Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Arrow "The Odyssey" Review

Homer's The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus' (or Ulysses) twenty year journey home from war. The man has a hell of a time, he really does. There are Sirens, Cyclops, the Lotus Eaters, a fun trip to Hades full of blood offerings and sacrifice; a lovely meeting with Scylla and Charybodis, and on and on it goes for twenty years. When the dude finally gets home, he finds his Penelope surrounded by suitors, which he does not like, and he kills them all. Arrow began as a quasi-homage to William Shakespeare's Hamlet before veering into The Tempest territory. Comparisons and contrasts with Hamlet, The Tempest, and The Odyssey raced through my head up until the very second Oliver said he related to The Odyssey because Ulysses had trouble getting home, too. I reined myself in. I resisted a laborious essay comparing and contrast three major works in world literature. Arrow's a CW show, after all.

I appreciate any show that nods its creative vision to the great works in world literature. It gets my imagination going and makes me a quintillion times more interested in an episode of TV. I'm the same guy that compared an Ernest Hemingway novel to a TVD episode. Yes, I need to be reined in or rein myself in.
"The Odyssey" is a terrific episode. Sometimes one can sense an episode's quality from the first scene; sometimes it takes awhile for the quality to show. "The Odyssey" had potential to stand out as soon as Kreisburg and Guggenheim and Berlanti's names flashed on the screen in the written/story by credits. The creators of Arrow have great vision for the show and grasp of its tone and characters. When creators handle the script personally for any series, the resulting episode is usually notable in one way or the other. The Island adventures of Oliver Queen hadn't been given a ton of screentime so far this season. The flashbacks picked up last week with the introduction of Slade Wilson, Yow Fei's treachery, and what not. Oliver began learning how to fight. The story of Arrow finally began; or, rather, his origin story did.

The story of Oliver's transformation into badass fighter who'll later return to Starling City to save it is juxtaposed with the present day story in which Diggle and Felicity try to save Oliver's life. Oliver burst through Queen Consolidated to get answers from his mother as The Hood. He shot two arrows, scaring the hell out of her, demanding she answer for her crimes against Starling City. Moira shoots The Hood, her son, without knowing what she's done. Oliver crawls into Felicity's back seat and asks her to take him to the factory. She does. Oliver's knocked out for the majority of the A story, which provides plenty of time to follow Oliver's first significant action on the island.

Slade Wilson's a demanding man who won't let Oliver stop fighting because he's tired. Wilson wants off of the island, and he'll bring Oliver if he can take care business for him. The incoming plane to the island will get the two men off of the island. Oliver learns to fight, learns to take a gun away from a man who's pointing it inches from his face, and he displays a courageousness he hasn't in his life. Oliver was The Playboy, a guy who cheated on his girlfriend with his sister just because he could, who thought of only himself. Yow Fei showed him what loyalty means. Oliver absorbed the lesson. Wilson teaches him skills the hard way. Oliver can't light a fire, but after trying for a long time, Wilson cuts him a break and uses a lighter to create the fire. Wilson's like the lighter--he's quick, automatic, efficient. Oliver's like the arduous task of rubbing sticks together to spark a fire--slow, frustrating, and rarely effective. Oliver's lucky the air traffic controller doesn't shoot him in the face both times he's staring at a gun. Wilson saves him, informs him he'll call in an air strike on the island to take out Fires, Deathstroke, and all of the other. Oliver owes Yow Fei his life, so he takes off to save his life.

The rescue mission across the island allows Oliver to use the skills he's developed working with Wilson. He's not anything special until a gun's in his face and he does what Wilson taught him. Yow Fei won't leave. Fires is holding his daughter captive and won't release her unless he completes the mission with them. Oliver's forced into a death match with Deathstroke. Oliver uses what Wilson told him against Deathstroke, which just makes him angry. Wilson, though, comes back to save Oliver's ass and kill Deathstroke for betraying him. There's a significant shot earlier in the episode where Slade Wilson looks at the mash for a beat, significantly so, and moves on. Hm. The death of Deathstroke seems so abrupt for a character with the stature of Deathstroke. Wilson's fight with Deathstroke is spectacular. Oliver's perilous rescue mission bonds the men. Wilson feels he can survive on the island--they can. It's a cool scene watching Wilson and Oliver shake hands. Also worth noting: Oliver and Fei's daughter share a dragon tattoo.

Oliver survives the gunshot wound. Felicity becomes an unofficial member of the Save Starling City club, though she rejects membership once Oliver's awake. Felicity's bothered by the killer in Oliver and wonders why Diggle isn't bothered either. The Hood-as-the-killer has been dangerous rhetoric in Starling City. Diggle engages Felicity in a rather deep conversation about morality, what it means to be a killer, and what killing entails. The great writers and thinkers in history wanted to know what drove people to commit atrocities against each other. Diggle tells her a story of the time in the army when he was tasked with protecting a warlord. Insurgents attacked one day, tried to kill the warlord. The firefight lasted a minute. Diggle shot an 18 year old to protect a man who committed atrocities against children--what does that make Diggle? It's a heavy question for The CW to ask its audience, but a question that represents what Arrow aims to be. The creators have embraced this post-Nolan landscape for superheroes.

The world isn't black-and-white in Arrow. Diggle's example to Felicity underscores that point. Oliver decides he'll never go after his mother again. Diggle doesn't agree but keeps his opinion to himself. Arrow's heading to a critical narrative turn where Oliver's past and present will collide, where we'll learn his mother isn't the first person close to him to betray him, like Billy betrayed Wilson. And, I suspect, we'll learn that in both instances the discovery will create a villain for Oliver. He'll never feel more alone.

Other Thoughts:

-Felicity is an awesome character. Emily Betts Richard is charming in the role. I loved her casual way of letting Diggle know she caught onto him and Oliver a long time ago.

-Who's the man who hired the task force on the island? I assume it's someone quite obvious. Malcolm, namely.

-Andrew Kreisburg and Marc Guggenheim wrote the teleplay. Greg Berlanti and Kreisburg got the story credit. The talented and reliable John Behring directed it. I particularly loved the island scenes. Grey skies, rain, and forest are my idea of beauty. Behring captured the gloom of the situation really well.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.