Arrow: The Odyssey (S1E14)

This was, without a doubt, the best episode of Arrow thus far.

    It was a daring, focused episode that, for once, let go of diversity for the sake of depth, and it paid off brilliantly. For a series in which the biggest problem is often a lack of focus, this hour felt just the opposite of that. In what was essentially Arrow on Adderall, the writers found their home. The tight, driven episode was exactly what the show needed at this point in the season. And most importantly, it gave me exactly what I’d been begging for since I started reviewing this show: more Felicity.
    They had the best ending of an episode last week segue in perfectly to the beginning this week: Oliver finally confronting his mom. I’ll admit that the way the office confrontation went down didn’t really jive with me: his mom begging for her life in the name of her children and then, when he promised not to hurt her, turning around and shooting him in the shoulder with a gun from behind her desk. It didn’t feel like the Moira we’d gotten throughout the rest of the season, and Oliver was much too forgiving of the woman that came very close to taking his life, but I’ll accept it as a necessary evil to set up the rest of the episode.
    But a quick digression from the critique of this episode: they’ve really done Moira terribly. The viewers will never be able to sympathize with her because of how dislikable they’d made here, and it’s hard to forget (over and over) that Oliver doesn’t have any real knowledge of how deeply involved she really is. It seems like the writers are trying to reign her back in a little bit, but I have my doubts about how effective that effort will be. To their credit, keeping her mostly out of this episode definitely helped her cause. If they want to put her closer to the viewers’ good graces, they need to keep her off screen as much as possible. She’s much more sympathetic as a concept than she is as a person.
    Back to the episode, there’s an almost playfully adorable scene in which a costumed Oliver is waiting inside of Felicity’s car, bleeding and asking her to take him to his lair. She handles it surprisingly well, as the show had done a rather good job of establishing that she probably knew about Queen and Diggle’s shenanigans most of the time.
    From this point forward, the entire episode is spent hopping back and forth between Diggle and Felicity talking while casually saving Oliver’s life, and Oliver on the island with Slade Wilson (Deathstroke). Though they’re really poorly juxtaposed, each plot is interesting enough inside themselves to power the episode nicely.
    On the island, the show takes its “Batman Begins” inklings to an entirely new level, essentially making Deathstroke a carbon copy of Ra’s Al Ghul. As I mentioned last week, he even sounds like Liam Neeson, and the scenes in which him and Oliver are fighting are a clearly bastardized version of Bruce Wayne and Al Ghul’s combat sessions. No matter, the ambition is good and it’s done well enough. The tale of his time on the island had been needing more screen time than it was getting, and this episode did a fine job of filling the void. WIlson, as a brazen, cold mentor for Oliver is as brazen and cold as they come, and the relationship between the two of them progresses quickly, but naturally. It’s nice to see the care being taken in this instance, and the payoffs come over and over again as Wilson saves Queen on a consistent basis, in evermore exciting and inventive ways to boot.

The only problem that I have with the island scenes, and I haven’t yet been able to decide if it’s a little problem or a big one, is that they continue to put Oliver in life or death situations to create tension, but this is ultimately an impossible task to achieve, and they don’t seem to realize it. There’s no possible way for the situation to evoke much emotion or thrill, because everyone watching the show knows, for a fact, that Oliver must live, because the show takes place years later. It’s a nearly impossible trap for the writers to get out of, and I don’t fault them for falling into it necessarily, but it does take a bit of the air out of the scenes.

But, by the same token, the scenes between Diggle and Felicity lost their flair. Oliver wasn’t going to die, he couldn’t possibly, because everyone knows that this is only the 14th episode of the first season and the main character can’t possibly die that early. However, here they have a much greater way of creating intrigue and tension, and all of this is played brilliantly by Felicity and Diggle. The way the two of them work together was of the utmost importance, as it was clear that after this episode, Felicity was going to be brought in on a much more regular and intimate basis (which is the greatest because Felicity is the greatest and I love her so much). The situation allowed for her to show off her many skills, including but not limited to rewiring a defibrillator and hacking into the forensic labs computer system, while also showing her chemistry with the other characters and her unique quirks.

    The only real failing of this episode, and I’d say it’s a rather big skidmark on an otherwise great work, is the way it ends. Oliver, because of the fact that his mom begged for forgiveness in his and Thea’s names, tells Diggle that they have to back off of his mother. It’s a fair thing for him to do, I guess, but because of how one dimensional her character has been written to this point, I have trouble buying that Oliver doesn’t see through her bullshit, especially when part of that involved her shooting him at point blank range.
    On the whole, this was a very good hour of television. It was an example of why superhero adaptations may be best fitted for the small screen, and it was a shimmering picture of exactly how far the show has come to this point. I think, moving forward, the show can only get better, and I’ll always love it as long as Felicity gets substantial screentime, because she’s the best. Ever. Period.