Nora Dominick ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
After a season of missteps, Arrow has already produced three of its best episodes since season two. For the first time, in what seems like forever, Arrow has founds its footing and it’s quite a sight to behold. While simultaneously reinventing itself and introducing new characters, Arrow continues to blossom in the latest episode “A Matter of Trust.”
In last week’s episode, Arrow introduced fans to the brand-new Team Arrow. Alongside Curtis (Echo Kellum), Evelyn (Madison McLaughlin), Rene (Rick Gonzalez), and Rory (Joe Dinicol) have joined Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) on their quest to clean up Star City. One of the major pluses in Arrow’s corner with this new Team Arrow is that their story is taking center stage. Last season, Arrow let its main villain dominate storylines. Our main characters stories were often trivialized or thrust into the background. It seemed impossible to focus on more than one main cast member per episode, which did not help last season stand out.
Already, Arrow has introduced several new characters and they are all flourishing on screen. Within two episodes, we feel like we have a growing connection with them. This is the first time a new character has been introduced, that we care about, since the introduction of Roy (Colton Haynes) back in season one. Arrow has already done an incredible job at distinguishing these characters, but giving the same heart, drive and courage that we love in Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle (David Ramsey). Some original fans may have been skeptical of Team Arrow 2.0, but Arrow knows how to pander to its audience. Rene, Evelyn, Rory and Curtis aren’t simply jumping into our universe, we learn to trust them along with Oliver.
To that point, Oliver’s gradual acceptance of the new recruits has been beautiful to watch. While Oliver works well with all the new recruits, it’s his relationship with Rene Ramirez that we are most excited for. Rene reminds us of a young, stubborn Oliver and that makes his relationship with Oliver even better. Gonzalez and Amell have already begun to create a great bond on screen. Oliver and Rene have a relationship resembling an older and younger brother and it’s allowing Amell to explore a side to Oliver he hasn’t really had the chance to. This is truly the first time he’s had someone push back against his rules so forcefully. It’s creating a great dynamic that we are excited to explore as the season progresses.
One of the best moments between Amell and Gonzalez comes early on. After Rene disobeys Oliver’s orders and goes into the field, Oliver scolds Rene back in the Arrow Cave. He tells him, “I need to be able to trust you, if I can’t then why am I wasting my time with you?” It’s a small exchange between the two of them, but it leaves a lasting impact within the episode.
Although part of Rene’s obstinate personality showed last week, this week it was in full force. When Oliver won’t allow Team Arrow 2.0 into the field, Rene takes things into his own hands. Alongside Evelyn, Rene goes to investigate the recent outbreak of a new drug, Stardust. This is one of the first times we see Evelyn and Rene fighting and it’s a sight to behold. McLaughlin and Gonzalez already have the makings of a great duo for Arrow. They haven’t shared many scenes together yet, but we can tell they will break and put our hearts together one episode at a time. We are on board with the two of them ascending within the Team Arrow rankings and can’t wait to see where their friendship goes.
The big-bad this week in Arrow is none other than Cody Rhodes as Derek Sampson, a superhuman drug dealer trying to push Stardust on the streets of Star City. Rhodes joins Arrow after a long friendship with Stephen Amell, whom he fought as Stardust at WWE’s SummerSlam. Rhodes and Amell create some of the best hand-to-hand stunt sequences Arrow has produced. As a fan, you can tell how involved in the stunt process they are and it makes it all the more enjoyable. From their fight in the hospital to their epic final showdown, the stunts with Rhodes and Amell are on-point.
For his first real acting experience, Rhodes also makes quite the impression. Aside from his incredible stunt work, he does a great job at bringing the villain Derek Sampson to life. We would love to see him become a Count Vertigo type of character and return from time to time. Especially if it leads to more scenes between him and Amell fighting each other.
