Arrow

‘Arrow’: “Penance” Spoiler Review

So far, season five of Arrow has been a bit of a hit or miss as it struggles to find its way with a mostly new cast. Considering last week’s fantastic entry to the series, it should come as no surprise that this episode was, unfortunately, mediocre, full of implausibility and conflict that didn’t add up to anything.

The episode opens with Team Arrow 2.0 in the midst of a training exercise as they attempt to stop petty criminal sporting a cheesy gold chain from committing a burglary. The scene does nothing but shows us that the trainees have not made any progress in their training from last week. At this point, the only members with a fighting chance are Wild Dog and Ragman. Evelyn and Curtis are going to get themselves killed if they don’t start improving fast. They are both sloppy and it’s impossible to buy them as formidable crime-fighting vigilantes.

While I’m not a big fan of Ragman’s look, Joe Dinicol’s performance at Rory is fantastic. Unfortunately, most of his scenes were bogged down by Emily Bett Rickard’s insipid performance. She just can’t play the emotion needed to bring the scene to life. Her acting feels contrived as she lacks conviction in almost all of her scenes. Even Rickard’s doesn’t seem to be on the side of her character when she’s arguing with Oliver for the sake of conflict. She really has no business telling Oliver or Lyla what decision to make and her attitude makes it extremely irritating. I used to be a huge fan of her character in the first and second season. I was even a fan of Olicity. But at this point, scenes with Felicity are tiresome and make me yearn for her exit from the show.

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Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak in Arrow. (The CW)

The flashbacks continue to slug along in Russia as we get four quick scenes dispersed sparingly throughout the episode. I would say that they were pointless and really amounted to nothing if it wasn’t for the fact that it was Oliver’s was finally accepted into the Bratva, something I thought actually happened when he passed the test last week. But no, we had to go through another few quick scenes to get us there. The problem with the flashbacks are consistent with the last two seasons. They feel generic and uninspired. You can tell it’s a chore for the producers to fit the flashback storyline into the script and the budget. They are just trying to skirt by with a serviceable storyline until it catches up to the first season and they are no more.

Tobias Church had the only clever storyline of the episode as he staged a burglary to smuggle in an explosive device into the evidence lock-up at the police station. Unfortunately, it all collapsed on itself as his motives were never clearly explained. I have no idea what he was trying to achieve. And did anyone see that goon in the sunglasses? Seriously, the costume design for criminals has always been whack on Arrow but this episode took it to all new heights. At least the ones who were wearing hats had hats that actually fit and weren’t cocked to the side like goofballs in previous seasons.

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Chadwick Boseman as Tobias Church in Arrow. (The CW)

Adrian Chase’s viewpoint that vigilantes are a superficial solution and that if it takes them to solve the city’s problems the criminal justice department isn’t doing their jobs well is accurate, however. His turning point felt organic after he was rescued by the rookie superheroes of Star City, making him realize the ones who wear a mask can be an effective force for good in a crime-ridden and corrupt city such as theirs. While I still can’t buy him as a future crime fighter, the motivations are most certainly falling into place.

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Joe Dinicol as Ragman, Echo Kellum as Mr. Terrific, Madison Mclaughlin as Artemis, and Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog in Arrow. (The CW)

The prison break was fun but a bit underwhelming. There just wasn’t enough action and Oliver sneaking in through the laundry was totally silly. The immature and unprofessional prison guard didn’t help either. But it did bring us a fantastic scene between Oliver and Diggle that reminded me of the brotherhood that the two share that made this show so excellent in the first place. Diggle still has a lot of healing to do after murdering his brother, but it seems Oliver – as his new brother – got through to him, making him realize he can still find redemption resuming his crusade as Spartan. Unfortunately, the silliness reached an all-time high when Lyla flew a military cargo plane over the prison and extracted the two from the prison yard much like skyhook program used by Batman in The Dark Knight when Batman extracted Lao from China. Considering the show’s budget, I think they reached a little too far with that one.

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David Ramsey as John Diggle and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in Arrow. (The CW)

Ultimately, this episode got the job done breaking Diggle out of prison and getting him one step closer to returning to Team Arrow. His presence in the Arrow cave is sorely needed especially given all the new mentees Oliver has taken on in his struggle to keep Star City safe. Episodes like this only highlight why 23 episodes per season are far too many. As we see with shorter seasons, they allow for a tighter more compelling and engaging narrative that doesn’t feel like it wasted our time, which is exactly how this episode made me feel.

6.5 – WASTE OF TIME

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