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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Arrow 1x14 - "The Odyssey"

"Oliver. Suddenly everything about you just became so incredibly clear."

I realized this week why I like Felicity so much. Felicity is the most Whedon-esque character in Arrow. She's the hub of snappy patter. Felicity finding a wounded Oliver Queen in her car and being dropped headlong into the shadowy world of the Starling City Vigilante is the best move Arrow could make in terms of getting Oliver's two brightest supporting players, Felicity and Diggle, together to play off each other. Oliver can just lay there on a slab in the scene and we're thoroughly entertained by the interaction of Diggle and Felicity as they frantically try to save his life:

Felicity: "I'm guessing 'how?' and 'why?' are Oliver Queen's least favorite questions."
Diggle: "Yeah, well, there's also 'when?' and 'where?' he's not too fond of."

"The Odyssey" opened with the most jaw-dropping 60 seconds the show has slammed us with thus far. The Hood has Moira Queen dead to rights with an arrow pointed at her heart. Moira pleads with his heart by begging on her knees to spare her life on behalf of her son and daughter. The Hood lets down his guard and Moira suddenly swings around with a gun and puts a bullet in the Hood's chest. That was the most stunning act Moira has ever done, and what's amazing is how later, Oliver is totally on her side on the matter. He figures she was in the right to pull a gun on him, how was she to know? Oliver refuses to pursue investigating his mother's alleged guilt and complicity in Walter's disappearance, his father's death, and the mystery surrounding The List. At the end of the day, vigilante, killer, hero, Oliver Queen's a mama's boy.

Most of the episode is a flashback on The Island involving the paramilitary buddy show of Oliver and his new friend Slade Wilson. (Oliver's best line, maybe ever: "I'm marooned on an island and my only friend's name is Wilson.") In between intimidating and trying to train Oliver into becoming some kind of soldier who won't get himself or Slade killed when they take the airstrip, Slade drops some major exposition bombs. We know The Island is named Purgatory in Mandarin, but the man in the mask dressed as Deathstroke is Slade's best friend (DC Comics shout out) Billy Wintergreen, the godfather to his son (DC Comics shout out) Joe. Wintergreen and Slade came to The Island to rescue Yao Fei from Edward Fryers but everybody's got a price and Wintergreen took Fryers' money. Meanwhile, we learn why Yao Fei's on The Island - Fryers is holding his daughter (DC Comics shout out) Shado captive. (Shado and today's Oliver share the same shoulder tattoo.)

As far as mentors go, Slade turns out to be a step above Ra's Al-Ghul to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. He's gruff and scary, but Slade isn't (?) secretly manipulating Oliver. Oliver's not exactly the best student when it comes to martial arts or weaponry, and he manages to screw up his one job of taking out the guard in the airstrip tower. Then Oliver uses the satellite phone to call Laurel, who he's been having sexytime dreams about that end with him with a bullet in the head. But Oliver's not entirely useless either; he read "The Odyssey" and knew the other half of the challenge code required for the supply plane to land. (Fryers is also a fan of "The Odyssey", as Yao Fei learned when he was asked to train his men with how to use a compound bow and arrow.)

"Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the Earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man."

Oliver decides he can't leave The Island without rescuing Yao Fei, but he gets captured by Fryers, who is pretty confused as to how Oliver is still alive when he saw Yao Fei "kill" him with the Million Dollar Dream and throw him off a cliff. Despite Slade's threats that he'd leave in three hours whether Oliver's back with Yao Fei or not, Slade couldn't abandon his new student, or maybe he just wanted a crack at revenge against his old pal Wintergreen. Deathstroke vs. Deathstroke ended with Slade finishing off Wintergreen with the ol' sword in the eye. Later, Oliver shows he did learn a thing or two when he performed the gun-disarm trick Slade taught him on a soldier. But this younger Oliver isn't yet a killer. In the end, Slade and Oliver remain stuck on The Island with Fryers and his men somehow unable to locate the crashed airplane remains they're camped out in. Maybe the Smoke Monster is keeping Fryers at bay.

Back in present day, Oliver survives a heart attack scare and awakens as scruffy and self-righteously stubborn as ever. Felicity spent her downtime in the Arrow Cave upgrading their network and systems and hacking the police crime lab to have Oliver's blood sample destroyed, but she turns down Oliver's offer of regular membership in the Arrow League. She's in only as far as finding Walter, she doesn't want to be Chloe Sullivan running Watchtower. It's clear Diggle enjoys having someone smart and reasonable to talk to; female doesn't hurt either. We learn of some bad stuff Diggle did in Afganistan as well, being forced to kill a child to protect a Shah he knows is "a human piece of garbage" because that was his job. Felicity raises the moral and ethical questions about killing that is at the heart of this series. Is Oliver a bad man because he kills or is he good because of who he kills?

The best episode of Arrow so far ends with Oliver right back to normal, lying to his mom as his mom lies to him and pretending he's not in horrible pain from his gunshot wound as Moira hugs him. Such a mama's boy.