Sunday, November 13, 2016

Arrow 5x06 Review: "So It Begins" (You Never Know the Murderer Sitting Next to You)

"So It Begins"
Original Airdate: November 9, 2016

I think the reason that I love clip show episodes on television is because I enjoy watching how far characters have come in their personal journeys. Clip shows are essentially tropes in comedy (think Friends' "The One With the Vows" or "The One with Christmas in Tulsa," etc.) when shows run out of budget and want to reuse their footage. But I think they're fun. I think it's enjoyable to reflect on your past and realize how far you've actually grown. But I think it's a little harder to remember the things from our pasts that we're ashamed of. If we all had to endure just one clip episode of our lives, featuring all of the gross stuff alongside the great stuff, we might hide in a corner with our eyes covered throughout its entire duration. And that's the best part of meeting new people sometimes — they know you as you are when you meet them; they don't know who you used to be.

And as much as he tries to distance himself from the person he was in season one, this week saw Oliver taking a forceful trip down memory lane as the Team Arrow newbie squad tried to grapple with what their leader has done. "So It Begins" is a refreshing change of pace for Arrow lately. I'm not sure if it was a well-done episode, or if it's just that my bar for this season has been set so low. Regardless, I found this episode to be a great way for the show to continue to move forward while still trying to grow Oliver in an organic, non-trite way.


Out of all of the new recruits, I enjoy Rory mostly for his sarcasm, but I think I enjoy Evelyn Sharp most of all. "So It Begins" proved to me that this young woman isn't just a Black Canary 2.0, or a little girl in desperate need of Oliver's help. She's a strong, stubborn leader who demands not perfection but professionalism from Oliver. Even though her desire to do things on her own without anyone else's help can occasionally backfire, the truth is that Evelyn is very solid in what she believes and — most importantly — why she believes it. She doesn't expect the people around her to be flawless, but she deeply values honesty and considers it integral to trust.

In this week's episode, we get to see those qualities front and center. The OTA spends a good chunk of this episode hiding information about Prometheus from the team. He's killing again, and until they figure out why and just how dangerous this villain is, Diggle and Oliver don't want to bring them in. (Diggle actually kinda insults them, which... shame on you, Dig, for bringing up Rene's torture!) Oliver's reasoning is, as always, rooted in the fact that he wants to make decisions for other people, rather than let them decide anything for themselves. In this instance, I'm not sure that he's wrong to keep the team from going into the field with him (they're not very well-trained, but who's fault is that, dude?!), but I am definitely sure that keeping them totally in the dark is a bad idea.

Oliver is that kind of guy who would rather avoid an argument by working around it, rather than through it. If he doesn't tell the team about Prometheus, he won't have to argue with them when they tell him that they want to help. He won't have to worry about them being in the field, after all, so clearly this logic is rock solid. I think it's interesting — and fitting — that Felicity is the one to push back against Oliver's demands, per usual. She thinks that the team should at least know what kind of danger is out there. But Oliver is firm on not telling the team until they know for sure how big their problem is.

The issue with that, of course, is that by the time Oliver actually does tell the team about Prometheus, all kinds of skeletons begin to pour out from Oliver's closet. Prometheus is killing seemingly random people. But they're not really random — their names are anagrams for people whose names were in Oliver's infamous kill book. And now, by hiding the severity of Prometheus and his crusade, Oliver has hidden even more things from a team who doesn't really trust him to begin with.

When the recruits secretly meet to discuss this development — you know, how Oliver was a serial killer — Rene is just as confused as I am. What's their problem with Oliver actually about? Is it that he was a serial killer? Or that he keeps hiding things from them? Evelyn Sharp — bless her little heart — tells them all that it's both. She, along with the rest of the team, know that Oliver isn't the best or fuzziest teacher. He's brash and unapologetic and he keeps secrets.

But Evelyn brings up an extremely valid point: how can the team continue to work with someone who doesn't just hide things from them, but does it with such consistency that they don't know what to expect which skeleton will tumble out of the closet tomorrow? And for Evelyn, it's even more personal than that. She calls Oliver a hypocrite, to his face (praise the Lord, because someone had to do it!) and tells him that HE was the one to convince her to not enact revenge on Ruve Darhk. But in examining his past, Evelyn is angry and confused. How could Oliver preach to them about light and hope and yet hide his past from them all?

Later in the episode — after Oliver saves a really kick-butt Evelyn (she was fighting pretty nicely there for a while against Prometheus!) — the two have a heart-to-heart, in which Oliver explains for the millionth time that he's really changing. It's a slow process, but he thinks he's getting somewhere. Evelyn seems to understand that the Oliver leading their team isn't the same vengeful man who returned from Lian-Yu five years ago. He may not always do the right thing, but he is still, at his core, a good person.


