[Your regularly scheduled Arrow recap artist Kayti Burt will return next week!]
The CW’s Arrow has spent the first four episodes of its fifth season picking up the pieces the show had broken apart at the end of Season 4. Oliver was faced with the tough decision of either going it alone as the Green Arrow by night while also performing mayoral duties by day, or sharing in his vigilante duties with a team of young, inexperienced, and untested crimefighters-in-training. Complicating the formation of this new team had been the arrival of ruthless and violent drug lord Tobias Church, who was plagued in turn by the shadowy antagonist known only as Prometheus. Arrow‘s fifth episode “Human Target” pulled all of these pieces together in a big way just before shaking things up yet again.
But before we get into the main story of what is easily Arrow‘s best effort of the season so far, let’s take a look at the much-maligned flashbacks. You’ll remember that Oliver was going through a number of trials to join the Russian Brotherhood, the Bratva. Well apparently his last test to pass was a simple question of loyalty. Unfortunately, not everyone is thrilled with Oliver’s inclusion, and a fellow member named Viktor takes his animosity so far as to hire goons to kill Oliver during the celebration. However, it appears that Anatoly has been planning for this and has hired his own specialist to make sure Oliver stays alive so that they can take Viktor down another day. Later, we’ll talk more about this specialist and how the flashbacks actually tie into the current storyline for once!
Arrow isn’t consistently the best at finding a core theme to center their A-B-C plots around, but for tonight’s hour, “torture” seems to be the name of the game. It comes in a variety of flavors: physical, psychological, and emotional. We clearly start off with a gruesome dose of physical torture (props to Arrow‘s make-up and effects team) as Tobias Church works over the captured Rene, a.k.a. Wild Dog. Brass knuckles, stun guns, and painfully tight zip ties do a number on the tough vigilante-in-training, but it’s Church’s experience and mind-games that eventually cause the young man to crack. Rene gives up Green Arrow’s secret identity, which sets up the rest of the hour’s action and puts Church’s big plan into motion.
While Team Arrow is roughing up Church’s thugs for information as to his whereabouts, back at the cave, Diggle has rejoined the fight. His absence had truly been a disadvantage to both the team and for us as viewers; his return, however, brings a whole new dynamic and needed energy boost to the show. Diggle is, by necessity, Oliver’s general, his right-hand man, and he leads the team in combat with confidence, poise, and style while Green Arrow takes on the main villain single-handedly. But while Diggle was responsible for bringing in a surprise character (who’s right out of a Mission: Impossible script if not the DC Comics), his greatest asset came in his newly forged relationship with Rene.
I loved watching these two together. The psychological torture of PTSD is a very real thing, but who better to walk Wild Dog through it than Spartan? And surprisingly, both Diggle and Rene opened up quite a bit to each other, feeling that they were in a safe space. There’s a nice, heartfelt mentor/apprentice quality to the Diggle/Rene relationship that was missing between Oliver and any other teammate. This is why Oliver needs Diggle, not just because of his experience in combat but because of his veteran leadership. And thanks to that (quickly) earned trust, Diggle is able to get Rene to remember something that clues them in to Church’s big plan.
Turns out that Church is attempting to consolidate a multi-city drug ring with a number of criminal organizations involved (known as The Trust), but needs to take the Green Arrow out of the way first. It’s this last part of the plan that has irked Prometheus the most, but more on that in a bit. The Green Arrow is tough to kill, but Mayor Queen, Church surmises, is not. He hires a hitman to do just that. The problem is that Diggle has hired an old friend named Christopher Chance, a.k.a. the “Human Target” to keep Oliver Queen safe and sound.
Chance, guest star Wil Traval whom you might recognize from Jessica Jones or Once Upon a Time, is a master of disguise, tactics, and espionage. He basically takes on the persona of the person he’s tasked with impersonating and, more importantly, takes the hit that’s been put on them. Acting as Oliver Queen–or rather Stephen Amell acting as Christopher Chance who’s acting as Oliver Queen…–Chance manages to not only take the hit for the Mayor, but also gets reporter Susan Williams off his back for a month (plus her private number), sways a corrupt council member toward voting for a rezoning initiative, and even discovers that Felicity has been dating Detective Billy Malone. That last particular bit of emotional torture was an awkward moment for Oliver, having his most intimate fears laid bare by a relative stranger, but he shows his maturity by giving Felicity his blessing later on and saying that he’ll always care for her, it’s a “mortal lock.”
