If you’re looking for proof that TV shows should not have 20+ episode seasons, look no further than this week’s episodes of Arrow and The Flash. While they both have their merits, they were mostly filler episodes at a point in the season when these superhero shows should be doing anything but treading narrative water.
We’ve been waiting weeks to see the proper return of Prometheus/Chase, especially after the final moments of last week’s episode saw Chase finding William. Rather than spurring the Prometheus v. Oliver action into overdrive, “Honor Thy Fathers” pumped the breaks, giving us a theme-centric episode about parental legacy that was not only ill-fitted for this part of the season, but was borderline insulting when it came to the character of Robert Queen. Let me explain…
“Honor Thy Fathers” began with Prometheus making a pretty baller move: delivering the skeleton of a man Robert Queen killed 15 years ago to the mayor’s office. The plot peaked here, with the big reveal sending Oliver and Adrian into a “My dad was less evil than your dad” bickering contest that was neither interesting nor productive. It doesn’t help that Oliver’s character arc here depended on him being unsure if his father was capable of murder, when his father literally shot an innocent man in front of Oliver in the pilot episode. And let’s not even talk about the genocidal mess that was The Undertaking.
Watching Oliver try to give a silver lining to his father’s manslaughter of “The Concrete Councilman” in his third act press conference was insulting. Mentioning Robert’s “sacrifice” to let Oliver live after the Queen’s Gambit crashed would have been a lot more moving if we didn’t know Robert straight-up murdered (as in: not manslaughtered) a dude to make it happen. That guy didn’t get a vote on whether he wanted to sacrifice his life for a chance to see Oliver grow out of his privileged white dude persona and do something with his life. My guess is he would have voted “nay.”
The plot was further confused by the return of Thea. Now, I am always glad to see Thea Queen, who remains, arguably, the best character on this show, but watching her try to wax poetic about her monster tendencies when she has never really done anything particularly horrible (especially compared to the other characters on this show) is just confusing. It’s the epitome of “telling” rather than “showing.” Just because the Arrow writers’ room have decided that Thea is going to have some kind of crisis of moral confidence this season doesn’t mean it tracks with what we’ve seen from this character.
Ultimately, Chase is captured by Oliver not because of any sick Green Arrow moves, but because of Oliver’s reveal that Adrian’s father was planning on disowning him. It seemingly breaks Prometheus, who lets himself get taken into custody by Oliver. Rather than Team Arrow suspecting that this might be part of Chase’s larger plan, they celebrate. Meanwhile, Chase smiles to himself from his cell, because he is obviously exactly where he wants to be. If this is the brain trust Star City has to rely on, it’s no wonder everything goes to hell every May.
In this week’s family drama subplot, Rene has a date for a custodial trial. He asks Lance to go with him as moral support, but doesn’t show up. I have to admit: this made me feel things. Mostly, anger at Rene as Lance watches Zoe’s face fall when she realizes her dad isn’t coming. “If you don’t step into that courtroom, that girl spends the rest of the her life thinking you didn’t want her,” Lance tells Rene when the younger man confides that he is considering not going. Rene claims that he is doing this for Zoe, but I am so sick of male characters on this show stewing in self-pity and self-loathing that keeps them from being there for the people in their life. Showing up when you don’t feel you deserve it is hard, but it’s what makes a true hero.
The silver lining to this episode’s redundant themes? Oliver came to the conclusion that he can’t let the past drag him down, which I’m going to assume is the show’s way of saying: We’re sorry the flashbacks have gone on for so long. We get it. They’re boring and take away from the pace of the episodes and seasons. You won’t have to deal with them much longer. To which I say: Thank you, but I am never getting all of those hours I spent watching mercenaries and/or the undead chase Oliver and The Russian Woman Whose Name I Had To Google Literally Every Week around Lian Yu back.
Of course, the flashbacks aren’t over yet. This week’s blast to the past has Anatoly and Oliver venturing back to Lian Yu as part of Oliver’s grand plan to get “rescued” and sent back to Starling City. It’s actually kind of interesting to get some explanations as to how Oliver ended back on the island, and it’s always fun to watch Anatoly roll his eyes as Oliver’s overly-complicated schemes. Also, at one point, I’m pretty sure Anatoly gives Oliver a bag of hair that he can paste to his head and face to make himself look more like a rugged castaway. This may be one of my favorite Arrow flashback moments of all time.
As Oliver finishes perfecting his bonfire set-up, he is taken out by a tranquilizer dart. He’s not alone on the island! Who could it be? Slade Wilson? The ghost of Robert Queen? Nope, it’s Kovar, who has apparently followed Oliver to Lian Yu to enact his revenge. Points for unpredictability, Arrow. I did not see that coming.