Arrow – Season 5 Episode 3
“A Matter of Trust”
With the new team in place, Arrow focuses on developing the team dynamic while Oliver gets to grips with what it means to be a leader.
It seems like a redundant lesson for Oliver as he has led a team in one form or another since the first season but the previous Team Arrow built gradually and was made up of people that Oliver was sure he could trust. The new team is vastly different as the new recruits are all essentially random. Oliver knows Curtis well enough because he was around last season but Rory, Rene and Evelyn are all largely unknown quantities and Oliver is reluctant to trust them.
Rene manages to validate his mistrust by deciding that he knows better and goes rogue so that he has the chance to go out into the field. As you might expect his attempt to show how capable he is ends in a less than ideal way and Oliver wastes no time in chewing him out over it. The curious thing is that Evelyn is with him but Oliver doesn’t do anything about that after he finds out. She is shown to be a willing participant despite some reluctance so some of the blame should fall on her.
I can understand the desire to simplify the difficulty Oliver has accepting a new team by having him butt heads with one member of it. If everyone is giving him a hard time over his leadership skills then the conflict risks becoming drowned. It might have been better to have Oliver recruit new members one by one as it would have allowed more time to explore the reasons each of them have for wanting to join the team as well as challenging Oliver to find a connection with each of them.
Rene’s relationship with Oliver is pretty well defined at this point. He’s arrogant, stubborn and a loose cannon which is very reminiscent of Oliver at almost any point in the series. Oliver may be a little more disciplined but part of the problem is that he can see a lot of himself in Rene and that unnerves him. I did like that his hockey mask does allow for a reference to Stephen Amell’s portrayal of Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Curtis’ motivation is a little shaky as he only wanted to be on the team after being beaten up back in “Legacy” but I still get the impression that this is all somehow a game to him. His relationship with Felicity is pretty well defined but we still need to see what his relationship with Oliver will turn out to be. I find his constant stream of one liners and dorky humour quite tiresome. There is definitely a time and a place for it and Echo Kellum normally delivers it well but it was overkill in this episode. I did like his Mister Terrific costume and having him be inspired by the original Mister Terrific, Terry Slone –who was a wrestler in this universe- was a nice nod to the comics.
I’m still not clear on what Evelyn wants from all of this. Her brief stint as Black Canary last season was to avenge her family but it’s unclear what motivates her now. Oliver recruiting a teenage girl to fight on his team also hasn’t been addressed at all but I think that is definitely something that is lingering in the background and will need to be dealt with at some point. The most likely scenario is that Evelyn will be injured and Oliver will blame himself at some point.
Despite some promise last week Rory mostly sticks to the background this week. So far he just seems to be a nice guy but largely gets lost in all the other things that are going on. In general there is a lack of a team dynamic at this point and that needs to be fixed soon.
As the title of the episode suggests, the main theme is trust and that plays out in different ways. Rene doesn’t trust Oliver’s leadership skills which causes him to go out on his own. This leads Oliver to confirm his mistrust of Rene and the team in general since they don’t follow his orders. The problem is that there has been no trust built between them because there has been no reason to be. I found the resolution of this to be unearned as Oliver seems to come around to trusting Rene without having a reason to.
There is a running discussion that Oliver has with Felicity about leadership and how he is accountable for the actions of those he leads. This applies to his role as Green Arrow and his role as Mayor. Rene and Evelyn striking out on their own reflects on him because the public will eventually know that they are on Team Arrow so any action they take will sully the reputation he has built as Green Arrow.
As Mayor, Oliver has the problem of sensationalism fuelled journalists questioning his effectiveness and suggesting that Thea does most of the work. It’s completely true but Oliver has to realise that Thea’s actions still reflect on him. The main thing that comes out is that Oliver had nothing to do with the hiring of Quentin who is essentially disgraced by the public. Oliver comes around to giving Quentin a chance by the end of the episode and takes responsibility for Thea’s decision to hire him.
As I said above, I’m not sure why Oliver is only acknowledging this lesson for his vigilante team now as he has been in a leadership positon for many years. It makes sense for his Mayoral role as his attempt to be CEO of Queen Consolidated in season 2 was a colossal failure for the same reasons that threaten his role as Mayor. When he was CEO he consistently shirked his responsibilities which made it too easy for the company to be stolen from under him without him even noticing. As Mayor he is very passive and essentially expects Thea to pick up the slack so I’m glad that the show is addressing this by having others notice. It may be solved by Oliver stating that he takes responsibility for everything but it could also be a problem that continues to get worse.
I still like Thea as Oliver’s Chief of Staff. Her disagreement with the journalist could have been really boring but Willa Holland is more than capable of making the material interesting. Thea has fully committed to what she does and is driven to make it really worthwhile. Her conversation with the journalist makes it clear that she isn’t someone to mess with and this is all without her wearing a costume and punching people. Whether she will stay as a civilian for the entire season I couldn’t say but she is definitely being handled well for now.
