Oliver struggles with trust and leadership tonight, but with a little help from the women in his life, Mayor Handsome gets a handle on things. Diggle, meanwhile, finds himself in a dire situation with no allies at all.
The episode opens with Wild Dog and Green Arrow once again in pursuit of the same bad guy. Tonight’s tussle ends with Wild Dog dangling upside down by a leg courtesy of a trick arrow while Green Arrow offers him a choice: Be a man in a hockey mask, or be something better. He leaves Wild Dog with a decision … and a card with a date and address on it.
In the Arrowcave, Curtis is struggling with the salmon ladder (but still doing better than 92 percent of the audience could, I’m guessing). “How does he do this?” he marvels after he tumbles off. Naturally Oliver strolls in at this moment and shows him how in his business suit.
“Impossible,” Curtis marvels.
“It’s really hot. I mean not,” says Felicity, speaking for those of us in the audience inclined to agree with her.
They’re gearing up for the first session with the new team, which Felicity’s hoping won’t involve Oliver shooting his trainees, as it has in the past. Oliver makes no such promise. Oh, and he’s planning on being the Green Arrow throughout and encourages Felicity to hide her identity, too.
“I only wear a mask once a year, and that’s if my Halloween costume calls for it,” she says. Curtis is concerned about the first act of team-building being based on a lie, but Felicity assures him that’s how Ollie did it with his old team.
“And everybody who’s not dead, or presumed dead, quit,” Curtis points out. Burn.
The first training session is… well, it’s brutal. Present at the old HIVE headquarters are Curtis, Evelyn Sharp (a.k.a. the wannabe Black Canary), and Ray Ramirez (a.k.a. Wild Dog, played by Rick Gonzalez). An un-masked Felicity is also there for moral support and/or “to make sure that the horrible maiming stays at a minimum.”
Green Arrow strides in, bristling with hostility, and tells them to start at the line on the floor. Their job will be to get past him to ring a bell attached to a post.
Evelyn’s surprised that they’re going so hard already, but Ramirez grins at the challenge and strips off his hoodie to show some impressive biceps. (Sorry for the objectification, Rick! Loved you in Reaper!)
The trio all charge Green Arrow, and he knocks them down one by one. “On the line!” Oliver shouts, and they do it again. And again. And again. “At least he’s not shooting them,” Felicity mutters.
Bloody and pissed, Ramirez questions the necessity of all of this, and Green Arrow growls at him to check out the statue of Laurel Lance to see why it’s necessary. We’re… we’re going to hear a lot about Laurel this season, aren’t we? Sigh.
Flashback! Oliver wakes up amid the Bratva, and he and the other three recruits are told to get on the line and try to get past the fighters to ring the bell. Just like the present-day training, the applicants get knocked down one by one. Eventually, Oliver uses another applicant as a quasi-human shield, and the two of them get farther than anyone else before being brutally beaten down.
Suddenly, Oliver’s Mr. Miyagi training looks downright kind in comparison, although his recruits might disagree. They’re demoralized, and Oliver barking that “the goal of this exercise is to figure out the goal of this exercise” doesn’t help.
At this point, Felicity calls Green Arrow away for some mayor/vigilante business. Earlier, Oliver and Thea successfully convinced Fortune 500 company AmerTek to foot the bill for a much-needed free medical clinic. Yay! But when one of her VPs is hospitalized following an attack, CEO Janet insists on heightened security at the clinic.
This is complicated when Felicity pulls satellite footage of the attack, which shows that the VP was attacked by someone in a ragged cloak that seems to have sentient tentacles. Hmm… puzzling…
Felicity encourages Oliver to use his new team at the event — not to engage, just to watch.
“They’re too green!” Oliver protests.
Felicity chucks him on the chest and says, “Some could say the same about you.” Then she chuckles and says, “I’ve been waiting five years to make that joke!” WORTH IT! And seriously, that Olicity chemistry? Still there. Let’s get this fixed, writers. By November sweeps, if possible.
NEXT: The source of Oliver’s trust issues
At the clinic, Oliver’s trainees are decked out in AmerTeks volunteer T-shirts and wicked face bruises, and Ramirez sneers when Oliver enters with his entourage. “Pretty boy Queen here thinks he’s actually saving the city.” Gotta say, this clinic has truly enormous windows. Mayor Queen, you have failed patient confidentiality.
