Obviously, with Oliver Queen's getup and the Hood's general M.O., there's an overt suggestion of him being something of a Robin Hood-type character – both in the comics and within the confines of the Arrow universe. And naturally, with that allusion comes some similar moral questions about what's right and wrong when it comes to the division of wealth, and how someone like the Hood or, in this instance, Roy Harper and the villainous Dodger, might choose to answer them.
After last week's high-flying 'The Odyssey,' Arrow takes a moment to catch its breath with a fairly straightforward villain-of-the-week episode featuring Battlestar Galactica's James Callis as the aforementioned Dodger. Backing the Hood's pursuit of the jewel thief who never gets his hands dirty is the newest member of Team Arrow, Felicity Smoak (who, late last episode, made it clear she'd only join the team for however long it would take for them to track down Walter Steele), but early on, she seems far more invested after coming right out and questioning Oliver's methods; namely, the killing and roughing up of Starling City's white-collar criminals.
According to the network, Rickards was promoted to series regular partially based on fan interest in the character, which certainly implies that most folks like her. So, depending on your opinion of the character and of Emily Bett Rickards' portrayal of Felicity Smoak, the latest addition to the team would either prove to be an unpleasant disruption, or would continue to be what most already thought she was: a fun character that helped to liven up the dynamic between Oliver and Diggle. In 'Dodger,' though, the character is afforded the opportunity to fill Diggle's shoes as the occasionally disapproving partner, and manage to be the character in distress, requiring Oliver to spring into action.
Seeing as how Diggle has begun to accept Oliver's occasional use of lethal force, it appears that the responsibility of taking Oliver to task over his approach has now fallen on Felicity. On one side, this may feel like well-trodden territory for the show, but Arrow has never shied away from the character's use of violence - and, for the most part, has managed to integrate it into the development of Oliver as he grows into the role of Arrow. There have been instances recently where the character has shown he is capable of change, and by slightly altering his line of attack against those he's hunting – especially when he's forced to deal with the individuals who don't show up on his list – the writers have managed to keep the issue relevant without it feeling like they're overdoing it.
During last week's flashback of the assault on the airstrip with Slade Wilson, Oliver was reluctant to use lethal force, which felt like the right approach to a character that was in an important transition at the time. This week, Oliver is forced to go on a solo mission to Yao Fei's cave to grab some "super herbs" in order to prevent Slade from succumbing to an infected gunshot wound. Once there, Oliver's confronted with a young man who's been beaten to a pulp and is begging for help. After falling prey to some deception in the past, Oliver is reluctant to cut the man's bonds, choosing instead to leave him, for fear that he may reveal himself as one of Fyres' men, or worse.
Again, this is intended to approach Oliver's transition in a compelling way; he is basically left to ponder if he aided in the death of an innocent person, or if his decision saved not only his own life, but also that of the ailing Slade. For a show that often has to depict change as something that happens with the immediacy of flicking on a light, this gradual approach certainly helps to give the flashbacks more weight than simply satisfying the curiosity of what transpired on the island.
While those moral angles are somewhat interesting, there's still the matter of this week's villain, who, for the most part, lives up to his moniker. Dodger uses explosive collars to help him avoid direct contact with the crimes he's perpetrating, by forcing his hostages to steal for him, but he also proves to be pretty quick on his feet, narrowly dodging an arrow that would have been lodged in the chest of most other criminals the Hood was after. While Callis is a nice addition to the ever-growing rogues gallery on Arrow, his character is yet another cipher as far as villains go, and aside from forcing the Robin Hood angle (he was stealing the Sherwood Ruby!), Dodger isn't left with much to do but put Felicity in danger and give the writers an excuse to bring Det. McKenna Hall back as a romantic interest for Oliver.
Perhaps Callis' Dodger feels underdeveloped because that's pretty much par for the course with this series so far, but it could also be that the episode itself was overloaded with subplots hinting at future storylines; specifically, Thea Queen takes to tracking down Roy Harper (played here by Colton Haynes) after he steals her purse, so that he can give her an indignant speech about the division of wealth between those in the Glades and the more privileged members of Starling City – which, for a guy who just got caught red handed (no pun intended) stealing a purse, was a pretty bold move. Seeing as how his line of thinking isn't too far removed from what Oliver is trying to accomplish as the Hood, it will be interesting to see if it is through some future interaction with Thea, or the implementation of the mysterious undertaking that leads Roy to pop up on Ollie's radar.
In addition to all of that, 'Dodger' also introduces Frank Chen (played by Chin Han of The Dark Knight), as an acquaintance of Moira's and someone who is also aware of what the undertaking is (which from the way Moria describes it, sounds like gentrification with an extensive body count). Whatever, the plan actually is, Moira appears to be hopping from one bad acquaintance to the next, as she's seen discussing the murder of Malcolm Merlyn with none other than China White.
- The soapy stuff usually doesn't get in the way too much, but with all the other things going on in 'Dodger,' it seems the writers could have found a better time to poke into Oliver and Diggle's romantic relationships. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as progression on Diggle's ongoing flirtation with his former sister-in-law needed to happen sometime, it's just that with an already loaded episode, this felt like time better spent elsewhere.
- Perhaps that will be Felicity's role for the foreseeable future: Help progress certain character interactions as a result of her having little or no social filter.
- Of all the shortcuts this show has used, "super herbs" is by far the one to beat.
Arrow (and a familiar villain) return next Wednesday with 'Dead to Rights' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below:
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