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Arrow 1.14 "The Odyssey" Review: We're In It Together

              Before I begin my review, I want to say how happy I am that Arrow has already been renewed for season two! Tonight’s episode of Arrow took a different trajectory than we’ve become used to. “The Odyssey” was about Oliver’s journey on the Island rather than a new villain in Starling City. The episode was written by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg based on a teleplay by Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim. As this episode was so much about what happened to Oliver (Stephen Amell) on the Island and Oliver’s journey to become the Green Arrow, I wasn’t surprised to see the creative force behind the show front and center for this episode. John Behring directed the episode, his second this season. He also directed “Legacies” which also featured Diggle, Smoak, and Oliver’s time on the Island.
            The episode begins where last week’s cliffhanger left off, with the Hood pointing an arrow at Moira (Susanna Thompson). Moira does an excellent job pleading for her life by telling her assailant that she has two children and she needs to live for them. Anyone who has watched any crime shows knows that the first thing you do when faced with someone trying to kill you is put a name on your loved ones, especially children, to appeal to their sense of humanity. It’s not that I didn’t find Moira’s pleas sincere, but I did find it curious that she didn’t offer up any information on the ‘undertaking’ to try to save herself. I also found the way she held the picture in front of herself like a shield very curious as well. It was almost like she was using her children to protect herself rather than saving them. In the end, of course, she shoots Oliver as soon as he lets his guard down.
            I loved the scene in Smoak’s (Emily Bett Rickards) car, between Smoak and Oliver. I’ve made no secret about how much I love the character of Smoak, so it will surprise no one that I’m super excited that Rickards has been promoted to series regular for season two. Amell and Rickards have terrific chemistry together, and while I don’t see the show ever putting them together as a couple, they make a great team. 
            Smoak really gets a chance to shine in this episode. She is calm under pressure, helping Diggle (David Ramsey) to save Oliver’s life by helping to remove the bullet and then fixing the defibrillation machine when his heart stops. She also hacks the crime lab’s database and has Oliver’s blood sample destroyed, and she completely updates Oliver’s computer system. She proves that she is a shrewd judge of character by seeing that Diggle is a good man. She’s obviously a bit puzzled by Oliver who she is drawn to but is disturbed that he’s killed people. She also reveals that she had pretty much figured out that Oliver was the hood. Not surprising, considering how clever she is and how many clues she had. However, when Oliver asks if she’s ready to come on board to help their crusade, she declines. She’ll help them find Walter because he was kind to her but that’s all. Smoak’s character is a wonderful mixture of innocence, loyalty, and brilliance. It will be interesting going forward to see if she will lose her innocence completely once she sees what Oliver and Starling City are up against and if that is what it will take for her to fully join the team.
            This episode also provides some character insight to Diggle. Diggle explains to Smoak how his experiences in Afghanistan left him feeling like he wasn’t a good person, but that the work he does with Oliver make him feel worthy again. Even Diggle is struggling a bit as he looks for redemption. As is often the case, it’s Diggle’s words of wisdom that often highlight the themes that run throughout an episode. He tells Smoak that “there are always casualties when you’re fighting a war.” He also tells Smoak that “Even Oliver needs help sometimes.”
            On the Island, we see that Oliver got help in becoming the Hood, from Yao Fei (Byron Mann) and from Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett). Both Mann and Bennett turn in fantastic performances in addition to demonstrating mad fighting skills each week. Wilson tells Oliver that everyone’s in this life for themselves after he tells Oliver about how Bill Wintergreen, the man who tortured Oliver, betrayed Wilson. The episode looks at the question of what makes a killer. Are we really alone? Do we owe a duty to others? The characters are on a journey to discover the answer to these questions, and the title of the episode, “The Odyssey” couldn’t be more appropriate. Diggle is on a quest for redemption through saving others. He describes killing a teenager in Afghanistan as we see Oliver try to learn to kill on the Island. 
            Oliver’s journey is really just beginning. I was happy to see that he didn’t magically become the fluid grace he is now in the little time that Wilson had to work with him, but he does improve enough to show some mad skills in disarming the gunman by the end of the episode. Oliver’s first real contribution is remembering the passage from The Odyssey to respond correctly to the coded phrase from the plane. It was a nice touch that there is an edition of The Odyssey sitting on Fyers’ (Sebastian  Dunn) desk. Oliver is also looking for redemption by trying to rescue Yao Fei and he’s rewarded by Wilson saving him in return. Oliver gains enough self-confidence by the end that he even starts joking that it figures he would get stranded on an island with only one friend, Wilson. Referencing Tom Hanks’ basketball, Wilson, from Castaway. He also points out that Wilson is his friend...
            The episode also introduces some new questions. Who is Fyers working for? The voice sounded oddly familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. It didn’t sound like Merlyn (John Barrowman). We also learn how Fyers got Yao Fei to work for him: Fyers is holding Yao Fei’s daughter. I’m not sure that I trust her, however. As the camera panned over Yao Fei holding her, there was a look that passed over her face that was neither relief nor fear, and it made me wonder if she was also playing some kind of role. The camera also lingers over what appears to be a red dragon tattoo. At the end of the episode, we see that Oliver has the same tattoo. Interestingly, the camera focuses on it after a scene in which Oliver tells Diggle that Moira will remain off limits to their investigations. I wonder if there is link between the two centering on the betrayal of children and parents.
            While there were fewer fight scenes than we are used to in tonight’s episode, I especially liked Oliver getting taught how to spar with bamboo and getting beaten  the way Oliver beats Diggle. I also like that it feels like we as viewers are also on a journey to find out what happened on the Island and what will happen going forward in Starling City's present.
            What did you think about tonight’s episode? Are you excited to see Smoak play a bigger role? Who do you think Fyers is working for? Let me know in the comments below.