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Arrow Review 5.21 – ‘Honor Thy Fathers’

May 11, 2017 | Posted by Michael Haigis
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Arrow Review 5.21 – ‘Honor Thy Fathers’  

“Honor Thy Fathers” is a middling episode that fails to break Arrow out of it’s current holding pattern, now with only two episodes left in season five. Instead of establishing some tension, or coherent stakes, in what should be the final act of Oliver’s conflict with Prometheus, the episode roots around in themes of fatherhood and legacy that the series exhausted long ago.

The episode preceding “Honor Thy Fathers” ends with a compelling cliffhanger, with Adrian Chase (the menacing, genuinely interesting “Prometheus”) approaching Oliver’s son on a walk from the school bus. That episode ended with a cut to the Arrow title screen, leaving behind only a suggestion of the potential havoc Chase could create with access to Oliver’s child as a hostage, or worse. “Honor Thy Fathers” shockingly fails to capitalize on that premise, instead launching its own self-contained and typically convoluted Prometheus plot: Chase, whereabouts still unknown, sends a fifteen year old corpse to Oliver’s office, prompting melodramatic discoveries about Oliver’s father (Robert Queen); subsequent melodramatic discoveries about Chase’s father; and a final confrontation between Chase and Oliver that ends with Chase, for the time being, in an ARGUS holding cell.

The revelations of Robert Queen’s character flaws were hardly revelatory in any sense, as the character’s ethical and moral failings have been sturdily documented in Arrow. Which, obviously, doesn’t stop Oliver and sister Thea (a pleasant presence, despite the episode’s ineffective premise) from brooding in offices for large portions of the episode. The new information about Chase’s father, however, has implications for both the plot and the Adrian Chase character: Chase’s father was exploring a legal route to disown Chase, convinced of his child’s insanity. Chase is a maniac operating with a delusion: that he is honoring his father’s death and solidifying his legacy by launching whatever murderous assault he has planned against Star City.

It’s worth noting that there is some weight in the similarities between Chase and Oliver, two men who use their actions in the present to project a corrected image of the pasts of their fathers. Chase is the unhinged, forgotten son, driven to connect to his father by upholding his father’s twisted vision. Oliver, the spoiled billionaire determined to execute his father’s best intentions; a living testament of his own father’s potential. The episode doesn’t quite capture that dichotomy though, preferring instead to show Chase and Oliver quarrel over whose daddy was a worse person, and whose daddy loved them more. When Oliver divulges to Chase that Chase’s father was ready to abandon his own son, Chase relents, surrendering himself to Oliver.

The episode ends with Chase in ARGUS custody, smirking smugly as the series’ generic and vaguely foreboding music bleeds into the scene. Clearly, Chase’s endgame is still before him. The scene reference’s The Dark Knight, and The Joker’s plot to get himself captured. That movie is a standard bearer of the genre, but The Joker’s plot was as comically byzantine then as Chase’s appears to be now. Arrow will undoubtedly reveal what the antagonist is planning in the final two episodes, but it will be difficult to construct a plan for the Chase that credibly justifies the machinations of “Honor Thy Fathers”.

To be clear, here is Chase’s scheme in the episode: send Oliver a body; know that the identity of the corpse will be discovered by Oliver; know that Oliver will find the corpse’s lawyer, and subsequently discover that said also lawyer represented Chase’s own father; know that the lawyer will reveal that Chase’s father wished to disown Chase; find Oliver, fight but not too hard, and ultimately surrender while acting sad and shocked to hear of his father’s true intentions. Also, send Oliver a video of Robert Queen murdering a person, which doesn’t seem to factor into Chase’s plan as more than a cruel flourish, some villainous panache. The “plot” here is needlessly complex, which makes this as good a time as any to look at how Arrow consistently mishandles storytelling.

With over twenty hour-long episodes in a season, the series has too much time to fill. This much is readily apparent, and makes Arrow’s struggles to twist is sprawling stories together coherently somewhat understandable. The truth is, though, that the show doesn’t want for story. Character schemes are long and overwrought. Read Chase’s gambit, as outlined above, one more time; there is certainly enough action there for more than one episode. The series also regularly tells compelling personal stories among it’s supporting characters: Rene’s arc in most recent two episodes, struggling over how (or if) to win custody over his daughter, was the best thing Arrow has done in weeks. Why should it be constrained to ten minutes of screen time over a mere two weeks? The series consistently shines when it shifts focus from prefab office sets to dark warehouses and alleys, eschewing bland exposition for compelling action.

So it’s shocking that in “Honor Thy Father”, Oliver receives a text from Felicity with an action report from off-screen: “911 – Discovered Chases’ Plan” (Or something to that effect.) Surely, the gathering of intelligence against chase is more compelling and more relevant than watching Oliver and Thea litigate their father’s morality (again). Arrow is overstuffed with plot, but doesn’t care to show that plot unfold, preferring instead to have it’s characters frown in sterile offices and speak in platitudes about what is going on; which is how we end up with “Honor Thy Fathers”, an episode that ends with false resolution, one more detour from the genuinely interesting and suspenseful story that Arrow doesn’t seem to have an interest in telling.

6
The final score: review Average
The 411
"Honor Thy Fathers" is a middling episode that fails to break Arrow out of it's current holding pattern, now with only two episodes left in season five. Instead of establishing some tension, or coherent stakes, in what should be the final act of Oliver's conflict with Prometheus, the episode roots around in themes of fatherhood and legacy that the series exhausted long ago.
legend

article topics :

Arrow, Arrow Reviews, Michael Haigis

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