“The world needs a protector, someone to keep it safe. And it doesn’t matter if someone’s wearing a mask. All that matters is that no one should have to lose their family or anyone they love.”
A new villain that collects trophies from all of Star City’s vigilantes, a documentary on vigilantes, and Team Arrow getting back together? If this week’s Arrow does anything, it’s to remind viewers that there’s still life in the show and creative directions to explore.
It’s not often that Arrow surprises. After all, the formula it’s been using for the last seven years has worked. But every now and then—whether it’s a character introduction or plot direction—the show diverges from the formulaic to offer a unique throughline for an episode. “Emerald Archer” does this in the most fantastically surprising ways: framing Oliver’s journey as Star City’s masked vigilante (or as Felicity aptly puts it—‘hero’) quite literally through the lens of a documentary crew. Not only does this particular story device give us a unique perspective on Oliver’s journey, it adds a bit of fun that has so far been a hit-and-miss affair this season.
Like any documentary, ‘Emerald Archer: The Hood and the Rise of Vigilantism’ gives us a ground level perspective on the last few years of Star City’s vigilante infusion. Bringing back characters we haven’t seen in sometime—Rory Reagan, Cindy Simone, even Barry Allen has a cool cameo—or those that are currently deceased (Quentin Lance), “Emerald Archer” plays out as an homage to Arrow’s seven-year run. Adding to that is the Cops-type narrative as the documentary team follows Oliver and, later on, Team Arrow as they track down the newest villain: Chimera, a walking tank decked out in a Wayne Enterprises military-grade exoskeleton who’s on the prowl for any vigilante he can find. While his introduction ends up being nothing more than a villain-of-the-week footnote, the threat he poses forces Oliver to round up the remaining members of Team Arrow—Diggle, Curtis, Rene, and Dinah—to take down the threat. But by doing so, they put themselves in the crosshairs of the biggest threat to their vigilante cause; Mayor Pollard.
I mentioned earlier that “Emerald Archer” offers some surprises and, aside from the very entertaining documentary approach, the biggest shocker is how Mayor Pollard—who’s wanted nothing more than to rescind Oliver’s deputization—handles Team Arrow breaking vigilante laws. After Team Arrow takes down Chimera at the Town Hall the Mayor had planned to use to discredit Oliver’s partnership with the SCPD, she has the gang right where she wants them. But Mayor Pollard’s decision to deputize the lot of them goes a bit beyond plot convenience but actually offers a secondary political character who may not be the antagonist we thought she’d be. Pollard puts her political goals to the side, recognizing that the vigilantes aren’t a threat to the citizens of Star City, but the stop-gap where the authorities are not able to reach. It’s a welcome change, a sleight of hand that is a reminder that, in the face of danger, even the most stubborn can have their minds changed.
There is a secondary plot that involves William’s return from boarding school. It sounds harsh but the William character, whether in the present day or the flash forward, has been a forgettable one. Whether it’s the lack of compelling dialogue/story given to him or the actors not being able to reach those important emotional notes, the anger and abandonment he feels for being shipped off to boarding school should be an emotionally impactful scene; instead it plays as a filler for the episode, a reminder that Oliver has a son.
Yet, even with some of the lesser aspects of the episode, “Emerald Archer” is a fun detour from the successful but sometimes stale formulaic approach Arrow fans are used to.
- Just as I thought things were staying in present day, we get a quick peek into the future, with the entire documentary being viewed by Connor and Maya. It’s an unexpected attention though, Maya’s opinions that vigilantes “got exactly what they deserved” still seems like a very far-fetched opinion, considering how many times they’ve saved the city. Unless a compelling reason of how they killed Star City comes to light, this becomes a wholly unnecessary plotline.
- Chimera, we barely knew ya! Though the fight scenes with the tank-like Chimera were meh, the prospect of him being a villain for the next few episodes was an appealing thought (even if he has a very similar design to Vincent Sobel’s ‘Vigilante’ character). As it is, he’s nothing more than a fanboy whose light shone ever so briefly. How he got so many trophies from previous vigilantes is never explained though, based on the final result, it’s not really necessary.
- Oliver sharing his relation to Emiko with Diggle and Dinah suggests he’s coming to terms with having a half-sister. Coupled with the fact that Willa Holland’s Thea guest starred for the documentary, makes me wonder if there are plans to bring her back to the show, if only to meet her pseudo half-sister-through-Oliver (since technically she and Emiko don’t share a parent). It would be good to step back a bit from the entire Diaz or villain plot line and show more of Oliver’s continually evolving character.