Arrow: The Recruits – Back to Basics (Review)

Arrow Season Five Logo

Season five of Arrow has, thankfully, gone back to letting the Green Arrow take on the mantle of Mr. Grumpy hero versus the nice chap who wounding the bad guys.  The body count has gone up and in ‘The Recruits” Oliver drops all pretenses of being cordial and tries to bully his new potential team members into learning what he wants.

This is a return to the Arrow of previous seasons, specifically the first two, where everything about Queen was hard core and the episodes had an impressive body count.

After defeating Damian Dhark last season Queen has turned his back on the nicer version of himself.  Arrow has also finally left that island and replaced it with flashbacks of Russia and Bratva.

The old team have departed since the death of Laurel Lance and Oliver recruits some replacements. Wild Dog, Curtis and Evelyn Sharp are given an invite. Tobias Church continues making his move to control Star City and makes a mistake by almost killing Oliver.

Prometheus turns up to kick a little Church butt and tells him to lay off of Queen with a “he’s mine” warning.

Oliver’s Bratva training is followed in flashback and the storyline makes room for John Diggle’s tale of betrayal with his own new recruit.

The altered timeline from The Flash is not mentioned, where Barry Allen’s mucking about with the past changed Diggle’s daughter into a son.  Any changes not mentioned may turn up later however.

Felicity, who has reverted to type after the heaviness of last season, has that nuke rubbed in her face. When Green Arrow approaches Ragman to recruit him to Team Arrow, the new vigilante on the scene reveals he was created in the one town hit by the nuke last year.

Ragman, who was saved by his father wrapping him in magic rags, is a nice addition to the team.  The rest of the new kids on the block will undoubtably need a lot of training before they ever get past ‘B’ team status.

Quentin Lance is hitting the bottle again and even though Thea has offered him the deputy mayor position he may not be able to stop his downward spiral.

It has been pointed out that the flashbacks are wearing  a bit thin.  These have always been a part of the series and while they can be distracting, as well as annoying, they are part of the story.

Yes they are intrusive and more often than not the flashbacks take away from the main plot line .  It may well be that the show will eventually rely less on the backstory as things progress.

The big news this year for Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash is the mega DC crossover and apart from Dr. Alchemy and the new Arrow villain Prometheus things will get even more interesting for the super heroes.

Meanwhile Arrow may have a whole new team but they all, even Ragman, have steep learning curve to overcome.  It will be interesting to see who takes Tobias Church down and how Felicity will be affected by the origin story of Ragman.

Arrow airs Wednesdays on CW.

Cast:

Arrow: Schism – Hope Springs Eternal (Review)

Damien Darhk in the final battle Schism

“Arrow” ended the fourth season with “Schism.” Damien Darhk was still quite earnestly trying to destroy Starling City, aka Star City, and the rest of the world even though his ark was rubble.  Darhk (played brilliantly by Neal McDonough) rather pettily wanted to kill everyone, including his daughter, because Machin died last week. 

The episode had the obligatory flashbacks to the island and we learn that Oliver killed Taiana (Elysia Rotaru) who was corrupted by the dark power needed to kill good old “what’s his name” back on the island. (We know his name was Baron Reiter  played by Jimmy Akingbola.) 

Meanwhile, the gang are overwhelmed when Darhk pays them a not-so social call to get the Rubicon laptop back and make some threats. While he was there, Damien had some ghosts shoot up the place. Getting his daughter back Darhk then departs for the final phase of his “bringing hell to earth” plan.

There was a good deal of angst in this season finale. Everyone was upset, depressed and had lost hope by the time that Oliver and the good citizens of Starling City took  on Darhk and his ghosts.  (To be fair, the scene where Mr and Mrs John Doe clash with the armed ghosts felt pretty epic, like “Gladiator” without swords, shields, sandals or Russell Crowe.)

