Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
After a solid beginning to season five last week, Arrow hits the ground running with its latest episode “The Recruits.” This second episode dives into Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) beginning to train Team Arrow 2.0 as Diggle (David Ramsey) runs into some trouble overseas. Arrow’s second episode is already better than season four’s strongest episode as the longtime superhero show proves its strength in season five.
Last week, Arrow rushed out of the gate with an episodes that had longtime fans reminiscing to seasons gone by. Although the premiere episode was strong, this second episode is even stronger. After last season’s missteps, Arrow has landed firmly on its feet and proves why it’s the superhero show that started it all.
Like it has in the past, Arrow is leaning heavily on its characters to push the story forward, something season four strayed from. Last season, Oliver’s storyline was linked to the mystical powers Darhk (Neal McDonough) presented and the emergence of Oliver’s son. Oliver’s character traits were put on the back burner in order to serve the overarching story. This became Arrow’s ultimate downfall. While a superhero show needs villains and twists to thrive, a GOOD superhero show relies heavily on characters. This week’s episode could have easily been about Ragman (Joe Dinicol), but instead he became a secondary storyline. Oliver’s emotional journey is the main focus this week, thus elevating this episode to new heights.
Arrow perfectly blends together its four main storylines in “The Recruits.” The first storyline is Oliver training Team Arrow 2.0. The next is Thea (Willa Holland) recruiting people to help in the Mayor’s office. We also see Diggle tacking a new soldier under his wing and in flashbacks Oliver is being recruited for the Bratva. All four storylines are so beautifully interwoven it bodes well for Arrow. Last season, storylines flopped around, often never finding a place to land. Arrow season five is already changing this and we are here for it.
The flashbacks are the best example of the beautiful storytelling this week. Unlike last season, the flashbacks actually relate to the present day storyline. This week, Oliver is going through rigorous training to make his way into the Bratva. His induction into the Russian Mob parallels beautifully with his training of his own new recruits. We can finally see a point to Arrow’s final set of flashbacks and we are here for it.
The new recruits for Team Arrow 2.0 are here and we are standing behind them. Alongside Curtis (Echo Kellum), Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez) and Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin) officially begin training and it’s a sight to behold. In just a single episode, Gonzalez and McLaughlin breathe new life into the cast. The two of them present characters that have not been seen on Arrow and offer new challenges for Oliver. Evelyn adds another female ally for Oliver, Curtis adds to the brain and Gonzalez is the new muscle. It’s a beautiful site to see the new Team Arrow forming.
Out of the entire new Team Arrow, Gonzalez makes the biggest impression. Rene “Wild Dog” Ramirez is changing things up in a positive way. He’s one of few characters that isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Oliver. While Felicity often speaks her mind, Rene reminds us of a younger version of Oliver. He’s very obstinate and will do anything to help Star City, much like Oliver. Gonzalez brings his A-game to the role of Wild Dog and it’ll be interesting to see him develop the character as the season continues. We are most excited to see his relationship with Oliver expand. Gonzalez is a brand-new, bright spot within a solid episode of Arrow.
Stephen Amell has always thrived in the action-heavy moments on Arrow and this week is no exception. At the end of last episode, Oliver decided to listen to Felicity and begin to train a new Team Arrow. While this is a major step for Oliver, he goes about it in a typical Oliver fashion. We don’t think we’re the only one’s that will be hearing Green Arrow screaming “Ring the Bell!” in our sleeps. Amell and the stunt team perfectly execute these sequences. Once again, the stunts elevate the already perfect writing present in this episode.
Outside of the physical element to Amell’s performance this week, his emotional one is just as evocative. Oliver’s emotional journey began last week when he pushes away the idea to train a new team. He wants to believe that Thea and Diggle will reemerge to help save Star City. This week, he puts his feelings aside and trudges forward. Amell nails his scenes in this episode. He presents a hardened, exterior front, but fans know Oliver is cracking just underneath. This storyline is the most compelling. Amell proves he can thrive in the loud, stunt moments just as well as the quiet, dramatic ones.
She’s back and better than ever! Felicity is back slinging jokes and it is honestly the best part of Arrow this week. Rickards proves just how far she has come in five seasons. If anyone was wondering who the leading female of Arrow was going in, they have been silenced. She is equally as involved in training Team Arrow as Oliver and that’s just the tip of her story this week. Felicity is back cracking her classic one lines, thus allowing Rickards to flourish in her sweet spot. A spot where Felicity has equal parts humor and heart. Rickards remains the comedic voice on Arrow and it shows this week. From “I only wear a mask once a year and that’s if my halloween costume calls for it” to her dead pan, “At least he’s not shooting them,” Felicity is the true MVP.
After a season of pining for Oliver and constantly being thrown around storylines, Felicity is already emerging with her own, promising story. Last season, Felicity had to make the ultimate hero decision when dealing with Darhk’s launched nuclear missiles: do you sacrifice one thing for the greater good? Felicity ultimately decides to sacrifice the town of Havenrock in order to save the world. In this week’s episode, Felicity comes face to face with her actions when Ragman reveals he’s the lone survivor of Havenrock. This is the beginning of what will surely be a great storyline for Rickards to explore. This time around, Felicity is emerging center stage. Rickards has done her time in the background and has earned a starring role on Arrow.
While we’re excited for Felicity to separate herself from Oliver’s storylines, it’s nice to see the duo working together this week. Rickards and Amell further prove why they have carried Arrow on their backs for so long. Their chemistry is electric especially towards the end of the episode. Felicity has always been the voice of reason, this is even apparent in The Flash, but her pep talks with Oliver always have a certain edge. When Oliver begins to doubt training Team Arrow 2.0, she tells him, “When I got to know you, the real you, I was in awe. I had never met somebody so passionate, so focused, and determined to make a real difference.” Rickards and Amell have natural chemistry and it shows in this scene. They thrive in the quiet moments where it’s just the two of them. These are the sides of Oliver and Felicity we fell in love with and we’ve missed them.
The only storyline that falls flat this week is Diggle’s storyline. Although we get to see his life within the military, the storyline progresses very quickly. In this single episode, Arrow establishes Diggle’s power within his battalion, he loses a recruit, and he’s now being framed for friendly fire and stealing a military weapon. This all seems a bit rushed. We would’ve loved to see Diggle flourishing in his unit, dealing with his inner demons, and THEN something like this happens. It seems like Arrow is moving Diggle’s storyline faster so he can return to Star City quicker. It felt strange that Diggle’s entire military career implodes within one episode.
Arrow’s second episode is ultimately stronger than its first. By intricately weaving storylines together and returning to the importance of characters, Arrow looks to have a promising season five.