‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 20: ‘Genesis’
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 episode, “Genesis,” Team Arrow splits up to shore up some loose ends. Ollie and Felicity go off for some training, Dig searches for his traitorous brother, and Thea takes an... unusual vacation. Gregory Smith directed the episode, which was written by Oscar Balderrama and Emilio Ortega Aldrich.
Matt: Despite the weirdness of jumping from Ollie desperately wanting to take down Darhk last week after Laurel’s funeral to him telling everyone to essentially take a break this week, I didn’t mind this episode at all. In fact, there were even things I liked about it. Everyone got their own personal story and we got to see Team Arrow in some new settings for once.
What’d you think, Chris?
Chris: Did you think it was weird that this episode was almost three hours long? Oh wait, I’m looking at the actual runtime now and apparently it only felt like it was three hours long. I don’t know what the deal was, but it seemed like this episode was just never going to end. Maybe it was just me.
Matt: It definitely felt like a weird creative choice to take the foot off the gas like this in the big end-of-season run-up. The stakes were... weirdly low? Or at least they felt that way.
That said, I enjoyed Dig’s family drama, I thought Ollie and Felicity going to see not-Madame-Xanadu was fun if kinda pointless, and Thea’s vacation to Under the Dome was... well, they tried to make it creepy, at least.
Chris: Do rich people take vacations to suburban neighborhoods?
Matt: That’s a very good question. I’d think Thea’s first observation about that whole thing seeming suspicious shouldn’t have been about the looping nature sounds or how the place seemed “too perfect,” but that they decided to go relax in a cul-de-sac when they could have gone to a Caribbean resort.
Chris: To say nothing of the whole “no signs of any other people” thing.
Matt: So I guess what we’d call the A plot of this episode is that Ollie and Felicity go to Hub City to learn about magic. The real reason the action has stalled out is that Darhk has magical powers and there’s no way for Team Arrow to challenge that currently. Ollie was referred to a teacher named Esrin Fortuna (Gabriella Wright) by John Constantine, and she does some basic stuff with him, but says he has too much darkness in him to effectively ward off the magic.
What’d you think of Esrin, Chris? Despite her not being a DC Comics character even though DC has tons of magic people who could’ve filled this role, I thought she was one of the better one-off characters we’ve seen this season.
Chris: I mean, that’s a pretty low bar, so sure. I got really tired of her ending every sentence in “amor.” I promise I’m not trying to be all salt, all the time, this episode just made me groan a lot. I’ll try to get it together.
Maybe that’s at the root of the problem I have with this show. The writing. 90 percent of what people say on this show is terrible.
Matt: It did definitely feel like this constant reminder that she’s a Spanish speaker, and thus not Madame Xanadu or Zatanna or whoever. I guess they’re trying to keep those characters on lock for movies or something? I’d say odds are pretty high this was originally supposed to be Madame Xanadu. I’d bet on it.
Chris: I see what you did there. I can let so much bad writing go when it comes to the story and plot/plot contrivances for the story’s sake if what the characters in said story are saying and how they are reacting to it doesn’t make me want to stab myself in the head with an arrow. I give a lot of the cast of this show a hard time, but I think they all generally do the best they possibly could with the material they’re given. I mean, I assume they do. Perhaps it could be better or worse.
I think people think we enjoy complaining, but I’d much rather enjoy things than complain about them, and when you’re watching something for as long as we have to with these shows, my brain gets frustrated at the show, then tired of complaining, then it starts wanting to try to figure things out.
Matt: I think I’ve just reached the point of sometimes letting go and letting God. Like, Ollie’s training with Esrin ends up amounting to basically nothing because he’s too much of a brooder, right? But then when the team fights Darhk later in the episode, he ends up repelling him because he thinks about the good things in his life and gets cat eyes for a moment.
Does that make sense? No. If he could have done that, shouldn’t Esrin have said something like “You’ve got to think more positively,” rather than just giving up on him? Yes. But I’m taking deep breaths and choosing to just think it’s hilarious that Green Arrow had yellow kitty cat eyes for a second.
Chris: Her instructions are literally, “There is light and dark in you. Focus on the light.” Then he does the thing. That’s all it takes?! Fine. Whatever. If the people making this show aren’t going to try any harder than that, I’m not going to either.
Matt: That’s pretty much where I am. What about the other main plot of the episode, with Dig and his brother Andy (who Dig definitely almost called “Tandy” at one point) finally going mano-a-mano after Andy’s betrayal? I thought David Ramsey did a much better job with the emotional beats this week than when he was asked to fly off the handle last week. He played the inner conflict pretty well, I think, especially right at the end when he has to shoot Andy.
Chris: The thing I didn’t understand there was why he kept almost shooting Andy and then putting his gun up to throw him around, only to immediately pull his gun on him and act like he was going to shoot him again.