“Arrow,” aka Green Arrow, has always been rather dark. Oliver Queen is morose, has to work hard at not killing villains and always has that “hangdog” look in his face. Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is the Pollyanna in the Arrow-verse, even her inadvertent killing of “tens-of-thousands” of innocents does not put too much of a damper in Smoak’s eternal optimism. 

The finale had plenty of gun play, a bit of arrow play and loads of choreographed fights between pretty much everyone. Only John Barrowman’s Merlin was shorted in the department of fisticuffs, although he was able to save Thea (Willa Holland) with a well placed arrow of his own. 

After a huge build up to the final battle where 15, 000 nuclear warheads are about to eradicate all life  on the planet it is revealed that all Queen needed to defeat Darhk was…wait for it….hope.  Yes, hope was the secret weapon all along. Somewhat akin to Tinkerbell being brought back to life by clapping, Darhk’s magic was rendered useless by a whole lot of hope.

(To be fair it did take an entire city of hope to bring about Darhk’s defeat…sort of like an entire theatre of children clapping wildly was needed to bring back Tinkerbell…Hmmm.)

As one website put it, “Arrow” just sort of finished this season after Oliver shoved his arrow into Darhk’s chest and killed him.  But seriously? What did everyone expect? Darhk was the best villain ever.

Funny, pithy, glib, snotty, bigger than life and so acerbic.  He was good-humored evil on two legs and he loved being bad.  However his end came about, whatever happened afterward was going to be anticlimactic.  With an entire episode of fights, shootouts, frantic keyboard pounding and the rise of a downtrodden city’s denizens, the ending was bound to be a little…Meh.

In terms of outstanding performances Neal McDonough should be pulling in some huge gongs for his work on this show. The actor just blew everyone else away whenever he was on camera and he did not have to say a word to do so. That look of evil glee was enough to overpower the other players.

“Arrow” finished without any help from outside agencies, like “The Flash,” or “The Legends of Tomorrow” or even “Supergirl” (we know, it is miles too early for that) but the tease of a huge multi-crossover event next season leaves all sorts of possibilities open. We are still hoping that a certain former Time Master manages to bring back Laurel.

Hint. Hint.

 

Arrow: Lost in the Flood – Boom (Review)

Thea in the Ark in Arrow

Before going into the penultimate episode of season four (Lost in the Flood) and the ark going boom, let us take a moment to say Mike’s Film Talk called it last week when we rambled very briefly about a Supergirl/Arrow/Flash cross-over. It was even mentioned that with the time travel capabilities of DC’s LoT that Sara could come back and save Laurel’s life (aka a crossover episode).

While not an “I told you so” moment at all it just goes to show great minds think  alike. (Yes we know that a number of folks probably thought about a ‘Supergirl’ mashup but we put our fanboy ravings in print, last week.)

Excited ramblings aside, with just a touch of “we knew it,” this week’s episode starts with a more powerful Darhk sucking all the molecules of oxygen out of Oliver and Diggle’s bodies before he escaped to keep trying to start his own personal apocalypse. Thea is given a yellow pill to “turn her” and Felicity works hard with Noah to stop the Rubicon from being reactivated by Hive.

It is a little hard to really dislike Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). Despite being the grandaddy of all big bad’s he is amusing on a consistent basis. Last night’s episode saw him complaining to his wife:

“Today was supposed to be Christmas, and I woke up to a lump of coal. Is it because I’ve been naughty this year?”

(And, Damien Darhk gives great pop culture reference. “That way, when the whole world goes all “Dr. Strangelove,” you can feel your skin melt from Armageddon.” You’ve got to love this guy.)

To be fair, since Oliver Queen is so humorless, or at the very least morose,  almost everyone else, except for Diggle (David Ramsey) who can also be pretty dour, can be pretty amusing. Felicity continually rocks the humor meter as does Curtis (Echo Kellum).  Ms. Smoak’s mother is funny but in an almost annoying “bubble-head” way.

