After a few shaky seasons, Arrow has really turned things around this year. The advent of Prometheus and a focus not only on Oliver’s and the show’s past (and past sins) has provided some tense, brutal, and often surprising and compelling storytelling. With teases of an al Ghul showdown in the finale and the return of Deathstroke on the horizon, needless to say I was pretty well stoked for what Arrow was going to bring out next. But “Dangerous Liaisons,” the first episode back after a lengthy hiatus, did more to set up next week’s episode specifically than it did to capitalize on the insanity of Adrian Chase and where we left him as he escaped custody.
More than ever, Arrow confirmed itself as “the Batman show” by setting its opening scene in an arcade where Chase had rigged up a gun turret (one of many we would see in this hour), a la the Joker (he even created his own vintage arcade game avatar — Is there nothing this man can’t do?) Honestly watching Chase be several steps ahead of Team Arrow for most of the season has been a delight — rarely have we see such a formidable foe, one who is nearly superhuman in both combat and logistics. I will miss him when he goes, as evidenced by “Dangerous Liaisons,” which was completely Chase-free (aside from a few signs of his handiwork).
Instead, we focused on Women Gone Rogue!, as Felicity aligned herself completely with Helix, and Lyla essentially just wants to Make America Safe Again. The story of Felicity and Helix has been somewhat interesting, returning her to her hacker roots and giving her a side project away from Oliver that she believes in (it’s also part of a desire for social justice that Oliver has seemingly abandoned over the years). But in her dogged pursuit of Chase, she’s willing to give away a lot to Helix, even betraying the Team and ARGUS to do so. Oliver is worried about her making these dark choices, but as she tells him later, she’s only taking a cue from him — but that his willingness to sacrifice himself for the team has been one of the things she has admired and loved the most.
Lyla and Diggle are having a parallel issue, as Dig is very uncomfortable with how much like Amanda Waller Lyla seems to be now, what with black sites and holding prisoners without due process and the like (I mean to be fair, they do the same thing on The Flash with the metas, and Lord knows OTA has been guilty of the same thing before as well). Their conversations are measured and restrained and very rational, because as Diggle says, they’ve been down this road before. But where that leads, plus more of Felicity and Oliver getting into the issues of their own relationship and past, are all just setting up next week’s Big Talks.
I have no issues with building block episodes — they’re necessary, and it’s a long road to 22 hours of programming a season. But as we wind down into these final weeks, “Dangerous Liaisons” just felt like treading water. With Prometheus in the wind, it also highlighted some of the show’s problems with finding interesting stories when it comes to the new team. They feel disjointed, there’s not a central driving force, and things ultimately become overly reliant on melodrama. Having said that, I do think that the conversations the show is setting up are worth having … but the balance in this hour still felt off.
We did get a pretty random, small side plot where Quentin and Rene’s friendship sort of went to the next level, as Quentin confronted him about now going to see his daughter. Yes “Hoss” overstepped, but he did so out of the painful knowledge he has come to face about how precious little time we sometimes get with the ones we love. That’s a lesson Rene should have learned after his wife’s death, but instead he lived in fear of … burning his daughter with soup? In any case, he faced that fear and will try and be a more present dad now. Maybe.
As for the rest of the team, Curtis got a few quips, Dinah got to scream, and Oliver has traded in his Green Arrow suit and bow for just plain tactical gear and a gun, which frankly Oliver, I’m not sure really addresses the core issue that Chase wanted you to face. It’s not that putting on that hood is what changed him, it’s what freed him to engage in violent behavior that he likes. A ski mask and a gun are the same thing — you’re just trading in different accoutrements. Don’t fool yourself!
“Dangerous Liaisons” wasn’t terrible, but it just didn’t capitalize well enough on the build-up of what we saw from Chase before the break. We have a new mystery, I guess, in who Cayden James is (I’m so tired of this), and there are some relationship issues to work out. But mainly … bring back Prometheus.
Rating: ★★★ (Edit: Added a star back — it’s fine, it’s fine)
— This episode had some pretty terrible dialogue. Here are some of my favorites:
“Cayden James is as dangerous as loose nuke” – Lyla
“I think you can teach a dog new tricks, even wild ones” – Rene
“I was reheating some soup …” – Rene
— Poor Curtis, he just talks and talks and everybody just ignores him. He got some good quips in tonight though (including quoting Airplane!), especially regarding the sanctity of Maximum Force (yes, a real game). Also happy to see him using those T-spheres.
— So Alena says no one will get hurt, then sends her guys into the gun turrets before she casually disarms them …
— Is “Cayden” going to turn out to be Slade Wilson or something?
— I’m still kinda shipping Felicity and Alena …
— “Don’t touch a woman unless you have permission, dumbass” – Dinah, who doesn’t really get to do much but stand around and occasionally scream.
— “This is happening with or without your help I’ll let you boys wrap your heads around that.” – Lyla being so sassy!
— “You are willing to sell your soul to stop a threat that i created.” – Oliver
— “That’s Quentin Lance, Daddy’s friend, but I call him Hoss.” – Wild Dog. The “hoss” stuff was cute with Zoe and everything, but … I’m with Quentin here. Drop the hoss, hoss.
— Guys, when Felicity said she couldn’t feel her legs in that promo for next week … I almost lost it. Of all the plot points to go back to. Just forget about it and move on, it’s really the best for everybody.