Unfortunately, even when freed from the corporate confines of the list, this week’s adventure didn’t make for one of the season’s stronger ones. Pressed for time, the writers can’t give us an impression of the Reston family the way shows like Justified do, where even one and done villains get flavor and personality. The hotheaded oldest son, Kyle, forces the family into pulling off a risky job, even after their last one was botched by Oliver’s intervention, thinking they can only go to ground once they have EXACTLY enough money to last a lifetime. It begs the question of why having 99% of your total isn’t enough, and just how large that total is when they’ve been robbing banks for this long, but at least we get to hear papa Reston say “one more, and then we’re out”, as overdramatically as it probably sounds in your head.
The saving grace for the plot then, is the role Oliver plays in it (beyond his usual arrow-based heroics), as his involvement is very personal for once. In a strong scene, Oliver confronts Derrick at a watering hole, offering him a job meant to steer the Restons away from robbing any more banks, which also might atone for the failures of Robert Queen. Whether or not Oliver would show this kind of mercy to criminals his family wasn’t responsible for is for another episode to figure out, but the conflict deepens Oliver’s balancing act of both honoring his father, and proving he’s a better man than he was. As bludgeoningly direct as it was, having the dying Derrick take the blame for what his son had become was an effective way of tying up Oliver’s feelings for his dad, at least in the present…
…because, hey, GHOST DAD. The island flashbacks this week featured no Ur-row, no Deathstroke and no Fyres, just Oliver tripping out with the ghost of his father. It’s hard to feel tense about a scene where Robert hands Oliver a gun to kill himself with, when the supplier admits to being dead (and Oliver successfully offing himself 5 years earlier would make even Damon Lindelof’s head spin), so the real payoff to the scenes is seeing how the ledger gets filled out. Heat-dependent ink seems a tad convenient, but it makes for a visually striking reveal, one that hopefully marks the beginning of young Oliver’s transformation from self-pitying schlub to motivated machine, and not the journey in its entirety.
Speaking of distractions that ended better than they started, most of the supporting cast got back into their thumb-twiddling groove, with Tommy and Laurel’s ill-defined relationship coming back to the fore, in a super-tornado of irrelevance that manages to suck Thea in along the way. Per network standards, a fancy party serves as the set piece equivalent of the football games in Friday Night Lights, only with forced romantic entanglement playing out instead of real human drama. Thankfully, Thea’s pining for Tommy is addressed about as abruptly as it is introduced, and if pairing Laurel with Tommy means they aren’t dragging Oliver down with them, maybe that’s the best way to keep the two busy, until they start developing in a more entertaining fashion.
Moira once again handles the better of the side plots, as her reconciliation with Oliver follows beats similar to those used with Thea a few weeks back. Oliver disappoints her, she says something really insensitive to a guy who’s spent five years in hell, and they reconcile over a burger. It’s nothing to write home about, but once the show starts to invest more in their actual relationship, instead of just the distance in it, we can start to care more Moira’s home life, not just her double life. Arrow continues to handle its overarching elements fairly well, and the supporting cast is improving. If it can just put those elements and characters into an interesting story every week, they might be able to produce one-off episodes as strong as those that put all the buildup to good use.
- Stray Thoughts
-Planting seeds for the future: Oliver burns a few pages of the ledger before finding the invisible ink on them. Whose names were on those pages?
-IMDB lists Kyle Schmid’s character as Ace, who in the comics, was the leader of the card-based villains, The Royal Flush Gang. The gang gets a nod via the masks worn by the Reston family, but expect Ace to return with a very serious grudge against Oliver.
-The mechanics of the Reston family’s robberies don’t really matter that much, but blowing a hole out of the safe room’s floor was just lazy.
-Does Oliver reveal Ur-row’s name as Yao Fei? Until we get proper confirmation, his pun-based nickname shall remain in these recaps.
-Oliver’s computer figuring out a high school ring insignia from a bruise mark deflated the joy I felt when the show didn’t indulge in an “enhance” scene earlier.
-I really hope Robert telling Oliver to “right the wrongs” in his blank ledger was intentional wordplay.
-Tommy sounds like he’s more in love with omelets than Laurel. Thea could use that to her advantage.
-Awesomely Specific Arrow of the Week: Oliver is actually aping Spider-Man this time, courtesy some tether-based trick arrows.
-Ab-tastic Workout of the Week: Hitting sticks with Digg, as biceps and abs battle to thrumming techno beats. Expect a 10-hour loop of it on Youtube by tomorrow.