But back to the action! Team Arrow, acting on Rene’s intel, tracks Church and his assembled team of thugs and drug kingpins, to a small airstrip. Spartan leads the team into battle, with Church’s bodyguard going 1-on-2 against Mr. Terrific and Artemis, with a surprise assist from Human Target. That gives Wild Dog a chance to get some revenge on Church while Ragman’s on clean-up duty. Green Arrow eventually gets to battle Church 1-on-1 and bests the big man. Our heroes prevail, but Church promises that worse is yet to come in the form of Prometheus.
While the majority of this episode was solid, it was the last few minutes that really kicked it up a notch. Oliver reveals to a group of reporters that he’s actually alive and explains that the ruse resulted in the apprehension of Church and drug kingpins; oh and the zoning initiative passed, too! Church, however, won’t be enjoying his days in Iron Heights. In an impressive display of power (off-screen, of course), Prometheus single-handedly takes out a police convoy and turns his attention to Church. The drug lord offers up Green Arrow’s secret identity as a bargaining chip–Prometheus doesn’t seem surprised or even interested in the information…–but the dark archer repays him with a ninja star to the neck, killing him. Out with one big bad and in with another!
And in another surprise move, the flashback sequences actually tied into the present story for once. It turns out that Chance was the man Anatoly hired to save Oliver from Viktor’s goons; let’s not worry about the timing of all of that for the moment, shall we? But Ollie has some other problems: An investigation into Chance’s past contracts by Susan Williams and an informant has put Oliver Queen smack in the presence of the Bratva when he was supposed to be stranded on the island; they’ve got handy photographic evidence to prove it.
“Human Target” was a rare episode that pulled all the disparate strings tighter together and then took some chances by moving in a bold new direction. It felt like a mini-conclusion to the introductory arc of the season. That’s a fantastic way to start things off because now we have a connection to this new team who has come a long way but is still learning to work together. Spartan’s return should go even farther in helping that. But who is this Prometheus and what sort of horror does he (or she?) have in store for Team Arrow? And what will Williams do with the newly gained knowledge of Oliver Queen’s questionable past? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Church: “The Trust goes to the Brace. 0-4 in 72.”
Church: “It’s not the pain that breaks people, it’s fear. Fear of that pain, of what that pain brings, of what happens next.”
Ragman continues to be the biggest power player on Team Arrow, which is sorely needed since everyone else is basically just, like, really fit.
Ragman: “Do people just walk into your secret base of operations?” Felicity/Oliver: “Yes.”
Oliver: “I have no family. I have no home. I have no name. я братва.”
Oliver, re Susan Williams: “It turns out that if you ingest small amounts of poison over time, you develop an immunity.”
Anatoly: “There is no problem beautiful woman can’t fix.”
Oliver: “Oliver Queen has never really been my better half.”
Diggle to Rene: “I’m wearing this suit again because I think it’s the path to redemption. It could be for you, too.”
Oliver: “You’re done, Church!” Church: “You got much worse comin’, and you don’t even know it. He calls himself Prometheus and he’s gonna end you.”
RIP Tobias Church. We’ll miss you, Chad Coleman!
Check out the sneak peek video and synopsis for episode six “So It Begins” below:
When Prometheus ups his killing spree, Oliver (Stephen Amell) searches for connections between the victims. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Curtis (Echo Kellum) discover the victims have a mysterious link to Oliver’s past and this new secret could upend his new team. Meanwhile, Thea (Willa Holland) has a heart-to-heart with Lance (Paul Blackthorne), and Felicity considers telling Malone (guest star Tyler Ritter) the truth about her work. John Behring directed the episode written by Wendy Mericle & Brian Ford Sullivan (#506).