At this point, Arrow has slid comfortably into what will comprise its routine. There’ll be voiceover, bits of archery-inspired heroics, a flashback or two, some mild flirtation between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), and then things will end with a cliffhanger that is either tied to Arrow’s identity, or the larger conspiracy involving Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) and the apparent cabal of one percenters that had something to do with the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit.
This may sound like a complaint, but it’s not; it has actually proven to be a fairly successful formula, and for a young series like Arrow, sticking to what works is definitely a good bet. What’s interesting about ‘An Innocent Man’ (cue Billy Joel music) is the way it manages to build the basic Arrow story – his targeting of the corrupt in Starling City – around the other characters. In the review of the series premiere, one of the potential issues on the horizon was the fear that the other players might begin to feel unimportant or a distraction from the main story. So far, they’ve kind of existed as two parallel storylines with Oliver running himself ragged trying to find a way to manage both. Here, Ollie’s worlds collide, in a good way, so that the audience is still given plenty of Arrow action (now with dubious voice-changing technology), but the other characters don’t feel quite so ancillary.
Case in point: John Diggle (David Ramsey), who at the end of last week’s ‘Lone Gunmen‘ was dragged into the Arrow-lair so that Oliver could administer an antidote to the curare he’d been poisoned with. As soon as Diggle wakes up, Oliver proposes they collaborate, appealing to his sense of justice, the kind his late brother was denied, but Diggle isn’t ready to board the train just yet and seemingly rejects Oliver’s invitation – largely on the basis that Oliver is breaking the law and killing people.
And while the motivations behind Diggle’s decision to join are a little formulaic, it’s interesting to note that limiting the number of casualties is a key reason Diggle joins the team. And so, it’s no coincidence that through the flashbacks we learn how Oliver had to reconcile himself to the idea of killing to survive. Sure, it’s a leap to suggest that snapping the neck of a bird in order to eat would be the start of a guy who could kill humans (bad humans, but still) with almost zero hesitation, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Besides, the flashbacks also establish the fact that Ollie’s island friend can actually speak English, so that when Ollie recounts some of those five years during the next episode, they won’t have to include all those pesky subtitles.
The series so far has managed to string together threads from each episode that tie directly into Oliver’s adventures and eventual decisions, which helps to make them feel a little more organic and a result of an increasingly complicated situation, rather than a bunch of writers pushing a character in a certain direction. ‘Lone Gunmen’ led to Oliver’s desire to cut Diggle in on the quest, and we saw hints of what could turn out to be the Arrow IT department lead in Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) – who again provides some much-needed levity in her brief scene with Walter Steele (Colin Salmon), but it also opened his mind to bringing in others with a same thirst for justice.
So, with some additional prodding by his little sister Thea (Willa Holland), Oliver turns to Laurel for help, instead of the other way around. Arrow’s quest this week is to prevent the execution of an innocent man and, in the process, scratch another corrupt businessman off his list. Beyond some clunky dialogue in the exchanges between Arrow and Laurel, there’s a clear attraction on her behalf to a hunky guy in green who is ostensibly risking his life to make sure justice is served. Laurel even has a slightly overcooked monologue that sounds a lot like something Commissioner Gordon might say, where she seemingly comes to the conclusion that someone like Arrow is a necessary means to an end.
However, by the episode’s end, Laurel’s opinion of the hooded vigilante goes from wide-eyed wonder to utter disappointment, as his brutal beat down of a prisoner makes Arrow look to be less of a hero and more of a violent madman. Following the commotion at the prison, Laurel’s thinking on vigilantism is more in line with her father’s, which, for the time being, makes Diggle the only chance Oliver has to expand his group.
Elsewhere, since it’s likely they won’t be cut in on the secret anytime soon, ‘An Innocent Man’ finds some intriguing storylines for Walter and Moira to pursue. While investigating some missing funds – with the help of the aforementioned Ms. Smoak – Walter comes across a warehouse his wife supposedly purchased that happens to be holding the wreckage of the Queen’s Gambit. Meanwhile, Moira has a meeting with John Barrowman to discuss the vigilante and his targets – which, as Barrowman’s character points out, are a part of some list, and not merely some random targets based on their wealth.
So, Oliver is carted off to jail, his identity apparently exposed (though that’s clearly not going to stick) and, as we see in the preview, he’ll be telling a tale that involves Deathstroke next week.
Arrow continues with ‘Damaged’ next Wednesday @8pm on The CW. Take a look at a preview for the episode below:
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