Arrow, Season 5, Episode 4 “Penance”
Following a start to the season where Arrow found dramatic balance, the series raised the stakes around Team Arrow without resorting to melodrama.
The season-long theme of trust was still prominent both in the flashbacks and in the main action in the present day. It’s not easy to win Oliver’s trust, but when you earn it the way John Diggle has, Oliver will drop everything to break into a prison for you, no questions asked.
While Oliver’s prison infiltration and breakout was fairly by the numbers, the more interesting action took place back in Star City, and that was by design. Although it’s been strained, Ollie and Diggle’s relationship is well established. The new team needed some time in the spotlight independent of the Green Arrow.
With Ollie’s relationship with his new charges running hot and cold, Felicity has been the glue holding this new team together and this time she’s stepped up and offered leadership.
Being put in the leadership position isn’t easy for Felicity. The emotional wounds from the Havenrock incident are still fresh and the last thing she wants to do is make another set of life and death decisions. However with Church pulling the old “getting caught as way to smuggle something into a place you want to break into” gag, the inexperienced team is pressed into service.
They do get a boost when Ragman rejoins the team following a stint soul searching after Felicity’s Havenrock confession. After conversations with both Ollie and Felicity, Ragman understands that Felicity doesn’t have to be the living representation of the worst day of his life (especially when he realizes he symbolizes the same thing to her).
The defense of the evidence lockup goes well at first with Wild Dog, Rags, Artemis (previously known as Imitation Canary) and Mr. Terrific holding their own and saving the DA and Deputy Mayor Lance. It does go to hell when Church arrives on the scene, Curtis gets a knife in the back and Wild Dog has to go one-on-one with Church to cover his teammates’ escape.
Outnumbered and outgunned, the team has to leave Wild Dog behind and make their escape. Despite the operation seeming like a complete disaster, it was a success in one aspect. Breaking Diggle out of prison gave Oliver a little more perspective, and the team’s willing sacrifice to help save the city didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Of course that respect was expressed not by what Ollie said, but by what he didn’t say. After making a well-timed entrance back to the cave, there was no anger or lecture – the only focus was on getting Wild Dog back as a team.
The pressure has been building all season and this episode was a good opportunity let off a little steam. The hour was action heavy, but not at the expense of getting the audience to continue to warm up to the new group. It’s not easy introducing these new Team Arrow members on the fly; the old team had a couple of seasons of character development before they donned the masks.
More episodes like this one will only make this resurgent series stronger.