Right On Target: Arrow S05E05 "Human Target"

Yesterday's The Flash set me up for a disappointing Berlantiverse week, so despite fundamentally knowing that the showrunners for The Flash and Arrow are different, I didn't expect a great deal out of Oliver's latest adventure. Especially since I wasn't totally impressed with last week's jailbreak either.

Imagine my surprise when this episode came in with a one-two punch. And it wasn't even Kevin Smith directed! Easily the strongest episode of season 5 so far, and one of the strongest episodes ever. 

(spoilers below the jump)

Last week Rene, Oliver's errant Wild Dog, got himself captured by Tobias Church after a series of screw-ups that lead to him sacrificing himself to save the rest of the team. This week, the team is trying to find him and bring him home. 

But not before Rene gets tortured horribly by a really sadistic Tobias Church and gives up the goods: the Green Arrow's true identity. As Tobias is making Rene dig his own grave, he gives up just a tad bit of information on what his greater plan is, right before Oliver arrives to rescue Wild Dog from death. Tobias gets away and Oliver now has to contend with the fact that his secret identity is out there in the criminal world. 

I've discussed before how the over-arcing theme of the season has been redemption. Ollie's, John's, and even the Arrow showrunners and writers after season 4's trainwreck. In this episode, Rene is also on a path to redemption as he finally admits he has really messed up big time, and John is back and seems calmly zen about the fact that being a fugitive means he can only do good by donning his superhero suit. I cannot begin to gush about how great it is to have David Ramsey back! As for the character, after Mama Felicity and Papa Ollie have struggled on how best to get the newbies up to snuff, Uncle Dig walks in and proves he's going to be a major player in forming these kids into viable superheroes. And it starts with Rene, who, like John, feels he has a long and well-nigh impossible road to redemption.

Glad to have you back, John!
The story-telling was beautiful here, but I cannot say enough about the camerawork; the directing by relative unknown Laura Belsey was phenomenal this week. When John de-briefs a very broken Rene about what he might have learned while being Church's captive, the dialogue is almost secondary to the beautiful close-up shots of Rene's battered face, and John's earnest one. It feels very personal in a way we often don't get in these shows. We get the same kind of camera work in the Bratva flashbacks when Oliver is being judged for entry into the brotherhood, and then again in the brilliant final scene with Tobias Church.

While John works with Wild Dog to figure out how to find Tobias Church, Oliver is dealing with mayoral stuff. He needs the city council to approve some zoning for low-income housing, which is part of Ollie's initiative to improve the city, but there's one councilman who is totally holding out. And then there's the awful reporter lady that tricked Thea a few weeks ago, who Oliver would really like to make into an ally.

Last season the way Oliver became mayor was mildly ludicrous, and I can't say his speech to a bunch of silly extras when things were going bad was particularly inspirational. I honestly didn't think much would come from the mayor plotline, but despite a few silly moments this season, it has doubled as a brilliant outlet for Thea as his chief of staff, and in this episode in particular, is giving Oliver a chance to be a hero in a totally different manner. I'm actually really warming up to the mayor plotline, and Oliver seems to be settling in a bit better into his daytime role. 

I think what startled me the most about "Human Target" was how much I am finding Oliver to be genuinely endearing. He started out being a giant dick to his new team this season, and he's always been a broody growling hero. The mayor plots--like the decision to make Quentin Lance his Deputy Mayor, and the way he handled the crooked councilman here--has served to humanize him a great deal more. I genuinely believed him in this episode when he said he really wanted the low-income housing to go up to help the people. 

What a shame Tobias Church killed him. 

Dammit, this mayor was actually doing some good finally!
Well Tobis Church killed a Mayor Queen. Since the team knew Church had the Green Arrow's secret identity, and they also knew that Church wanted the GA out of the way before he implemented his grander scheme, John called in a friend of his. 

The title "Human Target" refers to a DC character called, not surprisingly, Human Target. The guy makes a career out of being other people, and he played a pretty convincing Oliver Queen, so that Church's assassin could "kill" him. With the Green Arrow dead, Church's plans went into motion, and Rene finally remembers, with John's help, a cryptic bit of information on what's going down and when. 

