The Recruits: Arrow S05E02 Review

I totally just lost a bet, because the Cynical Queen inside of me insisted that Arrow's writers were either so bad or so invested in erasing the trainwreck of season 4 from memory, that they would never again mention the massive terrorist attack on an American city that resulted in over 10,000 deaths. I mean how is no one in the Arrowverse freaked out still over the bomb Damien Darhk dropped on Havenrock? For reference, the real United States of America lost its goddamn mind and hasn't found it yet when an attack on New York City on 9/11 resulted in about 3,000 deaths. I'm not downplaying 9/11, I just never found it believable that we don't hear at all about the "fallout" of Havenrock.

Well, time for me to pay up, because Arrow is starting to show us some of the fallout indeed, starting in "The Recruits" And, I must grudgingly admit, the writers are starting to find their footing.

(spoilers below the fold)

Now that Oliver has admitted to needing help, he is ready to train the newbies that will make up Team Arrow 2.0, consisting of Ramirez (Wild Dog), Curtis, and Evelyn Sharp (eventually, Artemis, but she dressed up as Black Canary right after Laurel died last season). Right away Oliver refuses to tell the recruits his true identity, so he proceeds to scowl and growl at them from within his cowl. Mama Felicity thinks this is a bad idea (and I adored that she flat-out refused to wear a mask when Oliver insisted that she hide her identity as well. She's not afraid to push back on Oliver when he's being a douche, and this is a great episode to showcase that, especially as things progress).

On the bright side, guys, at least he didn't put an arrow in your knee... this time, anyway

Meanwhile, Mayor Oliver Queen is trying to bring some hope back to Star City by asking Big Health giant AmerTek to fund a free health clinic for the less fortunate of the city. AmerTek, apparently eager for the good publicity, agrees. However, before the clinic can even happen, one of AmerTek's VPs gets killed on the streets of the city by some kind of tentacle monster.

Felicity and Thea tell Oliver he won't be able to protect the clinic by himself, and despite his growling, he agrees to give the new recruits their first assignment. Thea also calls in Quentin Lance to help cover one of the clinic's entrances. Unfortunately, Quentin shows up late and looks like total crap. Before we can ever get into all that, the clinic is attacked by tentacle dude again, who is after AmerTek's CEO.

Come on now, Ragster, is that any way to treat a lady?
Despite Oliver's explicit instructions to not engage, his new recruits jump into action to save the CEO from tentacle dude. She lives, tentacle dude escapes, and Wild Dog got a piece of the weirdo's suit. All is well, right?

Of course not. Oliver loses his shit at the team for not following his instructions to be observers only. With his abusive language, and the fact that the team is tired of getting the shit beat out of them, they quit, but not before Curtis hits Oliver below the belt by telling him he now understands why Thea and Diggle left. Ouch! Felicity tells Oliver the problem is that the recruits don't trust him, because he doesn't trust the recruits.

While this is going on, Thea secretly observes AmerTek's CEO meeting with Tobias Church on a certain black market deal going on. Realizing that the CEO is dirty makes Oliver think that the Ragman may not be that bad after all, and may just be another vigilante. When the CEO and Tobias Church meet up to complete the deal, both Ragman and Oliver show up to stop it. I can't tell if Oliver was off his game, or if he purposely let himself get semi-beat by Tobias, but either way, Oliver calls on Ragman for help and Raggy listens even though it means the CEO escapes.

We get Ragman's origin story (which differs wildly from the comic book version): that he was the sole survivor of the nuclear attack on Havenrock, and that his dad wrapped him these ancient mystical rags to save him from the bomb. And now Ragman wants revenge, because it turns out that AmerTek is selling some off some really dangerous assets because it needs the cash. And that includes all those bombs Damien set off in season 4. Oliver convinces Ragman to join him instead in saving Star City.

So this also happened:

Where's Oliver when you need him, emirite, John?
While on a mission to retrieve a nuke in Chechnya for the army, John's strike team is betrayed from within by his own commanding officer. Turns out that it was all a setup so that the CO could get a hold of the nuke, and he leaves John to take the fall for it. What's really interesting is the worldbuilding the writers engage in here. The CO's reasons for obtaining the nuke? To have weapons to use to protect the world from all these metahuman freaks running around. Woah. I think this is the first time in Arrow history where the show has really delved into the politics of the world with regards to all the weird happenings in Central City and yes even Star City. I was really pleased by the setup here. On a personal note, that whole army thing isn't really working out for you, is it, John?

Also in this episode, we get more flashbacks from Oliver's time as a recruit for the Bratva, which is where he learned how to be such an awesomely abusive teacher to his new recruits. It was nice that, unlike in season four, the flashbacks are actually serving a story purpose.

Taking Felicity's advice to heart, the episode ends with Oliver revealing his true identity to the recruits, who all decide to come back to the team now that they know who he is and that he seems at least a little contrite for his earlier asshattery.

Let's take a moment to bask in the glory that is Paul Blackthorne, though. Once again, another awesome outing from this actor, as the tortured drunk Quentin. I am also really appreciating the care the writing is taking with his substance abuse and grief story. As Quentin said last week, a drunk needs a reason not to drink, and he's fresh out of reasons. So Thea embarks on a mission to give him a reason: she is hiring him as Deputy Mayor, to give his life meaning again. Great subplot.

A++ Performance, would watch again, thanks Paul!
I think what I love the most about this episode is that the writers embarked on some genuine and solid plot points, and executed them with more grace than they have in over a year. Quentin's drinking problem, Oliver's massive trust issues, even Ragman's reasons for revenge, all rung true. The script, and the actors, made me believe in them, and I haven't believed in Arrow in some time now.

I am still loving Thea as normal-person but it was great to see her use some of her old skills in spying on Tobis and the evil CEO. Felicity, while taking on an interesting mother role to Oliver's gruff tough love daddy role to the recruits, was well played. She's not afraid to push back on Oliver, and what's even better, Oliver actually listens to her. There hasn't been much of the glimmer of old romance between them, other than a longing glance last week from Oliver when Diggle asks him if things will go back to the way they were. This being the CW, I suspect we'll get some of that going again later, when Felicity's new detective beau either dies or goes evil (I am betting cash money right now something like this happens), but it's nice to see Felicity and Oliver's current relationship being trusting and friendly, but not weighed down by romance.

I cannot wait to see Artemis in action for real. She didn't get as much to do in this episode, but Arrow ladies have been forced, by necessity of their brutal world, to be more badass than your average CW superhero women, so I have high hopes for her.

Because Arrow isn't really touching on the skewed timeline created by The Flash, and they are still pretending everything is normal, we won't bother with CW Time Travel Science today. I admit to being a touch disappointed that Felicity didn't even hint at Barry's visit in yesterday's "Paradox," but then again, maybe she will when John is back with his family and we actually get to see John Diggle Jr. in person.

Thursday night, Oliver is on Legends of Tomorrow, and I'm actually eager to see what's going down.

What did you think of Arrow's latest? Sound off below!

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.