While Team Arrow 2.0’s inauguration into the field is important, there are two other storylines that steal the show this week. Last week, Rory revealed to Oliver that he’s the lone survivor of Havenrock thus beginning Felicity’s main storyline this season. Rickards gets to stretch her acting muscles and it’s something we’ve been waiting for. Last season, Felicity had to make the ultimate hero sacrifice when she decided to divert one of Darhk’s missiles to Havenrock.
Now that Rory has shown up, Felicity struggles with her decisions. Rickards has always exceeded expectations on Arrow, but this storyline looks like it will be one of her best. Felicity is the voice of reason in a world of vigilantes running around, but what happens when she needs a voice of reason herself? Enter Curtis who convinces Felicity, telling Rory is the best option. Rickards and Kellum have grown their relationship tremendously in one season. We saw a lot of their comedic timing last season, so it’s refreshing to see them in the more serious moments now. Even Felicity needs her own “Felicity” in her weakest moments.
While Curtis’ pep talk to Felicity is great, Rickards delivers her most powerful moment towards the end of the episode. After Team Arrow successfully takes down Derek Sampson, Felicity decides it’s time to tell Rory the truth about Havenrock. In a single heartbreaking moment, Felicity breaks down to Rory and it’s a defining moment for Rickards as an actress. Her slow breakdown pulls on our heartstrings as we feel the weight of Felicity’s choices along with Rickards. This season, there’s no denying Rickards is the main actress on Arrow. By giving her this storyline her lead actress status is all the more prevalent. It’s also the first storylines she’s had on her own, which has been a long time coming. While the secret is out, this storyline is far from over and we are ready to be right alongside Felicity, holding her hand, every step of the way.
One of the hardest storylines in this episode involves Diggle and Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson). Last week, Diggle’s military career seemingly imploded when he was framed for espionage and murder. This week, Diggle is back in the U.S, in jail, and things aren’t looking too good. Ramsey delivers some of his best performances to date as he shows an utterly defeated Diggle. The weight of his actions, particularly Andy’s death, has taken it’s toll. It’s affecting him so much that he even envisions Deadshot (Michael Rowe) in his cell with him. A beautiful touch and throwback to past Arrow season’s. Ramsey’s storylines have often fallen into the background of episodes, but he’s bringing his A-game alongside Anderson. Diggle and Lyla tend to fly under the radar and it’s extremely refreshing to see their storyline make an impact in an Arrow episode.
Ramsey’s shining moment comes towards the end. After realizing Deadshot is an hallucination, Diggle pleads with Lyla to stop fighting for him. He needs to stay in prison as punishment for killing Andy. It’s a heartbreaking moment to watch as we see Diggle at his lowest point. Ramsey knows this character inside and out and this main storyline has been a long time coming. Arrow is doing an amazing job at bringing important characters to the forefront this season. Ramsey, along with Anderson, has earned a main storyline and we are so glad they’ve finally gotten one.
The only weak spots in Arrow this week involve Thea (Willa Holland) and Quentin’s (Paul Blackthorne) storylines. Thea deals with the added pressures of being Oliver’s campaign manager while she goes head to head with Susan Williams (Carly Pope), a nosey reporter. Thea’s storyline feels thrown together last minute in order to keep her involved in the episode. Although Oliver jumps back to the Mayor’s Office several times, it still feels like a massive sub plot. Sadly, Thea is caught up in it. We love that she’s essentially running the Mayor’s office, however we’d like to see more substance to her storyline. It looks like Susan and Thea will continue to go at it and hopefully that will help.
Meanwhile, Quentin’s storyline has completely been lost. He’s still struggling with Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) death and has turned to drinking again. When this episode ends, he’s been nominated Deputy Mayor so, this looks like a start to a more important storyline for him. We hope Arrow does more with Quentin moving forward.
This third episode continues Arrow’s string of strong episodes in season five. Felicity and Diggle’s storylines pack an emotional punch, while Amell and Rhodes bring their A-game to the stunt sequences. Arrow looks to have a promising season five as we move forward with its reinvention.