In the wake of Speedy and Spartan quitting Team Arrow, Oliver Queen is finding it hard to balance both his lives as Green Arrow and Mayor of Star City. With a new crime lord named Tobias Church in town and corrupt police officers limiting the effectiveness of the few honest cops, Oliver may have to change his methods to save his city. But will that change require a return to killing? Or will he try and recruit some of the new vigilantes who have begun to patrol Star City in his absence?
Five years earlier, Oliver travels to Russia to keep his promise to Taiana and kill Kovar. He winds up running afoul of The Bratva - the Russian Mafia - but is saved by the timely arrival of an old friend.
The Green Arrow comics of Judd Winick (Oliver Queen tries to balance being a superhero and Mayor of Star City while fighting a corrupt police department, crime bosses and super-villains.)
Unfortunately, there's little sense of drama to the Russia sequences since we know that both Ollie and Anatoly will survive. Thankfully, Anatoly at least makes the flashbacks amusing.
The "Oliver debates about killing or not killing" subplot is becoming increasingly repetitive. Hopefully it will be resolved (again!) very soon.
Ollie's unwillingness to risk more innocent lives seems fairly reasonable in the wake of Laurel's death. Lest we forget, Laurel's training was limited to some one-on-one training with a boxer/vigilante and some self-defense classes - to say nothing of the fact that she became Black Canary over Oliver's objections. And Ollie's only other attempt at trying to train an inexperienced vigilante - i.e. The Huntress - ended badly.
Some of the CGI is a little dodgy at times and the "Matrix slo-mo" scenes that appear in some of the fight scenes are random are a little distracting given the show's previous reliance on practical effects. On the other hand - Parachute Arrow.
Willa Holland's screen-time is limited in this episode, but her scene with Quentin is the emotional high-point of the episode. More than any other character on the show, she has suffered the most drastic upheavals over the past few years, having discovered the man who raised her wasn't her real father, her birth father was a murderous assassin, her mother was involved with a conspiracy to commit mass murder, her brother was a vigilante and she lost the only man she ever really loved, died, had to cope with murderous magically-driven impulses and the guilt of having been brainwashed into killing one of her friends and seeing her roommate/mentor die. Given that, her desire to live a normal, stable life in the wake of the insanity that surrounds Oliver is understandable and she doesn't seem the least bit selfish for it, given how she finally does get back into action when she thinks Oliver is honestly in danger and no one else can save him.
Once again, Paul Blackthorne is a marvel. Freed from the burden of propping up various Laurel Lance scenes, we are reminded just what he can do with quality material and a script that gives him a chance to do things besides sit in the background and be snarky.
Chad L. Coleman cuts a fine figure in his first appearance as Tobias Church. His performance here reminds me somewhat of Sidney Greenstreet and his various roles as larger-than-life gangsters whose friendly manner hides a sinister mind and a devious heart.
The fight scenes throughout the episode are uniformly great and remain a strong point of the show.
That being said, the scene in which Green Arrow tries to fight his way inside Tobias Church's helicopter is something special.
In the comics, Wild Dog is a vigilante hero who first appeared in Wild Dog #1 (September 1987). Based out of the Quad Cities, Wild Dog was a man named Jack Wheeler. A football superstar in college, Jack joined The Marines after his athletic career was ended by an injury. He returned home after most of his squad was killed by a terrorist bombing. He fell in love with a young woman named Claire, who it turned out was the daughter of a mob boss who had fled her family to start a life on her own. She left Jack all of the small fortune she had taken for herself in her will and Jack used the money to buy the equipment he needed to become a vigilante. He was given the name Wild Dog by a reporter after a SWAT captain ordered his men to shoot the hero "like a wild dog in the street." He was willing to kill and fought crime using a Jatimatic GG-95 PDW and a pair of electrified shock-gloves.