‘Lost in the Flood’ is quite “ex” heavy.  Thea’s ex-“boyfriend”  Machin (Alexander Calvert) – who actually becomes a huge thorn in Darhk’s side, going so far as to kill Ruvé Adams (Janet Kidder) sending Damien into a murderously suicidal meltdown- Felicity’s ex, Cooper Seldon,  a computer hacker who takes on Smoak and her father. And of course Noah Kuttler ex husband and father with his ex Donna Smoak. 

That is a lot of exes.

For once in this show the good guys look to be ahead of Darhk but not for long. Oliver’s flashbacks to the island with Taiana (Elysia Rotaru) are slowly and agonizingly pointing to a solution to defeat Darhk, or at least diminish his power. As we see by the end of all the clips, the good hearted Taiana turns into a powerful golden-eyed (and power hungry) killer. 

It is the totem, the “head” that generates the power and corrupts the one who uses and relies upon it. Although admittedly it seems pretty certain that Damien Darhk was a stinker before coming across the thing.  Destroying the magical item should make the show’s big bad vulnerable, even with the power surge from the nuke.

Back to the episode, amusingly Thea manages to better Oliver who then has to talk her down. She and Queen step in to help Diggle with Merlyn and Thea gets the line of the show:

“Drug me again and I will kill you;  you son-of-a-b*tch.”

Felicity, Curtis and Noah crash the Rubicon and Machin rigs the ark’s command  center to explode. Thea, Digger and Queen  confront the madman and cause the facility  to self destruct.  Machin kills Darhk’s wife but after a bit of heated battle they manage to save his daughter.

Thea’s ex manages to escape the destruction and after the good guys get out they see the crater that used to be the ark.

Damien learns of Ruvé’s death and loses his happy thoughts completely.  Later he goes to drop off a message to Felicity.

‘Arrow’ is great stuff. DC at its darkest. ‘The Flash’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ are much lighter in tone, as a rule, and  ‘Supergirl’ has its amusing moments. There is one more episode left in the current season. With the hint that a “Force” will help Oliver defeat Hive, one can only imagine who will turn up.

Capes anyone?

The Flash/Arrow Crossover…Again

You have to love a good crossover. The most recent The Flash and Arrow crossover, Legends of Yesterday, proves that once again these two DC heroes are an excellent double act. This episode features a grumpy Green Arrow (at least at first) and an Immortal who is hell bent on killing Cisco’s new girlfriend Kendra, aka Hawkgirl, aka Chay-Ara.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl The Flash/Arrow

You have to love a good crossover.  The  most recent The Flash and Arrow crossover, Legends of Yesterday, proves that once again these two DC heroes are an excellent double act. This episode features a grumpy Green Arrow (at least at first) and an Immortal who is hell bent on killing Cisco’s new girlfriend Kendra, aka Hawkgirl, aka Chay-Ara. It also borrows a little from (or it could be the other way around, we are talking Hollywood here) The Mummy franchise.

In the franchise, with Brendan FraserRachel Weisz and Arnold Vosloo, two character were reincarnated lovers. This “The Flash/Arrow” crossover storyline also bears a huge resemblance to the plot of Hancock where Will Smith and Charlize Theron are two “aliens” with superpowers who are drawn to one another in order to self destruct. Very similar to Khufu and Chay-ara…

In Legends of Yesterday, Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) an immortal who suddenly shows up at Central City, starts increasing the body count while searching for someone. This happens to be Cisco’s new girlfriend Kendra (Ciara Renée) and another superhero with previous connections with Kendra; “Hawkman” aka Carter Hall, aka Khufu (played by Falk Hentschel) shows up to save the woman and reveal who she really is.

Barry, helps his pal Ramon out by promising to protect Kendra from this new threat, but since The Flash is having speed issues, he needs to be faster to defeat season two’s big bad, Zoom, and cannot do it on his own, he asks Oliver Queen to help out.

