Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
After four solid episodes to start its fifth season, Arrow’s most recent episode, “Human Target,” falls somewhat flat. While setup episodes are necessary, this episode has some really strong moments, but failed in some others. While reinvention was essential for this show, Arrow fails to capture a spark this week.
The CW’s first superhero show in its “superhero revolution” is missing something. With a very saturated market of superhero shows, Arrow needs to stand out more than ever. With metahumans, time travel, and aliens filtering in from every angle, Arrow has lost its original spark. When the show first debuted, it was refreshing, exciting and character driven. Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen may not have popped directly from the page, but his new retelling of The Green Arrow offered a lot.
While die-hard comic book fans may be less than enthusiastic with the route Arrow has taken, it has drawn fans from all different background with characters that stand outside of the comic book universe. Amell’s Oliver Queen has grown tremendously in four seasons. Starting out as a playboy fresh off Lian Yu, he is now compassionate, a team player and all around a better man. Willa Holland’s Thea Queen has gone from a wild, teenage party girl to a strong, independent role model. Our question after this latest episode is where are these characters? Some Arrow characters have been tossed into the background for grandiose plotlines.
Arrow needs to find a balance between new and old. Yes, last season needs to be forgotten, it wasn’t the best, but that doesn’t mean a simple “out with the old, in with the new” approach. Arrow was in desperate need of a revamp, but this isn’t what we had in mind. This season has introduced way to many new characters and Human Target’s intro is the last one we need, please! A core cast is enough to keep us coming back week after week. Although a few good plot lines emerged in “Human Target,” the episode felt like we were running around in circles.
The episode centered around Rene “Wild Dog” Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) being tortured by Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman) while Team Arrow desperately tries to find him. Gonzalez and the rest of Team Arrow 2.0 have brought something new to Arrow. They have essentially reset the Team and allowed Oliver to rebuild. That being said, by introducing all of these new characters at once, we don’t get to know any of them personally. Rene is the one we’ve learned the most about in the last four episodes, but his story still isn’t fleshing out. This week, we learn that he was dishonorably discharged from the Navy after taking matters into his own hands. The only reason we learn this is because Diggle (David Ramsey) pries it out of him. Gonzalez is a great addition to the cast, however we want to see what Oliver sees in him.
Rene did begin to have a bigger storyline this week. After being tortured by Church and revealing Green Arrow’s identity, Oliver sends Rene to chat with Diggle. At this point, Diggle is the poster boy for guilt. He even tells Rene, “When it comes to guilt the line forms behind me. I’m wearing the suit again because I think it’s a path to redemption.” Ramsey and Gonzalez begin to build a strong bond. It looks like it’s the beginning of an expanded storyline for both Diggle and Rene as we dive further into this season. The duo have a lot to offer each other, they’ve both come from a place of pain and have decided to turn it into fighting alongside Oliver. While nothing will ever replace the brotherly bond between Oliver and Diggle, Diggle needs someone to train and take under his wing and Rene is the perfect fit.
While Rene is experiencing character development, the other members of Team Arrow 2.0 are completely getting lost. Evelyn (Madison McLaughlin) has been part of the team as long as Rene, but we don’t know much about her. Yes, we learned her backstory last season, but she hasn’t stood out on her own. She’s simply filling the shoes of Speedy or even Black Canary. Rory (Joe Dinicol) had a beautiful storyline with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) last week, but that ended very quickly. He’s back to being the one-line comic relief this week. His character has so much potential, but it is seemingly dropped this week in lieu of a more flashy plotline involving Tobias Church. Evelyn, Rory and Rene have so much potential to stand out, but the problem is they’re being grouped together.
Wil Traval makes his first appearance in this Arrow episode as Christopher Chance/Human Target. Although this is yet another new character, Traval makes a lasting impression. Presented as a friend of Diggle, Human Target shows up to help Oliver fake his own death in order to jump start Tobias Church’s plan. Traval brings the character off the page beautifully and fits into Arrow nicely. His biggest plus is that he directly links the flashbacks to present day. At the end of the episode we find out Human Target was in Russia at the same time as Oliver. Already, the flashbacks have been much better this season. A positive in Arrow’s corner, they are perfectly executed and connecting to present day. This is something the previous two seasons were lacking and we are happy to be enjoying the flashbacks once again.
Off the subject of Rory’s Havenrock storyline, it’s time to chat about Felicity Smoak. When first introduced in season one, Felicity gave female characters hope within the DCTV universe. She is independent, strong, funny and an overall well-rounded female character. Somewhere along the way her essence has been lost. After getting together with Oliver last season, everything that made her an individual was stripped away. Arrow accomplished the exact opposite of what we wanted them too. They dropped the strong, female qualities for the couple.
In “Human Target,” fans see Felicity and her new boyfriend, Billy Malone (Tyler Ritter), really together for the first time. The problem with this storyline isn’t that Felicity is with someone other than Oliver, we’re actually happy she’s learned how to move on, it’s the fact Arrow felt the need to shove her with someone already. Rickards is the strongest actress on Arrow and seeing her thrive in singular storylines is something we look forward too. Her Havenrock storyline was focused on for only two episodes before we moved on. Rickards is one of the strongest assets on Arrow’s corner but is being underutilized.
In this episode of Arrow, Felicity and Oliver finally address their relationship and it gives “Olicity” fans a glimmer hope. After Human Target lets slip that Felicity has moved on and is dating Malone, Oliver goes to Felicity to chat. We aren’t sure if it’s the “Olicity” drought we are experiencing, but Amell and Rickards have more chemistry than ever. While their individual storylines aren’t standing out much, their conversation in this episode shows a slight semblance of moving forward. While Oliver assures Felicity he’s okay with her moving forward, Felicity is unable to say if this relationship is “real” or not. The duo might be together, but what is the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder?” If they have to date other people to find their way back to each other, we are more than okay with this.
Rickards and Amell always work beautifully together and we are truly enjoying their dynamic as friends once again. Felicity makes fun of Oliver with Human Target’s “Oliver Mask” while Oliver reassures Felicity, “I care about you and I will always care about you.” The dynamic this season is mimicking season one and two, which will ultimately make their reunion down the line all the stronger. Rickards and Amell are both the heart of Arrow and these two small moments solidifies this.
This week’s Arrow episode has its weaknesses. By overcrowding episodes with new characters, some plot lines and details are getting swept under the rug. Storylines we wish had more screen time are simply getting lost. That being said, Arrow does have some strong moments and we hope this episode will be a building block for bigger episodes.