Arrow‘s surprisingly self-assured first season continues with an episode that proves the series has its formula down pat as ‘Dodger’ deftly balances its procedural case of the week with its broader mythology.
Let’s bitch it out…Last week‘s episode was a series best for Arrow as the island flashbacks finally paid off (in spades). This week there’s a sense of confidence as the series balances a range of storylines in an episode that sends our crime-fighters on dates, integrates Felicity (Emily Betts Rickards) into the mission, introduces a new “friend” for Thea (Willa Holland) and slyly drops a bomb as Moira (Susanna Thompson) decides to take her future into her own hands. Overall it’s a well-paced hour that doesn’t feel burdened with unnecessary scenes (note the absence of Colin Donnell’s Tommy and the perfunctory use of Katie Cassidy’s Laurel and Paul Blackthorne’s Detective Lance). This suggests that Arrow has, as it nears the three-quarter mark of its inaugural season, acknowledged its strengths and weaknesses and begun to compensate for them.
This isn’t to say that Tommy won’t show up next week looking for more sock space in Laurel’s apartment, or that we won’t have to endure more of Diggle’s (David Ramsey) awkward date-time with his dead brother-in-law’s wife. For now, however, Arrow appears to have figured out how to balance these scenes in a way that doesn’t make it feel as though everytime certain stories get told the plot comes to a screeching halt. With this in mind, the show isn’t perfect as thedude’s criticism a few weeks ago about the use of the villains still holds true. Arrow still suffers from an inclination to introduce and dispose of its villains in an overly enthusiastic fashion (ie: only one has survived more than one episode thus far), which has proven particularly frustrating considering the talent roster they’ve employed thus far.
Tonight the short-shrifted talent is James Callis (aka Gaius of Battlestar: Galactica) as jewel thief The Dodger (named because he uses hostages instead of dirtying his own hands, despite the fact that we frequently see him taser people). The Dodger is a one-and-done villain identified by Felicity and pursued by the Hood in an effort to prove to her that Ollie can go “off book”. As it stands, we learn nothing about him, aside from the fact that he works primarily in Europe, looks dapper in a trenchcoat and has a penchant for fancy explosive neckware. In this capacity he’s little more than an excuse to put Felicity into the field to unite the team around her. And for the most part it works: Betts Rickards looks smoking hot at the party and thanks to their combined efforts, the case of the week resolved. If we overlook what we know of Callis’ immense skill, this feels like an okay turn (though I imagine big-time Galactica fans like me were dismayed he didn’t have more to do).
Ah well…there’ll be other villains in our future
- The flashback to Ollie’s time on the island is much more morally ambiguous this week as he refuses to help a questionable injured/restrained student when he goes searching for medicine for Slade (Manu Bennett). Even though there’s no resolution of whether or not Oliver made the right decision, this action is far more intriguing than most of the island flashbacks this season (aside from last week, of course)
- Diggle finally asks out Carly (Christie Laing) after stalking her at the diner for the better part of the series. He predictably effs it up, but redeems himself on the second date. Yay? I guess it’s character development (to a certain extent), but I can’t say I care much more about him
- Oliver similarly goes on a date with hot-cop McKenna (Janina Gavankar) who pushes his buttons by inquiring about his time on the island. Their dinner lacks the smoldering chemistry we saw earlier with Helena (Jessica De Gouw) in 1×07 ‘Muse Of Fire’, but this relationship also seems less likely to end in murder so that’s a draw. Although, the “woh-woh” factor is set to high when, just as the two get their issues sorted out, Detective Lance craps all over everything by asking McKenna to help bring in the vigilante. 1) Obviously this would happen at this exact moment and 2) Dude, let it go and get a hobby!
- Colton Haynes (formerly of MTV’s Teen Wolf) makes his debut as Glades thug Roy Harper. This character is famous in the comics, but for now, he’s simply a lying purse thief who’s a (romantic) foil for Thea. Besides still being super cute, I appreciated that the show makes a nice little dig at Haynes’ past as an Abercrombie model as they lay the groundwork for the pair’s future misadventures
- Finally, Moira makes a big move by deciding to put her shady life behind her. She contacts her original partner Frank (Chin Han, recently seen on ABC’s Last Resort) to help – despite the fact that he radiates “untrustworthy” vibes. The pair recognize that they won’t be able to fade quietly into the night while Malcolm (an unseen John Barrowman) is still around, so Moira organizes a clandestine meeting with China White (Kelly Hu) – rocking a new Halle Berry in X-Men wig – to put a hit out of the well-manicured man. This is going to get interesting, folks!
- Oliver (when Slade suggests that he won’t last an hour on the island): “I guess you better hope I get back in 45 minutes then.”
- Oliver (to McKenna): “It was nice seeing you the last time I saw you.” Someone needs to work on their flirting!
- Roy (when asked if he has a problem with banks): “Well it is hard to run with one under your arm.”
- Oliver (tasing the Dodger): “I’m not Robin Hood.”
What are your thoughts on Arrow now that it’s back to formula: like it or leave it? Are you excited to see both Diggle and Oliver get lady sex-friends? Were you happy Tommy sat the episode out? What do you think will happen now that Moira’s gunning for Malcolm? Speculate away below
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW. Next week Deadshot returns (?!) to execute Moira’s order