The DCTVU version of Wild Dog is a man named Rene Ramirez. We do not see him using a gun or shock-gloves during his brief appearance in this episode but he attempts to disarm a bomb before Green Arrow stops him. His costume mirrors that of the comic-book version of Wild Dog, with a hockey mask and hockey jersey with a smirking cartoon dog on the chest.
"Mr. Ski Goggles", as Felicity calls him, is modeled on the Adrian Chase version of Vigilante. Chase was the second hero to take the name of Vigilante, first appearing in 1983's New Teen Titans Annual #2. A district attorney in New York City who lost his family to mob violence, Chase became The Vigilante to strike against the criminals he could not bring to justice in his day job. Originally taking pains to not take lives and utilizing non-lethal weaponry, he became more jaded and violent as he became more and more conflicted regarding the damage he did as a costumed "hero", eventually committing suicide.
The police sketch of Vigilante we see in Felicity's profile was drawn by legendary comic creator George Perez, who co-created the Adrian Chase version of Vigilante with writer Marv Wolfman.
The hero profiles Felicity compiles include Wild Dog, Vigilante, Evelyn Sharpe, two unidentified people in costume and someone dubbed "Silver Girl" who wears a ski-mask and wields a baseball bat.
Tobias Church is a new villain, created specifically for Arrow. In terms of personality and role, he seems a lot like the comics version of the villain Brick, who also took over the various gangs of Star City in the wake of a disaster that did much to disrupt the police and local government. He also shares Brick's jovial personality and eloquent manner of speaking.
Tobias "Charon" Church is said to have torn up Hub City and Bludhaven perviously with his gangs. In the comics, Hub City is the home town of The Question and Bludhaven is the territory of Nightwing. Both cities are known for their corrupt police forces. Both cities have been referred to as criminal havens in previous episodes of Arrow.
Tobias Church's nickname is a reference to his calling card - leaving gold coins on the eyes of the people he kills. In Ancient Greece, it was traditional for a deceased person's loved ones to put coins on their eyes so that they would have something to pay Charon - the ferryman who traveled between Hades and the world of the living.
According to the credits for the show, the new boss of The Bertinelli Crime Family is a man named Pino Bertinelli. While no relationship is confirmed in the episode, Pino Bertinelli was the name of Helena Bertinelli's brother who died along with her mother and father in the original Huntress comics.
Rumor has it that the villain in the final scene is the DCTVU version of Prometheus. A full entry of his history will be added once this is confirmed. Suffice it to say, Prometheus was created by Grant Morrison during his run on JLA as "the anti-Batman" - a genius with no powers who devoted himself to the destruction of law and order after his criminal parents were killed by the police.
Curtis says he was called in to fix Felicity's computer in the bunker because the secondary processor kept overclocking the GPU cache.
Church sets up a kill cordon around his hostages - a collection of laser trip-wires set up to explosives that will be triggered if anyone approaches the hostages and breaks the beams.
Ollie makes use of the hacking arrow (used to give Felicity an in to disarm Anarky's bomb), an explosive arrow, the grappling hook arrow and - after being knocked out of Tobias Church's helicopter - the parachute arrow.
(Thea is reassuring a police captain that Oliver will be arriving shortly to a police gala.)
Thea: He will be here. He's just taking care of a little business first.
Captain: Blonde or redhead?
Thea: Brunette, actually.
(Cut to Oliver, as Green Arrow, fighting Anarky and his men.)
Green Arrow: I thought I told you to stay off the streets?
Wild Dog: It's my city too!
Green Arrow: You want to help?
Wild Dog: Yeah!
Green Arrow: Then make a donation to the police department. And keep that elevated.
Wild Dog: Keep what elevated?
(Green Arrow spins around and shoots Wild Dog in the calf. Wild Dog falls to the ground screaming.)
Green Arrow: I don't want to see you out here again!
(As a team of corrupt cops gun down a drug dealer and get ready to take his money.)
