‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 5, Episode 4: ‘Penance’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where returning Arrow watcher Chris Haley and newcomer Emma Lawson dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
On this week’s episode, “Penance,” Oliver has a secret mission and gets a new outfit, Tobias Church is making moves against Star City, and Team Arrow’s new recruits have a pretty rough time. Dermott Downs directed the episode from a script by Brian Ford Sullivan and Oscar Balderrama.
Chris: Well, Emma, here we are back for another action-packed week in Star City, and this episode had things happening from start to finish! I don’t know what kind of topsy-turvy, upside-down world we’re living in, but I find myself having to admit that I enjoyed this episode! What’s more, I think this is the first time in my history of watching Arrow that I can’t wait to see what happens next week! What is going on and what did you think of this week’s show?
Emma: I’m so happy you’re enjoying this season, Chris! I had a great time watching this episode. I loved seeing our baby birds leave the nest and learn to fly on their own. I squealed when Evelyn finally got her codename Artemis, and I was so happy to see Curtis getting some punches in during the cold open. I worry about Curtis, though, it’s going to be hard hiding bruises and knife wounds from his husband.
Chris: Yeah, they made that whole point last season about him not wanting to be a vigilante because he didn’t want to have to lie to his husband about what he was doing, but it looks like they’ve just completely dropped that so far.
Emma: I think I heard rumblings from the showrunners that this is going to come up later this season.
What did you enjoy about this week’s episode, Chris? What’s making this season so much better than the last for you?
Chris: Haha, it’s hard to pinpoint, because when I’m enjoying something my brain doesn’t actively try to analyze it as much. I think part of it has to do with the fact that the interpersonal dynamics are all just radically different this season. I like the new team and I feel at least mildly interested in all of their backstories and getting to know them. I know we’ve got a long way to go, but so far it’s seemed like things were more focused, even though I don’t know what to attribute that to. Also, I was so sick of that stupid island, and I’m enjoying this season’s flashbacks to Ollie’s Adventures in Russia-Land.
Emma: I love Ollie in Russia. So many interesting characters and murder!
Chris: Right? This week’s subplot with him having to take care of something in a jail mirroring both his own military prison mission and what was happening with the DA, and then the team back in the Star City lockup in the present, was also really well done. And it doesn’t hurt that every week he seems to look more like my friend Corey in those flashbacks. I wish he’d just keep that wig on for the entire show.
This week we also saw that, even though Prometheus is lurking somewhere in the shadows, Tobias Church is not ready to relinquish his status as this season’s big bad. He outsmarted Star City’s police and an Arrow-less Team Arrow, got his hands on even more heavy-duty weaponry (that I’m betting will come into play later in the season), and generally just proved himself to be a complete bad guy badass that’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Emma: As soon as Curtis asked why Church got someone to steal something so useless as a normal computer chip, my “oh no oh no” meter just lit right up. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. It was a smart plan from Church, though --- why pay for sweet weapons when you can just steal them from the cops? Makes them look useless and you get to keep your hard-earned illegal cash. Spend it on some pizza for your minions.
Chris: You’ve got a real knack for villainy, Emma.
Emma: Coming from my nemesis, that’s a real compliment! I really have no idea what Church’s endgame is, though. Is he just going to take down Team Arrow, and the cops, and then rule Star City like an impeccably dressed crime king? Or is there something else going on? I think I’m just used to Big Evil, so a normal crimelord just seems too simple.
Chris: Yeah, I have no idea either, but it is a little bit refreshing. Especially after last season.
Speaking of leaders that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, I really enjoyed that scene where Jim Henson’s Arrow Babies tried to stop Ollie from going after Dig and he just knocked them all down and took off on his motorcycle without breaking a sweat. I’ve said it before, but I like these moments when they show that Oliver is not just really good at this, but much better than the people around him, because it justifies a guy with a bow and arrow being in a leadership position when the super-powered people start dropping by for team-ups.
Emma: Jim Henson’s Arrow Babies! I love that they thought that was going to work, and that Felicity thought seeing them take a stand against him would make Oliver stop and think. The first training session with the Arrow Babies was Oliver beating them up again and again! He’s clearly not averse to hitting them, and he is way better at this vigilante stuff.
I have no problem with a guy with a bow and arrow being in a leadership position over actual super-powered people; leadership is about far more than just being the most powerful. Having that bigger picture plan, bringing people together, supporting them as they grow and learn, those to me are the hallmarks of leadership. And Ollie’s getting there, I think.
Chris: Agreed. I think seeing that transition is another part of what I’m enjoying about this season over the last one. It could be sheer coincidence, but the writers/showrunners seem to have a much clearer idea of what they’re trying to do with the show this season. Fingers crossed.
There was a lot of talk this week about the subject of penance and how people tried to pay it or pay it forward or… something, I don’t know. Felicity is a constant reminder to Rory of what happened in Havenrock, and vice versa. Dig thinks he belongs in prison, and Oliver thinks he should pay his debt to society as a vigilante. How did all of that talk sit with you?
Emma: I am not going to lie, I started tearing up during Rory and Felicity’s conversation in his studio. (Also, Rory makes art? I love you, Rory.) This is the stuff I love about superhero fiction --- how do you deal with not being able to save everyone? Or choosing who gets to live and who deserves to die? Not that you can’t have those discussions in other types of fiction, with regular folk, but the scale is so much larger here. Felicity and Rory’s storyline deals with these questions the best, in my mind --- you just have to muddle through, and try to be better the next time, and not hold grudges.
