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Arrow 1.04, "An Innocent Man" Review: Shades of Gray

            This week’s episode of Arrow, “An Innocent Man”, raised the question of who was innocent on a number of levels. This theme really underscores what makes this show different. It isn’t a simple black and white superhero universe. These characters struggle with what is right and wrong, and how much you cans stray from the path of the law before you become a criminal yourself. Before you lose your innocence. We finally moved out into the writers’ room a bit with this episode that was penned by Moira Kirland and Lana Cho. This episode was as tightly plotted as the previous ones which certainly bodes well going forward, and I once again found the “hour” flying by as I was caught up in the action. We also see a lot of character development in this episode.
            At first glance, it seems that the title is simply referring to Peter Declan who has been framed for his wife’s murder by this week’s list member, Jason Brodeur. Oliver wants to take down Brodeur and save Declan from execution, but in order to save Declan, he needs a good attorney, so naturally Oliver, as Arrow, turns to Laurel. Later in the episode, Laurel astutely observes that Arrow’s path is a lonely one, and his attempt to enlist both Diggle and Laurel are evidence that he doesn’t want to be alone.
            The episode begins where the last left off, with Oliver saving Diggle from the poisoned bullet and then revealing himself to Diggle. I was a bit surprised at how angry Diggle was with Oliver, calling Oliver a criminal and a murderer and denying that Oliver is a soldier. Oliver tells Diggle that he gained “clarity” on the Island, but Oliver is no longer on the Island, he has a lot more factors to weigh into what he does. Diggle isn’t wrong in calling into question what Oliver is doing.
            Oliver no sooner leaves Diggle and heads home than he is confronted by Laurel who reprimands him for his selfishness in leaving his family to worry about him. Once again, Laurel is right in her observations. She also tells him later in the episode that she didn’t become a lawyer to break the law and that if he wasn’t doing anything wrong he wouldn’t be hiding behind the hood. Oliver is not an innocent man either – at least not as innocent as he thinks he is. He says that he is trying to protect his family by hiding behind the hood, but he keeps going to Laurel and pulling her in, which ultimately puts her life in danger in this episode.
            The flashbacks in this episode do a wonderful job in illuminating the current storyline. In the flashbacks, we see the Archer from the Island has brought Oliver a live bird. He seems willing to let Oliver starve in an attempt to force his hand to kill the bird to eat so that he doesn’t starve to death. The Archer must take away Oliver’s innocence in order to help him survive.
            In many ways, this is also the journey that Laurel travels in this episode. I did find this part of the story a little strained. Laurel loses her innocence when she agrees to let Arrow torture Camille’s supervisor, Matt Istook, to get the file on Camille’s whistleblowing of Brodeur. There were other ways that they could have obtained that information, but when Arrow brings her the file she admits that she always thought the law would fix things, but now feels that the city needs someone like Arrow who cares enough about the people in it to protect them. I felt that Laurel came to this decision a little too quickly and easily. Ironically, she admits she’s wrong about this to her father after Arrow saves her in the prison and she sees him brutally beat the thug who was trying to kill her. She sees him as a dangerous killer who is dangerous because he’s outside the law. I realize they need to have some tension between Arrow and Laurel, especially in regards to the law, but I thought this storyline struggled a little bit. It is too soon for her to simply decide to work outside the law, but this seemed like too much flip flopping on the issues to me. I was also more than a little disappointed that Laurel simply stood like a damsel in distress in the prison fight. After what we’ve seen she can do, I would have liked to see them give Katie Cassidy something more to do in that scene. All that said, I was once again very impressed with Ms Cassidy’s performance.
            I haven’t said a lot in these reviews about Stephen Amell’s portrayal of Oliver, and I think I’ve been remiss. He is excellent in this episode. In spite of himself, we see Oliver warming up to those around him and subtly revealing more than he likely should. He tells Laurel he wears the hood to protect those around him. That’s partially to protect them from the bad people he is chasing, but also to protect them from the darkness he sees within himself, the killer who had to be released due to necessity. Those who are perceptive enough and open-minded enough around him are seeing who he really is. Diggle in particular, recognizes something more as I’ve said in previous posts. But this episode really starts to reveal more of Oliver’s character and struggles in the flashback scene. His quiet “I’m sorry” to the bird before he snaps its neck is heartbreaking. The scene is a lovely way to illustrate that sometimes in order to live, you have to do abhorrent things. I am really hoping that the current voiceover at the beginning will at some point be replaced by “if it’s not gonna be the courts, and it’s not gonna be the cops, then it’s gonna be me.”  That said, vigilantism comes at a price when it turns one into a killer.
            We also see Diggle struggle with his own relative innocence. He’s convinced by Carly to trust his own instincts. Diggle misses making a difference in the world, but doesn’t want to do something that feels like it’s wrong. Oliver tells him that the powerful people in Starling City are making it impossible for regular people to simply be able to help themselves. There needs to be someone like Arrow to help those people find justice. In the end, Diggle tells Oliver that he will join him because Oliver doesn’t “know what war does to you.” Diggle is going to try to remind Oliver of who he is and to keep him from slipping too far from his innocence. Diggle is a soldier and will be of great help to Oliver on several levels. It’s hard to see how Oliver’s pulling Laurel into his mission isn’t going to endanger her. We have the benefit of knowing things about Laurel that Oliver doesn’t, however.
            This episode also revealed more about what is happening at Queen Enterprises. It’s hard to say whether Walter is a bad guy or not at this stage. He employs the help of our ever bubbly tech geek, Felicity Smoak, ably and entertainingly played by Emily Bett Rickards. She is able to reveal that Moira lied to Walter about the $2.6 million that he’s tracking as having gone missing from the finances. Smoak tells Walter that the money was used to set up an off shore LLC called Tempest that was used to purchase a warehouse in Starling city. Walter breaks into the warehouse, whose code is Robert – ie Robert Queen – to find the wreckage of Queen’s Gambit. We also see Moira is somehow connected to John Barrowman’s as yet unrevealed character and that they know that Arrow isn’t simply targeting the rich of Starling city but is targeting Queen’s list. They obviously know what the significance of the list is. It is still possible that Moira is somehow being controlled by Barrowman’s character, but it is looking more and more likely that she is going to turn out to be a villain.
            The episode ends with Detective Lance finding surveillance footage of Oliver changing into his hood during the shooting incident from last week’s episode and coming to arrest Oliver for murder, vigilantism, and obstructing justice. I hope Oliver knows a good lawyer... oh wait! I think he does! I can’t wait to see how he gets out of this. I’m also looking forward to seeing the mystery around Moira and Walter play out too. So much to look forward to!
            Did you like tonight’s episode? Are you looking forward to seeing how Oliver’s going to get out of this one? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.