‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 5 Episode 2: ‘The Recruits’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow as they clean up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week’s episode, “The Recruits,” finds Green Arrow spread thin between his crusade to fight crime in a costume and his daily duties as the new mayor of Star City. But will his new team of vigilante hopefuls ever be able to work together? James Bamford directed the episode from a script by Speed Weed and Beth Schwartz.
Chris: So we’re back for another visit to Star City, and after what I’d say was a fairly pleasant stay last week, what did you think about this week’s episode, Emma? There’s a lot to unpack here, but what’s your initial take on our second episode?
Emma: It definitely had it's ups and downs, but overall I quite enjoyed it. I'm a sucker for team building, which we got to see with the new recruits and to a certain extent with Diggle and his baby-soft new soldier friend. But I really couldn't stand any of Dig's storyline, despite the amazing Gary Chalk as his commander. (If you're a giant nerd like me, you may remember him from Stargate: SG-1.)
Something tells me you're going to have a different opinion on the episode!
Chris: Jeez, how many Stargates are there? And more importantly, how many people from those various Stargates are going to show up this season?
I actually felt basically the same way you did. I was really frustrated by this episode. So much so that I had to tweet at you about how frustrated this episode made me when it was over. There were parts I thought were handled really well, and, even more so than last week, I think all of the action scenes in this episode were really well done. Like, exceptionally well done for this show. And there were certain aspects of the character work and plot movement that were also executed pretty well. Very positive on those aspects.
But, holy cow was there too much going on this episode. I love Dig, but if he’s not going to be part of the Arrow team, I am not interested in him until he eventually comes back to Star City.
Emma: I get that they're trying to give him a reason to get disillusioned with the military so he can come back to Team Arrow, but ugggghhhhhh. It was boring! Every time he was on screen I just groaned. And really, if he's going to come back so quickly that we need to set it up in the second episode, then what meaning did his leaving the team and the city really have?
Chris: Good grief, yes. I’ll come back to this in just a second, but now is a good time to bring up something important. Some people who read these recaps seem to think that “criticism” equals “hatred”, and that’s not the case at all. The things that bother us about these shows only stand out so much because we see the positive potential those moments/choices squander. I think I can speak for you here when I say we want to enjoy these shows and we want them to be as great as we think they can be.
Emma: Yes! I'm far more critical of the things I love because I want them to be better. Like Dig, I love Dig, but this episode did nothing for him. Even he looked bored as he was tied up getting monologued at by Gary Chalk!
The only thing I liked about his storyline was that the show is at least trying to address the aftermath of Havenrock from last season. Dig's commander was stealing weapons because, uh, he can't handle metahumans and big bads in his world? I don't even know. But our new bad guy who is really a good guy also comes out of the Havenrock event.
Chris: Yeah, that’s a welcome idea for them to address in some way, but when you’re trying to introduce us to a whole new team (minus Curtis), and show us how Thea and Quentin are having this whole subplot about his drinking, and introducing a new villain that turns out to be a hero, and Black Arrow is around, and Oliver’s in Russia, and Felicity’s got a new boyfriend that’s a detective and is obviously going to figure out what is going on, and Thomas Hayden Church is making moves on the crime scene in Star City, it’s just a mess.
It seems like these shows often try to fill up the start off the season with several episodes' worth of story per early episode, and then once they start getting to the back half of the season, they’ve run out of ideas, so then they have to stretch and fill when it would have just been easier to let each of the subplots breathe a little early on instead of trying to cram it all in at once. Like they think we’ll forget about all these characters (because they have way too many) if we’re not constantly seeing them all.
Emma: For sure, pacing is not this show's forte. With something like Game of Thrones, yes, there are a zillion characters and people do forget, but we're going to follow along just fine with Arrow. Mostly. It is still pretty wacky.
Did you like that we got to see Ollie in a mayoral meeting this week? The writers listened!! I would have preferred to see him meeting with his actual staff instead of begging big business for money for a charity event. Oliver. You're the mayor. You have a budget. You have staff. You can make things happen! That is literally your job.