Rene and Evelyn’s unsanctioned mission has consequences as it ends up resulting in the creation of a superhuman villain. Derek Sampson (Cody Rhodes aka Stardust) is a one shot villain that capitalises on the rivalry built up by Stephen Amell and Rhodes last year. It’s blatant stunt casting and it really shows as Rhodes is not a good actor. Thankfully there are no real demands on his performance as he’s a forgettable obstacle for the team to take on.
The action sequences involving Oliver and Sampson are impressively choreographed and use a lot of wrestling moves. Having an opponent who doesn’t feel pain is interesting when it comes to action sequences as he can shrug off most attacks but still take damage. It’s also mentioned that he has enhanced strength which makes technically makes him a metahuman but still in keeping with the more grounded style that this season is trying to create. I like that Oliver ultimately defeats him by injuring him in a way that means he can’t continue. So far the threats this season seem to be suitable to this show’s more grounded approach.
Felicity is still struggling with having to face the living embodiment of her decision to redirect the missile from Monument Point to Havenrock. Curtis tries to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault but she takes responsibility because she made the decision to let it strike a less populated area. It makes sense from a mathematical perspective but it becomes a little more difficult when dealing with the reality of someone who has lost their family as a result of her actions. There was no right answer in this situation and I like that it isn’t treated like there was. Felicity feels guilty and owns up to what happened even though she knows that the news will devastate Rory. We will have to wait to find out the entirety of his reaction but I imagine it will cause some friction.
Diggle finds that he has a surprise cellmate in the form of Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot. The most notable thing about this is that he apparently died last season. At first I thought that this might be another change brought on by “Flashpoint” but the dialogue rules that out pretty quickly so I wasn’t at all surprised when Deadshot turned out to be a figment of Diggle’s imagination.
That doesn’t make this bad as it allows Diggle to do some important soul searching. Killing Andy last season caused him to rethink his opinion of himself and he is no longer secure with the fact that he’s better than Lawton since he showed himself capable of doing what he does. Diggle is being too hard on himself for sure but that’s part of the purpose of this conversation. He spends the episode working through his guilt and I like that Lyla made him realise that Lawton was a figment of his imagination. It shows that she is there to support him and help him through the difficult times.
It’s interesting that this soul searching doesn’t really reach a conclusion. Diggle feels that he deserves to be in prison because of what he’s done and tells Lyla to give up on him just as he’s given up on himself. It’s really powerful stuff and David Ramsay delivers a typically excellent performance.
I also have to note that it’s great to see Michael Rowe back as Floyd Lawton again. I always liked this version of the character and it’s good that the producers can find creative ways for him to keep popping up. This version is infinitely more compelling than the Will Smith version seen in Suicide Squad so it’s a shame that Arrow has lost access to the Suicide Squad characters as the versions created on this show are really interesting for the most part.
The flashbacks are still managing to be relevant through Oliver’s connection to the Bratva mirroring his present day story of creating a team. Anatoli is a morally ambiguous character who is helping Oliver prepare for membership but there’s a lot of doubt over whether joining is a good thing or not. He’s prepared to take his chances and give up on the whole thing but Anatoli points out that one of the men killed last week was a really terrible person so Oliver is learning that there is a code to the Bratva and that he shares at least some of their values at that point in his life. This ties into the present day as he is still trying to define what his values are and is applying the training he received to his new team.
Despite all of the interesting things going on this episode is far too busy for any of it to really stick. Things like developing the characters on the new Team Arrow are falling through the cracks in order to move onto the next thing. The Thea storyline could have been saved for a later episode to allow time to flesh Oliver’s new teammates out. This attempt to move through large chunks of plot very quickly is hurting the show in some ways.
A solid episode with lots of interesting elements to it but rushes through a lot of them. The new team are shaping up well but the characterisation for most of them is fairly shallow and Oliver seems to be learning lessons that he should already know. Thea’s story is really interesting and proves that her civilian role is worthwhile. It is elevated by Willa Holland’s performance but it’s good that the show manages to repurpose her without her character suffering.
Diggle’s soul searching with the aid of an imaginary Deadshot is also well done. David Ramsay delivers an excellent performance and it’s good to see Michael Rowe again. I really appreciated that his internal struggle wasn’t solved within this episode which indicates there’s a long way for Diggle to go before he is able to live with himself. It’s a shame that the episode rushes through so many different things as there is a lot of good material to mine here but at least the flashbacks are still relevant.
- the strong theme of trust
- Felicity dealing with the consequences of nuking Havenrock
- Diggle’s soul searching
- having Deadshot back in a creative way
- well choreographed action
- Thea still feeling worthwhile in her civilian role
- rushed plotting in an episode that is too busy
- thin characterisation on the new Team Arrow
- Cody Rhodes’ terrible acting