The men of The CW’s Arrow brought their A-game in the emotional department on tonight’s episode while the ladies continued to kick all kinds of ass. Heck, “Beyond Redemption” even brought True Blood and Hannibal star Rutina Wesley in for a little extra punch in the action department. While this hour opted for more grounded and realistic villains than meta-humans or magic-wielders, the decision actually allowed a long-brewing conflict between male leads to play out in earnest, though it might not be the one you expected.
Before we get into the drama of tonight’s episode, let’s take a brief look into Oliver’s past as we once again visit the cursed island of Lian Yu. If you remember, Oliver spirited one of the workers to safety out from under the watchful eye of her mercenary guards. He gets her setup in a cave with the bare necessities, but needs her to play dead – assisted by his special set of skills – so that mercenary leader Conklin will buy Oliver’s story. Their ruse works, but Conklin soon discovers Oliver’s radio and the communications from Waller. This won’t end well, but for which one of them remains to be seen. (Definitely Conklin.)
Back in modern-day Star City, Oliver is prepping to reveal to his closest supporters, ie Team Arrow, his plan to run for Mayor. Problem is, some dirty cops, led by Wesley’s Liza Warner, are causing chaos in the city by killing drug dealers and taking the illicit materials to use for their own gain. Team Arrow gets involved only after the crooked cops happen to kill two fellow detectives. Quentin Lance, whose loyalties also come into question in this episode, also gets involved once he learns of the corruption on his force.
Though Ollie’s private campaign announcement doesn’t go over as well as he expected with his team, his reveal of the new Arrow Cave goes a bit better. Felicity’s obviously the brains behind the operation but she also happens to be the money, both for the new facility (beneath Oliver’s new campaign headquarters, both of which used to belong to Sebastian Blood) and the campaign itself. Hat tip to Cisco and S.T.A.R. Labs for their hand in supplying the electronics, though the system seems to have a few bugs in it…
It’s not long before the dirty cops’ behavior trips Team Arrow’s sensors, so they set up a two-pronged attack: Oliver heads to the SCPD to let Quentin Lance know about his plans to run for Mayor, but more importantly about the crooked cops on his staff. He also lets him know about the plan to use real drugs in order to lure the bad cops into a trap. Too bad Lance has bigger issues on his mind.
Remember last week when Laurel and Thea took Sara Lance’s corpse on a trip to Nanda Parbat in order to resurrect her body? Well, turns out that wasn’t a great idea since Sara is currently chained up in Laurel’s basement, feral and unresponsive to any of her sister’s good intentions. Quentin isn’t convinced that Sara, the real Sara, is back or will be any time soon. For viewers, we know she’ll be back in some capacity by the time the spin-off show Legends of Tomorrow hits, but what will her journey to that point look like? We’ll find out more starting with next week’s episode.
Though Team Arrow’s planned trap certainly works, it doesn’t end up well for the good guys. The corrupt cops have better training than the run-of-the-mill SCPD officers and they’re prepared for a fight against the vigilantes, as evidenced by them negating Canary’s cry and Green Arrow’s arsenal. What they don’t expect is the appearance of Quentin Lance working alongside the hooded heroes. The crooks get away with the drugs and make plans to use Quentin to their benefit.
However, it’s clear that Quentin is in over his head. He’s trying to hold the city together with a depleted police force full of corrupt cops, no leadership from city politicians, mercenaries running wild in the streets, and a mystical madman named Damien Darhk pulling his strings. It’s to this man that he turns for help once more, not with the corrupt cops, but with his own resurrected daughter. Darhk’s advice is harsh and cold: put Sara out of her misery. Quentin’s woes get worse when Oliver spots his meeting with Darhk on Felicity’s hacked security cameras, leading to one of the series’ best character scenes ever.
The conflict between Quentin Lance and Oliver Queen has been brewing since the first-ever episode. Oliver’s pre-island past presented Quentin with the very normal problem of a daughter (or two…) dating a real jerk of a guy. The tension between the two of them only got worse over the years with Oliver’s return, the criminal acts his family was tied to, and the vigilante he became. There’s a rich history of turmoil between these two, but until tonight, Quentin has always held the moral high ground. Now that Oliver has evidence that Quentin has been meeting with the despicable and dangerous Darhk, he rightfully takes Lance to task for his decisions. It’s a powerful scene that’s acted quite well on Paul Blackthorne’s part and could easily be Stephen Amell’s best performance yet. Kudos!
