Arrow: “Penance” Season 3 Episode 4 Review

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“Penance” is the third episode in a row that put the new sidekicks front and center. It also may be the one that fails them the most. With Oliver and Lyla on a separate mission to break Diggle out of a military prison, Felicity sends Wild Dog, Mr. Terrific, Artemis (Evelyn’s new codename, lifted from the acclaimed animated series Young Justice), and eventually Ragman, who all too predictably came running back to join the team, to put arrows into Tobias Church’s schemes.

Sadly, most of the episode is filled with them arguing about even being allowed to go. We’ve been through this a lot in the last two episodes. It might’ve been nice if Arrow kept this new status quo, which started to become fun at the end of last week’s episode, a chance to breathe. The only fun to be had here was with Church, who, the more screentime he gets, is becoming a fun foe to watch. Chad L. Coleman is taking good advantage of his likely limited time on this series. Sadly it’s the heroes that’ll be sticking around that leave much to be desired. Wild Dog seems to be the only one the show really cares about, giving him the most dialogue and having Church capture him, thus again centering the drama around him.

But at least two people still care about one of Team Arrow’s veterans. I wish Oliver and Lyla’s prison break had been more of a team effort (because Lyla is badass), but it was still nice to have Oliver and Diggle on screen together again. The familial connection between these pseudo-brothers still feels genuine enough to make me all warm and fuzzy. The escape itself was pretty uncreative until Lyla swooped in with a plane and scooped them up, a la The Dark Knight. Still, Diggle is in closer proximity to the main storylines now, and that can only be a good thing.

The flashbacks, meanwhile, actually featured a pretty intense sequence this week, as Oliver questioned a man from inside a Russian prison, eventually killing him in the name of the Bratva. Sure, the prison guards were hilariously gullible, but it was interesting to see Oliver visit such a dark corner of himself to get the job done. Now he’s officially part of the Bratva, which hopefully means more intensity down the road.

Overall though, “Penance” was a pretty mundane entry. Some things worked, and some things didn’t, while other things are just kind of boring. The scale is even, which sort of means Arrow is just going through the motions. Season five needs to kick things into high gear or our attention is going to be permanently lost. Grade: B-

Some Other Notes:

  • Is the idea that Ragman’s rags were catching all the bullets being fired at them? And how did he blow up the wall? The freakiest and most visually interesting new member of Team Arrow just stopped making sense this week.
  • No Prometheus again. Sigh.
  • Oliver’s only got about 11 months left to grow that epic beard he had going in the pilot. Time is being wasted!

By Matt Dougherty

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