Review: “The Recruits” is The Best Episode of Arrow Since Season Two

Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - 9:51PM
DC Comics
Arrow
Wednesday, 12 October 2016 - 9:51PM
Review: “The Recruits” is The Best Episode of Arrow Since Season Two
There were serious doubts about Arrow's supposed return to form after the series premiere. Super fake punches, low stakes, and a villain without convincing motivations were only some of the problems that made it seem like season five would be yet another disappointment after fans were promised that the show would finally find its footing again this year. However, this week's episode, "The Recruits," was a significant improvement, and may even be the best episode of Arrow since the end of the show's critically acclaimed sophomore season.

In "The Recruits," Oliver finally brings in Wild Dog and Evelyn Sharp to join the future Mr. Terrific for training. However, things go badly when Green Arrow deals harshly with his new team, and they initially give up on joining Oliver. Though he seems unfazed and expectant of their decision, Felicity reminds Ollie that the reason the original team was able to work together was because they trusted Oliver Queen, not Green Arrow. In the end, he takes off the mask and reveals himself to his recruits, and the episode ends with the new team preparing to undergo Ollie's brutal regimen.

Meanwhile, a strange figure using what seems to be magical rags as his weapons is tracking down and killing individuals associated with Genesis Day. Though he's initially thought to be an enemy, he and Green Arrow end up coming together before the end of the episode to take down Church and an arms dealer who was hiding under the guise of a philanthropist. Rag Man and Ollie have a heart to heart afterwards, in which the new character reveals that his father covered him in ancient cloths on Genesis Day, and when the nukes hit, they protected him. And so it seems that the new Team Arrow has gained yet another recruit with some really intriguing abilities.

So why did "The Recruits" end up being such a captivating episode after a truly mediocre season premiere? First of all, Arrow's success in seasons one and two was always dependent on Ollie's character development, as evidenced by the huge drop in quality when the show decided to focus on other narrative themes. The season premiere showed very little promise that Ollie would undergo significant character development, whereas "The Recruits" was all about Green Arrow learning to put his faith in the new heroes — a monumental difference.

The action was also reminiscent of what was featured in season two, with "The Recruits" showcasing some perfectly choreographed fight scenes (the punches even looked real this time). The mystery of Rag Man was also an intriguing hook, and the flashbacks have never connected so perfectly to the theme of the episode since the show's sophomore season, as they showed how Ollie had to undergo a Bratva test that he also used as his first training exercise for the new team. Likewise, it was great to see that the subplot with Quentin Lance's sobriety didn't actually end, as it was one of the only conflicts of the season opener that actually set real stakes. All in all, "The Recruits" hit on so many different levels that the season premiere simply failed to.

That doesn't mean that there's not some room for improvement, though. The dialogue in the episode sometimes sounded awkward, and it wouldn't have hurt for the writers to have spent a bit more time polishing it up. Likewise, though Chad Coleman is a fantastic actor, Church still seems like a somewhat dull character because he's without compelling motivation. And while it will be interesting to see who is behind Prometheus' mask, he lacks the intrigue that was associated with other mystery villains like Zoom, or this season's Dr. Alchemy on The Flash.

Overall, however, "The Recruits" has the closest feel to the Arrow of seasons one and two than anything that's come from the show over the last two years. Hopefully, the quality of storytelling stays consistent, and Arrow is able to reach even grander heights than it ever has before. Only time will tell if the show can truly redeem itself, but here's to hoping.



Arrow will return next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.
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