Thea recruited Lance as part of the security team, but he shows up twitchy and probably drunk, and what do you know, the raggedy man (no, not that one!) bursts through the door Lance should’ve been guarding to attack CEO Janet.
“You have been judged and found wanting,” the ragman says. But Green Arrow’s there, somehow already in his uniform, to chase him off. Evelyn tries to stop Ramirez from engaging, but he does manage to tear a swatch of fabric from the cloak.
Back at the HIVE “get on the line” center, everyone’s tense, particularly Green Arrow, who yells at Ramirez for being reckless, Curtis for being useless when he’s not behind a computer, and Evelyn for being a little girl who should be doing something better with her life.
Then Felicity pulls Oliver aside to yell at him for being physically and emotionally abusive. Oliver spits back that he had five years of training. Laurel didn’t, and look where she is now. I’m starting to think we could make a decent drinking game out of Laurel mentions this season. Any time they show the statue, it’s a social.
Oliver wants to go the tough love route, minus the love, while Felicity advocates for not doing that. I dunno. I’m mostly Team Oliver here. Arrow has taught us that the most effective training happens through harsh methods. Thea and Malcolm. Sara and the League of Assassins. Oliver and, well, everybody. Training isn’t about hand holding and sharing jokes. Still, Oliver’s intense here. Intense. Fi may have a point, too.
Another challenge: Because the Arrowcave’s gas chromatograph was destroyed, Felicity has no way to analyze the scrap of cloak that Ramirez secured, so she shows up at the police station to lie her cute butt off to her boyfriend. His full name is Billy Malone, which I only learned because it popped up on Felicity’s phone. Barnacle Bill has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Felicity makes up an insane story about a friend’s cleaning woman going missing and that rag being the only clue. Barnacle Bill buys it, then drops the fact that he’d like to actually meet her friends someday. So that’ll be fun, whenever that happens. Then they kiss, and the Olicity portions of the internet explode into hellfire.
At HIVE, Curtis and Felicity break the news to Oliver that his “paint the fence” routine drove the other trainees away. Frustrated, Oliver yells at Curtis that he wanted them to figure out that they needed to work together. Curtis yells back that they don’t trust Green Arrow because Green Arrow doesn’t trust them. “You don’t build people up. You tear them down.” Then Curtis quits, too.
Afterward, Felicity finds Oliver brooding in front of the costume pods at the Arrowcave.
“I failed these recruits, as a leader,” he says.
Felicity tells him that when she finally got to know the real Oliver Queen, she was in awe of his passion, focus, and determination to make a real difference. But all his recruits see is the scary, angry guy in the mask.
Oliver confesses that he thought the new team not knowing who he was would make it easier … for him.
“When I was in Bratva—” he starts, and Felicity makes a soft surprised sound because he never talks about his time in Russia. This got me, for some reason, this reminder of the intimacies they shared. She immediately knows how hard this information is for him to divulge.
But divulge he does: In Bratva, you don’t know anybody’s real names or histories, and you learn fast that the only person you can trust is yourself.
“Without personal attachment, there can be no loss,” he says.
Woof. What a great reminder of the person Oliver was when he returned to Starling City five years ago, and how much he grew because of those personal connections. With his old team scattered, it’s no wonder he’s grieving now, and pushing everyone away with two hands.
Felicity brings him back to the present and reminds him that the reason his old team worked so well was because they trusted him, Oliver Queen, not the Green Arrow. “He’s the one that I choose to stand by, and I continue to choose to stand by,” she says. Because say what you will, these two still love each other, even if those feelings are expressed in a different fashion than a year ago.
Flashback. Oliver finally realizes that the Bratva applicants all need to work together: The other three can create a distraction while Oliver sneaks around to ring the bell. It works, and we share Oliver’s triumph for a split second. And then the Bratva heavies SHOOT THE OTHER APPLICANTS. SHOOT THEM DEAD.
That, friends, was the final nail in Oliver’s trust coffin, and Anatoly drives that point home by telling Oliver that the only person he can trust is himself.
NEXT: Oliver wins back his team
Now, my favorite scene of the week: Thea casually parkours to the top of a building in her dress clothes to eavesdrop on AmerTek CEO Janet agreeing to sell gangster Tobias Church enough weapons to level the city. Zoinks!
