Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Arrow 4x04 "Beyond Redemption" (Save What Had Been Lost)

"Beyond Redemption"
Orginal Airdate: October 28, 2015

Is anyone ever too far gone?

Sometimes I think about that, honestly. Sometimes I wonder if people are just past the point of redemption. You give them more chances to apologize and correct their ways, and they keep on making the same mistakes. You hear their sob story and it sounds like the exact same story they've told you the past ten times you've talked. They say that this is the last time (and they said that ten times ago, too). I understand that people can change and I truly do believe that, in my heart. Because I believe in redemption, even if I occasionally doubt.

Redemption is a really interesting thing. I love stories of redemption because they permeate our culture with such beauty — the story of the hero falling and then rising again to conquer the villain. That character we thought was a villain being redeemed in the final act. The moment that the timid, meek character got to save the world. (If you're thinking about Harry Potter right now, congratulations! Because that is one great redemptive story.) In order to have redemption, there must always be sacrifice. Someone has to give up something — someone has to pay a price in order to save another person's soul or life. That is what redemption is, really.

And the title of "Beyond Redemption," is so striking to me, especially when comparing it with last week's. "Restoration" is the literal returning of something to what it once was. Literally, Laurel restored Sara — from death, to life again. But was Sara Lance really restored? Was she brought back the same as when she departed? Because if you recall, Sara died finally hearing and believing that she was a hero on that rooftop. Is that the woman we see chained to a wall this week? Arrow asks whether or not there is a difference between restoring something and redeeming it.

(Spoiler alert, there is! And we'll discuss that now.)


If you think your family has it bad, you should probably spend a day with the Lance clan. In case you slept through the first three seasons of Arrow, let's talk about all this family has gone through and done — to themselves and others.

First, you have Sara sneaking around with her older sister's boyfriend and seemingly dying on the same boat he did. That sends Quentin into a spiral of alcohol addiction and leads to the disintegration of the family unit (Dinah, Quentin, Laurel). While Sara is presumed to still be dead, Oliver returns to Starling City and he and Laurel rekindle their romance, briefly, before breaking it off. Laurel falls in love with Tommy who dies at the end of season one, sending her on her own spiral of addiction and pain. Sara returns though, before this happens, alive and as happy as ever. Oh, and then she and Oliver briefly rekindle their romance. I know, right?

Unfortunately, all of the stress and exertion of saving cities and fighting and thinking Sara was dead and then seeing her alive again, and then seeing her leave again causes Quentin serious health issues. At the beginning of season three, we have a sober and healthy Quentin along with a sober and healthy Laurel. That can't last long, so Sara returns to Starling City, only to be killed by Thea (under Malcolm's influence) and falls off a roof, practically into Laurel's arms. The real death of Sara this time causes Laurel immense anguish and sends her on a spiral of more self-destruction. Instead of a bottle, though, Laurel tries to use a mask and a leather suit with way too many buckles to heal her. In the process, she keeps up the facade to Quentin that Sara is alive, healthy, and happy somewhere else, even going so far as to pretend to be Sara and talk to him. Again: I know, right?

Eventually (after far, far, FAR too much time has passed), Quentin is told the truth by Laurel and the two grieve Sara, with Papa Lance's justifiable anger at Laurel's lies driving a wedge between them. Laurel and Quentin still don't see eye-to-eye by the time this season begins, but their relationship is at least on some sort of path toward reparation, except for the fact that Quentin Lance is now Damien Darhk's lapdog. 

Oh, right, I almost forgot: Laurel discovered the Lazarus Pit and ended up bringing the year-dead Sara back to life and back to Star(ling) City. How many times, you wonder, can people presume Sara to be dead before she's actually, permanently dead? Your guess is as good as mine. And that's what you missed on Glee!... er, Arrow.

Which all brings us to "Beyond Redemption," which — as I noted above — is an interesting title for an interesting episode. Here's the thing: you all know that I played devil's advocate for Laurel last week, because — as an older sister — I got why she wanted to save Sara. I would do anything for my baby sister, too. But this week, Laurel's not going to get much sympathy from me as I try to understand exactly what her logic is behind believing that Sara will be okay again. Did ANYONE tell her she would be? Has anyone said "just give it a week, and the Lazarus Pit will wear off"? Because unless they did and I missed something, I have no reason to believe that Sara will ever be the same again, and Laurel shouldn't either.

