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There was an awful lot to like in “Beyond Redemption,” allowing Arrow to really bounce back from last week’s poorly plotted mess. There was a strong (albeit, too easily defeated) villain of the week, team Arrow was able to work seamlessly together after a few weeks of rough starts, there was a really awesome new lair, and, perhaps most importantly, the series finally gave Paul Blackthorne’s Captain Lance something to do.
For the bulk of season three, the series was clearly at a loss regarding what to do with Captain Lance. He decided to launch a vigilante task force, meaning he was at odds with our heroes. Moreover, after looking the other way for awhile, the show decided (in one of the series’s more boneheaded moves) to have Lance suddenly decide he wanted to catch and prosecute the Arrow for killing the various villains of season one. Essentially, Lance became a static character who fought against the very people we were rooting for. And the show let Blackthorne- one of the show’s strongest and most capable actors- languish in limbo.
In “Beyond Redemption,” Blackthorne was finally released and allowed to really let loose. And man, was it worth waiting for. Lance is an incredibly interesting character, it’s just that the writers don’t quite know what to do with him. He’s a man who has suffered incredible loss and who struggles daily with his own personal demons while trying to protect his city from those who seek to destroy it. His distrust of Oliver is completely understandable- while the Green Arrow isn’t killing anymore, this is a man who has the capacity for great violence and who has, on two separate occasions, been involved in the death and loss of his daughter. I get the refusal to let Oliver completely off the hook. But Lance has always seen himself as the good guy- the one with the moral high ground. With the revelation that he has been working with Darhk (albeit under threat to Laurel), that moral mountain has completely crumbled to the ground.
We’ve never seen Lance floundering as he does in “Beyond Redemption.” In his argument with Oliver, we see him emotionally, mentally, and physically defeated by the knowledge that he has thrown his lot in with a master criminal. Watching him crumble under Oliver’s verbal assault was crushing. Blackthorne’s work within that scene was spectacular and some of the finest he’s ever done on the series. But it was his breakdown while holding a gun on Sara that was the highlight of the episode for me. Lance has always, from episode one, wanted to protect his daughters. He has never wavered in this desire. Even when he wasn’t speaking with Laurel last season he still sought to protect her from the dangers of Star City (and, considering she was running around untrained trying the catch bad guys, she certainly needed some protection and some sense knocked into her). So to see him struggling with the knowledge that he might have to kill his baby girl was just awful. Yes, while putting Sara down would have been the humane thing to do, I don’t blame him for a moment for his inability to do so.
Even beyond the excellent work by Blackthorne, “Beyond Redemption” was strong across the board. Liza Warner (“Lady Cop”) was a solid, if not spectacular, villain. I was legitimately sad to see her taken care of so quickly. Considering the show cast Rutina Wesley (True Blood, Hannibal) in the role, I had hoped she might be around a bit longer. Darhk’s conversation with Lance did a lot to steer him out of the cartoon villain realm and added a layer of complexity to his make-up. He may be some sort of enhanced killer, but he does operate from a place of reason on some level. I just wish we were given less smoke and mirrors regarding his power. All-in-all, a really strong episode.
— The show is inching ever closer to revealing tiny Ray Palmer. I understand they are timing it with the big Legends of Tomorrow episode, but I kind of wish it wasn’t getting so drawn out.
— I like that Thea has bounced back from her murderous rage. I just hope the show doesn’t simply drop the story arc.
— Sara has to go after Thea, right?