Arrow S04E17: “Beacon Of Hope” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Ben Sokolowski, Brian Ford Sullivan
Director: Michael Schultz
Essential plot points:
- The Flash series one villain Brie Larvan (the Bug-Eyed Bandit) escapes from Iron Heights Prison after hacking her parole date.
- Thea’s boyfriend, and Oliver’s ex-campaign manager, Alex, has a job interview with Ruve.
- Laurel suggests putting him up for the new PR chief job at Palmertech.
- Felicity is struggling with the costs of making the spinal implant allowing her to walk useable for all, while Curtis is struggling with a horrible cold. Donna comes by to take Felicity out for lunch, while Thea comes by to ask about the PR job for Alex.
- Malcolm visits Damien Darhk in Iron Heights Prison to tell him the rest of Hive is not working to free him, with Malcolm taking his place, leaving a now powerless Damien frustrated.
- Laurel attempts to console Oliver over his break-up with Felicity.
- As the board meets, one of the board members collapses, and a swarm of robot bees flies out his body. Larvan enters the boardroom, and tells them she wants the chip out of Felicity’s spine. To force the issue, she surrounds the building with an even larger swarm of robot bees.
- At home, Curtis realises that Felicity’s trapped and after failing to call her, tracks down Team Arrow to the lair using the phone they gave him earlier in the year – realising who they are shortly before passing out from his cold.
- Bringing him round, an increasingly gruff Oliver recruits a giddy Curtis to the team to operate the computers and hack the bees in Felicity’s absence.
- Felicity, Donna and Thea are chased around the Palmertech building by the robot bees. Curtis manages to hack one of the bees and use it to lead them to safety. He thinks he’s deactivated the bees, but Larvan overrides him and uses the bees to create a composite robot – which stings Oliver.
- They rush him back to the base, where Curtis discovers the bee’s sting has created new bees inside him, which are replicating themselves.
- Brie gives Felicity a new deadline after breaking into her office, which Felicity realises means she’s not with the board – and they can be rescued. She uses the secret elevator to the old Arrow Cave below Palmer Tech to evacuate the board, blowing a hole through the wall with Curtis’ spheres to free them. But Brie finds them, so Thea and Felicity give themselves up to allow the board to escape.
- At the base, Curtis uses Black Canary’s scream to disrupt the frequency of the bees inside Oliver and stop them killing him.
- Brie almost collapses, and reveals she has a tumour in her spine which is going to paralyse her – hence why she needs the spinal implant. She threatens to shoot Thea, so Felicity gives up the location of the chip specs.
- Oliver berates Curtis’ positivity, in an attempt to get him to see how dangerous being a superhero is, but Lauren calls him out on taking out his frustrations over Felicity on their new pal, and “a very scary” Oliver is apologetic.
- Meanwhile Thea tries to get Felicity to come back on the team because it represents hope for the city. But she insists she’s not coming back.
- Curtis rigs a computer virus into one of the arrows, which will infect the bees and bring down Larvan’s network. Meanwhile Felicity is trying to hack the bees herself, but is interrupted by Larvan – who has now realised Felicity is the one who helped the Flash send her to prison last year.
- Oliver breaks into Felicity’s office and uploads the virus, but not before he and Thea are attacked by the robot bee composite. Meanwhile the bee Curtis is using to hack the network comes to life and attacks him and Lance. They manage to squash it, while Felicity electrocutes the bee composite.
- Brie shoots Oliver, but Curtis manages to get control of the bees and uses them to knock her out, and Oliver officially welcomes him to Team Arrow.
- Malcolm meets with Damien Darhk’s “ace in the hole”… who turns out to be Andy Diggle.
- At Iron Heights, the prison hard nuts threaten Damien. The first time, prison guards break it up, but the second, one of them turns on his fellows after Damien threatens his grandmother. Darhk is now top dog in the prison…
- And in flashbacks to Lian Yu, Taiana and Oliver ambush Reiter and shoot him, only for the bullets to have no effect, as he channels the power of the idol. He knocks them both out and escapes the tunnels.
One of the problems with reviewing a US TV series is that the lengthy episode runs leave a bit of filler. It’s understandable in a way – when you’ve got 22 episodes that need to tell an overarching plot, and hit certain character and story beats along the way, so occasionally there are going to be cracks to fill.
These cracks are more notable when you have a show more driven by characters rather than action, because at least with an action show you can at least throw in the distraction of a firework display to cover up the fact that, actually, nothing’s happening this week. The problem comes when you have two cracks side by side. Covering those up becomes increasingly difficult, and eventually something has to give.