But she's pathologically delusional at this point. And, again, while I can't support her, I'm trying my very best to understand her and this is the first episode where I feel like Laurel was completely irrational. I want to like her, truly I do. Often, I can at least try to understand the reasoning behind her actions. Unfortunately though, from start to finish in "Beyond Redemption," Laurel made poor decision after poor decision — all while scowling and lying to everyone besides Quentin.

Sorry, baby bird. Better luck next week?


(No, I'm not worried that I'll run out of puns for Damien this season.)

Have I mentioned lately that I love Damien Darhk as the big bad for this season? He's literally all I could hope for in an Arrow villain — biting and sarcastic, terrifying, and still somehow human. This episode he wasn't extremely prominent, but in the scenes that he was, he was powerful. When Quentin discovers that Sara is alive, he is overjoyed and confused (as you would be). But then, as Laurel is talking to Sara, the woman tries to strangle her. And that's when Quentin Lance becomes a bit desperate (what can I say? It runs in the family) and approaches Damien Darhk for assistance.

Laurel may be delusional about Sara returning to normal, but Quentin is under no such belief. He takes one look at Sara and says that he doesn't even know that woman. It isn't his daughter. And he wants to know — wants Damien to reassure him — that there is some way he can save the woman who bears Sara's likeness. But our Darhk baddie says there is no such way. In fact, they speak father to father and Damien notes that if it was his own daughter, he would put her down. That's not Sara's soul within her body — it's a soul of rage and hatred and animal instincts. Let me pause momentarily to talk about Quentin and Damien's conversation. What Damien was suggesting was murder, yes, but it was more like he was describing a mercy killing. And he talked about the entire subject rather calmly and compassionately, from a similar stance as Quentin. We don't get the chance to see many villains on this show talk with the heroes as equals. This was a nice touch, honestly, and makes me excited for what we will learn about Damien in future episodes.

Let's talk about Quentin, shall we? Because this is a man who is self-righteous and eager to tear Oliver apart. And yet, in the episode, Oliver discovers Damien and Quentin have been conversing. When approached with this, Quentin still — rather emotionally and angrily — tries to take the moral high road, but Oliver quickly strips him of that opportunity. Quentin Lance used to be the kind of man who was a bit bristly, but he had moral standards. There were lines he did not cross. Heck, even Damien Darhk has lines he won't cross. The scariest and most dangerous people are those whose moral codes fluctuate. Quentin Lance is a desperate man, and desperation leads people to do stupid, reckless, selfish things (again — it runs in the family) in the name of a better or higher or worthier cause. The truth is that it is so easy for Quentin to judge Oliver: to look at him and sneer at his choices and his decisions. But Quentin has never had to make any of the complex decisions Oliver did... until now. And when he is faced with the choice? He chooses to do business with the devil.

In one of the best displays of acting on Arrow to date, Quentin Lance and Oliver Queen have an intensely emotional screaming match, in which the former tries to justify what he did to protect the people he loved. Oliver knows that there is ALWAYS another choice to make and — really powerfully and boldly — tells Quentin to stop hiding behind Sara and Laurel as his excuse for wrongdoing. Quentin and Laurel are alike in a lot of ways. They blame other people for their problems in an effort to justify their poor behavior. That's why they are both addicts, too. Oliver then, more calmly, tells Quentin that he looked up to the man for so long and wanted his approval.

Let's not forget something here — Quentin was essentially another father to Oliver when he was dating Laurel. Do you have that kind of person in your life? The kind of person who lives and acts like they have all their crap together and are better than you because of it? The kind of person who touts their moral compass like a prize and seems to stand taller because of their pride? This was Quentin — this IS Quentin — and it disgusts Oliver that the man he once thought was better and more righteous than he was turned out to be someone who was cowardly and amoral.

But people can be redeemed. Stories can be redeemed. Life can be redeemed... if only people are willing to make sacrifices in order to do so. When Oliver is stabbed and almost killed by this week's bad guy (uh, girl), Quentin saves the man by appealing to our assailant's humanity. The truth is, Quentin reasons, everyone has done horrible, unspeakable, desperate things because they think it will save their city. But the only way Star(ling) City will truly be saved is if people are brave enough to stop being desperate and bold enough to step into the light and fight for the city in honest, moral ways. "We've all been made to do desperate things," he says. "But I gotta believe we're not beyond redemption."