So Green Arrow, Spartan, and the newbies show up to rain on Church's parade. Turns out Church's plan was to gather all the leaders of all the major crime syndicates under his rule, and use Star City as the seat of his new criminal empire. 

What a delightful fight scene! Everyone gets some action, and it starts with the new and improved Spartan, who is a total badass!

Goodbye, Digneto! Hellllllloooo sexy!

If I have a complaint about this fight scene, it's that once again Evelyn gets kinda sidelined. But so did Curtis. Artemis and Mr. Terrific are so star-struck by Spartan's badassery, that they kind of get their butt kicked. But, John made a comment earlier in the episode that made me think Diggle's role may be as the new mentor for these kids, so I'm hoping his training will make Artemis the hero she deserves to be. 

Rene, now fully on his quest for redemption, gets to tangle a bit with Tobias Church, and while he doesn't win that fight, he makes a good showing. Which means, of course, that it's up to Green Arrow to finish it. 

I was surprised to find out that Tobias Church's story ended in only five episodes. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the final fight between Church and GA, because Arrow has always had an annoying tendency of either overpowering or underpowering their villains in an effort to keep them around longer (or dismiss them). But Tobias Church is a freaking street thug who depends on his army of thugs to keep order, so it was perfect that when he had to face the Green Arrow--now an established and genuine superhero--he didn't last impossibly long. The fight sequence had very strong choreography (which is not anything Arrow has ever suffered from, because between star Stephen Amell's ability to get physical, and the show's talented choreographers, the fight scenes have almost always been brilliant). But here again, it wasn't just the fighting, it was the camera! 

Oliver doesn't kill Church, so the last we see of Tobias is him in an armored vehicle about to be taken away. But our dark archer Prometheus is back from his vacation, so he shows up to kill all the cops. This is another one of those brilliant camera work scenes I mentioned before. The camera stays inside the armored vehicle, focused on Church's terrified face, as we, and he, listen to the sound of the cops being slaughtered outside. And when the cop inside the car with him makes a move to go out, Church quietly pleads, "Don't go out there." 

Right before Prometheus kills Tobias Church, the new big bad learns the Green Arrow's secret identity. 

Don't worry Ollicity-haters, this isn't what it looks like. Well, maybe. 
And we finally get that conservation between Oliver and Felicity, because he learns from Human Target that Felicity is dating that cute detective guy. When Oliver confronts her on her balcony, she admits that she wanted to tell him about her new beau, but that she chickened out every time she tried. Oliver says he's hurt that she didn't tell him, because he wants them to be close friends even though things didn't work out. And in a moment of total adulting (and an example of a really good man), he tells her he wants her to be happy and that she owes it to herself to find out if this thing with this new dude is real. 

I admit, I have always been an Ollicity shipper, although I hated how everything went down last season. Seeing the two of them together in this scene reminded me of the genuine chemistry they have, and that Felicity is integral to Oliver's success, no matter the state of their personal relationship. I have no idea where this is going--she waffled a bit when he asked her if she was still leaving the door open for the two of them--but I'm glad they are close friends and allies again.

The weakest part of this episode was actually Human Target himself. He spends his limited on-screen guest spot telling Oliver how awesome he is, and I admit I kind of rolled my eyes. Oliver is already the protagonist of this show; it's a given that he's supposed to be awesome. Is it really necessary to tell us every so often?

Overall, though, a genuinely strong outing from Arrow, and I am actually looking forward to the rest of the season. Here's hoping Prometheus is a compelling villain.

No Flashpoint updates today, as we haven't even seen John Diggle Jr. yet, and while the Bratva scenes were well-filmed and I don't hate the flashbacks this season, I admit to shrugging a bit at them. However, this week's Bratva flashbacks tied to the main episode in two ways: Human Target was in one of them, and a picture of Oliver in Russia (when he was supposed to be on Lian Yu) has fallen into the hands of that vulture of a journalist.

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