‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 3: ‘Restoration’
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.
This week’s episode, 'Restoration', divides its time between Nanda Parbat, where someone may just be coming back to life, and Star City, where the team takes on a metahuman while Dig investigates the death of his brother (maybe he should take him to Nanda Parbat, too). Plus, more island stuff than we’ve seen in other episodes! Wendey Stanzler serves as director, and Wendy Mericle and Speed Weed (yes, Speed Weed) turned in the script.
Matt: Chris, you’ve been waiting for a couple weeks now to mention producer Speed Weed, and here we are with an episode he co-wrote! Who better to take on the world of remote-island drug production?
Chris: Oh man, yes. I was so psyched as soon as I saw that writing credit as well, because then I knew there was no way we were going to forget to mention it this time. Speed. Weed. I mean, honestly. There is no way I accept that this is that person’s given name.
Matt: Do you think it’s a pseudonym for a drug expert brought on for this weird island plot involving Shadowspire and Baron Blitzkrieg, of all villains?
Chris: I’m naturally inclined to want to try to research this person, but I’m fighting that temptation, because I know there’s no way the truth can live up to all the things we could imagine for them. It is a relief to just finally get to mention that name though. Let’s enjoy every small victory we can with this show.
Matt: Since we’re already talking about the island stuff, let’s dig into that. We haven’t really mentioned much in the past couple episodes because there wasn’t much to go on besides Ollie killing a guy, joining the paramilitary group that’s taken over and getting a haircut. There was more here: Turns out the group is led by a guy named “Reiter,” and a Southern-accented gentleman named Conklin really, really wants to kill workers (slaves?) who stole some drugs.
Chris: Both of those names sound vaguely familiar, so I assume they have to be DC names they’ve pulled out of the name hat with nothing to do with their comic counterparts?
Matt: Reiter is definitely Baron Blitzkrieg, the All-Star Squadron villain who did eventually end up leading the criminal organization Shadowspire. We haven’t seen much of him yet. Conklin, who we see a lot more of, may be based on some one-off Batman villains from the Silver Age, but it seems he’s mostly just a creation of the show.
Chris: Who was the guy that seemed to be in charge we saw Ollie talking to in the flashbacks on the previous episode, then? Was that not Reiter?
Matt: Oh yeah, that was Reiter. He... is pretty different from his Nazi comics counterpart. Anyway, Ollie’s big island plan here is to stop his new faux-comrades from killing the workers by torturing them instead. Then he saves a woman who looks exactly like the French lady from Lost from being killed by sending one of the other mercenary guys to blow up on a mine.
He loves those mines.
Chris: That torture scene was awfully rough, too. I mean, these people are obviously already having a bad time as slave labor for an illegal drug cartel, is being tortured and then forced to go back to work with your stab wounds really better than just getting shot? If these people weren’t mostly still so clean and well fed looking, I’d assume they’d prefer death, but maybe this is already getting way too dark, and I should back up a bit.
Also, Ollie’s plan of taking the lady and making her “disappear” has got to be some of the flimsiest writing on a show that’s… I don’t know... written on tracing paper? What’s a good analogy for how flimsy the writing on this show is at times? Clearly, I am also a very flimsy writer or I’d have something better, so maybe I should cut them some slack.
Matt: Maybe you could say it’s like it’s written on one of those waving inflatable tube men.
But yeah, I thought this one was a particularly rough one script-wise. The island stuff all felt very...unformed, and the A-plot, with Double Down (played by JR Bourne, who looks just like the Trivago guy) showing up to work for Damien Darhk alongside apparent crime boss and Hive member Mina Fayad (a non-comics character) went absolutely nowhere. Double Down just turned around and tried to leave town!
Chris: Is he not the Trivago guy? I thought they were implying the Trivago commercials all take place within the DCTVU. But, yeah, for a guy who says he’s so afraid of Damien Darhk, wouldn’t just bailing on the job he’s there to do get him killed too?
Matt: I don’t get anyone’s motivations. Why did Darhk call Fayad into town just to kill her? (I guess his stated reason is that she made too much of a scene when MF Dig just shot wildly at her and her bodyguards.) If Double Down is so interested in money, and has clearly worked for lots of criminals before, why try to skip town at the first sign of trouble? Like, what’s the plan here?
