Way too many things were going on in last night's Arrow — and none of them were really related to the ongoing arc of this current season. Thankfully, one of the things that did happen was so thoroughly enjoyable and fun that it made the maelstrom of too many things disappear for a few, glorious minutes.
I've been really enjoying the start of Arrow's fifth season — in fact, it's kind of remarkable at how well the show has managed to balance a return to its original roots while still carrying the confidence and swagger of a show that's into its fifth year of storytelling. But at the same time, for all the fun I'm having, I'm starting to get a little lost as to what this season is going to be all about — because in an attempt to win back disillusioned fans, the show is firing a kitchen-sink-shaped volley of trick arrows in our general direction.
"A Matter of Trust" tried to fit way too many threads into 40 minutes of television, and some of those threads ended up being treated like the tattered and frayed edges of one of Ragman's many rags. The show tried to connect all of these disparate stories through the theme of trust — a rather oblique and heavy handed example of the show yelling "JUST TRUST US, IT WILL BE GOOD THIS SEASON" at its fanbase — but it didn't quite come together that well. Let's break down the threads from last night:
- A new drug called Stardust is playing havoc on the streets of Star City, leading to a pain-numbed drug peddler named Derek Sampson becoming a metahuman threat
- Oliver still can't trust his new Arrow team, and they're struggling to work together
- Felicity is conflicted abou the part she played in turning Rene into the Ragman
- Oliver and Thea come under fire from the press for hiring Lance on as Vice Mayor
- Captive Diggle is freaking the hell out and seeing visions of Floyd Lawson, a.k.a. Deadshot, in his cell
- In flashback land, Oliver wants out of the Bratva after they betrayed his trust
This is way too much to handle effectively in 40 minutes of TV, and a lot of the threads suffered for it — particularly Thea's arc with the snappy journalist and Felicity's Ragman conflict. The show's got a pretty big main cast at the moment, so it feels like the team is trying to give each part of it a decent focus, but it lead to last night's episode feeling forced in its attempt to draw these disparate threads together (especially having the flashbacks so linked to the theme of the modern day stuff, too).
Arrow came very close to falling apart last night but rushing the team drama allowed it to save itself with one brilliant moment: Team Arrow, in uniform, going out to beat the shit out of Sampson and his operation.
Just look at this simple, but delightful sequence. Ollie's hook-arrow-punch-thing like he's pretending to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat is great, but the star of the show is Curtis. The show has been teasing his transformation into Mr. Terrific basically ever since he first showed up, but actually getting to see it happen at last is delightful. The mask is great. He's still wonderfully dorky, even as he grows in confidence in himself. HIS JACKET SAYS "FAIR PLAY" AND EVELYN CALLED HIM "MR. FAIR PLAY", GODDAMMIT.
More of this, less kitchen sink, please Arrow. I think I can trust you enough at this point.
- I do not follow wrestling at all, but some cursory googling filled me in on the fact that this episode's guest star, Corey Rhodes, was a former WWE star who's had some onscreen/offscreen wrestle-beef with Stephen Amell, and this was some sort of culmination of that. That's pretty goofy and brilliant, but you'd think if this was about their wrestling stuff, they'd actually have been on screen together more than they were.
- Speaking of wrestling though, I loved that the show worked in Terry Sloane — the original Mr. Terrific — as a childhood wrestling hero of Curtis'. Lovely touch.
- I cannot overstate how amazing it is, even in 2016 with the likes of Supergirl and The Flash doing absurdly camp comic stuff on TV, that Curtis' Mr. Terrific jacket had "FAIR PLAY" stitched on the arms. These are apparently prototype costumes for the new Team Arrow, but I hope that doesn't mean he loses the jacket. Just give him some T-spheres and it will be perfect.