‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 4: ‘Beyond Redemption’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
In this week’s 'Beyond Redemption', Ollie ramps up his new mayoral campaign, a new Arrowcave opens for business, some dirty cops make their presence felt, a deception is revealed, and a character’s return from the grave causes some family turmoil. Lexi Alexander directed the episode, and the teleplay was by Beth Schwartz and Ben Sokolowski.
Matt: This was a good one. It’s easily the best episode of the season so far, and probably the best episode of Arrow in quite a while. Hiring Lexi Alexander (who directed Punisher: War Zone) seems to have helped. Rutina Wesley, who played Tara on True Blood, was the main villain, and though she didn’t get to do a whole lot, she made the most of it. And we have to mention the performance of Paul Blackthorne, who really brought it as Captain Lance this week. Every once in a while, they just unleash that guy to put on an acting clinic, and he did it here.
Chris: Real quick, I’d just like to say that I mixed up the names of the writers for this episode and thought Ben Schwartz (from Parks & Rec) had written it and suddenly had so many questions!
Matt: That could go either way. Could be great, could be (sung Jean-Ralphio style) the woo-oooo-ooorst!
Chris: He has been nominated for a couple of Emmys for writing, so you never know. But yes, this episode. Back to what actually transpired and not my new fanfic where Jean-Ralphio moves to Star City to help do PR for Ollie’s mayoral campaign. This was definitely my favorite episode of Arrow I’ve seen so far, and I’d agree the best of the season. I have these shows I watch for Comics Alliance on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday now that Supergirl has started, and I liked that so much that I expected every week to become this sad graph of how my enjoyment of the shows steadily drops from day to day, but Supergirl must have inspired everyone to do their best, because all three shows were great this week!
Matt: I was honestly excited by the idea of Jeri Ryan being our mayoral candidate of the season, but she fell down a well or something, so now Ollie’s running for mayor. I think there’s a lot of potential in that story, and bonus, it is a sort-of adaptation of Ollie becoming mayor of Star City in One Year Later. I was actually charmed by his speech there at the end, and I also couldn’t help but make comparisons between Ollie --- who pushes that he’s not a politician --- and Donald Trump, of all people. If we find out Donald Trump shoots people with arrows all the time, I don’t know that it’d be that surprising.
Anyway, unlike the Donald, it took Ollie getting into politics to make me like him the most I have in a while. Is that weird?
Chris: It’s probably a weird thing for a person to say in general, yes, but as far as this show goes, I think it’s more that this episode gave us a reason to like him. It wasn’t focused on Dig not trusting him, it wasn’t focused on Speedy telling him to get off her back, it was just things are happening and our cast of characters is doing their best to react and respond to it all in a heroic fashion. People’s interactions felt meaningful and sincere for the most part, and I think that goes a long way in getting us to root for these characters and invest in them.
I think the problem some of these superhero shows (and movies) have is that they pick the wrong aspects to try to “ground” in “reality”. We don’t need to understand the physics of how he does it to be able to relate to the idea that Superman can fly, we just need to be able to relate to how he feels when things happen around him. How he talks to his friends. Making these characters’ personalities and relationships feel real goes a lot further to pulling us in than bending over backwards to try to explain how Bruce Wayne makes his costume.
I know that’s a bit of a tangent, but I think it’s important to note, because the characters felt a little more like real people this episode, and that makes it a lot easier to go along for the ride and enjoy the craziness around how ridiculous some of the things the show asks you to accept are.
Also, there’s no way after two big televised speeches everyone in Star City wouldn’t realize Ollie is the Green Arrow.
Matt: At least he’s wearing a mask instead of just heavy eye makeup now.
But I think what you’re saying brings me back to what I was saying about Paul Blackthorne’s performance in this episode. It proves that the crazy stuff can be crazy. The show can embrace that. It felt like the first few seasons of Arrow did nothing but push back against the idea that this could be a full-on superhero show. Here, though, we’ve got a dad dealing with seeing his formerly-dead daughter brought back to life by a magic hot tub. That’s a super unrealistic scenario, but Blackthorne makes it feel like a real thing happening to this character. He’s working through the emotions. I give him a tough time for his accent, but he’s a huge asset to the show.
If there’s a place where these shows should be “grounded,” as you said, it’s in the emotions. Go wild with your plots, but have characters react to them like people. That goes a long way.
Chris: I’m really glad I didn’t type that whole long thing out and then you say, “No, you’re completely wrong, idiot.”
Matt: This would maybe be our last recap if I did.
Chris: Haha, I’d respect your difference of opinion.
Matt: Well, while we’re talking about differences of opinion (what a segue), let’s discuss the whole thing where Ollie discovers that Lance has secretly been meeting and working with Damien Darhk. There’s a confrontation scene where Ollie breaks into Lance’s apartment and waits for him to get home (what a jerk) so he can wag his finger at him for conspiring with a bad guy.
It’s another great Blackthorne scene, and he, quite frankly, acts laps around Stephen Amell, who does fine, but can’t totally compete with what his scene partner is bringing here. I really can’t say enough about how good Blackthorne is in this episode. He talks the bad guys, the corrupt cops, out of being bad guys! And it’s not stupid!
