Arrow S05E02 “The Recruits” Review

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“The Recruits”

Okay, Arrow season five, I’ll bite–not a horrible start to the new season. It’s actually quite a creative start and I’m really surprised that the writers went this route. Creating a new team after establishing the old one in our hearts for five seasons is a risky move that they may actually pull off.

This week’s episode begins with a vigilante in a ski mask—who later gets the code name Wild Dog—trying to take down the same bad guy as The Green Arrow—who isn’t having any of it. The Green Arrow takes down Wild Dog and tells him that he could continue on his own failing like this or he “could become someone else, something else.” If that saying sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what we hear at the beginning of every single Arrow episode, so it’s ingrained in our souls. It was trying to play on that but I was just annoyed. Once every episode is already too much. But I digress. The Green Arrow leaves Wild Dog a note with a place and time to meet; the recruitment has begun.

Oliver needs to create a new team so he can focus on being the Mayor. His first round of recruits are Evelyn Sharp, Wild Dog (or Ray Ramirez) and, of course, Curtis. Evelyn, you might remember, is the wannabe Black Canary from that one episode last season. She is an obvious choice: she has the costume, fight experience and something to prove. It would also help fulfill Oliver’s promise to Laurel about not letting her be the last Black Canary. Wild Dog is less obvious since we don’t know much about him other than that he doesn’t like rules very much. Honestly, what vigilante likes rules anyway? Isn’t that why you become a vigilante? Curtis keeps surprising us with every move he makes. I mean, we first see him in this episode on the salmon ladder (like a pull up wear you bring the bar with you) struggling, but doing way better than most of us can do, I assure you. Looking at him, you wouldn’t think he’d be able to even get on a salmon ladder. He’s a nerd. He’s most comfortable behind a computer, but here he is being a total bad ass, even if it seems like he’s struggling.

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The first session doesn’t go as well as we would hope. Oliver begins with not telling them that he’s Oliver by staying as The Green Arrow during the session. He also pushes them way too hard without any grace period or orientation; they weren’t expecting to just jump in, and they aren’t ready. Oliver wants them to get past him and ring a bell, but he knocks them down one by one every time they try. Apparently, the point of the exercise is to figure out the point of the exercise. He is just way too aggressive too soon. None of the recruits trust him since they don’t know him and they just fail in his eyes. Oliver doesn’t want the team to care about each other so that if they lost someone it wouldn’t shatter them the way losing Laurel shattered his team. He still isn’t ready to let go of his original team and doesn’t want to let anyone down again.

For once, the flashbacks are actually parallel with the present. We are finally in Russia, which means we are on the last leg of the useless Arrow Flashback Tour! This episode, we find Oliver in The Bratva–the Russian mob–initiation, where he has to get past thugs to ring a bell. He works as a team with his other recruits and they all end up getting gunned down. So this shows us why he was so strict with his present day recruits. It is so refreshing to actually have a reason for a flashback to help shed light on present day events. With the flashbacks being confusing and useless over the past season or so, this is needed. This is just good writing.

In the mayoral world, Thea and Oliver meet with the CEO of Ameritek to procure money for a free clinic, but during their opening PR day, another hooded figure in rags uses tentacles to take down a few members of Ameritek. Wild Dog breaks orders and tries to take him down by himself, angering Oliver. When you throw the recruits in to see how they handle themselves, what do you expect? They don’t have any real training. They aren’t a team. They are going to act alone, just like you act alone, Oliver.

Curtis is the one to put Oliver in his place and set him straight. I was all for that moment: Curtis showing his strength, showing why he deserves to be in Team Arrow. He is the last person I would think would stand up to Oliver, and that’s why I love it so much. This is the season of new beginnings and new power shifts. He tells Oliver that they don’t trust or respect him, that this team will never work because they don’t know him. Felicity—always the voice of reason—reminds Oliver that Laurel, Speedy and Diggle followed him and worked with him because they knew and trusted Oliver Queen, not The Green Arrow.

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Thea continues to be normal-person-Thea-Queen, basically running Mayor Handsome’s whole office. She is clearly far removed from her crime fighting days but maybe not her spying ones. During a damage control visit to Ameritek, she spies on the CEO doing business with none other than Tobias Church, the Big Bad himself. It turns out that Ameritek is trying to avoid bankruptcy, so they are selling themselves to the devil. The hooded rag man with the tentacles is actually one of the good guys trying to stop them. We find out that Rags’ father saved him from the missile that hit Haven Rock last season by throwing those rags on him and he turned into a tentacle-bearing vigilante. He just wants to make his father proud, but Oliver tells him he can’t do this to prove something to his father, he has to do this for himself. Then he recruits him.

Thea does something this episode that really touched my heart. I have a special place in my heart for Quentin Lance. I can relate a lot to his struggles and just feel for his loss of his daughter. Paul Blackthorne just breaks my heart with every episode–he is such an amazing actor. I just want Quentin to do well. I want him to be okay. In this episode, Thea really looks out for him. She offers him the job of Deputy Mayor and tells him that it will be great for the people of Star City to see a man dedicate his life to saving the city his daughter loved. She tells him that she knows he is trying to find a reason to stay sober and maybe this could be it. This just really touched my soul. I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and feel helpless, and just knowing that someone believes in you is everything. This dynamic is great storytelling and reminds me of the wonders of season two. Alcoholism and addiction are storylines that seldom get told right. This is something Arrow has actually, in my opinion, done really well. Laurel’s struggles with addiction in season two, and now Quentin’s struggles this season are some of the best writing I’ve seen tackling these types of stories. They make me proud to watch.

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Diggle’s life in the army is just really confusing and weird. There is some corruptness going on in the army and his mission was sabotaged by his own men. It just all feels out of place, as if they are trying to just keep him in the show somehow. Hopefully they will provide some more information and relevance as the season goes on. This storyline is this season’s weakest link as of right now. I love Diggle and I want him on the show, I just have no idea what is going on in his storyline.

Oliver finally realizes that trust is a key factor for his new team. He can finally let go of his past and move on by first letting the recruits know who he is beneath the mask. He reveals that he is Oliver Queen. Upon doing this, everyone is ready to work, but this time slowly and as a team.

I am still skeptical to let Arrow draw me in again; I have been burned in the past. However, Arrow is usually—for the past few seasons—an every-other-episode-of-goodness type of show. This is the second episode and I was just as pleased, if not more than I was with the season premiere. I am cautiously optimistic and, like the recruits, I don’t trust what I don’t know yet. I am open to change though, and am open to giving Arrow another chance. I just love the refreshing creativity and risks of practically starting over like this. I respect taking big leaps of faith and I’m happy to be recruited again.

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