‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 17: ‘Beacon of Hope’
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.
On this week’s “Beacon of Hope,” it’s bees! Robot bees, villains dressed as bees, more bee puns than you can even imagine and did I mention bees? Michael Schultz directed the episode, which was written by Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan.
Matt: This had to be the silliest episode of the season so far and I think as a result... I kinda liked it? I mean, it had some of the worst acting I’ve seen in an episode in a long time and the dozens and dozens of bee puns were atrocious, but I can’t really stay mad at it. This is an episode where a lady dressed as a bee (The Bug-Eyed Bandit, returning after an episode on The Flash last season) sends swarms of robot bees (from whom we get POV shots occasionally, and those POVs have honeycomb motifs) after suit-wearing business people, specifically Felicity Smoak.
Then the bees combine to make a man-of-bees, not unlike Marvel’s Swarm or The Pain from Metal Gear Solid 3. I can’t harden my heart to that, Chris. How did you feel about it?
Chris: This was definitely my favorite episode of this show yet. Or, at least a little over half of it was. Can you guess which parts I didn’t like? I bet you can!
Matt: Well, I didn’t much care for the flashbacks, so I’m guessing those. And... let’s say the Felicity-focused stuff?
Chris: How much she is the worst part of this show is made even more apparent when you separate her from everyone else. Seriously, after the first three and a half minutes of the show I paused it to see how far into it I was and said, “That three and a half minutes is already better than all the rest of this show I’ve seen combined.”
Matt: That’s so weird to me, because my low points of the episode were very much Ollie-focused. I guess we just have our specific pet peeves. I hated how he beat up his teammates at the beginning of the episode (to the point where Laurel and Thea are like, “We can’t explain these bruises”) and I hated the way he snapped at Curtis later in the episode. He’s awful. Throw him off a boat and strand him on a different island. Make someone else Green Arrow.
Chris: The bit with Cutis was out of line, for sure, but I really liked his explanation to Laurel that it wasn’t about him being cranky because of Felicity, but because he knows this life is horrible and awful on a relationship, and Curtis is the only person on this show that we consistently see with a happy, stable relationship. (I know John and his wife seem to be fine, but I think we’ve definitely seen her less than Curtis’ husband this season.) I liked that he didn’t want Curtis thinking the vigilante deal was too cool. We like Curtis, so we don’t want to see anyone be mean to him like that when he’s just psyched and positive, but Ollie’s heart was in the right place.
And I loved that sparring scene because it finally showed for the first time that I’ve seen at least, why this guy is good at what he does and why he’s the leader, etc. He’s taking on all three of them at once and kicks all their butts while telling them what they’re doing wrong and he’s not even winded doing it! This is showing me that this is a guy I can believe could actually try to go out fight some bad guys with a bow and arrow and not just be shot immediately. And honestly, if the three of them can’t beat him up, they need to be training harder.
Matt: But I don’t think that’s an excuse for him to be terrible to his friends. He’s always been so terrible to his friends, Chris.
Chris: Well, you’ve got me there, since I only have this season to go on, but I thought he was being pretty jovial about it all and it was good natured, not abusive. But that’s fair, your years of being abused by this show may make you see all of the scenes much differently than I do. My heart almost surely could not have survived what you’ve been through, friend.
Matt: As Ollie would say, this is not fun! This is serious! Stop having fun!
Anyway, let’s talk positives. If Arrow wanted to do this type of episode from now on, I’d buy into it immediately. Goofy supervillain who hacks her way out of prison (!) and attacks Palmer Tech with robo-bees. It all had this campy Batman ‘66-style flair, even down to the puns.
Chris: I love the idea that there’s no actual paperwork anywhere, and the prison must have just said, “Welp, I’m pretty sure I remember your sentence was for much longer, but can’t argue with a computer, so off you go!”
Matt: I’d hate it a lot more if the episode didn’t feel so cartoony. We hammer a lot of the nonsense this show does in other episodes because it’s all so dour, but if we’re going to do something this silly, who cares if a judge would definitely have court documents with her sentence on it?
Chris: Oh man, yeah, I’m fine with it if they want to go this much more exciting/fun route with it. Maybe the trick here is that the rules of how the criminal justice system in that world works are very different from our own. Like, with last week’s court episode, it’s fine if your dad is your only verifiable witness to build the state’s case around. If we’re going to be dealing with robo-bees that can also become nano-robo-bees and infect someone and then also turn into a guy in a light-up, bootleg Tron: Legacy outfit then that is A-OK with me.
