Last week's episode, 'Betrayal,' ended on a cliffhanger that suggested Oliver (Stephen Amell) would be taking his fight against the city's corrupt to an even more personal level; this week Arrow appears to take a step back, rather than drastically advance the narrative by having the Hood continue his investigation into Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) and her involvement in the mysterious undertaking.
To its credit, however, 'The Odyssey' manages to reserve its backpedaling for the end, which allows the episode to steamroll ahead and, with the help of excellent supporting roles from Manu Bennett, David Ramsey and Emily Bett Rickards, become one of, if not the most entertaining hours of Arrow yet this season. Yeah, that's saying quite a lot, and many will undoubtedly disagree, but an adventure featuring a seasoned and grizzled Slade Wilson (Bennett), and a soft, but full of promise Oliver Queen is the kind of storyline that is just too much fun not to be granted some slightly excessive praise.
Kicking off the escapade is a quick turnaround from last week's cliffhanger, which results in Oliver being shot by his own mother, after a plea for mercy causes him to lower his guard long enough for Moira to reach her gun. The wound, in turn, leaves Oliver with no other alternative but to hide in Felicity Smoak's car and ask that he be delivered to the Arrow lair where Diggle (David Ramsey) is waiting.
There's a brief moment where Oliver's odyssey comes dangerously close to being a collection of fever dreams, in which all of the character's worst fears and past failures come to light, but the dream within a flashback of Laurel asking, "Did it hurt? When they killed you?" is as far as that notion goes. The main thrust of the episode, then, is dedicated to Oliver and Slade's mission to find a way off the island, and that leads to some great moments that build not only on the Oliver to Arrow transition, but also manage to grant the island flashbacks some additional depth that the focus on the present day storyline hasn't really had time for.
That means finding out that Edward Fyres (Sebastian Dunn) is working for an unseen individual, and that the other "Deathstroke" on the island is a guy by the name of Billy Wintergreen. But what 'The Odyssey' really does is give evidence that, due to his time spent on the island, Oliver is beginning to shed the spoiled rich kid persona, and beginning to adopt a persona more like the Oliver in the present day. This affords the episode several scenes of Slade training Oliver as quickly as he can, preparing the young man for their assault on the airfield that will hopefully provide them a ticket off the island.
To the show's credit, they depict the transition as a difficult one, illustrating Oliver's initial difficulty with physical confrontation and especially his reluctance to take another man's life. But it all pays off in the end when Oliver takes down an armed guard in front of a wounded Slade. There is also a nice moment before that when Ollie uses his brains, rather than any sort of brawn, to get the two out of a pickle by answering a question with his knowledge of 'The Odyssey,' and the more heroic (if not naïve) moment when he risks his freedom and his life to try and rescue Yao Fei (Byron Mann). Knowing that Oliver would eventually get off the island before returning to Starling City, there was a question of whether or not that would actually happen in this episode, and considering how some portions of the island flashbacks are just now starting to become fleshed out, it's good to see that the writers decide to leave things with Oliver and Slade remaining on the island for the time being.
The episode also manages its present day storyline quite well by inviting Felicity onto Team Arrow. While Diggle tends to Oliver's injury, Felicity makes herself useful by fixing a defibrillator and then later by updating his out-of-date computer system. But her time spent with Diggle is more than proving how badly he and Arrow need their own IT department. One thing the show hasn't shied away from his Oliver's occasionally lethal methods. Here, Felicity asks Digg how he feels about it, and his response, a story about protecting a ruthless warlord in Afghanistan while being asked to kill teenagers taking up arms against the man was a nice way for the character to justify his affiliation with the Hood. In the end, Felicity joins the team, but only (for the time being, anyway) to help in the search for Walter Steele.
Even though it appeared to take the easy road out, in terms of progressing the season's narrative, there's still the chance that Moira's connection to the undertaking (and Oliver's refusal to see it) will pay off on an even larger scale down the road. And if that's the case, then the decision to delay the pay off to everything that's been set up will transform what first appeared to be the writers making the less complicated dramatic choice, into a disastrous choice by the series' main character. It's a storytelling ploy that can be effective, but it also has diminishing returns, so let's hope the writers don't wait until all the tension has evaporated before following through on their big set up.
- Not only did Arrow receive an order for season 2, but the show has also bumped Emily Bett Rickards up to series regular status. As for what that means for Colin Salmon's Walter Steele character, remains to be seen.
- Felicity's reaction to finding Oliver in the back seat of her car continues Rickards' win streak with delivering the series' most memorable lines.
- I'm ready for a Manu Bennett-led Deathstroke spin-off show, or, at the very least, holiday special.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with guest star James Callis in 'Dodger' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: