Spoilers ahead for “The Recruits,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow!
The short version: Oliver finally relents to Felicity’s requests to recruit a new team, and he immediately drives them away with his hardcore training approach. A mysterious man nicknamed Ragman shows up and (seemingly) attacks a community health expo. Oh, but it’s because the expo’s corporate sponsor is pretty shady. Twist!
The good: The new team (mostly), Ragman and Diggle’s return
The A-story was framed around Oliver’s attempts to draft a new team, and for the most part that was a compelling plot to mine. We get to see Oliver struggle (mightily) with being a leader and teacher in this sense (though we’ve seen him train people before and not be terrible at it, natch) as he tries to accept his own limitations and the fact that he can’t save the city completely alone. The stakes were lower (in a good way), and most of these characters are essentially just street-level folks trying to help out and clean up the streets. It feels like a throwback to the feel of Seasons 1-2, a much simpler time in Star(ling) City. Revealing his secret identity felt a bit rushed, but it was a good sentiment.
We still haven’t gotten to see much of the new team trainees Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) and Artemis (Madison McLaughlin), though Gonzalez is doing a decent job of keeping his character rough but likable. Curtis Holt/The Eventual Mister Terrific (Echo Kellum) also gets a great scene with Oliver where he basically dresses him down for failing to inspire and lead his new team. Seeing Curtis show that kind of backbone was a major step forward on his journey to become a hero in his own right. Curtis also gets a hilarious run at the salmon ladder, which doesn’t go well.
The New-Look Team Arrow also beefed up its ranks with Ragman (Joe Dinicol), with a nice throwback to the nuclear explosion in Havenrock due to Damien Darhk’s attack. It turns out he’s the only survivor of the city’s destruction (which was indirectly caused by Felicity, who rerouted the nuke from a larger target) thanks to a mystical pile of rags his father wrapped him in when the bomb fell (it’s not quite as cheesy as it sounds, and the effects work was surprisingly solid for his rag-powers). But considering Oliver ends up recruiting this guy into the team, he could’ve been in the episode a bit more. Also, it'll be interesting to see how he meshes with Felicity ... considering her role in kinda nuking his city (to save lives, but still).
Diggle returns! We’ve been wondering how they’d work Diggle back into the story now that he’s back in the military serving in Latvia. His story also connects back to the nuke story from last season, as Dig becomes caught in the middle of a rogue military team trying to steal a nuke that hit the black market in the wake of Damien Darhk. Not the strongest of connective tissue, but it was great to see Diggle regardless.
The bad: Felicity’s new boyfriend, the new team (a little bit)
Despite their break-up last season, Oliver and Felicity look to be in a great place now. They crack jokes, they’re getting along well, and that piece of Team Arrow is firing on all cylinders. Which makes it all the more bizarre that Felicity apparently has a new boyfriend, Central City Det. Billy Malone. They’re obviously sprinkling in the details of how this came about during the offseason, but they really need to offer up some answers. There’s been no real indication as to why this relationship is a thing (other than a narrative device to keep Olicity on the back burner a while longer), or how they got together. All we see is Felicity use his CPD connections to run some labs on a piece of evidence for her. If they want this guy to be more than Generic, Kinda Smarmy Boyfriend We All Hate, something needs to change pronto.
Back to the new team: Oliver’s approach to training the new recruits pretty much made no sense. Yes, it obviously paralleled the Bratva flashbacks and the training techniques the Russian mob uses. Oliver knows how to train people and be a leader. We’ve seen it. Here he just puts these rookies on a line and starts beating the crap out of them for hours on end with no real direction. Then he berates them, and heck, it was hard to blame them for all walking out at that point. It makes sense he wants to train them well and have them prepared in Laurel’s memory, but he’s been doing this a while now and must know there’s a better approach than this.
Quentin Lance continues to steal the show, and it’s so heartbreaking to see this strong character just floundering in his struggles with alcoholism and general lack of direction. It became harder and harder to keep him looped into the narrative after leaving the CCPD, but bringing him in as deputy mayor could be a great way to shake up the dynamics (he works for Oliver now!) and keep Lance a relevant part of this story. Thea also explained it pretty well: Why wouldn’t a former police chief be qualified for the gig? Especially considering eh city’s struggles with crime?
The new, evil archer Prometheus continues to prowl around the back streets with no real agenda other than wanting to take out the Green Arrow (eventually). We see him go toe-to-toe with gangster villain Tobias Church and take the dude down in 2 seconds flat. Church might be getting top billing, but Prometheus is almost certainly turning into the real big bad for the early part of the season.
Lines of the night:
“... and you did put two arrows in Barry allen's back." -Felicity
“I've been waiting five years to say that joke.” - Felicity
Up next: Oliver looks to be breaking in his new team with a mission. What could go wrong?