Matt: I’ve actually long documented the completely screwed up Star City justice system. Let’s just say they’re basically living in The Purge there.
But yeah, so much of this episode is about just going with it. A villain has the technological know-how to create an army of robot bees but who can’t reverse engineer the magic walking chip? Fine. They only made one prototype and implanted it in Felicity before making another one? Sure. The villain basically gives up on the whole curing her tumor thing to get revenge on Felicity? Let’s do it.
Chris: Let’s just not even worry about logic and reason this week and just assume the normal laws of nature we’re used to here on our Earth don’t apply to this universe and talk about what happened knowing that things may never make sense.
Matt: And like we said, I’m way more willing to give it that leeway. I think the dialogue had a lot to do with it, too. I went through the whole episode unsure of whether it was good or completely obnoxious. Like, there’s one scene where the head of the Palmer board is announcing everything he’s doing while one of the board members dies in front of him Alien-style (“I’m calling 911!” “I can’t get a signal!”) and it’s almost unbearable.
But then there are just these little exchanges that make things... I dunno, cute? The one part I liked during the whole opening training scene was everyone being surprised that Ollie had read Harry Potter. And then Felicity says they’re in “a Die Hard with bees.” Even Captain Lance gets in on the act and makes a cutesy reference to Independence Day. My favorite character, Donna Smoak, shows up to liven things up. And, of course, Curtis really brings more fun to the action. Is that all this show really needed? Just a tone change?
Chris: Maybe! I loved that Harry Potter bit. The only thing that could have made it better was if Ollie’s reaction in that “They made movies?” line had been even bigger. If he’d played it with surprise and excitement as though you knew he was immediately going to get on Amazon and order them, I would have forgiven everything else I complained about this season.
Also, my wife was walking through the room and stopped to look at the TV for a minute just as that boardroom scene happened and we both burst into laughter when that guy yelled, “I’m calling 911!”
Matt: It felt like a reenactment from one of those mid-90s emergency shows.
Chris: I’m happy with dialogue being bad if it’s so bad it cracks me up. If this show could lean into being terrible in a fun/ridiculous way, I’d love it.
Matt: Co-sign. Likewise, I’d like to see the team continue to use everyday objects to defeat villains. The use of a floor lamp and a coffee pot to dispatch threats in this one was pretty dang enjoyable.
What’d we think of Damien Darhk in prison? Were his secret meetings with Malcolm Merlyn of any interest to you? How about his attempt at becoming the big dog in Iron Heights?
Chris: If I never see another scene of those two together it’d be fine with me, but I actually enjoyed the other prison stuff. It was nice to see him get beat up, but then it was also nice to watch him monologuing with glee only to be disappointed that his audience is dead. Was the group the guy with his mouth sewn shut is associated with someone I should know about from a past season?
Matt: Just the mouth-sewn-shut guy. That was Michael Amar, a.k.a. Murmur, who had a real vendetta against the police thing going on when he showed up last season. Here, he’s just being blackmailed by Darhk, which is fine.
Chris: Isn’t he a Flash villain?
Matt: He is, but they used him for Arrow because I suspect the whole mouth-sewn-shut look was a better fit here, which honestly does make sense.
What else? Anything of note to say about the flashbacks? Isn’t it amazing how little story they can fit into so many interruptions?
Chris: The flashbacks were so brief this week, they didn’t even bother me. But let’s get down to what we’re really here to talk about: NXT Takeover: Dallas, aka NXTMania! How insanely great is this Friday going to be? What are your plans? Are you having a party? I’m having a party. Do you want to come to my party?
Matt: I would love to come to your party, Chris. What should I bring? Something Shinsuke Nakamura-themed?
Chris: Well, I’m already going to be wearing my ska Freddie Mercury costume in honor of the Nakamura/Sami Zayn match, but if you wanted to bring some of your Nakamura inspired “King of Strong Drinks” cocktails, I wouldn’t be against it.
Matt: Or maybe just some Asahi. I may get a 24-pack so I have some for the following Wednesday, when we find out that... Andy Diggle has been a traitor all along. Chris, I think that tone change was short-lived.
Chris: This episode was the beacon of hope that the next episode, if not the rest of the season, will do all it can to extinguish.
Matt: Before we finish up, I do want to note one thing, you know all those bee puns? Well, the closed captioning (I watch with it on to get name spellings and stuff) made sure to highlight every one of them. Like “BEE Arthur.” So allow me to rewrite that: “BEE-con of hope.”
Chris: Bless the person closed captioning person that cared enough to put that little bit of extra effort in.
Matt: Yes. Whatever happens, we’ll always have these captions.