Kissing, torture, and a major new villain. 'Arrow' heats up with a strong episode

By James Hibberd
Updated January 14, 2020 at 08:08 PM EST
Credit: The CW
S1 E5
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I thought my Arrow recap during Hurricane Sandy last week was a one-time stint. But your regular NYC-based recapper Nuzhat Naoreen is going to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show tonight so editors asked me to fill in again. “Why does she get to cover the lingerie show and I have to write about that guy with the abs?” I whined. They explained the fashion show is in Manhattan and I live in Los Angeles and yadda yadda I’m writing about Arrow again. So let’s get to it!

Last week’s episode was somewhat disappointing. Tonight’s hour really worked. The writers wrote themselves into a corner by having Oliver Queen arrested for being The Hood and wiggled out of it more convincingly than I expected. This is also Stephen Amell’s best episode so far this season. Let’s quickly hit the highlights:

What happened on the island? Bearded Asian Yoda lets Oliver try his bow and he misses his target. Then a group of bad guys capture Oliver. All the bad guys are wearing masks covering their faces despite being on an island in the middle of nowhere. Oliver is brought to see their evil blonde leader named Edward Fyers who pours Oliver a rather hypnotically refreshing-looking sparkling beverage. Fyers wants information about the mysterious cave-dweller. Oliver refuses. So Fyers brings in — yah! Scary masked man. As DC Comic fans know, this is Deathstroke the Terminator. You can just call him Deathstroke. Or, since this is Arrow, producers will probably shorten his name even more, down to Deaths, or The Stroke.

Deathstroke (whose mask is rather badass — bet we’re seeing a few more of those at Comic-Con next year) tortures Oliver. So that’s how he got those scars. Oliver refuses to give up any information. Suddenly the island’s version of The Hood bursts in and fights The Stroke and rescues Oliver. This is a rather intensely fun little fight. Bearded Asian Yoda brings Oliver back to his cave and is impressed that his dumb American pet didn’t talk. He then, in the episode’s lamest moment, somehow seals the entrance to the cave with a massive boulder to prevent him from leaving.

What’s cool about this? Not only did the island reveal some serious backstory about Oliver’s time there, the incarceration theme matches what’s happening in present day. (It would have been even better if it explained how Oliver beat the polygraph, but you can’t have everything, and we’re getting ahead of ourselves).

Can you really fight bad guys by whacking them with a bow? You can, but it tends to break the bow. I found this out while visiting the Arrow set in Vancouver. They’re constantly having to replace them.

What about Oliver being arrested? I’m getting to that. So Oliver’s defense against that damning videotape that showed him getting the duffel bag of Arrow gear is so obvious that I kicked myself for not realizing it out last week. It’s the oldest excuse in the book, one familiar to anybody who watches COPS. Basically: Hey man, that ain’t mine! I dunno who put that there! I was just holding it for somebody else! But furious haggard wild-eyed Det. Quentin Lance isn’t buying any of it. (Is it just me, or does his character always look like he just did a line of coke before entering the room?). His daughter Laurel Lance accuses him: “You hate The Hood and you hate Oliver and you want more than anything for them to be the same person!”

NEXT: The Hood’s a menace, Tommy sighting

So what’s Oliver’s defense strategy? First he insists on Laurel representing him. Yes, his ex-girlfriend who’s dad arrested him, whose other daughter died on his sunken yacht. How complicated does he want to make this for himself? I like that in addition to murder, Oliver is also charged with “menacing and trespassing.” Particularly “menacing.” That would be pretty cool to claim at parties as your one criminal conviction — They found me guilty of menacing … I was also charged with misdemeanor glaring. Anyway, Laurel agrees to defend him. “I knew you couldn’t resist saving my ass,” he says. And, nope, she still doesn’t think he’s the vigilante!

Is Oliver’s best friend Tommy back? Yes! Hi Tommy … bye Tommy. Hope that poor actor doesn’t get paid by the word.

Is there a party of some kind? Yes! Thank you for asking that, it’s perfectly timed for the next plot point I wanted to cover. After Oliver makes bail and is given a GPS ankle-monitor to confine him to his home, he decides to throw a “Burning Man meets Shawshank Redemption” party, which actually sounds pretty fun (minus the prison rape). This leads to the naughtiest line in the episode: “The invite says, ‘Come before Oliver Queen gets off.'”

What about the Queen’s Gambit parked in that warehouse? Walter Steele sends a security chief to move the boat and the security chief is murdered. Walter now realizes his wife Moira is probably evil and decides to deal with this by taking off to Australia to get away from her. Meanwhile Moira confers with that wealthy gentleman we met at the end of the last episode, who makes it clear he killed the security chief and she’s merely the “good soldier.” The only real point to make about all this is there’s still not enough John Barrowman.

So … back to Oliver? Okay. We learn Det. Quentin lost his wife after their daughter died — as if this guy needed another reason to hate Oliver. So the detective is steaming at Oliver about being The Hood as the prosecutor offers him a deal if he agrees to plead insanity. That leads to this exchange:

Oliver: “I’m not crazy.”

Quentin: “Finally. Something we agree on. He’s not a nut. He’s a killing machine.”

Oliver: “Actually, I’m neither.”

Quentin: “There’s nothing you can say to me that I will believe.”

But Quentin just said he agreed with Oliver about … gah! This is one of those moments where I can’t tell if the writers are deliberately making something not make sense or if that’s the point. Anyway, Oliver offers to take a polygraph and aces it. There’s a great moment when Oliver is asked if he’s ever killed anybody and says, “Yes, when I asked your daughter Sara to come on my yacht with me.”

NEXT: The kiss, fishnets…

What about Oliver’s new non-sidekick sidekick? Ah yes, John Diggle (snicker). So Oliver asks Diggle to pose as The Hood and break up an arms deal that just happens to be going down at the same moment as his big party. That way he’ll give Oliver and alibi — and stop a crime. Convenient? Sure. But I like that the issue of “Won’t people figure out Oliver is The Hood?” is being tackled straight on. It does make a sort of sense. It’s going to be tough for the cops to ever make a case against him after charging him and then having to backtrack out of it. “I knew the security camera was there … sooner or later somebody was going to make the connection,” Oliver says. He then adds, presumably unintentionally quoting The Joker: “All part of the plan.”

So, to be clear, Laurel really doesn’t believe he’s the vigilante? Ah, well, toward the end she’s starting to wonder. Oliver and Laurel are up in his bedroom. She makes a reference to a party where “I wore those horrible fishnets” — that’s a wink to comic fans (her character presumably eventually becomes the Black Canary, who’s known for, among other things, her fishnet stockings). Laurel wants to see his scars. Oliver gladly unbuttons his shirt. It’s a sexy scene. They kiss! But of course, it doesn’t last. She says they cannot be together. Oliver, for his own reasons, agrees.

How does it end? Oliver is free and back in his hoodie. Stops the arms deal with a cry of, “You have failed this city!”

What did you think? And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, find my archive of regular recaps here.

Episode Recaps


Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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