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Arrow 1.05 "Damaged": Review

Due to the American election, and Arrow moving to CTV in Canada, I was able to see Arrow a day early this week, and this week’s episode, “Damaged”, continues on target. The action and stunts are just getting better. While the episode almost has too many villains, the story also delivers plenty of meat in the form of flashbacks and new business. The fact that the villain takedown is almost an after thought, actually prevents the show from becoming merely a superhero procedural.
            Last week’s episode left me wondering how Oliver was going to get out of being arrested on charges that he was the hooded vigilante. I was worried that the writers might have the solution be implausible. In fact, Wendy Mericle and Ben Sokolowski, who wrote the episode, demonstrate that the writers’ room for the show has both depth and talent. No doubt the fact that Oliver actually planned on getting arrested to draw suspicion from himself was actually a larger storyarc point that likely came from the showrunners, Mericle and Sokolowski still crafted a plausible and well plotted script.
Jeffrey Robinson as Deathstroke
            This week’s episode has a lot of backstory from the Island, and we learn a great deal about how Oliver got his scars – through torture – and that his mentor was also a wanted man, on the run from the mysterious Edward Fyers. We also meet Deathstroke who is working for Fyers. The fight scene between the Archer (Yao Fei, played by Byron Mann) and Deathstroke (Jeffrey Robinson) is a work of art – kudos to director Michael Schultz, for not using multiple cuts to “help” the action but letting us actually see the fight play out. And I’ve been very re-miss in not praising James Bamford the fight choreographer and JJ Makaro the stunt coordinator for their amazing work. The fight between Oliver and the Well-Dressed Man’s hitman was likewise terrific – terrific work by all, including Stephen Amell, whose face is clearly visible.
            I want to comment briefly on Amell’s performance this week, in particular. The flashbacks allow him to play a very different version of Oliver Queen, and he shows a younger more innocent version through changes in both his voice and facial expressions. I’ve been thinking that, at times, his performance is a bit stiff, but that is quickly becoming clear as an acting choice. Amell’s performance comes across as guarded because the character is guarded to all those around him. Diggle is going to be an important catalyst in keeping Oliver from going too dark and losing sight of the people in Oliver’s life. Diggle calls Oliver for lying to him and setting him up to pretend to be Arrow to establish an alibi for Oliver. Even more importantly Diggle points out to Oliver that people are not reacting the way that Oliver had anticipated they would act. Already Laurel and Thea are suspicious of him, and obviously, Diggle has already uncovered Oliver’s secret.
            It’s a nice shout out to Batman when Oliver points out to Diggle that the perk of being a billionaire vigilante (like Batman) is the toys. Of course, the downside to being a vigilante is that it could be very easy to slip into being one of the bad guys that they are out to stop. Diggle, I think, is going to be an important element in keeping Oliver in check. Laurel and Thea also have the potential to act as Oliver’s conscience. Oliver tells Laurel that he is damaged because of what happened to him on the Island, but it seems like the Island may actually have made him a more self-less person. Ironically, without Diggle, Laurel, and Thea’s influence, Oliver may be more damaged simply by his mission.
            This episode does revisit some information that we’ve already been told in previous episodes. Laurel tries to explain her father to Oliver and, we learn again that Laurel’s father threw himself into his work after Sarah died and Laurel threw herself into the law, both contributing to Laurel’s mother leaving. The difference now is that Laurel has had a chance to learn about Oliver’s experiences on the Island, and she realizes that she hadn’t considered how hard that might have been on him. During the lie detector test, Oliver is given the opportunity to express his guilt over Sarah’s death to both Laurel and Detective Lance. Detective Lance also has to reassess his own vendetta by the end of the episode. He is a bit at sea himself without having a clear enemy to hate and blame, but I doubt that he will remain unsuspicious of Oliver for too long. I think this episode did a better job of showing development in Laurel’s character in particular. She’s able to overcome her hatred of him, but even though she’s clearly attracted to him, she is determined that nothing can happen between them.
            I’m really liking Laurel as a character – and I’m a very hard sell when it comes to female characters. She’s tough, smart, and believable. I very much looking forward to getting to see her kicking some more butt, too! That can’t happen soon enough...
            Meanwhile, in this episode, Walter confronts Moira about the Queen’s Gambit after his head of security is killed before he can carry out Walter’s instructions to move the boat. Moira warns Walter that he’s in over his head and could get hurt if he doesn’t drop it. This leads to Walter leaving to visit the Australian branch of the company. I’d noticed Colin Salmon, Walter, as a guest star, so I wasn’t surprised to see the character bowing out – but I’m hoping it’s temporary and that we will see more of his character. We also finally get to see Moira have some teeth in this episode. To date I’ve found Susanna Thompson’s portrayal of Moira to be a bit weak. She seems totally under the thumb of the Well-Dressed Man and seems a bit helpless when she goes to Laurel for help. Her best scenes are defending her family, so it will be interesting to see exactly what role she played in the death of her husband.
            This episode set up a lot of elements going forward. I’m curious to see when we will see Deathstroke again, and if it will be in the present storyline. I’m also curious to see how Yao Fei and Oliver are going to stay free from Fryer. I’m also looking forward to more of the Yao Fei teaching Oliver to survive.
            What did you think of “Damaged”? Was there enough action, or did you want more about the villain of the week, arms dealer Mueller? Any speculations of what Moira’s end game is? Let me know in the comments below...

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