Monday, 7 November 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E05 - 'Human Target'





Tobias Church may have had his moments but, all things considered, it was never likely that he was going to play a large part in the fifth season of Arrow. Even with the promised return to a more 'gritty and grounded' tone, he was simply a little too mundane, and too ordinary, to pose a significant challenge to someone who has been through everything that Oliver Queen has. It's worth remembering, after all, that Church's most effective moments came when the Green Arrow was temporarily out of the picture – and, whenever Oliver was involved, Church has seemed to be conspicuously outclassed.

Here, for example, we have the episode opening with Church brutally torturing Rene Remirez, after capturing him at the end of the previous episode. Rather than the desperate mission to rescue their team-mate that this set-up would suggest, though, 'Team Arrow' was actually able to rescue Wild Dog surprisingly easily – and, very early on in the episode. While Church, meanwhile, is left with little other option but to flee.

Honestly, at this point, I'm fairly convinced that this whole dynamic was entirely deliberate. Tobias Church was never really a match for Oliver Queen – and, he was never truly intended to be. But, he was a worthwhile first challenge for Oliver's new team – to such an extent that I actually found myself wishing that they would be the ones to defeat him, without Oliver's involvement.

Of course, while this episode does go out of its way to bring Church's time on the show to a rather decisive end, it does, at least, have the courtesy to let the season's first recurring villain go down fighting. The issue of Church's capture of Rene might have been resolved in a rather anti-climactic fashion, after all – but, there was still the fact that Church was able to force Rene to reveal the Green Arrow's true identity to add some tension to the episode.

So, now, Oliver is forced to contend with the possibility of an assassination – as, oddly enough, the very public Mayor of Star City makes for a much easier target than the elusive vigilante. Even here, though, things feel a little too simple – as Diggle, who seems to have fully rejoined the team, reveals that he has an old contact who might be able to help. That contact, of course, turns out to be another figure drawn from the pages of DC's comic-books – Christopher Chance (Wil Traval), also known as 'the Human Target', a body-guard who assumes the identity of his clients in order to protect them.

Given the circumstances, it seems strange that the episode would have even bothered trying to play Tobias Church's assassination attempt for any real drama. Even apart from the sheer unlikelihood that the series would kill off its central character half-way through the fifth season's fifth episode, there was also the fact that the 'Human Target' (a character who fans would be familiar with – and, who the episode was also named after) had already been revealed to be a part of this episode. So, because of that, we had an episode that seemed intent on presenting a sense of dramatic tension that just wasn't real.

Honestly, while I'm hardly an expert, Christopher Chance does seem like a genuinely interesting character – and, he was played well by Will Traval, here (even if the character spent most of his time 'on-screen' wearing his impressively detailed 'Oliver Queen' mask). But, the way that this episode went about using him just seemed to undermine any sense of risk, or danger – ultimately leaving us with another oddly anti-climactic plot-point, as Oliver and Chance's ruse allows Tobias Church to believe that he has won.

Of course, while everything leading up to the episode's end felt a little underwhelming, the final action sequence, as Oliver and his team work to put a stop to Church's plans, does go some way toward making up for that. It was exactly the sort of large-scale action sequence that this episode seemed to need – and, it was also a sequence which gave each cast member a clear moment in the spotlight. Also, while I still have my issues with the way in which this development came about, I do have to admit that I definitely enjoyed seeing John Diggle step back into his role as 'Spartan' (complete with new helmet which doesn't look completely ridiculous.

By the end of the episode, though, it is fairly obvious that the season's first plot-arc has come to an end – as Tobias Church, an occasionally effective villain who seemed increasingly out of his depth, meets with a rather unfortunate end. It's a bit of a shame, too – since Chad L. Coleman was a lot of fun, in the role. But, it does raise the important question of what is next for the fifth season of Arrow? Obviously, there is the mysterious figure who calls himself Prometheus – though, whether yet another 'mysterious archer' villain can truly act as the driving force for the rest of the season remains to be seen. On the other hand, there is also the fact that the rather aggressive reporter, Susan Williams (Carly Pope), has just uncovered information which could expose Oliver Queen's part connections to the Bratva – during that period when he was supposed to be stuck on an island.

It's a bit odd to think that, of the two, it is actually the second that I am most interested in seeing play out – but, that seems to be what has happened. Not only does Susan's investigation of Oliver Queen seem to present a challenge which cannot be so easily defeated – but, it also ties the 'present day' story-line back to this season's 'flash-back' plot in a way that hasn't really happened since the second season. Going forward, it feels as though Susan Williams could prove to be a much more interesting antagonist than Prometheus – though, hopefully, future episode's will still have some surprises in store. I suppose I'll just have to wait and see.

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