Sunday, 29 January 2017

Review - 'Arrow', S05E10 - 'Who Are You?'

The surprise reappearance of Laurel Lance, at the end of the previous episode, had been a pretty great way to bring the series to its mid-season break. Not only was it just an entertaining cliff-hanger – but, with a handful of plausible explanations for how she could suddenly come back, it had also been the source of some entertaining speculation, for me.

My own idea, that Laurel's reappearance (along with Leonard Snart's, on Legends of Tomorrow) could be somehow be connected to Savitar as part of another surprise cross-over, ultimately proved to be entirely wrong, of course – but, honestly, I'm not even a little disappointed. After all, as the fifth season's tenth episode quickly revealed, it was still all based on a connection to broader continuity – just not in the that I had initially thought it would be.

Picking up only moments after the previous episode came to an end, the episode wastes no time in addressing this central mystery. The most amusing thing about the incredibly outlandish tale that Laurel wove for Oliver was that, given what we understand about the increasingly strange world that these characters live in, it actually came across as almost plausible. The idea that Laurel's sister would be willing and able to use the Waverider to alter the past, and bring her sister back, sounds as though it would be in character – apart from the fact that any viewer who also watched Legends of Tomorrow would know that Sara had already come to the conclusion that she can't attempt to change the past, for her own benefit.

So, for anyone who is paying attention, it should be obvious right from the start that there is something very wrong with Laurel's story – and, to the writer's credit, they seem ready and willing to acknowledge this fact. With Felicity instantly suspicious of this apparent stroke of good fortune, it is not long until the truth is uncovered – that this isn't actually the Laurel Lance who was murdered by Damian Darhk but is, instead, the villainous double who we previously met on an episode of The Flash.

Busted out of her cell in Central City, she had been brought to Star City to pose as her deceased double as a part of Prometheus's increasingly baffling long-term plan to torture Oliver Queen. Honestly, at this point I prefer not to dwell too much on Prometheus, and whatever he might have planned – his involvement in the season has just started to feel increasingly silly (and, not in the good way that the CW's other DC shows occasionally strive for). How did he even know about Laurel's villainous double, for example? And, how was he able to break her out of Star Labs so easily? More importantly, why did he think she would actually be able to maintain this ruse for any length of time? Much like many of his past plans, none of it really seems to hold up under any real scrutiny – and, as a result, Prometheus continues with his trend of being the most disappointing element of this season.

At the same time, though, Prometheus's ridiculous plan does provide Katie Cassidy with the opportunity to take on a villainous role once more – and, this is definitely a positive, for the episode as a whole. While I never actively disliked the version of Laurel Lance that Katie Cassidy had portrayed over the first few seasons of Arrow, and I even enjoyed elements of her gradual transformation into a costumed hero, I do have to admit that she often feel underutilised and mishandled. In only two appearance, though, she had managed to turn Black Siren into a compelling, and genuinely effective, villain – one who I was very eager to see more of when she first appeared on The Flash. So, while the circumstances of how she made her way here might not have been overly compelling, I am definitely glad that we got to see more of her.

It was also interesting to observe the way in which her presence pushed Felicity into a more proactive role. With her recent tragedies still clearly weighing on her, Felicity was almost instantly distrustful of this apparent miracle. As a result, it was Felicity who was the main driving force behind the team's pursuit of this new foe – even butting heads with Oliver, who preferred to believe that she might not be wholly irredeemable. While I'm not convinced that Felicity was in the right, here (despite the writers clearly seeming to want me to come to that conclusion), I can admit that her behaviour did, at least, feel justified.

While all of this was going on, we also had Diggle, back in prison after being caught at the end of the previous episode, coming to realise that his life might be in danger when General Walker (Garry Chalk), the one who had attempted to frame him, arrived to take him into military custody. While I normally wouldn't be too enthusiastic about a sub-plot that feels so disconnected from the action taking place, elsewhere, I do have to admit that, at least in this case, things seems to be heading in a very interesting direction for John Diggle. It also doesn't hurt that, in this case, Diggle has also been paired up with Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) who, as a favour to Oliver, has agreed to represent him. In his time on-screen, Chase has proved to be a fascinating character – and, Josh Segarra and David Ramsey play well off of each other, in their scenes together.

Unfortunately, it seems that, as it has so often in the past, this season's 'flash-back' sub-plot has also ground to a halt – although, it does manage to end on a reasonably strong note. After spending an evening being severely beaten by Russian thugs, Oliver is suddenly, and surprisingly, rescued by a mysterious woman who clearly has plans of her own. Given that the series, as a whole, has already been accused of borrowing a little too much from Batman, I do have to admit that I'm not entirely sure what to make of the writers' decision to bring in Talia al Ghul – but, I am definitely interesting is seeing what the series does with the character.

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