The theme of Arrow’s fourth season is family. Four episodes in, the show has already set in motion several family-themed arcs — Oliver taking Thea under his superhero wing, Diggle searching for his brother’s killer, Laurel bringing back her sister from the dead.
But in this week’s excellent “Beyond Redemption,” the most compelling dynamic is not one based on blood or marriage or even friendship, for that matter. Rather, it’s the fractured quasi-father-son relationship between Oliver Queen and Quentin Lance that provides the most satisfying conflict in this week’s episode, expertly directed by Lexi Alexander.
But before we get to that, Oliver’s got a Team Arrow announcement to make. He’s gathered everyone (in daylight!) at Sebastian Blood’s old campaign office from season two, now dusty and crawling with cockroaches. Much to Thea’s disappointment, Oliver is not announcing his engagement to Felicity, but instead reveals his plan to run for mayor. The skepticism that this announcement is met with is earned, and it’s adorable to see Oliver flinch with insecurity about his team’s lack of enthusiasm. (This really is a new Oliver.)
When Oliver can’t win them over with his platform ideas, he shares another surprise: a secret elevator in the campaign office that takes them down to the new Arrow Lair (“Foundry” is so last season). And it’s not some dinky old factory basement — it’s a slick, high-tech lair, courtesy of The Flash’s Cisco and S.T.A.R. Labs. There’s a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the new space, although Felicity is going to need some time to get used to the spin of the new chairs. Team Arrow’s collective drooling gives Oliver enough of a confidence boost to head to the Star City Police Department and ask Captain Lance to support his campaign.
Quentin’s reaction at Oliver’s request — laughter — is predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Quentin, acknowledging the prior mayors’ penchant for being murdered, hopes that Oliver “wins in a landslide.” Of course, Quentin’s zingers are more bark than bite. He doesn’t really want Oliver killed. But that fact probably just makes Quentin even more irritated with Oliver.
Quentin is also irritated with police-budget woes. He’s trying to get an evidentiary analysis of a S.I.M. card found at the scene where two of his officers were murdered, but there’s no manpower available to do so. In a symbolic gesture of good will, Lance hands Oliver the card, hoping he and Team Arrow can shed light on what happened. While Lance worked together with the Arrow throughout the first three seasons, this is the first time Lance is bringing Oliver in as a partner. The time for masks is over.
At the Arrow Lair, Felicity uses the S.I.M. card to pinpoint a hideout location for the cop murderers. Turns out the cop murderers are, in fact, police officers themselves. Team Arrow suspects that these tainted officers have a side business, i.e., stealing drugs from gangs, just to turn around and sell those drugs to different gangs. Oliver thinks they can set up a trap for the officers by faking a large drug deal and leaking it through Lance to the police station.
But first, Oliver notes, they’re going to need “money” to buy the drugs. Felicity pointedly shoots back, “Don’t you mean ‘more money’?” — a clear nod to her unwavering financial support. Oliver can only offer a sheepish grin in response. So far, the writers (and, I should add, Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards) have excelled at seamlessly folding Felicity and Oliver’s relationship into the Team Arrow dynamic. I love that they’ve created these flashes of relationship intimacy without having to focus an episode on the “relationship.” This is not to say that I can’t appreciate the wonder that is Olicity angst and smut. But I take even more delight knowing that Olicity is now simply part of the show’s fabric.
But teasing aside, Felicity gives Oliver the money to set up the trap. (The drug connection, of course, comes from Thea’s prior life as a club kid. It’s staggering, in a good way, how different season-one Thea is from season-four Thea.). Team Arrow and Quentin are working the sting together. As expected, the corrupt cops, led by Sergeant Liza Warner (True Blood’s Rutina Wesley), show up to steal the drugs, but they don’t seem that thrown by the vigilantes’ fighting tactics. Turns out these cops are actually members of the anti-vigilante task force Quentin reinstated last year. As the cops escape, Warner eyes Quentin.
As if Quentin doesn’t have enough on his plate with corrupt cops on his force, Laurel decides it’s time to reveal to her father that Sara has been resurrected. I say “reveal” because there’s no wind-up or thoughtful discussion about this major development; it’s just a quick trip to her apartment building basement, and: Ta-da! Dad, your youngest daughter is back from the dead and bound in chains! Quentin understandably cringes at the sight of Sara as she thrashes and moans.
