Giving a ranking to this week’s episode of Arrow was difficult because it was a very uneven hour of superhero television. When it was good, it was fun, clever, and action-packed. WWE star Cody Rhodes, playing Derek Sampson, was a surprisingly solid actor and brought a little something extra to the fight scenes he shared with Stephen Amell. However, when it was bad, it was really bad. (You know I love you, Diggle, but I can’t with the hallucinations.) Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly in “A Matter of Trust.”
The Good: The JV team finally gets put in the game.
“When you are in charge, everything that your team does is on you… and I trust my team.” Oliver makes this speech to the press gathered for his announcement officially naming Quentin Lance as deputy mayor, but the sentiment extends beyond Oliver’s already rocky tenure in public office. It’s The Theme! of “A Matter of Trust,” and it might not be a particularly ambitious one, but it gets the job done. If last week’s episode was all about Oliver learning to trust his band of new recruits with his identity, then this week was about getting his team to trust him and solidifying that trust as they try to take down a Stardust-infused superhuman named Sampson.
The path to getting the team to a place of trust is a bit repetitive and overstated, but the journey is worth it to see Green Arrow fight alongside proto-Mr. Terrific, Ragman, Wild Dog, and Artemis. They make a good team and the addition of some new attitudes and skills make this fight feel fresh in a way the last iteration of Team Arrow rarely did. By bringing in baby superheroes who are doing all of this for the first time (or so), we are given some of our own sense of wonder re: Arrow back.
A big part of this was Curtis, who was a breath of comedic fresh air for the “A” plot in tonight’s episode. He was given more to do than ever before, and Echo Kellum stepped up to the plate. Not all of Curtis’ jokes landed, but most of them did, serving a similar purpose to Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) role as comic relief in season one. Of course, Felicity wasn’t just comic relief in season one, and Curtis isn’t just comic relief now. He also is the one who talks Felicity out of the Oliver-like secret-keeping, who keeps team morale up with his enthusiasm, and the character who looks at this world with wonder (there’s that word again), rather than jaded skepticism like pretty much everyone else. It’s like getting a dose of The Flash without having to go to the trouble of a crossover, and it helped this episode immensely.
The Bad: The Bratva flashbacks.
It’s a good thing the “A” plot was entertaining because the flashbacks continue to be middle-of-the-road. It’s hard to build a new storyline on a shaky foundation and that’s exactly what Arrow is doing by making Oliver’s bid to join the Bratva about fulfilling his promise to Taiana. We knew very little about Taiana, even though we spent an entire (flashback) season with her. She was forgettable. Arrow never gave us a reason to care about her, which is why it’s hard to care about Oliver’s mission to keep his promise. Sure, Anatoly is there, but he is not the quirky, vodka-drinking Russian guy it was easy to pretend he was on The Amazo. Actually, he is a cold-blooded Bratva leader who, yes, likes Oliver, but not enough to prevent him from undergoing the frankly terrible Bratva initiation hazing. (That back-slicing scene?!)
Arrow would be better served to articulate Oliver’s reasons for staying away from Starling City a bit more clearly. We know a bit about his emotional state from season four’s “The Return” and from his explanation to Anatoly at the beginning of the season, but not enough to truly grasp on an emotional level why he is putting himself through this torture.
The Ugly: Diggle’s prison subplot.
Speaking of torture, poor David Ramsey. This man deserves better than a random, angsty, military espionage subplot that feels like it is happening on a completely different show. It’s not just that Diggle’s guilt-fueled hallucinations of Floyd Lawton were physically removed from any of the normal trappings of Arrow, it’s that Diggle arc was tonally really far away from everything else that was happening in the episode (save, perhaps, for Felicity’s confession to Rory that she nuked his hometown).
While the “A” plot was doing its damndest to cram as many wrestling references into its screen time as possible, Diggle was telling his wife to leave him to rot in prison. Forget about how that would affect Lyla’s own happiness or the emotional health of his small son (#Flashpoint), diving into a guilt spiral is a better use of his energy and time. This is not the Diggle I know. Would Oliver pull something like this? Absolutely. Would Diggle? Not in a million years, even if he did murder his brother pretty unnecessarily.
