Arrow: 307 “Draw Back Your Bow” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Wow, Arrow, when you miss, you miss horribly.
We may only be seven episodes in, and this season of Arrow has been a little weaker overall than the previous one, but “Draw Back Your Bow” is easily the worst episode of the season so far. The central plot isn’t particularly strong, and the Hong Kong flashbacks continue to be largely pointless and meandering, but the main reason is that the female characters, never one of the show’s real strong points but one that has been showing steady improvement as time goes by, are so poorly represented that it’s tempting to accuse the show of setting the course of feminism back several years.
But let’s take a step back and look at all the evidence provided: first off, the main plot, involving the latest archer to show up in Starling City, calling herself ‘Cupid’. She starts off by killing Isaac Stanzler, the villain from last week’s episode, and dressing his body up like the Arrow, and seemingly every character involved mistakes her obviously heart-shaped arrows for the playing card symbol for ‘spades’. As Oliver and Diggle investigate further, they discover that the killer appears to be completely obsessed with the Arrow, covering a room in photos and news clippings about him and referring to him repeatedly as her ‘boyfriend’.
With a little help from a rather distracted Felicity (more on that later), they uncover Cupid’s identity as a former cop named Carrie Cutter, who has severe psychological issues with obsession. In fact, her obsession goes so deep that she seduces a former criminal informant into working out where the Arrowcave is, by working out a pattern in the locations of crime scenes he appeared at and the speed it took him to get there. It’s actually one of the smarter elements of the episode, and makes me wonder why nobody in Lance’s anti-vigilante task force thought of doing this back when he had a hard-on for catching the Arrow in the act. Anyway, as the informant decides it’s time for her to make her ‘payment’, she straddles him and then stabs him with an arrow, because of course.
But Oliver lures Carrie away from the Arrowcave and speaks with her, when he realises that he saved her during the rampage of Slade’s Mirakuru soldiers at the end of last season, clearly leading to her obsession. He rejects her romantic advances, which obviously makes her incredibly mad, and she tries to kill them both by handcuffing Oliver to a train track. But he escapes and stops her, which apparently only intensifies her obsession with him, so he decides to hand her over to Amanda Waller to join the Suicide Squad.
Hang on…what?! Sending a psychologically and emotionally unstable young woman to work for a shady government organisation where she will undertake dangerous black ops missions is supposed to help her? And considering what Oliver knows about how Amanda Waller works, isn’t this just about the dumbest idea in history? Quite possibly, but I’ll share my thoughts on these things shortly.
Elsewhere, Felicity is having a hard time working with Ray Palmer, who unveils his plans to rebrand Queen Consolidated as Palmer Technologies and also unveils his impressive physique to Felicity with some of those insane pull-ups Oliver does all the time (which I recently learned is called a ‘salmon ladder’). He asks her to accompany him on a business dinner, and gives her an expensive dress and an even more expensive necklace to tempt her further, and she agrees to go with him. Turns out, the dinner was about buying a mine rich with various sciencey minerals and stuff, all of which is contributing to Ray’s secret and devious plan to apparently build himself an Iron Man suit (although it is labelled the A.T.O.M. suit, a nice nod to Ray Palmer’s superhero identity in the comic books). It is also an opportunity for Felicity and Ray to lock lips, which Oliver sees and is upset by, as he was just about to be honest and open up to Felicity about his feelings on Diggle’s advice.
Meanwhile, in a basically irrelevant, yet rather offensive subplot, Thea is struggling to find a DJ for Verdant, and is seemingly offended and then entirely charmed by an arrogant douchebag named Chase (because of course), who refuses to audition and then swoops in and saves the day by playing a song which miraculously populates a previously-deserted dancefloor. Thea then pays him far more than a club owner should realistically pay a DJ and then swoons when he leans in and kisses her.
So of the three women portrayed in this episode, what do we have? One, an obsessive psycho-stalker who is more likely to kill the object of her obsession than seduce him; two, an intelligent woman who is utterly indispensable to the team going gooey-eyed over an attractive and wealthy man who gives her expensive presents; and three, a troubled young woman who is becoming stronger and more able to make her own decisions and protect herself going similarly gooey-eyed over an incredibly unlikeable pretty-boy who tells her she’s pretty. It’s a pretty poor showing, and one made even worse considering Laurel, a female character becoming stronger and more competent as the weeks go on, is completely excluded from the episode. It’s almost as if the writers were worried that the women in their show were getting too independent, and needed to redress the balance.
Maybe things are better in the flashback? A little, but not much: this week’s trip to Hong Kong is largely pointless, as Maseo goes missing while on a routine mission to talk to some other agents, and Oliver and Tatsu go to find him, only to discover after taking out a bunch of Yakuza goons that he was at home the whole time. It seems like little more than an excuse to show that Tatsu is pretty handy with a sword, and hint at some kind of darker past for her, but otherwise largely irrelevant.
The score given for this episode is almost entirely down to the reveal of what Ray Palmer is actually getting up to, as the rest of it was downright insulting. Arrow as a show is just so much better than “Draw Back Your Bow” demonstrates, so we’ll just have to look forward to the Flash/Arrow crossover next week, and hope it cleanses our memories of this mess.