Isn't that the whole point of Arrow? The whole point of heroism? That no one is beyond the reach of grace. That being a hero comes at a price, but that the price you pay is ultimately far less than what you will gain in return? The day we stop believing people can be saved — in any sense of the word — is the day that we succumb to the dar(h)kness and allow it to permeate our souls. Redemption requires sacrifice, though, and if Quentin is serious about redeeming his soul... he must be willing to pay the price to do it.


As the team re-acclimates to Star(ling) City now that Oliver is back — and as they readjust to a new team dynamic — it seems only fitting that the New Team Arrow have a new lair as well! It's built, conveniently, right below Oliver's campaign office and... oh, that's right. Oliver is running for mayor. He announces this to the team and their faces are about as hilarious as their dialogue. No one really thinks Oliver can do this whole mayoral thing (or at least they don't believe he's thought it through), but there is one thing they do love: the new underground lair, complete with the salmon ladder, lots of LEDs, and what appear to be technical glitches. Nevertheless, the team is happy to have a new place to call their own... until inevitably some baddie finds it and they have to relocate. Again.

Oliver and Thea have a rather wonderful conversation later on in the episode, after Oliver's blow-up with Lance. It seems that our hero can shoot arrows at bad guys all day with confidence, but he doesn't know if he should be running for mayor because he doesn't know if Star(ling) City is even able to be saved. Is it too far gone? With Lance's dabble in the dar(h)kness, Oliver rightfully wonders whether anything is sacred anymore. If Lance — the officer of the moral high ground — is working with a villain, then maybe there is no hope after all. But Thea, beautiful and precious baby Queen, knows her big brother better than anyone in the world. And so she writes him a speech for when he announces his campaign. And since the writers were probably busy eating pie or cookies, the speech sounds a lot like the opening monologue Oliver delivers before the start of every Arrow episode.

Nevertheless, for at least one day, there is something in Star(ling) City to be hopeful about. There is no redemption without sacrifice. And there is no redemption without the foundation of hope and trust. If "Beyond Redemption" sought to teach us anything, it was that.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • For those keeping score at home, yes this is the second week in a row that the subtitle for the review has been a lyric from Tangled's "Healing Incantation." Ask me how many regrets I have about that.
  • MVP for this episode goes to Paul Blackthorne, by a MILE. That confrontation between Quentin and Oliver was some of the best acting I've ever seen on this show. I come down hard on Lance a lot because yeah, he's being a complete hypocrite. He's lied to Laurel and the team and has been working with the enemy — the devil himself — for months now. And he justifies it because he wants to believe he is still a good and righteous person. And yet, in spite of all of those things or perhaps because of them, Blackthorne managed to make me feel for him and ache for him. And while the scene in the apartment was amazing, that was nothing compared to the scene where Quentin decides to kill Sara. Every single bit of emotion Blackthorne extracted from that scene — horror and anguish over what he almost did, pain, desperation, grief — are all so palpable and powerful. Seriously, I can't say enough good things about Paul Blackthorne in this episode. Easily the strongest performance of his to date.
  • "What type of secret lair has windows?"
  • "Oh my God, where is it? Why aren't you wearing it?" THEA THINKING THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT WAS THAT OLIVER PROPOSED. So obviously Oliver told her about him wanting to propose with Moira's ring. I'm such a fan of this whole exchange, really.
  • "... Oh. You're serious." Everyone's reaction to Oliver running for mayor? Absolute perfection.
  • Laurel, why are you treating your sister like a puppy/baby? I talk to pre-schoolers better than you talked to your ADULT SISTER. 
  • Deb brought up an excellent point — how do you hire contractors for a secret lair? Did they come from Central City? We need to know these things. My assumption is that they're the Starling City Window Repair crew, moonlighting as construction workers.
  • The quickest way to give Lance a heart attack would be to show him his definitely-not-dead daughter chained up in a basement. Because HE HAS A HEART CONDITION, LAUREL. A fact that I'm so happy was actually stated later in the episode.
  • "We're gonna need some money." "... Don't you mean MORE money?" "... Mmm."
  • "What? I don't get a code name like the rest of you?" Take it up with Cisco, dude.
  • "Your texts were 911, OMG, ASAP, and five exclamation points."
  • "Oh my God, this must be what talking to me is like."
  • I didn't mention it above, but Felicity had a little sub-plot this episode with Curtis. The man spent time in the episode figuring out that Felicity's freaked-out phone was like that because it was being sent messages from Ray's old super suit. Rather than listen to whatever message Ray recorded before his death, Felicity vehemently refuses to do so. And when prompted further by Curtis, she explains that it would be too painful since she and Ray were once together. Curtis and Felicity then have a conversation that's reminiscent of the one Brian and Rebecca had in Limitless together a few weeks ago — if you found something of your deceased loved one, would you want to read it or see it? Curtis says what Brian does in Limitless: if he had the chance to hear his loved one speak again, he would want to take that chance. The moment between these two character was so beautiful. Kudos to Echo Kellum and Emily Bett Rickards for really selling me on the emotional connection they have already. At the end of the episode, Felicity does open the audio file from Ray and hears his voice before breaking down in tears. I may not have liked Ray, but I know that — creepy or not — Felicity cared about him. Hearing a message from someone who loved you and who you cared about is painful. I'm glad she did it by herself though, because she needs to hear the message to heal.
  • "You're doing that... crinkly thing with your eyebrows." There was not much Oliver/Felicity this episode but I'm totally okay with that, if it means we get little adorable gems like this in the episodes. HOW CUTE THAT OLIVER NOTICES LITTLE THINGS.
  • We got a "you have failed this city"! Yes!
  • Oh, I made it this far without discussing flashback-land. You guys should be proud. Basically this week, Oliver lied to the evil army dude about killing the woman he let escape. Army dude believed him and then found the communication device Oliver had been using to talk to ARGUS and Waller. So now evil Army dude knows and Oliver is screwed (probably).
  • "... You got your own key or something?"
  • Laurel, I don't know why you thought a TRAINED ASSASSIN would be completely and permanently shackled by whatever little chains you used on her in the basement.
Whew! Well, there you have it folks. Did you enjoy "Beyond Redemption"? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me. Until then! :)


