NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Arrow” are present in this review
After stumbling over another disappointing episode last week, Arrow finally started to gain more of a secure foothold in this week’s episode, “A Matter of Trust.” This episode made for a far better showcase of Oliver’s budding new team of vigilantes, and even offered a fairly solid villain, even as new arch-foes, Tobias Church and Prometheus entirely sit out this week. WWE fans will also appreciate this episode’s villain-of-the-week, a drug kingpin named Derek Sampson, being portrayed by wrestling star, Cody Rhodes/Stardust, a reference to the WWE showdown between Rhodes and Arrow star, Stephen Amell that was recently hosted on the wrestling platform.
After coming off as whiny, snot-nosed punks last week, Oliver’s team acted a little more smartly, and actually got a chance to be useful in this new conflict, especially when Oliver being portrayed as the bad guy of their latest squabble actually felt a lot more credible. This week’s mess starts when Oliver refuses to allow Wild Dog to do anything about the presence of Sampson, who is pushing a powerful new street drug called Stardust (again, referencing Cody Rhodes’ wrestler handle), so Wild Dog brings Artemis along to fight Sampson on his home turf, only to accidentally drop Sampson into a vat of chemicals and seemingly kill him. Yes, this is very reminiscent of The Joker’s origin from most of DC’s Batman media, though at least the DC Television Universe avoided referencing Ace Chemical again, after its appearance on a former season of The Flash, to avoid this coincidence feeling entirely too frustrating.
Instead of dying however, Sampson is revived as a superhuman with great strength that is unable to feel pain, and this puts him on the path to building a new team of powerful thugs that could threaten the operation of even Tobias Church, who is mentioned, though not seen this week. Rhodes’ villain is a fairly solid presence, despite not being anyone from DC Comics lore, even if he’s also a pretty straightforward thug. WWE fans especially will still enjoy Amell and Rhodes getting the chance to spar again on a couple of occasions in this episode though, and once again, Arrow’s hand-to-hand action remains outstanding!
The real strength of the main plot though was having Oliver more reasonably confront his trust issues with Wild Dog, a vigilante that is, amazingly, even more stubborn than he is. Oliver still isn’t trusting his team enough, and Oliver having to come around and fully trust his new allies to help him, particularly when he can’t dismantle Sampson’s operation alone, made for a strong climax that finally had the new team put to good use. Curtis even dons the recognizable Mister Terrific costume from DC Comics lore at long last, which looks fantastic, and is especially fun after Curtis references the existence of Terry Sloane, the original Mister Terrific from DC lore. Overall though, seeing Oliver take down Sampson, and the rest of his team successfully protect him from Sampson’s goons without incident, starts going to show that this is a team that’s actually worth building, and that’s very satisfying!
Beyond the mess with Sampson, a few subplots unfold, though these aren’t quite as interesting. Felicity struggles with having to tell Ragman, now another new pupil of Oliver’s, that she was the one responsible for diverting a nuke into Ragman’s hometown of Havenrock, while Thea inadvertently does some damage to Oliver’s mayoral administration after slipping up with an underhanded reporter. Neither of these subplots compared to the main storyline with Oliver’s new Team Arrow though, particularly Felicity’s anguish, which culminated in Felicity simply blurting out to Rory Regan, Ragman’s civilian alter-ego, that she destroyed Havenrock at the very end of the episode, even though it was unintentional. Why bother having this revelation come out now, if it’s going to be tacked on at the end? The Thea subplot similarly dragged, and mostly just ate up screentime. It seemed like it only existed as a way to cement Lance’s new promotion to deputy mayor, which will hopefully offer some more interesting storylines down the road.
The subplot that actually did work really well in this episode was Diggle’s, especially as it starts finally tying in to Oliver’s ongoing problems, unlike last week. Diggle is thrown in a cell within a domestic military base, and it turns out that his cellmate is none other than Floyd Lawton, Deadshot himself! It was awesome to see Michael Rowe in this role again, despite Warner Bros. previously nixing any use of Deadshot on Arrow for now, on account of this past August’s Suicide Squad movie, and the subsequent revelation that Deadshot was a figment of Diggle’s imagination that was tormenting him with guilt was actually a pretty solid twist. Diggle is starting to think that he deserves punishment, with the grief over killing his own brother last season finally catching up with him, to the point where he urges Lyla to leave him to rot in prison, since it’s what he deserves. Where Oliver gets involved is in a pretty promising cliffhanger for next week, where Lyla approaches Oliver and demands that he forcefully extract Diggle from the prison. That should make for an exciting story backbone next week!
The flashbacks however once again slowed down this week, and weren’t quite as interesting as the main plot or the Diggle subplot. Oliver questions Anatoly about the other recruits being shot after they failed to ring the bell, and then Anatoly explains that they were murderers and bad people, and that they still would have been killed, even if Oliver hadn’t rung the bell. This then ends with the other Bratva goons taking turns slicing Oliver’s back, as a rather twisted sign of trust. That’s it. It was disappointing to see the flashbacks stall here, after they seemed to be gaining some decent momentum in the season’s previous two episodes, though maybe they’ll pick up again next week.
I haven’t even gotten to the hasty introduction of new district attorney, Adrian Chase either, who should be recognizable to DC fans, as he’s the second man to adopt the hero moniker, ‘Vigilante’ in DC Comics lore. It’s yet another tease for later, and one that also didn’t feel that fleshed out for now, even if Chase himself seems like a fairly interesting personality. This leaves, “A Matter of Trust” as a good step in the right direction for the struggling Arrow, which is currently floundering as The CW’s weakest DC show of the present four, though the real question is whether this improved note can be sustained. The new Team Arrow is starting to find their appeal though, and some other promising story elements beyond Tobias Church and Prometheus are also taking shape. The storytelling still needs a bit of tightening before Arrow can completely get back to its former glory, and better stand alongside the noticeably superior current offerings of The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, but it looks like there is hope yet, especially when the team will be exceptionally put to the test when breaking Diggle out of prison next week!
Arrow took a welcome step in the right direction this week, thanks to a better showcase of Oliver's new team, and an effectively dramatic subplot for Diggle.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Tense, entertaining battles against Cody Rhodes' drug kingpin