Sunday, 23 October 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E03 - 'A Matter of Trust'

Oliver Queen may have, finally, brought together his new team of vigilantes, as we move into this season's third episode, but that doesn't mean that they are prepared to work together, in the field – or, at least, not as far as Oliver is concerned. Forced to contend with a new figure in Star City's criminal underworld, and a dangerous new drug called 'Stardust', Oliver is just as adamant as ever that he needs to work alone – ignoring offers of support from his newly formed team. This, of course, doesn't sit well with Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), who believes that his knowledge of the seedier elements of Star City would give him an edge in determining the source of the new drug.

Of course, it turns out that he's absolutely right – as, heading out with Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin), the two quickly find themselves infiltrating the base of operations of Derek Sampson (Cody Rhodes), a dealer of the new drug. Despite Evelyn's uncertainty, the two launch a surprise attack on Derek's operation – resulting in Derek's apparent death, when he falls into a vat of chemicals.

Oliver is, naturally and understandably, furious – not only at the fact that members of his new team disobeyed orders, but also at the fact their attack inadvertently interfered with a deal arranged by the new district attorney, Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra), which would have led to the arrest of Sampson's suppliers. Not only that, though, but it also turns out that Derek Sampson isn't quite so dead, after all. Emerging from his dip in a vat of chemicals with enhanced strength and a seeming immunity to pain, Sampson now sets his sights on challenging Tobias Church for control of the entire criminal underworld of Star City.

It's an interesting enough set-up for the episode – and, one that results in some great action sequences. Derek Sampson might not be an especially complex, or even particularly memorable, villain – but, Cody Rhodes is still able to make him into a genuinely intimidating physical presence. There is, admittedly, a bit of a 'paint-by-numbers' quality, here, that leaves much of this plot-line feeling like something we have seen many times before – but, it is entertaining, at least.

It is, also, especially great to see the team finally, and truly, come together by the episode's end – with each member of Oliver's new team having a moment in the spot-light, in costume and working together for the first time. I do have to admit, though, that I'm still not entirely sold on the Curtis Holt's outfit, as he begins his transition into the comic-book character 'Mister Terrific'. That 'T'-shaped mask, which didn't actually seem to disguise his face at all, just looked a bit too goofy, to me (although, at the same time, it was a style of goofiness that actually fit the character – so, maybe it will grow on me).

Elsewhere, in the episode, it was also very interesting to see Felicity's lingering guilt, over her role in the destruction of Havenrock, finally being directly addressed – with her increasing discomfit in the presence of the small town's sole survivor eventually driving her toward a confession. Though, with the confession coming at the very end of the episode, we are going to have to wait until the next episode to see how the Ragman, Rory Regan (Joe Dinicol), is going to react. Hopefully, it will all amount so something a little more interesting than a quick act of forgiveness on Rory's part.

It is also great to, finally, see the 'flash-back' story-lines, which have been a key feature of the series since the beginning, once more become relevant and interesting. Arrow has often tried to establish a clear parallel between what occurred in the past with what is occurring in the present (although, there were points throughout the fourth season where it seemed as though the series had largely given up on that conceit) – so, it is very interesting to see those parallels occurring in such a natural manner, here. It is also, unlike much of the fourth season's flash-backs, shaping up to be a genuinely interesting story, in its own right – although, I am certain that the piecemeal fashion in which the story is being given to us will prove to be just as frustrating as it was in previous seasons, soon enough.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this episode, though, concerns John Diggle – who now finds himself serving time in prison, as a result of being framed by his superior officer. Not only that, though, but Diggle also finds himself sharing a cell with a surprise return to the series – Floyd Lawton (Michael Rowe), perhaps better known as 'Deadshot', who seems to be alive and well once more. Admittedly, not a lot actually happens in these scenes – but, there is still enough going on, here, to make the screen-time spent with Diggle feel worthwhile. Diggle's guilt over the decision to kill his own brother was, more than anything, what had convinced him that he could no longer be a part of Oliver's team – so, seeing it be so directly addressed (alongside Felicity's own lingering guilt) makes for some very interesting character development. I do have to admit that the 'twist' that the episode tried for, at the end, didn't really work for me. I much preferred the idea that Floyd Lawton's return was another consequence of Barry Allen's time-travelling adventures – so, I found it a little disappointing when that didn't turn out to be the case.

In the end, the strongest elements of the season's third episode seem to be in what it managed to set in motion for the future, rather than in any of its own elements. Both Diggle and Felicity find themselves set on genuinely interesting character-arcs, in which they will be forced to confront the lingering guilt from their actions in the previous season – and, Oliver's new team seems to have overcome the trust issues which kept them from working together effectively. Each of these elements does, also, go some way toward compensating for the somewhat underwhelming central plot-line – so, we'll just have to wait and see whether Arrow can make the most of this new potential.

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