That’s not to say “Beacon Of Hope” is in any way a bad episode of Arrow. Compared to some of the misfires from last year, and some early episodes when the cast and crew were finding their feet, this is still perfectly entertaining. But it’s also, clearly, an episode that’s just there, designed to fill a gap
There are things happening in the background: Curtis is brought into Team Arrow; Felicity confirms her departure; HIVE cuts its ties with Darhk; and Malcolm is cementing his power base. But they play out against a story that’s borderline B-movie, both in scripting and execution. As Felicity says at one point, they’re trapped in “Die Hard With Bees”. And there’s no way such an inconsequential and daft a premise can sit comfortably with the rest of the storylines.
Well, except maybe for Curtis. It’s been obvious since they started building the Felicity and Oliver split that Team Arrow was going to need a new tech guy, and the impact of that on Felicity and Curtis’s friendship (and his perfect relationship with Paul) was the stress point to add some drama to a character who has, by and large, been light relief in Arrow. Echo Kellum does some great work in his scenes, which see him playing a Cisco Ramon-style figure in the midst of the usually brooding team.
The story also exposes clearly the differences between the cartoony, cheery approach to villainy in The Flash, and the more grounded foes Arrow must face. Thus the genius Larvan from last year becomes a more plodding villain with a gun and a line in puns. Emily Kinney does her best with the role, but the script doesn’t do her any favours.
Likewise while the bees are a menace as bees themselves in The Flash, but here they’re merged into some giant robot which makes neither sense nor visual impact. The idea of a shared universe is fine, and the big crossover episodes work well, but as with the use of Cupid last week, this almost feels like a villain tossed away – an interesting concept from The Flash dumbed down to be a shallow bad girl of the week in the name of cross-pollinating the brands.
The Cupid comparison’s particularly pertinant, because as with last week’s “Broken Hearts”, it’s writers who haven’t had to work with the character before taking it on, and not getting the best out of her.
This could have been a decent episode, with far more impact, if it didn’t come directly after last week’s adventure, which was an equally inconsequential story with a revenge-seeking villainous female at its core. To use a Doctor Who analogy, “Beacon Of Hope” is like “Silver Nemesis” – it’s perfectly average and watchable on its own, but it comes after a similar, and far superior, story that leaves it standing in shadows.
- There is an absolute ton of pop culture references in this episode – so much more than you usually get. It’s not just from Curtis, either, with even Oliver being more clued-up than usual.
- Lance makes the connection we’re all thinking – that there’s no way a giant bee attack can be a coincidence when the city’s facing HIVE. Obviously, in this case, he’s dead wrong, but it’s a nice gag all the same.
- Nobody calls Larvan the Bug-Eyed Bandit, the name Cisco coined for her in her appearance in The Flash. Thank goodness for that, it’s a bloody awful villain name that sounds ridiculous when said out loud.
- There used to be a feature in the late, lamented film mag Neon citing the moments when a film references its own title in dialogue. Well, this episode does it not once, but twice. There’s hammering it home, and then there’s just taking the Mickey. Take a bow, Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan, you win a prize.
- Right. The bee composite. What the actual living hell were they thinking? While the concept is daft in and of itself, the execution – a masked figure in a version of Vixen’s brown and yellow costume covered in hexagons – is awful. Truly awful. It makes what could have been something different for the final battle yet another big fist fight in a room.
- Does anyone buy for a single second that Oliver read the Harry Potter novels but is unaware of the film series, given he went missing in 2007, by which point four of the movies were box office smashes?
- I love a good pun as much as the next person, but the relentless punning around bees loses its sting after a while. Whoever came up with them all should just buzz off.
And the Random:
- Veteran director Michael Schultz returns to the Arrowverse for his annual stint in the hot seat. He’s directed at least one episode a season since the show started, as part of a huge resumé that covers everything from The Rockford Files to Chuck via Ally McBeal. He directed a bunch of Richard Pryor films in the ’70s, including the iconic film Car Wash (where the song comes from).
- Stateside, the episode ended with Emily Bett Rickards and a representative of the Christopher and Dana Reeve doing a public service announcement. You can watch it here:
- The foundation, created by the late Superman star after the tragic accident which left him paralysed from the neck down, has been campaigning and fundraising to find cures and better treatment for people suffering from paralysis. They are an exceptionally worthy cause.
Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com