Arrow’s oscillating quality continues…
A week after airing one of its weakest episodes in quite some time, the show has now returned with one of its stronger entries of the season. Much of this is because “Draw Back Your Bow” hones in on the show’s strengths (the Oliver-Felicity relationship, Ray Palmer) while eschewing some of its weaker elements (Laurel and her gym antics are nowhere to be seen).
Per last week’s teaser, Isaac Stanzler is found shot dead and dressed in The Arrow’s attire. We quickly learn that the culprit is Carrie Cutter, a former SWAT member who was discharged from the force after exhibiting a dangerous attachment disorder (how she initially passed the psych evaluation to get the job in the first place, I’m not sure). Apparently, when The Arrow ended up saving her life during Deathstroke’s rampage of Starling City, she developed a deep obsession. Modeling herself after him, she dubs herself “Cupid.”
First of all, as ridiculous as this all sounds, it is lifted (more or less) straight from the comics. One has to give the Arrow writers credit for not shying away from the more absurd elements of the Green Arrow mythos. It certainly helps that they found a great actress in Amy Gumenick, who is able to make this bonkers character really pop.
Dovetailing with Cupid’s romantic woes is the ever escalating Oliver-Felicity-Ray love triangle. With Oliver unable to really express his feelings, Felicity finds herself increasingly drawn to the more charismatic, upbeat Ray. This isn’t helped by the fact that she walks into his office and finds him working out shirtless on a Salmon’s Ladder that is quite similar to Oliver’s (“Oh God, I have a type,” she says, blushing). After two seasons of seeing Oliver’s angst-filled relationships, the Felicity-Ray dynamic, with its light-hearted, quip-friendly dialogue, is a nice breath of fresh air. Ray takes the relationship a step further when he invites Felicity as his dinner date to an important business meeting, and ends up providing her with a lush dress and a necklace worth roughly ten million dollars. It’s no surprise then when, despite her complicated feelings towards Oliver, Felicity and Ray end up sharing a kiss at the episode’s end. Unfortunately, in typical soap opera fashion, Oliver arrives just in time to see this occur.
As fun as this episode is, by virtue of the show’s multiple storylines, there are definitely some clunkers in the hour. After spending the first part of the season training to be a badass warrior, Thea is now saddled with a story about getting her club back up and running. This involves finding a DJ and…yep, that’s really her story for the week. She holds auditions, and ends up attracting one particularly cocky individual who refuses to audition (because he’s that good). Eventually, when the DJ she hires proves to be a bust, he reappears and offers his services. Then, in a bit that makes the job look super easy, he simply turns on the laser lights and blasts “Turn Down for What.” Later, Thea ends up sharing a kiss with him. I don’t know what significance this guy will have later down the line, but this plotline seems to be the very definition of filler material. Moreover, with Oliver already struggling with a rival lover, giving Roy a run for his money in the same episode just feels like overkill.
Speaking of filler, the Hong Kong scenes continue to be an anchor that grinds any episode’s momentum to a halt. Granted, this episode’s flashbacks go a bit further, by attempting to dive into more character-based material. The central conceit finds Oliver teaming up with his handler’s wife, Tatsu (aka future Katana), after Maseo goes missing for several hours. During their stakeout, the two make an emotional connection about being foreigners in a strange new land (Tatsu is Japanese). After initially believing that Maseo was killed in the midst of a job, the two return home to find him alive and well. Like I said, it’s a valiant attempt to give a bit more substance to the proceedings but it still ends up feeling like a big distraction from the main story.
Still, we did finally get a digital look at Ray’s Atom suit, and that’s almost enough to make up for any of the entry’s other faults.
“Draw Back Your Bow” ultimately succeeds in giving Arrow’s uneven season a bit of a shot in the arm. That being said, it also really highlights the elements that are not working in the show’s current dynamics. With a big stretch of episodes yet ahead, one can only hope that the writers are still experimenting, and the various plotlines will all click together in a cohesive fashion relatively soon.