Chris: Why does Darhk kill that guy for not killing himself when the guy’s suicide tooth has clearly been pulled out? Why do any of these people work for him? It honestly seems like a terrible gig. What kind of compensation could possibly be worth working for these poorly written bad guy organizations?
Matt: I’ve thought the same thing about the lower-rung members of the League of Assassins. They really just seem to be there to die. Maybe there’s a really enticing recruitment process, like when 21 and 24 were trying to get people to join up with the Monarch. And then when you’re in, you’re in. When Felicity examines the DNA of this one henchman who doesn’t manage to pop his suicide pill, it turns out he’s lacking a bunch of necessary chromosomes, which is one of the few intriguing story threads from this episode.
Chris: Oh man, why won’t they let us review episodes of The Venture Bros.? I promise you’d see a much more positive tone with those reviews!
I know the whole structure of the show starts unraveling if we start pulling some of these common sense threads, but at some point in the production shouldn’t someone involved with the making of these shows be asking these questions? Are we asking too much? Do other people just not care with shows like this? I’m just trying to get my head around it all. The logic problems in the world of the show start breaking my suspension of disbelief, because they start making me ask questions about the way the show is made.
Matt: Yeah, and I feel like this episode is particularly bad about that. So much of it is just plot convenience stuff to move along Dig’s investigation of his brother’s death, bring him and Ollie back together somewhat, find out some junk about metahumans, forward the business plot with Mr. Terrific. In the process, you make your villains look like they don’t have brains in their heads.
Chris: Or you make the writers look really lazy. Man, there is so much to complain about with this episode, but even though I was complaining to myself (or occasionally my wife and dog depending on who was in the room) here and there throughout, I can’t really say I totally disliked the show itself. I feel like there is some kind of hidden, subliminal messaging in these live action comic shows that starts doing something to your brain when you watch them regularly. I recognize so many bad or poorly handled moments or plot points/holes, and yet I don’t hate watching this show.
Matt: Maybe I’ve developed an immunity to that, because this was the first episode of the season that I totally disliked, aside from some of the Sara stuff, which we’ll get to.
I think my breaking point came when Felicity and Mr. Terrific were researching Double Down’s tattoo-generated playing card and realized he could track it, so he shows up at Palmer Tech. Felicity runs to her secret elevator that goes to the Arrowcave, and the very second the door dings and they run out, Double Down is there! Does he also have super stair-running abilities? Can he pass through all doors undetected?
Chris: Oh my God, yes! See, this is exactly what I’m talking about! That was the biggest annoyance moment for me too. Even if he can trace the cards with his card-tracking powers (you know, the same way you and I are always able to still instinctively track down our discarded fingernail clippings since they were once a part of us), how in the blue hell did he get down there at the same time?!
Presumably the secret elevator and secret entrances are the only way to get there or else it wouldn’t be much of a secret lair. There is no explanation or excuse for him showing up that quickly other than the writers just didn’t care! I mean, are there not locks on the doors? I don’t care how many of those cards he can pull off or how sharp they are, it would still take him a long time to throw them through a locked door.
Matt: The permeability of the Arrowcave is almost a running gag on the show. Back in the first couple seasons, when it was under the club Ollie owned, it was literally just behind a door with a code. In a basement.
Chris: Under a club he owned? Man, this show really is on The CW, isn’t it?
Let’s talk about some things we liked. I liked that they finally wrapped up this Dig not trusting Ollie subplot. At one point Ollie said that it had been months, and even though this was only the third episode, it definitely felt like it has been months of this.
Matt: It definitely felt like they’d squeezed all the juice out of that orange. I mean, from a character standpoint, I think Dig would be mad forever because his best friend kidnapped his wife and left his baby daughter in a crib alone, but the show’s got to progress, and it’s not like David Ramsey is going anywhere. As much of this episode was just getting characters from point A to B, at least those B points were better places for some of the characters.
I think that probably leads us to Nanda Parbat. Thea’s there to find out how to reduce her bloodlust after going in the Lazarus Pit and Laurel’s there to revive Sara, who is still a gross, emaciated corpse. And they both kind of get what they want...sorta.
Chris: I have a number of questions here, but the immediate one has to be: Did they seriously bury her in that getup?
