn’t commit, but he will also be a fugitive for the rest of his life. Not to mention the fact that Lyla will also be committing a crime for harboring and aiding a fugitive. And so will Oliver, who – let’s not forget – is the freaking Mayor of Star City.
But, okay, fine, they decide to go break John out of prison. Felicity is against the idea and so are all the newbies, once she loops them in. Ragman tells Oliver he’s quitting the team and explains that he can’t work with Felicity- even though he understands it wasn’t her fault. Oliver barely touches on the subject with her, but tells her to talk to Rory and try to convince him to come back. This is another thing that is bothering me, but we will touch on that in a second.
Felicity makes an effort and reaches out to Rory and – I am being very honest here – this was the highlight of the episode for me. Both scenes were great, but I still think Felicity needs to talk to someone about this and that person is not Ragman. So we get the band back together and all the newbies are available to go track down Tobias Church, who just happened to plant a bomb in the evidence room of a prison, so his team could go and shop for weapons.
Oliver has left the city to go rescue Diggle, so it’s up to Felicity to decide whether she sends the new recruits in alone – which she does. Needless to say, things do not go very well. Curtis gets hurt and Church captures Wild Dog, which, you know, is not good. Meanwhile, Lyla and Oliver break John out of prison, like we all knew they would, and Oliver sets him up with a hiding place, where he can stay with his family.
Now here is why this episode (and the direction this show is taking) didn’t work.
Let’s talk about the newbies. It’s not that they are bad, per se. It’s just that they have sprung this whole new team on us, with a bunch of new characters, and decided that the show is now about them and Oliver. They are not exactly bad, but I just can’t find it in myself to care about them. Wild Dog got captured by Church? Who cares? They haven’t given us a whole lot of reasons to care about him, so how can they expect the audience to support him and cry for him or be worried about him?
By throwing together a new team and making the show all about them, all TPTB has managed to accomplish is making me resent them. So Oliver needs a new team, which could work, if they knew how to balance storylines and screen time. Where are the other original characters? Let’s spend more time with Thea and Felicity and John and Lance. Let’s see how they’re doing and what is life like after the near apocalypse last season and after losing Laurel. I know this is supposed to be Oliver’s show, but these characters are important too.
Even Curtis – and I used to love Curtis – is getting on my nerves. Not because he sucks, but because the newbies are taking away from other characters that are the backbone of this show. Oliver has never done this alone, and he is not about to start now. But this shouldn’t be a “in with the new, out with the old” kind of situation. What has really damaged the show was the poor introduction to these new characters, that made us feel like they were just replacing the entire cast.
The total disregard of original characters. Like I said earlier, it’s like they’re not even there. Thea is playing Mayor in her brother’s absence – which is pretty much all the time – but that is all we know about her. How is she feeling after everything that happened? Where does she live? Wasn’t she bunking with Laurel for a while last year? Is she going to confront all the guilt she feels about this entire situation? Has she talked to anyone? There is so much that needs to be addressed and all we got is that she’s saving face for Oliver at City Hall.
John has been through hell and back, but he was away and in prison, so I’ll cut him some slack. But still, there is so much he needs to work through and I hope they find the time to address how he’s holding up. Lance, on the other hand, has lost a daughter for the third time. He hit the bottle hard – understandably so – and now he’s Deputy Mayor. At the same time that it sounds like they are addressing the situation, it just feels like they put him as Deputy Mayor, so he would have something to do, which is a disservice to this character and the actor.
But let’s talk about what is really, really bothering me.
Felicity. What have they done to her? Where is that amazing woman that we all came to know and love and who was the heart of this team? It’s like her relationship with Oliver never happened. All that angst, all that drama from last season is gone and they’ve relegated her to being Oliver’s assistant. And I won’t even say “again”, because last time she was so much more than just his assistant. Now they just put her in a scene to be comic relief and maybe keep Oliver in line. But where is all the history?
Last season, she had an epic love story with Oliver. She got engaged. She got shot and was paralyzed from the waist down. Then she found out that the guy she thought was the love her life had been lying to her face about something major. Then she had experimental surgery to implant a prototype device that made her walk again. Then she quit the team. Then Laurel died and she felt unbelievably guilty because she wasn’t there to help the team. Then she was responsible for obliterating an entire city and killing thousands and thousands of people – even if it was for the greater good.
She had a rollercoaster of a season 4 and now she is being pushed back to be comic relief and Oliver’s IT girl? Are you people for real right now?
There is so much material for Felicity to work on – so much that needs to be addressed and dealt with – and you’re pushing newbies on us? Where is her relationship with Oliver – romantic or otherwise? No matter what, these two were friends and partners first and, if there’s anyone on this Earth that both of them could talk to is each other. What happened to that? How is she holding up after everything that happened? Is she on Team Arrow full time now? How can she support herself after she lost the company?
I know some people complained about the lack of action on the show, but that doesn’t mean you do a complete 180 and turn the show into a 40-minute action movie. This is still a character-driven drama and – as cool as those stunts look – they are not going to be enough to keep the audience entertained. We miss the characters we have been following for the past five seasons and that’s who we care about. That’s the show we want to watch.
Bottom line is, we can only hope that the next few episodes will be more balanced and focus less on the action and more on the characters. To quote John Diggle: “When you said you haven’t changed – don’t”. We were fine the way we were.
A new episode of ARROW will air next Wednesday, November 2, at 8/7C on The CW.