With this new knowledge, Oliver, Thea, and Felicity put it all together. Barnacle Bill came through with information that the cloth is over 2,000 years old and radioactive thanks to an isotope from a Genesis bomb, which was made by a subsidiary of AmerTek. That Genesis connection scuttled AmerTek’s stock prices, hence the desire for good PR from the clinic and the underground ordnance sale to stave off bankruptcy.
Lacking a team, Oliver goes solo to stop the weapons sale where he does his arrow thing with all the baddies in attendance. Then the Ragman turns up and hisses at Janet, “They all died in fire. Your fire.” See, the bomb that Janet’s company manufactured wiped out everyone in his town except for him. “I am the very last living soul from Havenrock,” he says as the tentacles of his cloak snake around her neck while Felicity (whom, you’ll recall, directed that bomb away from Monument Point and toward Havenrock in the season 4 finale) listens in horror.
As Ragman’s exorcizing his demons, Church gets the upper hand on Oliver, who calls to Ragman for help. Ragman complies, and Janet escapes.
After the fight, Ragman and Oliver meet on a rooftop. Ragman, whose name is Rory Regan (and who’s played by Joe Dinicol) says he saved Oliver because it’s what his father would’ve wanted him to do. On Genesis day, his father wrapped him in those ancient rags and said they’d protect him from the fire. “So you see why I have to avenge him,” he says.
Oliver gives him the “we’re not so different, you and I” speech because he, too, had a father to avenge. But he says his father didn’t die so Oliver could become a killer, and he recruits Regan to the team, saying, “Let’s honor the legacy of our fathers together.” They shake on it. A gentleman’s agreement!
In another part of town, Thea’s entering into a different agreement, persuading Lance that serving as deputy mayor would give him a reason to stay sober. His body language is thoroughly defeated, shoulders up and head hung low, but he agrees to do it in memory of his daughter. Drink! He also says, “I think maybe the wrong Queen ran for mayor.” I concur!
Hookay, let’s check in with Diggle, who’s having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
His unit’s tasked with retrieving triggers from the nukes that fell on Genesis day so Chechen rebels can’t seize them. But his corrupt CO wants them for himself, kills the men not in on the plan and sets Diggle up to take the fall. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
The CO’s rationale? Money, of course. But he’s also shaken by the metahumans in Central City. “What hope does the world have against men with magic?”
He used Diggle’s gun to kill members of the unit, and they leave him to await his court martial in zip ties with a (fake) confession at this feet. Bet Star City doesn’t look so bad now, does it, JD?
Once again, to the HIVE training center, where the new recruits have gathered after Felicity promised them they’d get an apology from the Green Arrow. But their trainer does them one better, dropping the hood and the fake voice to reveal himself as … Oliver Queen!
They’re shocked, but Ramirez recovers quickly and says he won’t apologize for all the pretty boy trash talk. Oliver replies that he won’t apologize for his training methods.
All three new recruits sign back up, even though Wild Dog would prefer a new code name.
“No chance,” says people-person Oliver as they shake on it.
Finally, Tobias Church is leaving a night club when his bodyguards are felled by arrows. He thinks it’s his green buddy, but it’s not. Our new villain of the year introduces himself as Prometheus and tells Church that the Green Arrow is his to kill. If Church kills him before Prometheus can, Church is dead, too.
Thoughts for your quiver:
- Season 5 salmon ladder count: 2, one for Oliver and one for Curtis.
- We haven’t heard the last of Havenrock and Felicity, right? Not by a long shot.
- Important update for those of you who don’t watch The Flash: Barry’s patched-up flashpoint changed things for Diggle, who no longer has a daughter named Sara but instead has a son named John Jr. So, you know. Bummer. That revelation hasn’t hit Arrow yet, but let’s assume it’s coming.
- Speaking of The Flash, Harry Potter alum Tom Felton joined the cast this week, and I’m a little jealous of the British zing he adds to the proceedings. If we could apparate any former cast member into Star City, who would it be? I’m thinking Dame Maggie Smith, Professor McConagall herself, would be an excellent Star City council member for Mayor Handsome to butt heads with.
- So how are we feeling? Still optimistic about this season? I’m loving the energy, the brutality, and Oliver’s struggle to overcome his training to be the mentor his new team needs.