  1. There were such great performances this week! They have a lot of storylines to juggle this season: Oliver's mayoral run, Team Arrow vs Damian, Diggle vs HIVE, Thea's bloodlust, Laurel resurrecting her sister and Sara's issues following that, Lance involved with and now undercover with Damian, Felicity and Curtis trying to save the company, Felicity figuring out what happened to Ray, not to mention Malcolm and Nyssa in the background and the strong possibility of Oliver finding out he has a kid, Felicity's father etc. And that's not even mentioning all the flashback stuff (I always wish it felt like it was adding to the present day stuff each week). Obviously we can't develop all of those stories a lot every week but I liked how they handled it this episode. And big hats off to Amell and Blackthorne for those amazing scenes together.

    Their interaction was my favourite thing this week. I literally applauded after that first scene they had together in Lance's flat. I am going to play a little devil's advocate for Lance and say that I think you went a bit further in tearing him a new one than I would. You used the word “amoral” which I think is a too harsh. Amoral means without any framework of right and wrong. I think I understand what you were trying to say but Lance certainly knows the difference between right and wrong. He is doing something immoral but he himself is not without a knowledge of right and wrong. I would argue that his moral code is exactly what makes his actions so painful and so wretched to watch. I was thrilled with the talks he and Oliver had and how that led to the start of Lance's redemption. (I do believe he will be on that road and there are certainly hints that it might require major sacrifice on his part.) I'm glad Lance explained a little bit of how he got involved with Darhk. It seemed entirely plausible to me that Darhk would initially present himself as a help to the city (doesn't evil always do that?) and then the moment that Lance tried to extricate himself the threat to Laurel would have been hinted at. (Although Damian seemed quite distainful of Anarky's threats to Ms. Danforth a couple eps ago. He said there was line you don't cross but isn't he doing the same thing, although more quietly, with Lance and Laurel?) And I completely understand Lance's fear. He's already lost one daughter (more than once because this is Arrow) and he thought Sara could take care of herself too only to be shown that doesn't make her indestructrable. I thought it was great that Lance brought that up after Oliver said that Laurel can handle herself (and wasn't it nice to see Oliver so casually expressing confidence in Laurel's skills. That is progress from him especially given his tendency to protect the women in his life by lying to and infantilising them.) I don't think it is entirely an excuse on Lance's part. If Sara's death proved anything it is that the best trained fighter with loads of experience can still be brought down. And Laurel is not nearly as trained or experienced as her sister. The whole team has been getting their butt kicked by the Ghosts so it is reasonable to believe that Darkh could kill Laurel any time he wanted. Even Oliver with all of his experience and skill nearly died in this ep. All it takes is one opening and anyone can be killed. It doesn't matter who you are. So I totally understand Lance's fear. It must be petrifying.