Like the flashbacks, Diggle’s storyline here has the disadvantage of being built on a shaky foundation. The Andy Diggle storyline in season four was severely underdeveloped. One gets the sense that it was the subplot that kept getting pushed back a week in lieu of developing other subplots, but ended up with just not enough time. Therefore, when Diggle killed his brother, it was nowhere near as tragic and horrifying as it should have been and that lack of emotional investment and understanding is now bleeding into Diggle current subplot.
That being said, I am 100 percent here for next week’s prison break episode. I am already getting “Keep Your Enemies Closer” nostalgia from the promo. If Arrow doesn’t make at least one throwback to the season two episode that sees Team Arrow breaking Lyla out of Russian prison, then I’ll eat my keyboard.
Rating: ★★ Fair
“I’m up for any lesson that doesn’t involve him punching us in the face.” On Oliver’s “teaching” style.
“What did we learn?” “Don’t piss Oliver off.” Seriously, can we make a 365-day calendar of Oliver’s teachings?
Someone finally called Wild Dog by something other than Wild Dog. Thank god.
Tonight saw the first time Oliver meets Felicity’s current boyfriend, Billy Malone. Of course, Oliver doesn’t seem to know that Felicity is dating him. And Billy didn’t know that it was Oliver under that hood, but it kind of counts. Billy seems to be taking on a kind of Detective Lance role in this season, both asking the Green Arrow for help and sharing information.
“I listened to what you wanted to do and then I did what I wanted to do. Guess where I got that one from?” Thea, to Oliver. Seriously, this 365-day calendar practically writes itself.
I’m not sure that Thea, who grew up as the daughter of Moira Queen, would have fallen for reporter Susan’s machinations. However, it was all worth it simply to hear Thea threaten Susan, Moira-style, with this gem: “Next time you try to cross me like that, you’ll be lucky if you even have a blog.”
“On that boat. The Amazo. You remember?” Yes, Anatoly. Oliver remembers that time you were both prisoners on the ship of a crazy scientist who shot everyone who came on board and made them dig out the bullet themselves. He remembers that.
“Because Curtis will just tell Mommy and Daddy.” — Rene, on why he didn’t bring Curtis on the surveillance mission.
I’m taking bets on whether or not District Attorney Adrian Chase is Prometheus. I’m getting some Brother Blood vibes from this one.
“Remember Vertigo?” “Believe it or not, I tried to buy it once.” Adrian Chase believes it.
“Is this normal behaviour around here?” Rory’s reaction to the ridiculous level of drama on Team Arrow makes him the most well-adjusted person in this group. And he is the one who was saved from the nuclear obliteration of his hometown by some magic rags.
“Have you talked this out with Oliver? “No, Oliver and I don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.” *Soon followed by a scene in which Felicity and Oliver break down Oliver’s frustrations about leading Team Arrow.*
Unpopular opinion: I know Susan Williams is kind of a bitch, but I agree that someone should probably be reporting that Oliver Queen doesn’t actually know what’s going on in his own office. Her methods are sleazy, but her instincts aren’t terrible.
“You’re pushing this Wild Dog codename thing a bit too far.” When Oliver makes a joke, the whole world stops and listens.
“Floyd Lawton was an assassin for hire. You are a good man.” Lyla is also one of the only well-adjusted people on this show.
Wow. Arrow dropped some major Mr. Terrific teases in “A Matter of Trust,” and it was great. I’m not sure if I can handle that mask, though.
“Whoa. That almost sounded like an apology. “I’m still learning to.” The final scene of the final episode of Arrow will be Oliver delivering an effective apology, revealing that the true purpose of this journey all along was Oliver’s slow, slow character arc learning how to say “I’m sorry,” a skill most people learn in kindergarten.
“Just because you can’t feel your tendons feeling sliced, doesn’t mean you don’t need them.” This may be the creepiest thing Oliver has ever said. Well done, Arrow.
“Do the people who built this elevator know your secret, too?” — Rene
“He fainted the first time he saw it.” “I had the flu. I had the flu, y’all.” Curtis had the flu that time, guys.
“You have failed this city.” Yep, the tagline’s back.