Don’t worry, Laurel tells Quentin, Sara’s has just been “gone” for a little while and will soon “know” her family again. Laurel also tells Thea earlier in the episode that Sara just “needs more time.” “I promise,” Laurel says. I don’t understand where the show or Katie Cassidy is going with this character. Is this some kind of psychotic break for Laurel? Has she deluded herself into thinking chaining Sara in a basement and showing her pictures will make her all better? (“And this is a picture of me and Oliver. You remember him? You remember how you stole him from me and ruined my life?”) Or is this meant as a sincere attempt to show sister love conquers all? It’s like the show has forgot completely that Laurel used to be a force of logic and principle. And yet the strange thing is Laurel seems perfectly reasonable outside this specific Sara-back-from-the-dead context. I’m hoping for some clarity as this story line progresses, or that it disappears altogether once Sara bolts for Legends.
But the Lance family drama is a red herring for the real relationship drama of the episode: Quentin and Oliver. After Oliver discovers that Lance has been meeting with Damien Darhk, Oliver confronts Lance at his apartment. In an intense emotional exchange, Oliver takes Quentin to task for working with Darhk and destroying any sense of “righteousness” and goodwill Quentin had. Amell plays this scene so delicately. There is anger, sure, but there is also disappointment and a desire for approval that only a son can have for a father. It’s the antithesis of the van scene from last season’s “Public Enemy,” when Quentin chastised (and slapped!) Oliver for his role destroying Quentin’s family. I loved this week’s exchange, not only because of the outstanding performances by Amell and Paul Blackthorne but because it offered something deeper between the two than the usual curmudgeonly banter (although I love that, too).
But don’t worry. Oliver and Quentin make up later in the episode, when Warner and crew kidnap Quentin. They need Quentin’s palmprint to access a police warehouse for drug contraband, which the corrupt cops plan to sell. Warner explains that they have to resort to such corruption because they are desperate for money, so they can leave the decaying Star City. But before they can get away, Team Arrow shows up. During a fight, Warner stabs Arrow in the back and threatens to sever his spinal cord. Quentin, however, gives an impassioned speech to Warner, while her knife is in Oliver, about how Quentin refuses to give up on his city, and (for some reason) this is enough for Warner to turn herself in. (Maybe so Quentin would stop talking?) That speech really wasn’t for Warner, though. It was for Oliver. Oliver has a speech of his own to give — one announcing his candidacy for mayor.
Later, Oliver makes another surprise appearance at Quentin’s apartment. He wants Quentin to play double agent with Darhk and keep Team Arrow informed of his plans. Quentin agrees. He’s probably not too keen on Darhk, anyway, who suggested that Quentin needed to put Sara out of her misery because she no longer possess a soul. Quentin does almost put a bullet in her, but Laurel stops him in the nick of time. But maybe Laurel shouldn’t have: When Laurel later pays Sara a visit, she discovers broken chains, a pile of photos, and no sign of Sara.
Oliver convinces Mystery Worker Lady to let him use Yao Fei’s faux death trick on her to fool a suspicious Conklin. It works. But Conklin discovers Oliver’s hidden A.R.G.U.S. stash.
- Awww, they used the Olicity light for Quentin and Oliver.
- “Oh my God, this must be what talking to me is like,” Felicity says while speaking with Curtis. Really loving their friendship, and that they’re opening up to each other.
- I’m guessing that the computer glitches of the new lair are somehow connected to the phone glitches, which others have surmised is Li’l Ray trying to reach out?
- Sara’s basement/chain setup reminded me of Spike in season seven of Buffy.
- “Depends on which one,” on whether Thea still has any contact with her former drug dealers. Also, if the next Arrow spinoff was Diggle and Thea working undercover, I’d watch that. Get Berlanti on the phone, stat!
- Felicity using incense on Sebastian Blood’s old lair.
- Ugh, this episode makes me fear they are going to kill Quentin. The scene with Oliver felt like closure of some kind. Also, they just gave Laurel her very own suit closet in the new lair, so I’m guessing they are not going to kill her off. Double ugh.
SPECIAL BONUS BULL’S-EYE: QUENTIN-TO-OLIVER EDITION
- “What? Are you going to tell me you’re running for president now?”
- “You know I have a heart condition, right?”
- “You got your own key or something?”
MISSING THE MARK
- Blackthorne’s performance is on point, but I do tend to miss a good portion of what he says at times. I’m not the only one.
- The “five years” line in Oliver’s mayor speech. At least afterward they cut to Dig giving side-eye.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 1 (The Return of the Salmon Ladder!)
Come find me on Twitter and explain Laurel to me.