Tobias Church: (emerging from the shadows, clapping) Bravo! Cleverness and efficiency. Very Robin Hood! But.. I doubt that you'll be providing the poor with any of these ill-gotten gains. Enlighten me? I'm new in town.
Head Cop: Kill this prig.
Tobias Church: No! Any attempt to kill this prig will result in your swift demise.
Ollie: Sometimes saving the city takes priority over running it.
Felicity: Church runs with a crew and yours is not coming back.
Ollie: You don't know that...
Felicity: Yes, I do! It's called not being in denial. You really ought to give it a try!
(Church has Oliver and several other city council members tied up and hooded as hostages.)
Tobias Church: Gentleman and lady! This is not personal. (chuckling softly) I know it feels personal, but it is not. You are here as a means to an end. I finally figured out a way to make politicians useful-
Ollie: You want the Green Arrow?!
(Church walks over and pulls the hood off of Ollie.)
Tobias Church: Oooooooh. Yeah.
Ollie: Listen - Green Arrow is not coming. You're wasting your time.
Tobias Church: Just for the fun of it, how is it you know so much about Mr. Arrow?
Ollie: I have it on pretty good authority that he's tied up at right now.
Tobias Church: You think I'd go through all this trouble without a plan?
(Church raises his eyebrows at that and nods for Ollie to continue.)
Ollie: (looking up to face Church head on) But that's because I think you're stupid.
Anatoly: Oliver Queen. My brother.
Ollie: (chuckling) Anatoly. It is very good to see you!
(Anatoly chuckles and moves behind the tied-up Oliver.)
Ollie: What are you doing?
(We don't see what he does but Oliver suddenly screams in pain as Anatoly moves around in front of him.)
Anatoly: I just dislocated thumbs. Useful if getting tied to chair is to become habit.
(Anatoly slips Oliver's hands out of the bonds and around to his front.)
Anatoly: This is going to hurt a little.
(Anatoly snaps Oliver's thumbs back into place.)
Ollie: (pained) You son of a bitch!
Anatoly: With a bit of practice you can do yourself, any time.
Ollie: Anatoly, can't you use a knife next time?!
Anatoly: What is fun of that? (laughs)
Thea: For the first time in a long time I'm really starting to feel like myself again. I'm not a killer. I'm not a vigilante. I am... I am a normal version of me. And I think just after everything that happened with Laurel I - I really needed to know that a life like this was even possible. And now that I do, I - I don't want to give it up.
Quentin: Yeah. Yeah. I-I get where you're coming from. I lost my job. I lost my daughter. I lost my girl. And you know I just wanted to hit pause on the world, yeah?
Quentin: But then I, uh...you know what, I listened to Oliver's speech, you know? And then I realized I can't do that. I can't hit pause on the world. I've got to get on with my life, you know? (pauses) Even if that life isn't what I want it to be.
Ollie: If you hit me again, I'm going to kill you.
Dirty Cop: You're delusional. You're zip-cuffed to that chair.
(Ollie holds up his hands to reveal that he slipped out of his bonds.)
Ollie: "Akula, kotorya Ne plavayet, Ne tonet." The shark that does not swim, drowns.
Church: I thank you all for coming out. I want to thank you all for deciding to hear my vision. The Green Arrow cannot be stopped unless - unless we all work together, under a singular command.
Gang Leader: And I suppose that leader would be you?
Tobias Church: You need someone from the outside. I know this because it took me less than twelve hours to get inside your organizations. All of them.
Pino Bertinelli: What's that mean? Get inside?
(Pino Bertinelli is shot in the back by one of his own men. He falls to the ground dead.)
Tobias Church: It means - that - Mr. Bertinelli.
Ollie: So. First you say that this is going to kill me. And now it looks like you want to initiate me.
Anataoly: Unless you are careful, it will be one and same.
Ollie: Okay, Anatoly. So I survive this...and I'm Bratva?
Anatoly: You survive this? You can begin process of becoming Bratva.