Matt: There’s actually a decent explanation for that. It was a secret burial, because they wanted to hide her (second) death from her dad. So it makes some sense that she’d just be buried in what she died in, her Canary costume.
Chris: I am literally doing that thing where you close your eyes and squeeze the bridge of your nose. I don’t know if that has a name, but I think everyone knows what I’m talking about.
Matt: So here’s the deal: Malcolm Merlyn, who is the new Ra’s al Ghul, tells Thea that the only way to stave off her murder-cravings is to kill some people. She doesn’t want to accept that, so he feeds her a BS story about going to see a healer who might be able to help her. She goes, and instead finds some assassins who just offer themselves up to her to be killed, because that’s all they’re there for. Thea’s angry about this (don’t know why Merlyn thought that would go any other way), so to make up for it, he says he’ll dunk Sara in the Lazarus Pit, despite no one as dead as her ever going in before.
Nyssa, Sara’s former lover, is very, very against it, and it appears she’s right, because Sara comes out a snarling, mindless brute. They have to chain her up.
Chris: This is even more just... I don’t know if lazy or sloppy feels like a better word to describe the writing in this episode. It’s as though they knew they wanted to get from point A to point B with some of these sub-plots but were being told to come up with the script in 10 minutes or at gunpoint and just did whatever was quickest/easiest. I think someone may have dunked me in the Lazarus Pit after this episode, because all my negative feelings keep coming to the surface. I guess I have to go kill some other show to get things back on track for a few weeks… no one will miss Gotham, right?
Matt: I know some people on Twitter who might. Honestly, I feel like this part, while it’s a little clunky, holds together okay. We know what these characters want and they make weird deals to get it. It could just be that I’m glad my favorite character, Sara Lance, is back for at least a little while to add some depth to the show. And we know she comes back to her senses because Legends of Tomorrow is a show with a trailer.
Chris: You’re right, but I’m going to stick with my fantasy of “Speed Weed” (who, in my mind looks like The Flash except his emblem is that Grateful Dead lightning bolt skull) writing this episode at gunpoint.
Matt: It would explain the mindset of torture getting things done that the writing staff seems to have.
So, anything else? I feel like we really ought to end on a positive. I still like Mr. Terrific. Echo Kellum is just a charming actor, and his rapport with Emily Bett Rickards is working, despite them being stuck in often-crummy office scenes.
Chris: Oh absolutely! I enjoyed what little he was in this episode, though, again, this felt like the laziest possible way to get him in on the whole “Team Arrow” thing. I got excited seeing the T-Sphere. Oh man.. I just realized the visor part on Dig’s helmet is already shaped like a “T”. I bet he’s going to become Mr. Terrific working with Curtis. Like, Curtis makes all the gear for him. His “costume” is already a jacket and a T on his face! Throw some T-Spheres in there and you’re there.
Matt: The other possibility is Dig passing down his costume to Curtis if he goes off to be a dad and husband or (God forbid) is killed off. (Last season, I fretted at length about Dig dying.)
Chris: I just don’t see Curtis’ character turning into an “in the field” guy, but I mean, that guy is... terrific (waits for applause and laughter to die down), so I’m happy to have him on the show more.
I enjoyed that one scene where Felicity didn’t act like Felicity and took control and acted like the kind of person you could actually imagine running a huge company and working with vigilante crime-fighters instead of managing a Dress Barn. She was great in that scene where she was as tired as the audience was of Dig and Ollie’s refusal to make up and basically told them to get their guff together.
Matt: Yeah, occasionally the writers decided that Felicity needs a serious moment, and write her as a really strong character. I like those moments. Probably my favorite episode from last season was the one where her mom came to town and Felicity had to actually deal with real stuff from her life. I’d be happy to get more of that.
Oh, we never mentioned her Matrix phone! There’s a weird subplot in which her phone contains The Matrix. Then it has the opening credits for the late ‘90s TV show Felicity. I figured it was just that she downloaded some stuff from iTunes, but it’ll probably be a big plot point later.
Chris: Wait, okay, that was my favorite part. I literally wrote down a huge LOL when she was having trouble with her Windows ME Matrix screensaver.
Matt: I don’t know if it was intentionally funny, but boy, it was.
Maybe we’ll find out more next week, as Captain Lance threatens to shoot his now-feral daughter!