Arrow: 5.03 A Matter of Trust
I wasn't too convinced by Oliver's new band of recruits last week; after A Matter of Trust I'm not yet sold but I am a little more hopeful. After all, it seemed impossible that Laurel lance could ever become an effective Black Canary when she went down that path in season three but she was becoming a pretty great character when Arrow foolishly killed her off last season. There was a lot of the inevitable 'recruit doesn't trust Oliver, goes off on his own, makes things worse, realises his mistake and then starts to trust Oliver' in Wild Dog's journey but at least the episode ended with Green Arrow and his new team taking on their first mission together.
Felicity is proving to be a good mentor too, training the team while they observe Oliver in action on comms and providing sage advice. There was some good banter too, particularly between Curtis and Rory as they trained together, Rory mistakenly thinking Curtis was coming onto him and scoffing at his choice of costume. While Rory's Ragman is a cool addition, the others haven't quite got their look down yet, though Curtis's face mark was pretty...terrific (okay bad pun). The final mission gave them all a chance to demonstrate their evolving skills against Derek Sampson's henchmen while Oliver went up against this latest superhuman villain himself.
Perhaps I have seen too many superhero movies but it was obvious the moment Wild Dog went rogue and fought Sampson on the walkway above the fat of chemicals that it was going to lead to him inadvertently creating a supervillain (Tim Burton's Batman anyone?). Cody Rhodes' Sampson was a good villain of the week, resurrected without the ability to feel pain and superhuman strength. I think more could have been made of him and the scene where he wakes up with the mortician about to cut him open could had led to a pure horror movie moment.
The spectre of Tobias Church hung over the epsiode (absent entirely along with second recurring villain Prometheus) as Sampson tried to use his abilities to retake control of the criminal element of the city. He proved to be a good match for Oliver in another spectacular fight sequence; Oliver slashing Sampson's tendons with his arrows was a nasty, cool trick though. I kind of felt Oliver walking away from the explosion was a little bit of a wasted opportunity too; wouldn't it have been fun to see Green Arrow backed by his team?
The biggest surprise was the return of Michael Rowe as Floyd Lawton / Deadshot, return for a surprise extended cameo after he was killed off in season three. The annual Suicide Squad episodes featuring Deadshot became a highlight of Arrow and the systematic removal of Deadshot, the suicide squad concept and later Amanda Waller ready for the ultimately lacklustre big screen adaptation was frustrating. Why couldn't we have two versions? The return of Floyd, even if it was just in Diggle's head was an interesting twist; perhaps the critical failure of Suicide Squad led to a bit of a relaxing of the rules? After all, we now have two Supermans (and Supergirl's in much better!).
I have to admit, as great as David Ramsey is as John Diggle, I don't understand his decision here, to admit defeat and accept his framing at the hand of the corrupt general from the last episode. Why? Because of the guilt over the death of his brother Andy at his own hands (hence the dreamlike cameo of Deadshot). Leaving his wife Lyla and child and spending his days in prison? It makes no sense and hooray for Lyla turning up at the end of the episode to ask Oliver for his help in breaking Diggle out. I'm also questioning what Quentin's purpose is now as drunk former detective turned deputy mayor? Is he doing anything more than serve Thea's arguably good arc as reformed chief of staff? And Felicity's new boyfriend, detective Billy Malone is utterly forgettable.
Arrow has stripped everything back to basics but three episodes in, I'm not sure how successful it is. There's a lot of gritty violence and darkness, which helps distinguish it from other shows, but I can't help but feel it doesn't have that drama of the early two seasons which it is hoping to recapture. The flashbacks are so much better though (one creative return to form that is working) and I am enjoying the interplay between Oliver and Anatoly. A Matter of Trust is doing just that, asking the audience to trust that Arrow can get back to being great. It has a way to go; hopefully it will be firing on all cylinders soon.