Standout Moments:

Felicity Smoak giving herself a verbal pat on the back for the magnetic arrow “gag” and annoying Oliver as he can hear every word:

Felicity (mimicking Oliver): “Felicity, the magnetic-arrow gag will never work.” [chuckles] Yes, it will, my love, because I am really smart. And guess what, Oliver. It did work.”

Oliver: “Felicity, honey, it’s a little hard to fight with you doing that in my ear.

Felicity: “Oh!  I totally forgot that this was an open line. Keep doing what you’re doing… Make smart decisions.

Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) has put a death grip on Green Arrow, chuckling evilly as he drains the life from Queen, and The Flash zips in and rescues not just Oliver but all of Team Arrow. Darhk is delighted at this turn of events:

(Darhk laughing) “What was that?”

These two scenes, over in Arrow-land, aka Star City,  actually ruled in the stakes of comedic moments. Of course Felicity totally rocks in terms of great delivery and clear delight when she is proven right…in anything.

Cisco calling,  referencing the 1986 Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery fantasy film Highlander, when Savage shows up for Kendra:

“Kendra’s not going anywhere with you, Highlander.”

The whole storyline of an immortal baddy who tracks down a pair of doomed lovers whom he has to kill in order to become even more invincible is entertaining and does contain at least one amusing interaction.  Khufu explains that Savage has killed him and Kendra 206 times and the captured Hawkman then  tells The Flash and Green Arrow group how he alone can  save Kendra.

Cisco is a tad cynical:

Cisco: “You’re 0 for 206, and you still think you’re her best bet, hmm?”

It goes without saying that Vandal Savage and Carter Hall are all on par as denizens of the DC verse as are the backstories behind their characters.   As usual it is very easy to get caught up in all the action.

Honorable mentions:

Barry Allen’s reaction to Malcom Merlyn entering the room, from the shadows twice,  “Is that the only way this guy knows how to enter a room?” This reaction to the second time Merlyn (John Barrowman) “appears” is on par with the first time he suddenly shows up.

Allen: “Who the hell is this?”

Thea/Speedy: “It’s my dad…”

Merlyn, Speedy’s daddy dearest, shows up while Carter is explaining the whole “Vandal Savage” backstory and he reveals that if the Immortal gets the Staff of Horus, he will be practically unstoppable.  Hawkman also tells Kendra that she needs to reveal her true self that that the only way to do that is to fall to her death.

Somewhat understandably no one thinks this is a good idea. Although Oliver tells Barry that he believes that Kendra should do just that.  Later, after the gang split up (Oliver and Allen head out to stop Savage from getting the staff) Kendra decides to jump on her own and her wings suddenly appear.

Cisco is excited to the nth degree that his new girlfriend is “Hawkgirl” and Khufu now believes that they have a chance to defeat Vandal Savage once and for all. Back in the lab, Velocity 6 is finished, with a little help from Dr. Snow. Patty shoots Dr. Wells and Jay Garrick save’s the Earth two man’s life after injecting himself with a little of the serum.

The “other” flash warns Snow to keep the serum away from Barry and Wells thanks Jay for saving his life.  Back in Oliver’s turf, the gang fail to kill Savage. The Flash and Green Arrow, and the rest of the group head back to Central City, where the Immortal has returned. In the coffeeshop, Oliver sees a familiar face.

CW has utilized the Arrow/The Flash crossover several times and these two heroes work very well together.  As previous teaming of the two has shown, not only do Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin have splendid chemistry together on screen (the two really feel like siblings with a great give and take attitude) but the casts from each show also work very well together. 

The Flash airs Wednesdays on CW, Arrow on Tuesdays. Tune in and see how long it will take the two heroes to defeat Vandal Savage.

 

Arrow and The Flash It’s Not Easy Being Green

The Flash and Green Arrow

Ah, Barry Allen (Grant Gustinand Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell, how we have missed you and all the issues surrounding, Arrow, The Flash,  the DC verse and the two cities, now (very briefly) connected via a high speed train.  As CW do not deem MikesFilmTalk worthy of having access to their press site (the only other network apart from CBS to, rather snootily, cite size as being the issue) there will be no episodic pictures for this review, which has also been combined rather than done separately.