The revelation that even someone as righteous as Quentin Lance has fallen to working with villains suggests to Oliver that Star City is beyond saving, that running for Mayor would be futile; Thea attempts to talk him out of it. Quentin thinks the situation with Sara is just as hopeless, but in a parallel storyline, Laurel prevents him from killing his own baby girl. The two plotlines coincide when the corrupt cops kidnap Quentin and leave Laurel unconscious.
What follows is a big battle between Team Arrow and the crooked cops who have used Quentin’s access to steal tons of drugs from the SCPD’s disposal site, making one last big score before leaving town. Too bad Team Arrow learned some lessons from the last fight: Canary unleashes a vicious cry and Green Arrow manages to lasso Liza Warner … until she cuts herself free and plunges a knife in his back. Lack of subtlety aside, it’s Quentin’s speech about believing that the city can still be saved which convinces Liza to literally pull the knife out of Oliver’s back. (I said it was dramatic, not nuanced; Quentin’s speech is worthy of a Batman movie though.)
With the corrupt cops all rounded up, Quentin’s offer to turn himself in is a respectable one, but Oliver’s plan to use him to get close to Damien Darhk is the smarter play. It unites Lance and Queen in a way that has only been seen in individual episodes, but as the specter of the unknown grave looms large in this season, I’m left wondering if Quentin’s undercover work will lead to his ultimate sacrifice…
Before we get to Ollie’s campaign announcement and the episode’s final stingers, let’s take the time to mention Felicity’s storyline with Curtis Holt and the disembodied Ray Palmer. While Holt is busy trying to guess who is behind the Green Arrow’s hood, Felicity asks for his help in figuring out what is making her phone act so screwy. Turns out that Holt recognizes the code as Palmer’s operating system prototype. He discovers a final recorded voice message from Palmer moments before his presumed death, and after an episode’s worth of wheedling and cajoling by Holt, Felicity finally gives up the necessary password. She cries while hearing Ray’s last words: an apology to her.
On a brighter note, Ollie decides to run for Mayor after all! He’s stunned by the outpouring of support from his newly arranged team of interns (thanks to Thea) and prepares to give his announcement speech (thanks to Thea). His platform is one borne of the idea of a united city. As his speech plays out, we see various scenes from around Star City, like Damien Dark receiving a wooden box which apparently makes him very happy. But perhaps the second-most intriguing reveal is Laurel’s discover that Sara has broken out of her chains and is on the loose!
“Beyond Redemption” felt like a solidification of Season 4’s central conflict: a battle for the heart of Star City between Oliver and his allies (hooded and not), and the forces of Damien Darhk, the Ghosts, and H.I.V.E. Getting Quentin and Oliver back on the same side was a great way to resolve the series-long tension between them while setting up the next great conflict for their relationship. Will both of them survive the war that is to come? We know that someone certainly won’t, but just who that will be remains to be seen.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Thea: “Where is it? Why aren’t you wearing it?” Felicity: “Wearing what?” Oliver: “…”
Oliver: “I’m running for Mayor! … Kind of thought everyone would be a little more supportive!”
Quentin (to Oliver): “You spend more time here now than when you were collared for hitting paparazzi.”
Oliver: “We’re gonna need some money.” Felicity: “Don’t you mean ‘more money.’” Oliver: “Mm-hmm.”
Thea: “I know this is a trap and all, but something about the drugs, the club … makes me feel like I’m back in high school again.” Diggle: “I worry about raising a daughter in this city.”
Quentin: “No wonder there’s corruption on the force. Everyone else has better resources.”
SWAT Guy: “Idiots baited the trap with real cheese.”
Interesting take on DC’s Lady Cop, but Wesley’s signed on for a multi-episode arc, so hopefully we’ll see her earn some redemption.
Quentin: “She’s my baby girl.” Darhk: “She may look like your daughter but she doesn’t contain her soul. The most loving act you can commit is to return her to her final rest.”
Quentin: “You know I’ve got a heart condition, right?” Perhaps Laurel should have thought of this before revealing his presumed-to-be-dead daughter chained up in her basement … in a corset … acting like a rabid dog.
Oliver: “Stop hiding behind your daughters!”
Conklin: “You are one dark bastard.”
Canary: “New frequency, same cry.”
Ollie, maybe a little more armor wouldn’t hurt…
Quentin: “Maybe we start saving our home by saving ourselves first. That means facing up to our mistakes, facing up to justice.”
Oliver: “I trust the man who said, ‘Don’t stop believing we can save this city.’”
Ray Palmer: “I’m sorry, Felicity. This is my fault.”
Does Oliver Queen have your vote? #United2016