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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Arrow S5 (Second Act)

Series 5
(Second Act).

I gave the first half of this series a pretty positive review, which boded fairly well for the second half -- let's face it, the key problem with every American television show is that their pre-Christmas storylines all tend towards being very, very slow -- which promised to tell us who Prometheus is and see him and Oliver to a final confrontation of sorts.

It didn't so much live up to that expectation. In fact, this second act has been so monumentally unmemorable that I might actually have trouble reviewing it, but let's give it a shot.

In the aftermath of Ollie accidentally killing Billy, it's all hands on deck to try to take down Prometheus, especially after the team discovers that former team member Evelyn Sharp was actually Prometheus' mole. As Prometheus plays mind games with Ollie, the team is drawn deeper into his plans, culminating in a confrontation on Lian Yu.

Okay, let's address Prometheus first: He's unmasked fairly early on as Adrian Chase, surprising basically only the people who thought that Adrian might have been Vigilante (he was always going to be one or the other), and from that point in just completely stops being scary. It's a bit of a Kylo Ren problem: As Prometheus, there's something quite menacing about him, but as Adrian, he just comes across as sort of ineffectual and whiny, and Ollie's losses against him feel like they have less to do with Adrian's skill and more to do with writer fiat.

Speaking of Vigilante, he basically vanishes from the show at a certain point. When we last see him, he has a brief and anticlimactic fight with Prometheus, and then is just never seen again -- the show, and every character within it, completely forgets about him at that point. It's as if the show was tacitly admitting that the only reason Vigilante was even in the series was because they needed a red herring to make it less blindingly obvious who Prometheus was.

Ollie still looks absurd.

So, the show sort of trundles on, middlingly, with most of its storylines amounting to naught. Felicity's involvement with some hackers? She gets what she needs from them, and then they leave the show, and what she gets from them ends up being neutralised two minutes later. Ragman, and his whole magical deal? Written out of the show. Curtis' marital strife? Well, his husband asks for a divorce, and after that it's never mentioned again. Finding a new Black Canary? They find one, and she proceeds to blend into the background and get what I swear is a negative amount of focus from the writers. Rene's deal with his daughter? The show follows through on it, but makes sure to end it in such a way that the status quo remains untouched.

If the main storyline shaped up to be anything to write home about, I could maybe forgive all that, but it isn't -- before long, it just becomes about Adrian telling Ollie he's a murderer, and Ollie moping about how he might be (but not doing anything that might spice things up or atone for that, like turning himself in), before someone cheers him up. Rinse, repeat, again and again, until the finale -- which is that same plot, except now they're on an island, and there are bombs, and we're meant to see it as triumphant when Ollie finally just decides that he's not a murderer (even though he is) instead of sulking over it for an episode.

Kacey Rohl is making a career out of playing slightly untrustworthy mentors to young women.

Shot through this all are some really weird episodes, not least of which is the 'gun debate' episode -- a bizarre, afterschool special esque episode that manages to be completely cowardly and middle of the road about what message it's trying to send. You get the usual set-up: There's a debate on guns, and some of the cast are on one side of it, and some on the other, et cetera.

But do you know how it ends? It ends with Ollie drafting some gun legislation, which we never see (nor are we told any of the details of what it involves), but which we're told both restricts gun access and doesn't restrict gun access. The show neatly skips over ever explaining how that would even work, and the legislation -- or, indeed, anyone's views of guns -- is never brought up again, except for one brief moment where Ollie is listing his accomplishments as a politician.

Spoiler: This ends poorly.

All in all, despite the positive start this series got off to, its second act has been the very definition of underwhelming. Even its final note, seemingly killing off most of the cast, is completely empty, because we know that none of them -- or at least none of those we care about -- area actually going to die. Still, the show's been renewed for a sixth series, so there's that, I suppose.

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