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Arrow, Season 4, Episode 4, ‘Beyond Redemption,’ Review

[This is a full review of Arrow, Season 4, Episode 4, ‘Beyond Redemption,’ and there will be spoilers.]

Oliver Queen doesn’t want to fail his city.  After 5 years in hell, he came back to adopt the mantle of The Arrow, and started violently punishing criminals that were tearing his city apart.  Through the years, he’s collected some new friends, as well as some new enemies that wanted to bring Starling City to its knees.

Despite Oliver’s most drastic actions of becoming Ra’s al Ghul, heir to the demon, and leader of the League of Assassins, Starling City, now re-branded Star City has descended into chaos.  The citizens are leaving, the police are ineffective, and Damien Darhk wants to break things.  For some reason.

Now, after 3 seasons of fighting darkness with darkness, Oliver has changed his tone.  Re-branding himself as the Green Arrow, he’s once again trying to save his city.  Only now, he’s not doing it alone.  Besides the help from Team Arrow, Oliver Queen is also stepping up and running for Mayor, desiring to unite the city once again under his leadership.

In this week’s episode, Beyond Redemption, we get a continuation of Oliver’s Mayoral pursuits, along with half a dozen other subplots, which–despite efforts to move the show in the right direction–only serve make the narrative feel very sluggish.

As Star City continues its downward spiral, even the police begin to lose their way.  A rogue element is patrolling the city, seizing drugs and other contraband, only to sell it back into distribution.  Since it’s an inside job, investigations into the seizures are being stalled and covered up, so Lance decides to once again turn to Team Arrow for assistance.

Lance has had a rough relationship with Oliver and his team over the past few years.  Oscillating between hostility and friendship.  It’s gotten past the point that the story can’t reasonably support Quentin Lance flip flopping on his feelings for Oliver any longer, but the show is always best suited when Lance isn’t angry with somebody, so hopefully it stays this way for a while.

Just because Lance isn’t angry with Oliver, doesn’t mean he’s not emotional.  Laurel brings zombie Sara back from Nanda Parbat and shows Captain Lance that she’s still alive.  Of course, Lance is conflicted over this, and Damien Darhk even suggests that Lance should put her out of her misery, but Lance isn’t able to pull the trigger.

The whole Sara resurrection story is a little weird in general.  Laurel has her chained up in a basement, and is trying to remind her of who she used to be, even though Sara shows no signs of being herself.  It has all the makings of an incredibly creepy subplot right out of the second season of The Walking Dead, but it’s not played that way, because Laurel isn’t supposed to actually be losing her mind.

The whole story about Sara’s resurrection would have probably been best served by making much of it happen off screen, or shortening the recovery time in its entirety.  Zombie Sara and crazy Laurel would be incredibly compelling arc if Laurel were to actually lose her sanity, but since they likely have plans for her to remain an active and totally normal contributing member of Team Arrow, the whole thing just doesn’t quite line up the way it’s written.

Another confusing subplot is Felicity and Curis’s investigation into the weird behavior of Felicity’s phone.  Although Emily Bett Rickards and Echo Kellum have great on screen chemistry, and the plot culminated in one of the better written dialogues of the season, the rest of it is surrounded by implausibility.

Felicity has been set up to be a technical wizard.  Almost every episode has a reference to her doing something considered impossible followed by her saying something like “I’m just that good.”  Curtis is supposed to be just as–if not more–smart as she is.  Despite their combined intelligence, Felicity is not only initially unfazed by her technology behaving strangely, but entirely  confounded as to why and how it is behaving that way.  She finds it is being initiated by a computer at Palmer tech, but seems to lose suspicion completely when Kurtis denies involvement.

Then we have Curtis, who is unable to unlock Ray Palmer’s old workstation.  He claims he’s tried many methods, including running brute force software, but the encryption is just too strong for him.  Only for it to later be revealed that the password is merely “password.”  I’m sure the writers were just going for laughs, but it serves to completely undermine any credibility we are supposed to give to the smartest characters in the show.

This is interspersed with flashbacks, which no longer parallel the main plot, in 45 second increments. Serving mostly to disrupt the flow of the other plots.  The flashbacks would be best served if they were all grouped together into a 5 minute chunk each episode, or if the entirety of the flashbacks were even all put into a single episode.

The flashbacks this week show Oliver get exposed as an infiltrator, because he does a bad job of hiding the communications devices where he got his orders, and the device itself has absolutely no security in place to prevent being read by the wrong people.

It’s awesome to see that Oliver is finally becoming Mayor, and a lot of the petty drama that holding the show back is finally getting pushed out of the way, which opens the show up to far better story telling, but if the editing and writing continues to be as convoluted and cludgy as it was this episode, then the show unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of potential this season.

Arrow Season 4 Episode 5, “Haunted,” will air this coming Wednesday at 8pm EST on The CW.

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