I really enjoyed that scene where tortured and injured Dig beat those guys up and handcuffed Andy and was about to shoot him. I literally yelled, “Shoot him in the face!” at my TV. I just don’t get where all this hesitance comes from over and over. You keep almost shooting him, and then not doing it, and it comes back to bite you in the ass every time. After the second time, either he’s got to go or you’ve got to stop pointing your gun at him.
Matt: Ah, but Chris, therein is the very nature of drama. “To shoot or not to shoot?” and so on.
But again, I think the inner conflict works. Dig absolutely hates this guy and that he’s continuing to threaten his family, but it is his brother after all, and he wants to see if there’s any humanity left in him. He even brings up Andy’s family to try to bring that out. I wish Dig had mentioned what the heck happened to Carly, Andy’s wife, who was a character back in season one, and then disappeared without a word.
Chris: I think the answer is a very simple, “Shoot.” Him. In the face. I’d have already shot him if he was threatening my DVD collection after all of that, much less my wife and child.
Matt: When they were holding Dig in that big kitchen and Andy brought up his cell in the Arrowcave, do you think it was weird that he didn’t mention that he had no toilet?
Chris: Hahaha, yeah, I mean, the flipside of my earlier opinion is if I was Andy I would have already killed Dig for not letting me go to the bathroom for three months.
Matt: Let’s talk a little bit about what Lyla, who they still haven’t called Harbinger to my great dismay, is up to. She’s rolling around Star City in a bomb-proof trailer being pulled around on a truck. That makes a degree of sense, because she’s carrying around a device in her arm that would give someone control of every nuclear weapon in the world. On the other hand, people seem to be able to come in and out pretty regularly, and what’s wrong with a really strong bunker?
Chris: Matt, are you asking perfectly reasonable questions of this show?
Matt: Yeah, that’s probably asking too much. As weird as it was, keeping Lyla on that moving truck at least offered something visually interesting, you know? I mean, HIVE could have just shot at the tires a bunch and flipped the thing, but I guess it was a fairly cool concept.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a neat idea. Even if it is just ripping off an idea from MST3K classic, “Riding With Death.” I think my favorite part of the Assault on Precinct Big Rig was when the driver has his window rolled down and shoots the HIVE guy trying to get in while they’re still moving. I have to assume if you’re going to trick the trailer part all out for safety, the truck part is also bullet-proofed and booby-trapped from here to Tuesday, but, again, whatever.
Matt: And then the driver got pretty unceremoniously shot after the truck stopped, so. Bulletproof glass don’t do much if you roll your window down!
Chris: That part made me laugh, because it looked like the driver opened the door, as if to imply he was going to get out and fight, but as soon as he opened it, the HIVE guy shot him. I was just like, “Yeah, probably should’ve just locked the doors.”
Do you feel like people aren’t very consistent on this show? Like, from episode to episode, people’s opinions and convictions can just yo-yo from one extreme to the other?
Matt: Yeah. I mean, I guess that’s in some ways just part and parcel of episodic TV, especially when you’ve got 20-some episodes to pump out. You can’t keep it as consistent as like, Breaking Bad or whatever. But it does seem to happen pretty egregiously here. Like I said, you had a Dig, who was all but ready to kill the mayor last week, and then here he’s very reticent to ever pull that trigger.
Chris: Why can’t you have that on an episodic TV show though? Oh, right, because it would be harder to write then. What was I thinking?
Matt: I mean, sure, you can, but I’m sure it’s tough to maintain.
Chris: You can have multi-faceted characters that aren’t just one note and flat, just make it a little more nuanced or something. Don’t make it such a see-saw of being at one end of the spectrum or the other. Sigh.
Matt: I guess I’m looking at it through the lens of there being a dozen or so writers who are all looking at the characters with slightly different lenses. Unless you have one of those control-freak showrunners who rewrites every script, you’re going to get some variation. And who do we have? Speed Weed.
One thing that definitely should have made sense, though, is HIVE’s master plot, Genesis, and guess what? It does not. (Also, kudos to whoever wrote the Felicity line with the Phil Collins gag to get to it before we did.)
Chris: Okay, what does their plan seem to be? Destroy the world with nuclear missiles and then start a new society with the people they have in their biosphere? Is that it?
Matt: As explained in this episode, yes. But why then did Ruve Adams have to become the mayor? What was so important about taking over the bay? Is it because they needed that property to build the fallout shelter/biosphere? I guess I respect that they left it up to me to put that together, but HIVE is such an ill-defined organization, it feels like I have to put everything together about them.
And what about the vaguely religious stuff? How this is going to be Darhk’s version of the flood? Darhk hasn’t exactly struck me as a zealot. He’s a guy who says, “That was a fun bit of business!” when Dig rides a motorcycle out of a truck. We’re getting the “what” but the “why” is as elusive as ever.
Chris: Maybe we should have less TV shows on TV if you need a bunch of people to write ones like this, and those people find it this difficult to make sense of things.
Matt: Maybe we’ll at least get some answers next week, as Genesis kicks into high gear and we get hacking action!
Chris: Nothing makes for exciting television like people talking about what they're doing as they stare at a computer screen over the sounds of computer keys!