‘Damaged’ presented an interesting challenge for Arrow in just its fifth episode, by addressing the remedial math it would take for anyone – police detective or not – to put together the fact that Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Starling City’s resident vigilante reappeared/appeared at around the exact same time.
What’s challenging about this is it puts the lead in a situation where he’s asked to act like he’s acting (which is probably a lot harder than it sounds) and it essentially forces the episode to do without the usual Arrow-related adventure until the whole secret identity thing gets sorted out.
For the most part, ‘Damaged’ succeeds, but not just in the attempt to ease the Arrow narrative of its most logical burden. It also manages to increase the positives from last week’s ‘An Innocent Man,’ in which the supporting characters actually got to do some supporting. The cloud of reasonable suspicion surrounding Oliver is one that isn’t unfamiliar for the superhero genre. He’s covered in scars, he’s acting weird, and he’s been presumed dead for the last five years. But, in mounting his defense, Ollie (and the writers) wisely decide to play up his notorious past, and add some extra spice to it by informing Det. Lance (Paul Blackthorne) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) the scars didn’t come simply from his time on Lian Yu, they were put there by people who tortured him.
It’s a double whammy of perception that – in addition to Diggle (David Ramsey) donning the Arrow ensemble and stomping some gangbangers and an arms dealer – sets Ollie free. He’s a billionaire party boy who’s also suffering from PTSD; there’s no way he could also be the city’s vigilante menace, right? What’s interesting about the episode is that it doesn’t gloss over the fact that Ollie likely is suffering from some form of psychological trauma as a result of his encounters on Lian Yu – which could prove to be a fascinating and important addition to this interpretation of Green Arrow.
This week’s flashbacks also helped to better flesh out how Arrow’s journey shaped him by introducing Oliver (and the audience) to the mercenary Edward Fyres (Sebastian Dunn) and, of course, Deathstroke. In typical flashback style, what exactly the two mercenaries are doing on the island remains a part of the larger mystery, but we are at least treated to a fairly exciting throwdown between Yao Fei (Byron Mann) and Deathstroke.
‘Damaged’ demonstrates that Arrow is intent on making Oliver and his alter ego something more than an uncomplicated superhero on a quest. There are unresolved (and unspoken) questions about him and the choices he makes, which at this point feel in line with this series’ interpretation of the character. So far, it’s been an interesting approach to what otherwise would have been a standard superhero yarn.
Highlights from the episode:
- “You know us billionaire vigilantes, we do love our toys.”
- Deathstroke had both eyes. So what’re the chances he’ll be losing the right one in a later encounter with Ollie or Yao Fei?
- It was nice of John Barrowman’s ‘Well-Dressed Man‘ to apologize for putting a hit out on Oliver.
- Laurel is apparently not a fan of fishnet stockings – or so she says, anyway.
- Yao Fei manages to explain the Arrow color scheme rather logically.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Legacies’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of the episode below: