Friday, 9 December 2016

Review - 'Arrow', S05E09 - 'What We Leave Behind'

Just as the last episode of The Flash devoted itself to giving some much needed development to its villains, Doctor Alchemy and Savitar, it was fairly clear that this episode of Arrow was intended to do much the same for Prometheus. It's definitely something that is needed, too – since, at this point, Prometheus is still little more than a blank slate in a vaguely intimidating outfit (once again, much like Doctor Alchemy and Savitar).

Of course, we have already received plenty of hints about the very personal connection between Prometheus and Oliver – as, it seems fairly clear, he is definitely more focused on acts of revenge than on any sort of grand villainous scheme. We also already know that, whatever this connection between the two might prove to be, it is definitely tied to Oliver's much more ruthless and blood-thirsty activities during the show's first season.

Of course, this aspect of the current season has proved to be somewhat problematic for me – for the very simple reason that I just wasn't a fan of the first season of Arrow. I didn't actually become a fan of the series until the second season, when the story finally began to move beyond Oliver's 'kill list' – and, I was only really able to do that by pretending that the first season never actually happened. I do have to admit, though, that the ides of Oliver's morally dubious activities, back in the first season, being used as the basis for some genuinely tense drama, now, does seem to have potential – and, that certainly seems to be what the writer's are trying for, with Prometheus.

Here, for example, we learn of a direct link between this mysterious figure and one of the name's on that original list, given to Oliver by his father – with this episode's flash-back sub-plot introducing us to Justin Clayborne (Garwin Sanford), an extremely unpleasant 'Martin Shkreli' analogue.

While, at first, this whole sequence did little more than remind me of all the reason why I disliked Arrow, in its first season, I do have to admit that the episode was ultimately able to turn the stark difference between Oliver, then and now, into a strength for the episode. The episode's final confrontation between Oliver and Prometheus, in particular, wove the past and present together in a truly fascinating, and rather morbid, way – as Prometheus recreated the aftermath of Oliver's attack on Clayborne's building (complete with innocent victims to stand in for the innocent security guards that Oliver killed. on his way to Clayborne). Honestly, by the end of the episode, it's difficult to entirely dismiss Evelyn's claim that Oliver isn't a hero.

Of course, while the reveal that Prometheus may actually be Clayborne's illegitimate son, and that he has devoted the past four years to turning himself into something of a reflection of Oliver, does give us some insight into what motivates this mysterious figure, the same can't really be said for Evelyn. The idea that she might have been so disgusted with what she learnt of Oliver's actions as 'the Hood', earlier in the season, that she might be moved to abandon the team made sense, of course – and, that hint of moral outrage we saw, earlier, did serve to give her some much needed characterisation. But, the idea that her anger at Oliver would lead to her betraying the entire team, and allying herself with someone who is, arguably, much worse than Oliver ever was does feel like a bit of a stretch. I can really only hope that there is more to Evelyn's actions and decision than what we see in this episode – because, so far, it just doesn't make any sense.

Unfortunately, while the episode does make the attempt to delve into the romantic troubles of a couple of members of the supporting cast, neither have quite the impact that they were clearly intended to have – for the very simple reason that we simply haven't spent enough time with these 'love interest' characters to form any sort of attachment to them. In this episode, Curtis finds himself caught up in what feels like a very standard dilemma for a superhero romantically involved with a 'normal' person – that being, what happens when their partner learns their secret. Here, we have Curtis's husband, Paul (Chenier Hundal), presenting Curtis with a rather abrupt ultimatum when he learns of Curtis's nightly activities as 'Mister Terrific'. It's a very conventional romantic sub-plot for this sort of series, really – and, it only distinguishes itself, here, in whatever progressive element you care to find in having it be based around two gay men, this time around. By the time Paul left with packed suitcases, though, I had already lost interest.

On a similar note, Felicity also seems to be having troubles with her new boyfriend, Billy Malone (Tyler Ritter) – who, much to her apparent surprise, actually intends to do his job and try to catch the murderer, rather than leave it all up to a team of costumed vigilantes. Much like the time spent with Curtis and Paul, though, it just doesn't amount to much. Although, at least in this case, this sub-plot is ultimately tied back into the episode's main plot-line in a surprising, and genuinely tragic, manner.

In the case of both Paul and Billy, though, it isn't really the episode's attempt at romantic drama, in itself, that is the issue – but, instead, it is the simple fact that we barely know either character, so we have no real reason to care about them. Neither of them even felt like fully formed characters, to me. It is disappointingly clear that the only true purpose either serves is to add to the drama for the two more important characters they are linked to.

These weaker elements may detract from the episode somewhat, of course – but, fortunately, the rest of the episode is of such high quality that the damage is minimal. This is an episode made up of some truly fantastic action sequences, and some great moments of drama. While I can't really say I was overly excited to see any sort of return to the first season of Arrow, I am prepared to admit that it was actually put to good use, here. The idea of Oliver Queen being so directly confronted by the true cost of his past decisions (in much the same way that Barry Allen has been, recently) definitely appeals to me, also – so, I'm definitely hopeful to see a little more of it.

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