[Arrow] Recap • 503 A Matter of Trust

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By Sara Netzley for Entertainment Weekly

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If last week’s episode was about Team Arrow 2.0 learning to trust Oliver, then tonight’s outing was about Oliver learning to trust his new team. We’ve been with Oliver for five years now, so it’s no surprise he has an incredibly hard time putting faith in his team — to be fair, they don’t give him much reason to. But overall, this was an important step for the group in its development.

Flashback: Five years ago

Before Oliver can learn to trust his team, he needs to learn to trust the Bratva, a.k.a. the Brotherhood. Oliver is still upset his success led to the deaths of several innocent men. Anatoli tells him he needs to trust Bratva, and reveals one of those men was a killer and his death was for the mother of one of his victims. Furthermore, the only chance Oliver has to take down Kovar is if he has the Bratva as his army. Basically, his only option is to stick with initiation.

This sways Oliver, who decides to put his trust in Bratva. In his next test, Oliver must prove his loyalty to his brothers by letting them slice his back with knives.

Arrow has always struggled to tie the flashbacks to what’s going on in the present timeline. Most of the time, the show’s attempts feel incredibly contrived, but there are moments when they hit the mark and that’s the case tonight. Part of the reason the flashbacks work in this episode is because the story line is, at least now, genuinely interesting. The other reason is Oliver’s initiation into Bratva is a natural parallel to the team building going on the present. The Russia flashbacks are one of the few reasons I’m optimistic about this truly being a comeback season for the show.

The Present:

Team Arrow 2.0 still isn’t gelling. Oliver forces them to remain in the satellite Arrow cave and watch him chase drug dealers across roofs, instead of having them out there in the field with him. Obviously, they’re starting to feel restless, especially hothead Wild Dog, who is incredibly annoying and my least favorite new character. Tonight, Oliver is trying to trace the origin of a new drug called Stardust. Wild Dog offers to hit the streets and use his connections to get some leads, but Oliver shuts him down.

Wild Dog, being the wild dog he is, disobeys Oliver and goes looking for a Stardust dealer with Evelyn Sharp in tow. Rene’s instincts prove to be true and he tracks down Derek Sampson’s base of operation. In the moment, he decides to turn this recon mission into a takedown mission and blows up Sampson’s spot. In the ensuing fight, Sampson falls over into a vat of acid comprised of Stardust and some mystery element.

Everyone assumes Sampson died after falling into the vat, which pisses off many people. First, there’s Star City’s new D.A. Adrian, who was hoping to flip Sampson and find his supplier. Then there’s Oliver, pissed because Adrian is pissed and because Wild Dog disobeyed an order. Wild Dog doesn’t think he did anything wrong, making him just as stubborn as Oliver.

Surprise! Sampson didn’t die. Instead, that vat of acid enhanced his strength and suppressed his ability to feel pain, which means Oliver doesn’t fare well in their first fight. Emboldened by besting the Green Arrow, Sampson calls his allies and asks them to help steal the necessary chemicals to make them like him. In others words, he’s trying to make more knockoff Mirakuru soldiers.

Team Arrow isn’t the only thing giving Oliver a headache tonight. Leaks surface of Thea offering Quentin Lance the job; when she tries to rectify the situation, it gets worse: A nasty reporter makes it seem like Oliver doesn’t know what’s going on his administration. Both of these conflicts — and a pep talk from Felicity — remind Oliver that, as a team leader, he’s responsible for his team’s every action, which makes it even more important for him to trust those he’s leading.

Once Felicity gets a lead on Sampson’s location — he returned to his drug factory to create more souped-up idiots — Oliver decides to take his team with him into the field, and it’s amazing. Not only is it awesome to see this new team in action, but the final action sequence featured the debut of Curtis in the Mr. Terrific costume, a geek dream come true. After defeating Sampson, Oliver opens up even more to his team by welcoming them to the official Arrow Cave. The new recruits approach the costume cases with a degree of reverence, and you get the sense they realize who they’re currently being compared to.

On the political front, Oliver holds a press conference, where he takes responsibility for Thea’s actions and publicly appoints Quentin Lance as his deputy mayor. After the press conference, Thea confronts the reporter who played her and makes sure she knows not to mess with her again. I love angry Thea.

Although team building was a big part of the night, the episode still found time to delve into the trauma from season 4, leading to some of the show’s best stuff. Let’s start with Felicity, who feels uncomfortable around Rory because she redirected the nuclear bomb to Havenrock. After that happened, I was worried the show would brush it under the rug, so I’m really glad we’re revisiting that significant moment. After a bit of pushing from Curtis, Felicity finally opens up to Rory about her role in the bomb — and he just walks away without a word. Even though that didn’t go as planned, we shouldn’t be disappointed by the moment; Felicity owning up to what she did versus waiting for it to be revealed another way is a clear sign of maturity.

Meanwhile, Diggle finds himself in prison after his commanding officer framed him. While inside, he hallucinates a conversation with Deadshot, which only furthers the guilt he feels about killing Andy last season. Again, I love this material because it’s nice to see the show give Diggle some meaty, character-driven stories. In the end, Diggle tells Lyla he no longer wants to fight the charges — he believes he belongs there. Obviously, Lyla isn’t going to stand for that, so she returns to Star City and asks Oliver to break Diggle out. You have no idea how excited I am for another Arrow prison-break episode.

Wall of Weird:

It seems like Curtis has assumed Felicity’s role of the babbling comedic relief. There were times in the episode where his jokes slowed down the momentum, but overall I kind of enjoyed it.

Evelyn asks Felicity about the dating-as-a-vigilante policy, and Felicity’s short answer is “Don’t.”

Felicity’s boyfriend set up a meeting with Green Arrow to tell him about Prometheus letting Church know he can’t kill him.

Before the season started, Marc Guggenheim told my colleague Natalie Abrams that Oliver bears part of the responsibility for creating Prometheus. It’s interesting Wild Dog created his own supervillain in tonight’s episode. The show might be moving toward framing Wild Dog as Mini Oliver, especially when it comes to temperament.

And with that, I’m officially more interested in the Bratva storyline than anything else this season. Also, Dolph Lundgren remains terrifyingly imposing even 31 years after he killed Apollo Creed.

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