Friday, 30 October 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E04 - 'Beyond Redemption'





Otherwise good people being forced to do terrible things by desperate circumstances is clearly the theme that they were going for with much of this episode.

First, there were the 'villains' of the episode, themselves - desperate police officers who turn to crime in an effort to support their families in a city that is slowly falling apart. The idea of police officers using their training and hardware to, essentially, take over the city's drug trade is definitely a fascinatingly complex one. Though, whether any of these police officers truly count as 'good people' is probably open for debate - they were, after all, perfectly comfortable with the murders of both the drug dealers they robbed, and the two other police officers who had the misfortune of crossing their paths. But, either way, their presence still managed to add an interesting element of moral complexity to what could have, otherwise, been another fairly standard conflict. Regardless of how the viewer saw them, after all, it was made fairly clear that they truly did believe themselves to be forced into their current life of crime, at least. As the leader of this group of corrupt police officers, Liza Warner (Rutina Wesley) was really the only one who received enough screen-time to make any sort of an impression on the viewer - but, she played the part of the morally conflicted officer well. Just as important, though, setting 'Team Arrow' up against a similarly well-trained and well-equipped team made for some entertaining action sequences.

Then, there was Captain Quentin Lance, whose secretive alliance with Damian Darhk was brought out into the open by chance, when a meeting between the two was caught on camera. This led to the, perhaps expected, revelation that Captain Lance's partnership with the villainous Damian Darhk began entirely innocently - with Darhk offering help and support that the city desperately needed. Of course, that clearly didn't excuse Captain Lance from his part in allowing Damian Darhk to make the progress that he has toward his own plans - but, it did go some way toward explaining how Captain Lance could have found himself in such an awkward position, in the first place. The revelation also led to some great scenes between Paul Blackthorne and Stephen Amell, as both Captain Lance and Oliver were forced to reassess the way that they saw each other.

Next, there is Laurel Lance, and her desperate efforts to bring her sister back from the dead. For the moment, Laurel's reckless use of a form of magic that she does not understand seems to be little more than a sister who, while technically alive, has been left mostly feral - and, who needs to be kept chained up in a basement so that she does not harm herself, or anyone else.

Quentin Lance has been an important part of the supporting cast of Arrow since the beginning. He has always been a significant presence on the show, and he has always been well-played by Paul Blackthorne. Despite this, though, there has always felt as though the character was being kept to the side. He has had his fair share of great dramatic moments, sure - but, he has never really had the opportunity to be at the centre of any of the previous season's primary story-arcs. For that reason, one of the things I have appreciated about this season, so far, is that it feels like Captain Lance has been brought more fully into the story, this time around - and, this episode is the best example of that, so far. Not only does this episode give Captain Lance the opportunity to fight alongside 'Team Arrow', but it's also here where his secret alliance with Damian Darhk is brought out into the open. And, to top it off, this is also the episode in which Captain Lance learns that his daughter has been brought back from the dead. Overall, this was a great episode for Paul Blackthorne - even it if was not so great for the character that he plays.

Also, on the topic of Sara Lance - it was definitely appreciated to have that secret be revealed so soon (at least, partially). This cast of character's repeated insistence on keeping secrets from each other has been a constant source to trouble for them - and, an occasional source of frustration for the viewer. So, while Laurel was still adamant about keeping Sara's resurrection a secret from Oliver, it was great to see that she has, at least, learnt enough to reveal the truth to her father right away. Of course, with Sara still in a mostly feral state, the sight of his revived daughter isn't very much comfort to Quentin Lance. This again, led to some great scenes - as Captain Lance found himself forced to consider the possibility that the feral woman who can't quite bring himself to accept as his daughter might be better off put out of her misery.

It wasn't all bleak moral complexity, though - as we also saw Oliver Queen setting his plans to step forward and run for mayor of Star City into motion. Oliver's renewed hopeful outlook toward his efforts to save the city continues to manifest itself in subtle ways, here - and, it was definitely amusing to see his hopeful enthusiasm about his new goal clash with the more sceptical attitude of his friends. It was also great to see that enthusiasm payed off with more genuine support by the end of the episode. Felicity, meanwhile, continues to balance her efforts to support 'Team Arrow' with her role as CEO of Palmer Technologies - working with Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), as they try come up with some revolutionary form of technology that will save the company.

Finally, while whatever link there may eventually be between the 'present day' story-line and the 'flash-back' story-line is still unclear, the story of Oliver's efforts to infiltrate a group of drug traffickers operating on Lian Yu does, at least, manage to remain interesting on its own merits. Oliver placing himself, and his mission, at risk with his efforts to spare the life of a woman who was due to be killed marks another important step on his path toward becoming the character we met back in the first season - and, the clear indication that his true purpose on the island has been discovered by a fellow guard promises some interesting developments in the future.

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