By Justin Carter
Everyone spends their free time differently. Some choose to take up a new hobby, others read books they’ve been meaning to get around to. For Stephen Amell, his free time involved becoming a recurring celebrity guest on WWE over part of 2015 and going up against Cody “Stardust” Rhodes. (Amell has campaigned for some time to get on their RAW program and is a pro wrestling fan.) Rhodes, who actually named his finishing move after Oliver Queen, had a rivalry with Amell throughout last year, culminating in Amell defeating him in a tag team match.
Now, their paths cross again with a rematch of sorts with this week’s Arrow. Their encounters throughout the episode definitely have an air of wrestling spectacle about them, from the way Oliver uses an arrow to pull Rhodes towards him and deliver a solid punch in midair (with slow motion, because of course) to walking away from a defeated Rhodes with sparks flying in the background. Is it completely ridiculous? You bet, but it works because of how silly it’s willing to be while keeping to the show’s action heavy tone.
Rhodes’ guest spot as the villain of the week lets the show have some timely October fun by making him into something of a zombie. As drug dealer Derek Sampson, he gets transformed after a fight with a rogue Wild Dog lands him in a vat of chemicals that definitely shouldn’t be mixed together. Instead of turning him into a really buff clown as is the norm in these situations, he comes out with super strength and the inability to feel pain, which is definitely a better trade off.
As the title of the episode implies, this week’s episode is about Oliver learning to trust his new teammates. It requires some logic stretching here, considering he now already trusts three people he’s only known for a week to not blab about his identity, but this is just one of those things that you have to wave off when you tune in to watch this show. This feeling of trust extends primarily towards Wild Dog, since he went against orders and was responsible for giving Sampson his powers in the first place. Still, as far as trust breaking moves go, it doesn’t begin to come anywhere close to what Oliver did two years ago. Ultimately, Rene made the right call in going with Evelyn to check out Sampson’s operation, and it would have been in the team’s best interest to go after him when they had the chance.
Even though Oliver doesn’t fully trust the new crew until the end of the episode (enough to let them into the lair), the episode certainly trusts them to provide humor and solid action, and on that front, they deliver. Even though these people are all new to Arrow in one way or another, they fit in perfectly to the superhero weirdness that’s been established over the past half decade. The big brother/little sister interplay between Rene and Evelyn (she’s not referred to as Artemis in the episode, but that’s her official codename) is fun, and she gets some of the best lines of the episode. Echo Kellum has definitely come into his own as Curtis Holt, and there’s no denying the awesomeness of seeing him dress up as Mr. Terrific, T-shaped mask and all. Even Ragman gets to have some fun both in and out of the costume–I was actually surprised to learn he can wear normal clothes–and he and Curtis have a fun back and forth.
In fact, the main plot is so good at what it does that this week’s sub plots pale in comparison. Diggle being framed and thrown in prison allows for some introspection into his mental state by way of Deadshot being his cellmate. Having been killed off to avoid confusion with Will Smith’s portrayal of him in Suicide Squad this past August, I was definitely ready to buy into him not actually being dead and somehow winding up in prison again. (This is Arrow, if you don’t see a body, you can assume they aren’t as dead as they seem.) But him coming back as a ghost and helping Diggle realize that the rage once held for the assassin for killing his brother has now rebounded onto himself is some dark and fascinating stuff. It’s a well placed bombshell when combined with the casual reveal at the end that Lawton is just a figment of his imagination.
The other subplot deals with Thea doing damage control for Oliver after bringing Lance in as deputy mayor last week. It’s more than likely not going to be too long before the entire team is brought back into the fold, but the show is doing a good job of showing that Thea’s putting her time away from the quiver and hood to good use. There’s nothing here revolutionary about her being manipulated by the reporter, but the beats are fine because they allow Thea to find a way to do the right thing without punching people, and also because of her casual threat to the reporter to not pull that again.
All in all, I really enjoyed this episode of Arrow. The sheer silliness of its main villain, along with fun action and character beats make it a step up from last week, and with next week being about trying to break Diggle out of prison, I’m interested to see where this all goes.
- It’s really weird that the flashbacks have been consistently entertaining this year. I feel like I should be waiting for the shoe to drop, but I’m not?
- Rhodes is still alive by the end of the episode, and in all honesty, I wouldn’t mind if he showed up again for an extra appearance or two.
- Oliver meets his new district attorney this week, and the way he just casually brings up that Oliver slept with his girlfriend years ago makes me think he is going to be a problem down the line.
- Felicity thankfully tells Rory (Ragman’s real name) about Havenrock, and I have no further thoughts to offer on it beyond being thankful it didn’t get dragged out.
- Evelyn: “What kind of vigilante wears a hockey mask?” Oliver: “I think it’s cool.”
- Rory: “You’re not my type.” Curtis: “Oh, are you gay?” “No…which makes you not my type.”