With Dig and Ollie, though, at what point have you paid your debt? At what point have you been punished enough? I’m fine with Oliver working through his penance by actively trying to do good, but Dig, come on. Rotting in jail helps no one.
Chris: Agreed. Also, did I completely misread what happened in that conversation between Rory and Felicity, or did we find out that Rory’s father used to be Ragman?
Emma: Yes, Rory’s father was Ragman! And his grandfather too, it sounded like.
Can I just say that Prometheus’s costume is too similar to both Ragman’s and Malcolm Merlyn’s Dark Archer? Like, the mask is very Ragman, while the rest of the outfit is pure leather Dark Archer. The first few times we saw Prometheus I was like “wait, Ragman wants to kill Oliver?” I don’t think I was the only viewer confused.
Chris: I totally agree they look too similar, but this show kind of has a history of all costumes having a pretty similar aesthetic. And I know at least one person in a previous episode’s comments thought it was Ragman threatening Church.
Also, I don’t think we’ve mentioned this yet in talking about previous episodes, but apparently Dig and Lyla have a baby boy now, instead of a baby girl? And I think it has something to do with something happening over in The Flash? Do you know what’s going on with all of that?
Emma: Yep, this is due to The Flash messing with timelines. In the new timeline after all that Flashpoint stuff, Sara is now baby John. Poor baby Sara Dig, just being wiped out of existence. This is why we don’t mess with the timeline, Barry!
Chris: This kind of thing makes my brain hurt, but I have to applaud them for having something from one show have an effect on the other shows in the same universe.
I brought Prometheus up earlier, and I realized we didn’t say a word about him last week, but it’s worth mentioning that some of our beloved commenters have brought up that the showrunners have said he’s not the Prometheus from the comics, but a different character with the same name they’ve created for the show… which, on the one hand, is a huge bummer to me, but is also a little bit of a relief.
Emma: Is he not even based on the Prometheus from the comics at all? If not, then why use the name? You can literally make anything up, showrunners. Choose a different name.
Chris: Exactly. Don’t get my hopes/anxiety up like this for no good reason, Arrow.
Emma: The new district attorney gets a lot of screen time in this episode, and he’s very Anti-Vigilante. Do you think there’s some backstory there that we’ll get to see as the season progresses, or does he just not like masked men doing his job?
Chris: My guess is he’s Prometheus and we’re going to get it all spelled out in way more detail than is necessary, but perhaps they’ll surprise me. This season has been full of surprises so far, so it could happen!
Emma: I did not even think of that! Ooh. He’s clearly a not great guy, and he doesn’t think highly of Oliver either as mayor or the Green Arrow, so it’s definitely possible!
Chris: Unless he’s totally a red herring to make us think he’s Prometheus since they both showed up right around the same time. I guess it’ll depend on how clever they’re trying to get this season.
Emma: We never seem to talk about Russia much in these recaps but I have to say, I much prefer the Russia flashbacks to any from previous seasons. I adore Anatoly’s wry humor, and he’s clearly a guy who Gets Things Done.
Chris: I agree 100%. These flashbacks (so far) have all done a much better job of tying in with what’s happening in the present. You know, like they should instead of just being random time filler or painful reaches to make a connection.
Oh, and speaking of painful, how about that fight between Church and Wild Dog?
Emma: Oof is all I can say. Good on Wild Dog for enabling his teammates to get out of there, but I really hope they rescue him soon. I was also really feeling for Curtis after that stab wound. All my tiny Arrow Babies are hurt! (Except for Evelyn, because she’s just great.)
Chris: She’s clearly the smartest, most level-headed member of the team and I applaud her for that. There need to be more even-keeled people on these superhero shows/teams.
Is there anything we missed? Besides the fact that Oliver and Lyla’s extraction plan for their prison break was hilarious. That zoom in showing that… I’ll say, less than stellar shot of Lyla flying the plane was something else. Also, I feel pretty certain that getting snatched off the ground like that by a plane would just snap you in half.
Emma: Oh probably. I used to rock climb all the time, and even if they survived getting ripped from the earth like that, they would not be comfortable in those harnesses getting yanked around like that.
Chris: Right?! It wasn’t even a full harness! Just getting grabbed at a couple hundred miles an hour by your hips/crotch only? No, thank you.
Emma: It would probably break your hips at least (not that I know anything about breaking hips, ahem).
One last thing, I thought Oliver’s acceptance of Rory’s resignation, short-lived as it was, was actually well done. I expected a rant about duty but Ollie totally got it and just let Rory go. Excellent leadership there.
Chris: Couldn’t agree more. He handled that like a really good guy, and that’s the kind of thing I want to see in my superheroes. Also, he wore some kind of Stealth Jason Voorhees costume for his prison adventure and that seems like as nice a nod as we’re going to get to the fact that this was the last episode before Halloween.
Emma: Loved his Sneaky Bad Guy costume. And his reaction when Felicity caught him stealing from Palmer Tech was pure “kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.”
Are you dressing up for Halloween, Chris?
Chris: What kind of monster would I be if I didn’t?!
Emma: One without a sweet Halloween costume, obviously.
Chris: What about you?
Emma: Dressing up tomorrow night and going out to a hot dog restaurant that will be in costume itself as Bob’s Burgers. Halloween!
Chris: Wow. Color me green with envy. Get it? Because we watch Green Arrow. Happy Halloween everybody! We’ll see you next week!