  2. But Oliver was also right. Lance can't continue to hide behind that. Both Laurel and Sara would be ashamed of Lance's actions. And there is deep irony in Lance continuing to work with Damian in order to protect his daughter while she is putting her own life on the line every night by fighting Damian's forces at every opportunity. Laurel has already put her life on the line for the city and Lance should see that. But fear doesn't allow us to see well at times. I wouldn't defend Lance's actions and I'm so glad that Oliver was the one to call him on it. I think his disappointment in Lance is actually one of the things that really made a difference to Quentin. Rather than continuing to yell at Lance about how horrible he is Oliver expresses that he is hurt by Quentin's hypocrisy and giving in to despair. (I really do see Lance's fatal flaw as a tendency to give in to despair.) Being yelled at isn't nearly as powerful as someone expressing that they had higher expectations of us. That is what can motivate us to change. I think it really hurt Quentin to hear that Oliver wanted to run partly to prove himself to Quentin. It certainly pierced my heart. And I love that Lance's words inspired Oliver at the end. They have both been broken and done things they are deeply ashamed of but they can also inspire each other to do better. Lance will have a dangerous road ahead as a double agent but I think he is jumping for the chance to redeem himself. He has started to believe again that the city can be saved.

    I, for one, was pleased that Oliver's team was a little surprised by his decision to run for mayor. It is not an obvious move for him. And all the questions they raise are good ones. Oliver has no experience with politics or public service. He has a desire to save the city but very little idea about policy specifics. Just because no one wants the job doesn't mean Star City should put just anyone in the position. And just because he doesn't currently have an opponent doesn't mean that the questions about what he would actually DO as mayor shouldn't be asked. He has a lot of work to do to become a good mayor but I think he has the potential. His old leadership style of secret-keeping and do-it-because-i-said-so would not work in a public service sphere but he has been showing more and more ability to delegate, trust his team, and win support over the last year or so. I found his talk with Thea about his own doubts about the city's future to be incredibly moving. I loved the story he told of going to ball games as a family and feeling part of a unified city (maybe Amell's own passion for sport really helped there?). It was one of the few times I have understood why he is so passionate about his home. Sometimes it is told to us and he's certainly shown how much he is willing to sacrifice for the city but that story helped me understand why. And it was so nice to see Thea step up in the campaign. I think she'll show great parts of her character in that job. Felicity has backed Oliver immediately with money and Thea (after initial questions) sees the vision and jumps on board. It's nice to see that part of Thea although I worry because Malcolm warned that her bloodlust can only be appeased for a short time. She is at ease this week,back to her old self a bit, but I know that struggle is far from over. I'm hoping the work they do to help Sara will help Thea too.

  3. If Quentin has a tendency to succumb to despair, Laurel was showing us how stubbornly she can push for the best outcome although there is no reason to believe that a good outcome is possible. Now that can be a good trait and we've seen her fight seemingly hopeless battles as an attorney and fighter but it had tinges of denial this time. And her assurance that it will all be okay is preventing her from truly helping her sister. If Laurel keeps telling herself that Sara can just “get better” she won't be looking for real solutions to a very real problem. An addict needs help to deal with addiction and Sara is going to need more than time and positive thinking. I think once real consequences start hitting now that Sara has freed herself it will really sink in that Laurel needs to ask for help. (I too wish that the scene talking to Sara and showing the pictures hadn't been done in such an odd voice. You can be calm and gentle without talking down to her.)