The thing is, Oliver isn't quite sure that he's changed as much as he wants to believe. So he literally returns to his old habit — shooting tennis balls with arrows — in order to clear his mind. I absolutely love the fact that Diggle was the one to give Oliver a pep talk. The two haven't exactly had the best relationship in the past few years (what, with Oliver not telling anyone about his plan to become Al Sah-Him and all), but Diggle can see the kind of person Oliver has grown into. Someone who, as Diggle affirms, kills people as a last resort and not a first one anymore. And I tend to agree on that front. Oliver isn't the person who tortures and kills people just for the sake of crossing a name out in a book. And he's learned to accept help from others.

What still irks me is that I'm not sure how many times "Oliver hides something, gets found out, and there are consequences but then it magically all works out in the end" can be a storyline anymore. This episode worked wholeheartedly in this theme because it focused on new characters and a specific point in time in Oliver's journey. We can flash back to season one and remember the man who used to be "The Hood," and we can feel Oliver's pain and sadness as that version of himself is brought to light in front of new people. But I just don't think that another trip down memory lane will be warranted, unless the show can find some way to make that fresh.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the fact that Oliver was able to hear — from someone other than Felicity — that he's grown and that he's a better person now because of all of the bad stuff he did and endured.

Another interesting dynamic that this episode explores is the fracturing of the team into two distinct pieces: the inner circle and everyone else. The new recruits discuss this in their whole "Oliver was a serial killer" debrief. They recognize now that Oliver only shares the information he wants to with them, but shares it all with Oliver and Felicity. And I LOVE this theme because it hasn't yet been explored (except briefly with people like Laurel — remember how much Oliver hid from her?). Every other iteration of Team Arrow has been just that: a team. Thea and Roy might not have always had their opinions taken as seriously as they should have been, but they were always kept in the loop once they were on the team.

Now, Oliver has an issue. Because of his stubbornness and inability to let other people in, he's created a clear-cut divide in his own team and has only allowed Felicity and Diggle into its innermost secrets. That's extremely problematic and the rest of the team knows it (and Felicity, in her defense, does know it too). You can't have a team when you only trust a quarter of its members. Either Oliver needs to start shaping up and treating his recruits like part of the team, or he might as well not even have them around at all.

And maybe that's actually it. Maybe Oliver doesn't want more people around to share secrets with or to let into his past: maybe on some level, he would claim to want a bigger team. But maybe on a more subconscious level, he keeps reverting to his old mindset. Because if he only trusts Diggle and Felicity with information, it's like the old team is back together again, right? It's like nothing has changed.

But things HAVE changed on Arrow, whether you like it or not. We have new relationships, new faces, and a brand-new villain. In a lot of ways, Arrow has hit the reset button and tried to recapture the magic the show had with an entirely new puzzle. I think that "So It Begins" is a step in the right direction though. If the show can acknowledge the fact that things are not the same, then it can evolve and become a better version of itself. If it cannot — if it keeps trying to do the same things that it has done while pretending like nothing is different at all — it'll flop miserably. 

Observations & favorite moments:
  • Are we heavily implying that Quentin is Prometheus? Because if so, explain the science to me.
  • I think my favorite thing about Annoying Reporter Chick™ is that I'm going to continually refuse to call her by her actual name. In other favorite news, I love that everyone hates this girl -- Thea and Felicity and Quentin are just the start of what will surely be a running list.
  • "I failed chemistry in high school. Twice."
  • I'm getting a little bored by the Bratva flashbacks. I'm not sure why.
  • The wrong Queen sibling is mayor. Just throwing that out there.
  • So as it turns out, Quentin was never sober to begin with! And since he's spiraling pretty quickly, Thea steps in and refuses to step out of his mess. She cares about him and will not give up on him. I absolutely love their relationship right now. Just saying.
  • "How are you anything other than a hypocrite?"
  • "You can't help a man who doesn't want to be helped." "Watch me." #bless
  • "I'm doing this — protecting people — for me. Not for you." Evelyn Sharp, telling a man that it's not all about him and I am so here for more of this.
  • In less-exciting news, Felicity told her boyfriend (whose name I literally can't remember) that she works for the Green Arrow. He's momentarily upset, but then wholeheartedly excited. It's kind of cute, actually.
  • "Shut up." "Yes ma'am."
What did you all think of this week's Arrow? Admittedly, I waited until the weekend to watch it (because I was not in the state of mind to watch it on Wednesday). Sound off in the comments below!


  1. Totally agree about Bravta Flashbacks, they are getting boring.

  2. I was not too keen to watch the episode either when it aired because I am not enjoying Arrow as much as I used to. I am tired of listening to Oliver apologizing to every other person for not being the man they thought he was. He is trying, cut him some slack.
    Also, I politely disagree with you on the not telling the new team about S1 Oliver. I think they are still too new for Oliver to sit them and say so listen, I went through hell, came back with a book and killed people. He should definitely not be keeping intel from them, but sharing details from his past is still too soon. At least it is to me as a viewer it is.