Anarky is seen for the first time since 422.
In the flashbacks, Ollie is trying to find Konstantin Kovar - the government strongman Taiana told him about in 422.
Felicity makes reference to Evelyn Sharpe - the teenager who impersonated Black Canary in 419 - as one of the vigilantes working in Star City without Green Arrow's sanction.
Quentin Lance returned to Star City several weeks earlier. We find out he broke up with Donna Smoak and started drinking again shortly afterward.
"The List" is seen again in the flashback. We hear some of the names in it - some of which will be familiar to long-time Arrow-heads. These include Adam Hunt (corrupt CEO Oliver went after in the first episode), Daniel Brickwell (the gangster Brick from 310 & 311), Pino Bertinelli (new mob boss of The Bertinelli family, first seen in 107.) Jason Brodeur (responsible for framing an innocent man of murder in 104.) and Leo Meuller (German arms dealer from 105.)
Oliver makes reference to ditching John Diggle in explaining how he's able to easily ditch his security detail as mayor - a frequent occurrence during the first three episodes of Arrow.
Oliver is surprisingly knowledgeable about Greek mythology, knowing who Charon is without Felicity having to explain it.
Anatoly Knyazev - the Bratva Captain who was a prisoner with Oliver and Sara on The Amazo - was last seen in 223. Here, he saves Oliver's life from the Bratva and agrees to help him with Kovar... if Oliver can survive being inducted into the Bratva.
Oliver repeats back to Thea her words about the dead not wanting anything from 102, when she tries to remind him of his promise to Laurel and justify her quitting being a vigilante because of what Laurel would want. Ollie also references Merlyn's words in 422 about Green Arrow's biggest weakness being his unwillingness to do what is necessary because of his moral code.
Quentin puts together a list of honest cops to help Green Arrow and agrees to rejoin Team Arrow as a commander from The Bunker.
We find out the promise Oliver made to Laurel before she died in 418 - that she would not be the last Canary.
The Russian proverb that Oliver quotes to Quentin was taught to him by Anatoly, five years earlier.
Oliver creates a special Anti-Crime-Unit of the SCPD that will report directly to him, made up of four cops recommended personally by Quentin Lance.
After being mugged while looking for Wild Dog, Curtis Holt asks Oliver to train him to become a crime-fighter.
Diggle is stationed overseas - somewhere in Eastern Europe based on the map on the wall of the communications tent where he calls Oliver. He approves of Oliver's plan to start training the city's new vigilantes.
Felicity has a new boyfriend, who is waiting for her when she gets back to her loft.
Lieutenant Conahan - the highest ranking honest cop that Quentin trained - is killed by an arrow fired by an unidentified costumed character.
The flashbacks take place in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
We don't see how Oliver got to Russia or how he spent the five months before we find him fighting a battle to the death in an underground club.
We also don't see the last five months of Ollie trying to keep the peace alone in Star City, while dealing with other vigilantes getting in his way.
We also don't get confirmation of where Diggle is stationed or what he's been doing since reenlisting in the US Army.
The Fridge Factor
Again, Laurel's behavior on her deathbed is codependent, whiny and unworthy of the character of Dinah Lance from the comics. Hopefully this is the last we'll see of her for a while now that they've told us what her promise is and put up a statue.
The Winick Factor
The bad news is that it appears this season will be heavily based on Judd Winick's run on the comics. The good news is that - based on this first episode - the storytelling will be far better and more respectful of the Green Arrow legacy.
The Bottom Line
A solid start for the new season that evokes the memory of Arrow's first two seasons in both its direction and its script. Tobias Church is an immediately impressive villain and the episode takes care to focus on two characters - Quentin and Thea - who didn't get as much attention as they should have in Season Four. Granted, this does leave Diggle and Felicity without much to do, but we get enough mystery about the other two prongs of "The Original Trio" to drive the subplots of future episodes. All in all, this is a promising star.