Chris: Yeah, there were a couple good speeches in this episode. The baseball speech, the facing justice speech, the announcing the campaign speech... good stuff. You’re absolutely right about the limits of Stephen Amell’s dramatic acting abilities having a little bit of a spotlight shone upon them in that first confrontation scene, but it definitely could have gone a lot worse, and the tension between the two of them --- that I assume has really been building for these previous seasons that I missed --- really comes across in this moment where Ollie finally has something to hold over Lance, but you can tell he doesn’t want to. Or, that he wishes he didn’t. He’s every bit hurt as he is angry.
Matt: We talk a lot about the writing on this show because it’s often so frustrating. I think the script on this one is a little better than others, but let’s be clear: It’s got its problems. Lance goes straight from being glad Sara is back, to wanting to shoot her in the head, with no consideration of, you know, other options. He consults known murderer Damien Darhk for advice on what to do about her and takes it at face value, no questions. The Arrowcave is now under a campaign office with people working in it!. The whole dirty-cops-taking-what-they-can-get plot is given short shrift.
And yet this one feels like it works so much better than other episodes, and I think I have to chalk it up to the acting. Not just from Blackthorne, but from the whole cast. It’s just on another level here. Maybe that’s Lexi Alexander’s doing?
Chris: Yeah, if I can say anything about this episode’s quality it’s that I didn’t take a single note while I was watching it. I was just engaged with what was happening. Little things would pop up, but none of them took me away from the plot enough to want to bother writing them down so I could complain about them… Though some of those Felicity/Mr. Terrific scenes came close... very close.
I don’t know who to give the credit to here, but since TV shows like this are such collaborative efforts, let’s just assume everyone did a great job this week. I will say that I think you could see the quality of direction being a little higher in the way some of the action scenes played out, but I don’t know how much of an “actor’s director” Alexander really is.
Matt: Yeah, it’s hard to say. Since you brought it up, if there was one thing that sort of brought the show to a screeching halt, it was those office scenes. Turns out Felicity’s Matrix phone was the result of a message from Ray Palmer. She and Mr. Terrific figure out an easy way to get to it (the password is “password,” for real), but she refuses because she doesn’t want to hear him talk because she thinks he’s dead instead of tiny. (He’s probably just tiny.)
Eventually, she listens and cries. Again, it works emotionally, (Mr. Terrific gives a nice little speech about his brother who died) but that’s the one place where the script starts to fall under its own weight.
Chris: I’m assuming they weren’t dating when he “died”, right? Also, I thought getting tiny wasn’t this Atom’s thing.
Matt: It wasn’t, at least not last season, but it apparently will be by the time Legends of Tomorrow rolls around, so odds are that explosion at the end of last season was the catalyst for that. And yes, they were dating then. It was pretty serious. Felicity Smoak does not dally in her relationships.
Chris: So, six months ago, she’s dating the Atom, and then immediately she and Ollie are back together and living in the suburbs? I assume I skipped steps 1 and 3?
Matt: Like I said, she doesn’t mess around. Ollie was planning to propose, you’ll recall. We know that because master-of-tact Thea notices that Felicity isn’t wearing her ring and then openly asks about it in front of everybody. Thea seems like she’ll be a great campaign manager.
Chris: Haha! “Ollie, why don’t you have your bow and green arrows with youuuu…. I mean, because…. youuuu’re the Green... Arrow? I thought I could save it.”
Matt: Just like, in the middle of a press conference. That, or she murders all the reporters because of her Lazarus Pit bloodlust.
We should also talk about the island stuff in the episode. It worked better than some of the other flashbacks, I think in part because it was fairly simple. Ollie pretends not-the-French-lady-from-Lost is dead, Conklin demands to see the body, so he goes and shows it to him, using fake-death techniques. Simple, easy. There’s even some good stuff about Conklin being suspicious because Ollie is killing basically everyone with mines.
Chris: Yeah, I’m a little iffy on why this guy would bother letting Ollie take her somewhere else instead of just shooting her, and why Ollie would take him straight to his secret OG Arrowcave. You’d think that’d be the kind of place he’d rather them not know about. But then Conklin found his (very poorly hidden) spy gear that apparently just stays on and ready to go at all times with no password required and with all the previous transmissions still on-screen, so maybe we won’t have much longer dealing with these flashbacks.
Matt: Oh, Chris. Poor, naive Chris. The flashbacks will continue until morale improves. And then after. There will always be flashbacks.
But yeah, past-Ollie still isn’t too bright. He’s still terrible at hiding Arrowcaves, but he’s a little better now. And that bag was literally just under some leaves. Not a big pile of leaves. “Some.” That is no way to treat a secret spy bag, not like ARGUS did anything to hide that what was inside was secret spy equipment.
Everyone on this show is terrible at hiding things.
Chris: “Terribleness at jobs” seems to be a running theme.
Matt: Before we wrap up, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this episode’s nod to Neal Adams. Mr. Terrific thinks a guy named Neal Adams is Green Arrow. That’s the extent of the nod and, I guess, a counterargument to your notion that everyone must know that Ollie is wearing the hood.
Chris: For the third smartest guy in the DCU, you’d think he could just look at the video and then look over at the really athletic guy with a mysterious past standing next to Felicity and go, “Waaaaaitaminit…”
Matt: Maybe his eyes aren’t that great.
And that’s it for this week’s episode! We’ll be back next week to grind our teeth at everyone mispronouncing “Constantine” for an hour! Join us then!