Chris: Thea is his only staff person, as far as I can tell. It seems like city hall is two or three rooms, and no one but Ollie and Thea ever use them. Also, what do you think her position is at the moment? I thought she might be the deputy mayor or something, but then she offers that job to Quentin, who seems to be an almost completely different character this season, so what’s her title? Is she just Ollie’s assistant? She seems to have a lot on her plate if that’s the case. I guess they figure most people don’t care about stuff like that, but I can’t help but ask these questions.
Emma: It is our job to ask these questions! I'm assuming she's chief of staff or something. Quentin would make an awful deputy mayor, and it's a really big job to give to someone because you're worried about them. Quentin is the kind of guy who does better when he's got some responsibility, but he's also a bit too focused on himself to really see the big picture --- unlike Thea, who really should just be running this whole town. Thea for president. I'm with her.
Chris: What are her qualifications/job experiences before being Speedy? Have they shown stuff like that in the seasons I haven’t seen? I mean, she obviously seems qualified to do whatever the plot needs her to do, but I’m just curious if they covered this previously and I just missed it. She certainly seems more focused on the whole “running the city” thing than Oliver, but I also enjoyed when she was doing some plain clothes “superhero jumping around on a rooftop” work.
Emma: She comes from a wealthy family, Chris, she clearly doesn't need “qualifications” or “job experience.” She does do some great rooftop parkour, though.
What do you think about Speedy's replacements? This episode, Oliver brings together his new recruits Wild Dog, Curtis, and Evelyn Sharp for some... intense training.
Chris: I’m not a fan of people being dicks in general, but I do honestly love when they show that there’s a reason Ollie is in charge of not just Team Arrow, but also in charge when he teams up with Flash and the Legends of the Hidden Temple, and it’s because he’s very, very skilled at what he does. This show seems to just let that slide whenever they need it to for the plot’s sake, but when they show him taking on three fairly skilled people at once without any problems and doing exercises that an Olympic level decathlete can’t do, it makes us go, “Oh, that’s right, he’s really good at this.”
Emma: He is, but I would hope that maybe he realizes not everyone needs the same superhero vigilante origin story that he has. Maybe don't use Bratva teaching techniques, when they taught you the exact opposite of what you're trying to teach your students? I loved the idea of his first training exercise, but when we saw that the Bratva just murdered everyone else… oof.
Ollie was really lucky with his people before this, but he has a lot to learn about how to build a team. Talk to them about who they are and why they're here. Tell them what you saw in them that made you recruit them. Let them know that you don't necessarily expect Olympic level performance from the get-together, but you do need them to try.
It bugged me that he was so quick to invite Ragman into the fold, but these other kids had to try so hard just to get yelled at and beat up. Ragman has special magical powers, these kids are just regular vigilantes like Ollie once was.
Chris: Yeah, but he met Ragman after he’d already been through a lecture from Felicity about how he was going about things the wrong way. Ragman was his first step down the right path, and then since trying a different tactic worked, it’s what gave him the confidence and the courage to open himself up and come back to the others with the new approach.
I think with some of this we do also have to really give Ollie a little bit of a break due to the fact that he has clearly not had time to properly grieve or process Laurel’s death, and it is coloring how he is approaching everything. But at least I don’t think he murdered anyone this week!
Emma: Hooray! Small steps, Oliver. I'm looking forward to more character moments with Ollie and Evelyn, who is clearly going to take on the Black Canary mantle. It'll be interesting given all that grief, but I think working with Evelyn may help Ollie deal with Laurel's death.
Emma: Okay. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you hate Felicity's jokes this episode?
Chris: With 1 being I enjoyed them, and 10 being I wanted to jump in a volcano?
Chris: 12+. The thing that bothers me so much about her is that everything is just jokey joke time with her. Then she’ll have a second of seriousness occasionally, and it’s right back to undercutting the seriousness of every moment and world-threatening event.
I don’t mind a show/character that breaks the tension with comedy or tries to keep things light to mask their fear/concern, but you’ve got one guy over here who is way too serious and someone else just constantly talking like they’re on Friends or something, and tonally it makes me furious.
