Arrow, Season 5, Episode 2: “Recruits”
For someone so extraordinary, Oliver Queen can be really slow on the uptake sometimes.
It may trace back to his ability to only remember his past in 90-second, chronological bursts or his deep-seated desire to be Batman Green Arrow all by himself, but one thing is sure: you don’t want Ollie organizing your next team-building exercise at the company retreat.
Dating back to his first days on the island, Ollie has been unsuccessfully trying — for almost a decade — to pair secrets with teamwork like it’s red wine with steak. His latest attempt was asking Curtis, Wild Dog, and Imitation Canary to trust Ollie without Ollie really trusting any of them. The results were predictably disastrous.
Ollie used a training technique he learned in Russia that he thought taught a group how to work together for a common goal, but only later remembered it was to find out who was the most ruthless bastard in the room. Oops.
Thankfully, Felicity was there to crack wise and call Ollie out on his crap. It was her 489th talk about secrets being bad and the man behind the mask being more inspirational than the Green Arrow could ever be that brought Ollie to his senses. He gathers the team, which has pretty well bailed out on him after a botched mission and a couple of days of Ollie alternatively beating on, then yelling at them, and reveals his true identity, which was enough for the raw recruits to go ahead and give Ollie a second chance.
“Recruits” felt like an Arrow episode you’ve seen a dozen times before, but, after a couple of seasons’ spinoff setup and the principal characters generally angry with one another, this was more like comfort food than a bitter pill.
Familiar characters were pushed to new places around the board. Thea tries to rescue Quentin from the bottom of a bottle by making him deputy mayor. Diggle remembers too late that his old army unit was nicknamed the “Stealin’ 47th” for a reason. Felicity becomes the audience’s avatar once again to remind us that watching salmon ladders – even in a suit – are still enough to make your knees weak.
There was even a nice fake-out in the introduction of Ghost Rider Ragman, who was originally thought to be a bad guy. Thanks to a loving father and a mystical shroud, he is the sole survivor of last season’s nuclear blast that wiped out Havenrock. With the help of a pep talk from Ollie, his sense of justice overrides his thirst for vengeance and he joins the team.
The most important aspect that made this episode a success was that this series has rediscovered the importance of balance. Moody brooding and sizzling fight choreography can only take you so far. There comes a point where too much heavy becomes crushing, a problem currently dragging down The Flash in a big way. There need to be some occasional breaks in the bad to keep the show from being a total drag.
This season, Arrow has successfully used a lighter touch and, much to the dismay of Olicity fans, it has everything to do with Ollie and Felicity not dating. Without Felicity being required to bear the emotional weight of their romantic partnership, they are more carefree with each other and there’s more light banter, now that their relationship isn’t sucking all the air out of the room. It seems inevitable that the good ship Olicity will sail once again; we can only hope the writers preserve enough of the platonic relationship the next time things get romantic.
This new season seems properly set up with the new Team Arrow in place and another bow-using psychopath looking to kill the Green Arrow. Even in its fifth season, it’s going to be interesting where Arrow goes from here.