    Little things:
    - I loved the moments with Thea and Diggle procuring drugs for the trap. I like watching them together, Diggle was easily menacing body guard again, Thea got a little nostalgic for high school? But mostly I loved that Diggle expressed how worried he is raising a daughter in a city like they have now. YES! I always wonder how regular people in the city feel about living there and Diggle's worry gives a real insight to that reality and why plenty of people can't wait to get out.
    - I love how Echo Kellum and EBR beautifully switch gears from playful, fast jokes to serious talk about people they've lost. And it was nice to see how Felicity has been affected by Ray's “death”. I know some fans were happy to have that character gone but it was an important relationship to her and not one that she ended lightly. Her feelings were real and her grief should be acknowledged too. She's had a lot of loved ones die or leave and that needed to be shown and I hope it will continue to be processed. I don't think the realisation that Ray is alive will seriously rock the boat for Felicity and Oliver but a little tension would only be honest. They both have past complex relationships and that needs some real weight to it.
    -It is totally appropriate that Thea knows that Oliver is planning to propose. Of course he told her and of course she is thinking that is the big announcement. Hilarious moment of looks between them when she lets that slip.
    -I do love the new lair. And the moment of Felicity getting used to a new chair was a lovely touch. I think, even if just for reasons of show budget, that they'll keep this lair for awhile. Surely they've learned some lessons about security??
    - Oliver sitting quietly in the dark in an apartment would certainly have given me a heart attack. I know it's kind of a storytelling staple, especially in heroic stories, but it's actually a nightmare of mine.
    - blah blah flashbacks If Oliver knew more about why the heck he is there maybe I would feel more interested. He got no background or briefing and that just strikes me as ridiculous.

  4. - I kinda like that they echoed the opening monologue in Oliver's speech at the end. It didn't strike me a laziness so much as a way of showing how his mission – to “save my city”- is continuing and connected to all that Oliver does. The mayoral campaign is part of that whole picture. My real question is if they are going to have him win and actually fill the office for awhile. I'm kinda intrigued by that day job being in the background of future seasons... Part of me just wants the city to catch a break and have someone in the job for a realistic period of time so they can have some sort of stability. Those people have had it rough.
    - I still really wanna know why the heck Damian and HIVE care about what happens to Star City. And do their plans in the present reach all the way back to when Andy was killed? It's doesn't feel personal like previous seasons and we know there are various phases of a plan that have been mentioned (and that Damian is not totally in control of HIVE but has partners who can challenge his decisions). Interesting. What is the end goal here? And we found out that Damian is a dad. He actually sounded compassionate when talking with Lance about Sara and I too liked that layer being added to his character.
    - I liked that our bad guys this episode were not stereotypical bad guys. They weren't a huge focus of the ep but their corruption worked so beautifully into Lance's issues. They were just cops who got pushed into a corner, got desperate and started thinking narrowly about looking out for themselves and their own. They lost hope. I find that more compelling than some of the more dramatic villains. It really underlines that a big part of the city's problems arise from regular people turning to drugs or gangs or violence because they don't see any other way. Hopefully Mayor Queen will address that too.
    -I liked that they showed Sara going after Thea next week. Malcolm said that killing the one who hurt you is the driving force in someone who uses the Lazarus Pit and the only way to sate the bloodlust. Malcolm is a smart guy and was certainly aware that Sara would then be fixated on Thea. What did he think would result from that? The team being forced to kill Sara again themselves? Nasty putting your kid in the crosshairs again. Did Thea and Laurel just miss that part of the warning??

    I really enjoyed that ep and the pairings that it gave us. I want to see them continue moving all their characters forward which is a good thing cause I can't wait to see what comes next for everyone.

  5. So what we have after this episode? The confirmation, that Damian Darkh is a father - but not Felicity's, because I'm sure she would recognize him (yes, she was young when her father left, but not too young, she would remember his face; also Darkh is some kind of immortal and doesn't age).
    So let's dig into speculation: We have a missing child and a missing father in the whole picture. My guess: They are the same person. Damian Darkh (who is way older than he looks) has a son, and this son is Felicity's father.
    I like Donna, but as soon as we saw Damian, I was wondering how a man like him could spent years with a woman like Donna in Vegas, raising a child. Even if he did so, why would he left in the end?
    But a young man, who somehow escaped or ran away from his dominant, cold father, felt in love with a warm and open-hearted waitress, had a child with her, loved his little intelligent daugther, and than left his family to save them from his father's influence - that's another story.