Arrow: 5.02 The Recruits
Need a good coach? Looking for motivation? A pep talk? Then Oliver Queen will give you none of these things as we learned this week that he might be the crappiest teacher in history. It isn't entirely his thought; he learned the Bratva way and through the brutal and (here's a term not used for a while) relevant flashbacks to the main story, we discovered how Oliver fought his way towards becoming the cold, violent vigilante killer from the start of the show.
The trouble is, he didn't exactly have the most inspiring bunch of wannabe heroes to work with. Curtis Holt might be a loveable tech whizz behind the computer but I can't imagine him wearing a mask and fighting crime on the streets. Evelyn Sharpe seems too small to pick a punch with anyone. I'll admit Laurel Lance took a long journey towards becoming the Black Canary but at least she had stature and this potential third incarnation is no Sara Lance. As for Rene Ramirez / Wild Dog...well he seems to barely have any redeeming features even if he does have spirit. I just can't see these three as the next Spartan, Canary and Speedy / Arsenal.
But then we have Rory Regan / Ragman, a villain turned potential vigilante hero, out to destroy the people behind the nuclear missile detonated by Damien Darhk in last season's Monument Point . I know nothing about character, with two thousand-year old robes that protected him from the nuclear explosion at Havenrock and allowed him to strike down his enemies but he was an intriguing addition to the show and far more interesting than Oliver's new recruits. I also liked that when everything else has gone back to gritty back to basics there was still an element of supernatural in the show through his killer mummy-like abilities.
We got just a small glimpse of both new recurring villains this week. Tobias Church buying up huge stockpiles of weapons shows he really means business and we had another cool if brutal fight between him and Green Arrow before Rag Man stepped in; I'm not quite sure I bought Oliver planning to fake his defeat just to get Rag Man to leave vengeance and save him instead, but it seemed to work. New evil archer even got a name - Prometheus - knocking Church down for daring to try and beat him to the punch of killing Green Arrow. Both are intriguing bad guys, if a little on the variation of what's come before. I can't see either sustaining a whole season though, certainly not Church.
Diggle's story also charted what I assume is his eventual return to Star City, whether it is as masked hero Spartan or not. Betrayed by his commander out to steal a nuclear weapon, the hopes of finding security and purpose in the military have already come crashing down on him. It was an interesting story but it did feel like a way to keep David Ramsey on the show. A few episodes' absence would have been fine.
But then, perhaps Diggle's presence in needed. The Recruits did feel like a bit of a step down after last week's promising opener. The recruits don't pack the same punch as their predecessors and while there is some great stuff going on with Oliver balancing his life between mayor and Green Arrow and Thea finding purpose, there is also a sense that other plots and characters are trying to find their feet. Felicity's new detective boyfriend feels like an obvious stop gap before she returns to Oliver, though I am enjoying this new romance-free zone between them. Quentin is hanging around a drunk and apparently deputy-mayor material.
While I think the back to basics approach is largely working, this Arrow 2.0 is quickly going to need some tighter, focused direction if it wants to succeed. Perhaps it is just that, compared to Supergirl and The Flash, Arrow hasn't had quite the strong opening to a season as the others - particularly and rather surprisingly Supergirl. Still, the relevant flashbacks alone prove that some lessons have certainly been learnt...