She is not the problem, it’s the tonal clash she creates in almost every episode that vexes me so much. If the whole show felt like her tone fit, then her “jokes” wouldn’t bother me nearly as much. Also, as a fan of comedy in general, I don’t think this show’s writers know how to write good jokes any more than they know how to write more than two kinds of bad guy.
Emma: Oh wow, you just got right into it.
Chris: Haha, was I not supposed to? I’m sorry!
Emma: I was expecting a quick quip! It's all good. I'm ignoring your Friends comment, though. Gross. Felicity is way too good for that show.
Chris: I was just trying to think of a light-hearted show with a tone everyone would basically understand. I could have said Big Bang Theory. Would that have been better?
Emma: How dare you.
Chris: Did you ever see that 1998 Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick?
Emma: No? Should I?
Chris: Well, I mean, I don’t think I can recommend it in good conscience. There’s a Rifftrax of it available that’s pretty fun. I bring it up though, not just because I like working giant monsters or awful movies into conversations where they don’t belong, but because that movie’s biggest problem to me was the same problem I have with the way Felicity is written on this show. Every character in that movie played every serious or potentially frightening scene for comedy, and it just completely deflates the dramatic tension the movie would have otherwise.
Emma: I take your point. I just really love bad jokes.
Anyway, before you get riled up again, is there anything else we need to talk about? Oh wait, what about the dark archer? There was too much in this episode, I completely forgot about him.
Chris: Oh my gosh yes, this week we learned who he is, and it’s Prometheus! On the one hand that made me really excited, because this is the first time we’ve seen this character outside of the comics (to the best of my knowledge), but then on the other hand I was like, “This is what you make him look like?!” His costume in the comics is so much cooler than just “Green Arrow, but even darker”.
Emma: Fingers crossed it gets a bit better as the season progresses. I would like to be able to distinguish between them when they're fighting.
Chris: Was it just me or was it also the same voice? Because that won’t get confusing at all.
Emma: Close enough.
Chris: Were you excited to know who we’re dealing with, or is he one of those characters that never clicked for you?
Emma: I don't think I ever read any Prometheus stories! I'm more of a Marvel girl out of the big two, to be honest, which is probably why I like Felicity's role in the show. Even before the current crop (which kick butt, thank you Wil Moss), Marvel comics tended to have a bit more humor in them. But you seem to be very excited about him!
Chris: Well, I’m excited about the possibilities, but I’m going to guess things aren’t going to play out quite as spectacularly as I’m imagining I’d like it to. Still though, it was interesting to see him just completely take out this new crime boss they spent the last two weeks telling us was such a threat with so little effort. Maybe Church isn’t the season’s big bad after all.
Emma: And yet, Church could definitely hold his own in a fight against Green Arrow. He'll still cause some problems, don't you worry. He'll be the crime villain, while Prometheus can be the supervillain.
Chris: Two quick things before we wrap this up. One: Felicity’s new boyfriend is so thoroughly, obviously a Ritter that I can’t believe I didn’t see it last week.
Emma: I told you.
Chris: I’m pointing out your rightness! And two: On the subject of Ragman, talk about a character I cannot believe we are seeing in live action. I mean, wow. What a time to be alive. A strange, strange time. I loved how Oliver called out to him as “Ragman” and he immediately looked, even though he didn’t call himself that, it was just a nickname Team Arrow had given him.
Also, he was saved from the nuclear warhead that detonated in Havenrock because his dad wrapped him in some ancient rags that had magical powers, but how did his dad have time to do that? It’s not like Havenrock had any warning a missile was coming, and if a missile is close enough for you to see it, then it’s already too late, right?
Emma: This is one of those times where I will not fuss about logic because Ragman is too cool. I loved how natural they made his moniker feel! Plus, Ragman is played by Joe Dinicol, who was on the L.A. Complex, written by Martin Gero, who (wait for it, Chris, you're gonna love it) wrote and produced on Stargate: Atlantis. I love that all these genre shows are filmed in the same city. I can't wait for the crossovers with the Flash and Supergirl later this season!
Chris: We’ve certainly got a lot to look forward to. Let us know what you thought about this week’s episode in the comments, and we’ll look forward to seeing you back here next week!