Review: ‘Arrow’ Back From ‘Beyond Redemption,’ As Lexi Alexander Directs Season 4’s Finest Hour
It’s unfair to think of Arrow itself as “Beyond Redemption,” even as the more promising improvements of Season 4 have all felt stifled by the burden of Legends of Tomorrow setup. The series has been through something of a chrysalis, attempting to shake the vestige of its five-year Batman Begins inspiration toward something more colorfully unique, even if its main narrative lost focus in the process. Oliver wants to “save my city” just as before, and even amid an hour as introspective as “Beyond Redemption,” it’s harder and harder to envision what that truly entails.
Oliver’s bid for mayor still doesn’t come across as a practical concept for the series overall, rightfully eliciting the team’s initial disbelief in the announcement, but granted a smaller prism like Oliver’s relationship with Captain Lance, it becomes a much more effective storytelling engine. Lance in particular spent so much of Season 3 sidelined or vengefully bitter with the team, we lost sight of an almost-father figure dynamic with Oliver himself, let alone his actual daughters. “Beyond Redemption” did well to open that up again, showing how Oliver had misjudged the Captain’s reaction to his mayoral campaign, and later highlighting the piece of Oliver that seeks some fatherly validation for his efforts to save Star City.
In earnest, Paul Blackthorne lit almost every single scene on fire tonight, bringing intensity of every color to Quentin, the kind we haven’t seen in years. Not only does his exposed interaction with Damien Darhk elicit some terrific work between Blackthorne and Stephen Amell, but we also see Lance getting a chance to work with Team Arrow both in and out of their fancy new lair, saving the day by inspiring the bad guys to do better, and all that independent of a reaction to seeing Sara alive again. As Oliver points out in their devastating* exchange, so much of what we’ve seen from Lance over the past two years has been defined through his daughters; “Beyond Redemption” finally let us see the man alone, and Blackthorne obliterates the opportunity.
*Last week, the combination of Sara’s bloodlust and Thea’s inability to curb her own made Oliver’s sister a likely target for our future grave. That said, if the writers knew that Paul Blackthorne’s time on the series were at an end, tonight’s abundance of emotional material might have been their way of sending him off in style.
It doesn’t hurt to have a strong director like Lexi Alexander at the helm either, who fantastically succeeds in drawing out more complex emotional beats of an otherwise rote scene, or balancing all respective arcs enough to tie them together in the montage of Oliver’s announcement speech. The action too seemed especially on-point, as the rogue Star City PD crew surprisingly managed to turn the tables on the team with some wonderful toys.
That was True Blood and Hannibal vet Rutina Wesley as Liza Warner, or DC’s “Lady Cop,” by the way, and while I remembered the announcement, it’s a shame that Legends, Constantine and all the flashier aspects pull focus in promos. Whether by Alexander’s direction or Rutina’s particular intensity, this rogue squadron quickly cemented themselves as some of the more dynamic, formidable one-off villains in years.
As much as marketing spotlights Sara’s continued journey into Tomorrow, “Beyond Redemption” had surprisingly little for the character to do, apart from reminding Quentin of his painful past, or the same terrible cost of taking shortcuts that keeps him bound in Damien Darhk’s employ. The same could be said of the hour’s C-story pushing Felicity into hearing Ray’s “final” message, an outlier intent on pushing its way into the narrative, but not one that serves any real purpose here.
Also, flashbacks still exist. Carry on.
This was probably the first time since Season 2 that Arrow truly felt like Arrow, putting the strengths of its characters above all, and angling for hope in an ever-bleak city. Season 4 still serves its Legends setup too often for its own internal arc to congeal, but “Beyond Redemption” at least offered an incredible spotlight for Paul Blackthorne and Stephen Amell. If indeed Alexander served in elevating that as much as I hope, Arrow would do well to return her behind the camera in a flash.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Again, Oliver’s mayoral campaign worked as a cipher tonight, but how has no one thought to throw Diggle’s hat in the ring? He’s a veteran, age-appropriate, equally capable of handling himself, and someone the series could actually keep in the role longer term. Hell, Laurel’s an ADA, Quentin seems like an easy choice, really anyone one the team would make more sense here.
- Sweet new lair, bruh.
- Shooting coverage on a TV series can often serve purely functional two-shots, and it was a nice visual touch to have Damien slouched on the car in his conversation with Quentin. Small composition details like that help illuminate Darhk’s character, as well as his oddly relaxed relationship with Lance.
- Never forget that time a police officer completely had Oliver at her mercy, and a sharp enough knife to puncture whatever new material Oliver is sporting.
- Incorporating Arrow’s narration into Oliver’s mayoral speech was a nice touch.
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