Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Arrow "Damaged" Review

Oliver Queen is a complex character for The CW's key demographic. Take, for instance, his plan in "Damaged." Oliver didn't screw up in the stairwell last episode. He knew where the camera was and intentionally got on camera as part of his plan. The plan was about nipping the inevitable in the bud. Starling City isn't Small Town USA, but Oliver lives on his own island, surrounded by people who would grow suspicious as time passes. Detective Lance looked at him suspiciously in every meeting with him, desperate to implicate the man in his daughter's death, convinced an incarcerated Ollie would bring peace and stability to his life. Ollie remembered an interrogation on the island where he learned the art of lying convincingly; developing a deadly resolve not even Deathstroke could break.

Oliver needs to acquit himself of any suspicion Starling City might have of him, and to get Detective Lance off his back. The only way to do so is get arrested and have Diggle break up an arms deal while Ollie hosts over a hundred co-eds at a party. Oliver's plan also involves the act of contrition, confessing to the crimes people charged him with the day the boat capsized and all were thought dead, like Laurel's sister, Sarah. The interrogation scene with Lance and Oliver is well-written because of the emphasis on character development. The attorney prosecuting Oliver admits the police's charges against Oliver weak. No evidence links him to The Man in the Hood. Lance yells 'you're a killer' at every turn; he just needed to angrily pound the table with his fist to become a caricature of a police detective.

The admittance of Oliver to Diggle about intentionally setting himself up for arrest eliminates the tension surrounding Lance confirming Oliver is the vigilante. I speculated about the series subverting super hero expectations and outing the superhero in episode five. I'm used to writers dragging their pens, creating a messy half-line with zero direction. The choice to tell this story so soon displayed the writers' courage. Oliver's never going to be known as the vigilante, not this early, and not with so many dramatic stakes. The shady organization Moira works with is displeased by Oliver's arrest, believing him to be targeting the gentlemen and gentle ladies on the list. His arrest allows the writers to explore the collateral damage of his hooded life; the way he causes his sister to be sad all the time; the effect it's taken on Walter and Moira's marriage; the danger Diggle's put in to deceive everyone in Starling City; the stress on Laurel and her father Lance. How does Ollie feel about his role in their misery?

Guilt's the major emotion pushing Oliver in his life. Robert's last words were about atoning for sins, washing away guilt through an act of contrition. Diggle explains to Ollie the damage being done in the lives of those he loves and cares about and wants to know whether or not he cares. Oliver's a complex character because his motivations aren't clear; who is the real Oliver Queen? Is he the stone-cold killer in the hood or the wealthy furrowed browed man his family and friends know? Last week meditated on the significance of Ollie murdering people and how it connects to his character. The question isn't answered in "Damaged." The truth is, probably, that the sum of his experience adds up to the whole. Ollie's not the stupid billionaire playboy anymore; he's been tortured and left for dead, and he's learned to kill; but he still feels remorse for what the people he loves go through on account of him. It's the one part of the job that kills him.

Characters act immorally and violently independent of Oliver, though. He's central to the story, but he's not the hero and the villain; he is the hero fighting the villain. The shady organization has no definition except for the arrogant son of a bitch who hires an assassin to kill Oliver. Moira drove Walter to Melbourne for an extended period of time. The bulk of her storyline isn't known, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the character. The man with the shit-eating grin in the expensive suit seems to wield power over Moira, but she responds to his assassination attempt on her son with a threat of catastrophic violence. At times she's depicted as a pawn, but she can't possibly be one. The island story juxtaposes the Starling City intrigue. Oliver's kidnapped and asked questions about the Chinese man. A shady organization roams the island in search of Queen's mentor, but he's never found and thus never killed.

The island flashbacks are meant to show Oliver's origins as the man in the hood. The secret ops team, or whatever they are, who worked for Edward File (did I remember that correctly?) are dangerous threats. The parallels of the stories in "Damaged" suggest the past and the present will bleed into the other. I'm not exactly making a massive jump, more like a small step. Deathstroke's introduced in the island, and the dude will definitely be seen again. He catches arrows mid-flight and crushes them a half second later, and he's the only one who gave the original man in the hood a decent fight.

Arrow continues to do several things really well. Oliver's an excellently defined character, though the narration should be dropped. The action sequences and fight scenes continue to be one of my favorite things about the show. Lance's sad spiral into alcoholism after the death of his daughter and departure of his wife adds real pathos to the character and gives the audience an empathic connection with him. The romantic element with Laurel isn't strength, but the element grounds the character a bit. Without her, he would be sort of robotic and unrelatable. Oliver's relationship with Thea is lacking. She opens up about her fear of losing him again, and he basically tells her to chin up and not be sad. A rift between Oliver and his mother and step-father is understandable, but not with Thea. The Willa Holland showcase episode when she learns the truth about her brother and becomes a true Speedy to happen seems inevitable.

"Damaged" represented the type of thematic waters the writers will swim in. The writers' ability to weave and combine and then separate stories was impressive and a testament to talent of the staff and the grasp they have on the series. They aren't swimming in the dark and it shows.

Other Thoughts:

-Oliver and Laurel kissed. I can't ignore it. I don't really care about the kiss, though. Love triangles are a

-Deathstroke was introduced tonight. I don't know the famous comic book villain. His outfit is intense. The hint of his appearance in the summer got Arrow significant media coverage on sites that otherwise would not care about a CW show.

-Wendy Mericle co-wrote the episode with a writer whose name I did not write down. It was not Patrick Sean-Smith, her old writing partner on Everwood. Another former Everwood writer directed the episode--Michael Schultz.


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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.