Things we learned… 5×02: The Recruits

With the team gone and Oliver having accepted that they won’t be returning, the Mayor/Green Arrow attempted to enlist some new recruits, trying to get them up to speed on fighting crime in Star City. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan…

Trust goes both ways.

Trust is a theme that recurs more than it should on Arrow. Last season’s debacle with Oliver’s son ultimately boiled down to trust issues, and we’ve had several other threads hanging on the idea of one character being unable to completely trust another. And on almost every single one of those occasions, Oliver has been on one side of the problem. That continued here as Wild Dog refused to follow Oliver’s command, intervening in the attack on the children’s clinic. In this situation, both sides were in the right and the wrong: Wild Dog’s instinct to get involved was a good one, but his refusal to let the Green Arrow handle it when he’s far more equipped to do so was stupid; equally, as Felicity later points out, the group’s trust issue with Oliver stems from him not trusting them. Yes, he has every right to be hesitant to let them loose, and yes, he has every right not to want to reveal his identity immediately, but he was essentially viewing and treating them like complete outsiders, not potential teammates.

Revealing himself to the group by the hour’s end was a smart move, one that will almost certainly enable them to trust him for the foreseeable future. (I’d express qualms about the hastiness of this entire arc, but that would be to poke holes in Arrow’s entire narrative set-up, past and present, so I’ll steer clear.)

In between all of this, however, we learn just why Oliver has such trust issues. The Bratva’s initiation included a challenge (that Oliver used to train his recruits, just with a less violent end): get past some guards and ring a bell. Only the aim of the game was teamwork, and those individuals who didn’t get to ring the bell were shot. “Only person you can trust– yourself,” Anatoly tells him. It’s neither shocking nor especially thrilling that this is another one of Oliver’s flashback-induced issues, but it’s nice to get an explanation as to why we’ve spent 94 episodes with a character who refuses to trust anyone.

An adversary becomes an ally, but there’s a catch.

To say that Ragman does a complete switch in status from his introduction early in the hour to the end of it would be arguably an exaggeration, but it remains the simplest way of describing it. Seeking revenge for his father’s death in Havenrock, Ragman targets AmerTek, the company that designed the nuclear missile. And while there’s malice directed at AmerTek, it’s tough to say that he’s a villain as such; not only does he save Oliver’s life instead of finishing off AmerTek’s CEO, but he explains that he’s only doing this because it’s what his father would have wanted (sound familiar?). Oliver’s offer to Ragman (whose name, we learn, is Rory Regan) is unsurprising, and he’ll be a useful addition to the team. That being said, his past is undeniably going to cause integration problems given that Felicity was responsible for Havenrock being destroyed rather than Monument Point. Oh, and she knows that Regan’s from Havenrock.

Hello there, Mr. Deputy Mayor.

File this one under the “Say what?” category: Quentin Lance is going to be Star City’s deputy mayor. Yes, the (twice) former SCPD detective and captain was pitched the idea by Thea, as a reason for him to stay sober – after his drinking allowed Ragman entry to the clinic earlier in the hour. It’s the kind of logic that’s come to be expected of Arrow: in no way, shape, or form is Quentin in the right frame of mind to take on this job, let alone qualified. Then again, there’s a former billionaire playboy and current vigilante running the city right now, so it’s not especially unusual. But while the show’s quest to drag Quentin from his alcoholic hole is a good idea, this is absolutely ludicrous.

Prometheus has been to the Slade Wilson school of fighting the Green Arrow.

In another cameo appearance at the close of the hour, Prometheus told Tobias Church in no uncertain terms that the Green Arrow is his and his only, threatening to kill Church if Green Arrow dies. Quite why Prometheus has such an obsession with Oliver’s alter-ego, we don’t yet know, but it’s not a dissimilar stance to the one Slade took back in season two. Worth noting, though, that after two consecutive final-scene appearances, Arrow needs to hold off for a few weeks and use him in a slightly different way in future appearances; it’s inevitable that we’ll have to wait until at least Christmas before learning his identity, and there’s only so much mileage to be taken from a 30 second cameo where he kills, maims or threatens a character – Arrow has used up virtually all of its rope in that regard.

A crime he didn’t commit.

When, over the course of the past two years, I continue to argue that Diggle deserves more of a storyline, what “The Recruits” gave to him was not what I had in mind. Framing him for a crime he didn’t commit isn’t the greatest of ideas anyway, but this is now the fourth time that people Diggle thought he knew have betrayed him (Ted Gaynor in “Trust But Verify”, Joyney in “A.W.O.L.”, Andy in “Brotherhood” and “Eleven-Fifty-Nine”) and by this point, Arrow has beyond exhausted that concept. If it leads to some good material for him as he deals with prison – and the eventual escape – then fine, but the introduction of it was poor.

The verdict.

There are still problems here, but this was a much more well-executed hour than the premiere. Like last week, there were enough story threads created to enable a more positive outlook but, unlike last week, they were introduced in a much more coherent way – Diggle excepted. 7.5/10.

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