Season four of Arrow, where Oliver Queen has returned to Star City and assumed the mantle of “Green Arrow,” a name much more familiar to this viewer than the plain “non colored” nom de guerre of the series.  Barry Allen in The Flash, the other CW offering and frequent crossover with the older, by three whole seasons, series meets another Flash, Jay Garrick (Teddy Searsfrom an “alternative” Earth and each of the two shows appear to be all about change and getting the old team(s) back together again.

They both also share a bleak and deadly future and a villain, Zoom (who will be voiced by the iconic Tony Todd) who is mentioned in The Flash, and also in Arrow at that grave by both Allen and Queen at the end of the season four opening episode.

In the verse of Arrow,  Oliver and Felicity attempted to do a Mr and Mrs Smith (without the competition and fighting) and get called back after the “ghosts” concentrate on killing the city per Damien Dhark’s wishes.  Played by the increasingly busy, and uber talented Neal McDonough, Dhark is a charismatic and darned scary villain in his own right, even without HIVE and his mystical abilities.

Queen left Star City for a quiet life in the suburbs with Felicity after trust issues make it impractical to work with the team any longer. It seems that Queen is more than ready to leave the darker side of himself in the attic and enjoy life sans weapons and crime fighting.

Barry Allen disbanded the STARS team after defeating Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) last season and stopping, with a little help from Ronnie and Dr. Stein, the wormhole and establishing the singularity.  Ronnie died as a result and Allen has blamed himself.

Over on The Flash, as the hero is offered the key to Capital City, another meta-human crops up.  Haven star Adam Copeland guests as Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher a guy with issues that deal with size and a very bad attitude. He  needs to kill The Flash because if he does, Zoom will send him home.  

Despite Allen’s desire to work alone, the STARS team get back together once they realize the Barry cannot take down Atom Smasher on his own.  Once the gang (Cisco, Caitlin, Stein, Iris) defeat the newest villain in town and reform the team, Garrick shows up and warns them all that things are about to become very bad for Capital City.

Over at  Arrow, there is a similar storyline in that the band has gotten back together but reluctantly on the part of Diggle (David Ramsey), who still has not forgiven Oliver for last season’s kidnapping and breach of trust.  In the case of Queen and co, Dhark is not defeated so much as thwarted and he survives to be a continued thorn.

We also learn that, between flashbacks and the one flash-forward (no pun intended) , that Laurel’s dad Lance is colluding with Dhark, although he is not happy with the aspect of innocents dying.  It is apparent that little sister Thea (Willa Holland) has some major anger management issues and that Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) has been doing a little colluding of her own, with the guys and gals back at Starling City. 

Both series’ opening salvos deal with trust issues, to a degree, and as before, The Flash is a “happier” place to be. Allen’s dad is cleared by Dr. Wells’ posthumous confession and the old guy is finally let out of prison for  murdering Barry’s mom.  Celebrating his release, Allen is a bit disturbed to learn that pops is planning on leaving the area.

Over on Arrow, however, it looks like Oliver Queen, with his name change to Green Arrow, will learn that, like Kermit, it is not easy being green. Just as it was not easy being just plain old Arrow…

Last year, both shows crossed over and this year will  repeat  this popular device. There are also plans, confirmed by Constantine star Matt Ryan via his Twitter account, for his character to pop up on CW this year. While the news is that John Constantine will be on Arrow, aka Green Arrow now, with all this crossover business, he could well turn up on The Flash as well.

Here’s hoping.

Until the appearance of Brit actor Ryan on CW, Arrow and The Flash air on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on the network. It should be pointed out that one does not need to be an expert in all things DC to enjoy either of these two shows. The writing and the acting make both series great fun to watch.  Tune in and geek out…