Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E06 - 'So It Begins'

Tobias Church may have had his moments but, looking back, there was never really any chance that he would have been able to act as the driving force for much the the fifth season of Arrow. With his sudden, though not entirely surprising, death in the final moments of the previous episode, though, it seems as if the creators of the series may have felt the same. Church's death had clearly been intended as a way to bring a pretty conclusive end to the season's first story-line – and now, as we move onto something new, it is time for the mysterious figure known as Prometheus to finally step into the spot-light.

With a level of interest in the Green Arrow that is clearly very personal, an array of impressive skills at his disposal, and a suitably intimidating appearance, Prometheus certainly does seem to have some potential – though, unfortunately, his appearance in this episode didn't really live up to that. For one thing, for all the talk of this season's commitment to an overall tone of 'grounded realism', I couldn't help but find the details of his plans to be somewhat absurd. The whole idea that this mysterious figure would choose to introduce himself to Oliver with a vaguely ominous flaming message seemed almost laughably melodramatic – while, the idea that he would choose to focus his efforts on picking out, and brutally killing, innocent bystanders whose names happened to form anagrams for the people on Oliver's original 'kill list' struck me as ridiculously convoluted.

Of course, I am fully aware of the fact that this is clearly one of those "your own mileage may vary" moments – but, none of this really worked, for me. That being said, though, I do have to admit that the way in which Prometheus's current actions point to his knowledge of Oliver's morally dubious past, and the implications this seems to have for who this mysterious figure might actually be, were genuinely interesting. I just wish that the writer's had gone about it all in another way.

I was also very interested in the way in which this episode played on whatever traces of lingering guilt Oliver might still be feeling with regard to his actions back in the first season (when he was, as is pointed out in this episode, basically little more than a serial killer in a fancy costume). I've never liked the first season of Arrow – not because I have ever had any real issue with a morally conflicted 'hero' who kills his enemies, but because I don't believe that the series has ever done a very good job with this level of moral complexity.

Here, for example, we have Oliver's new team (once they are finally brought up to speed on what is happening with Prometheus, after being pushed to the side-lines by Oliver and Diggle) reacting with a very genuine level of horror and disgust when they learn of their leader's past actions – and, we have Oliver seeming to display some genuine feelings of guilt and shame over his past actions. Given the fact that, as this episode also reminds us, many of the names on that original list where, essentially, just white collar criminals (whose crimes consisted mostly of greed, and shady dealings), and not violent thugs who presented any immediate threat to anyone around them, this is all entirely understandable.

But, then, we have Diggle going out of his way to brush aside these feelings by telling Oliver that he has clearly changed, so everything is alright, now. Then, we have Evelyn Sharpe (Oliver's harshest critic, here) seeming to come around, and put aside her own concerns, by the end of the episode. It just all looks a little too easy, for Oliver. Sure, I'm well aware of the fact that my issues, here, clearly tie in to my own ideas of what atonement and redemption should look like – but, I've never been convinced that Oliver Queen has truly earned the 'forgiveness' that he has so often been handed by those around him.

But, let's put that aside, for now (it does, after all, seem quite possible that Oliver being forced to confront his own past will be a recurring theme, here – so, maybe the series will finally have addressed one of my lingering concerns, by the end of the season). There is clearly an intriguing mystery being built up with regard to who Prometheus might actually be (with the episode even ending on a surprise reveal that simply has to be some sort of 'red herring'). So, that should be enough to hold my interest. Also, this season's 'flash-back' continues to develop into something very interesting, with the appearance of Dolph Lundgren as Konstantin Kovar, the man who Oliver has travelled to Russia to kill. He only appears in a single scene, sure – but, Lundgren delivers Kovar's villainous monologue so well that it became the clear high-light of the episode, for me. While, in the past, the flash-back story-lines have often felt like unnecessary distractions, I ended this episode genuinely hopeful that this season might actually be different.

So, even though I found this episode to be somewhat weak, overall, it still feels as though there are enough potentially interesting developments in store for future episodes to keep me feeling invested. So, I suppose I'll just have to wait and see how things develop.

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