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Arrow 1.15 "Dodger" Review: Girl Trouble

            This week’s episode of Arrow, “Dodger” was written by Beth Swartz and directed by Eagle Egilsson. There were lots of nice moments in this episode, but as a whole, it won’t go down as one of my favorites. My expectations are now pretty high, particularly where the script is involved. While there were several themes that ran throughout the episode, it didn’t feel like they wove together as seamlessly as they normally do. 
            I did like that the title actually resonated through the episode. Of course, the villain of the week was the Dodger (James Callis), but Oliver (Stephen Amell) himself is a dodger of sorts. He’s been dodging human contact much as the Dodger does not like to physically touch any of his victims. Oliver has also been dodging thinking about his time on the Island, and has been dodging talking about his time with anyone. Diggle (David Ramsey) has also been dodging his feelings for Carly (Christie Laing), but he finally confronts them in the episode.
            Callis was terrific as the Dodger. He came across as smug but intelligent. My one complaint about the series so far is that they’ve introduced a lot of villains, and there is never enough time in each episode to really get to know them or enjoy them. The Dodger is definitely a villain I hope we will see again. Admittedly, the reason we don’t get as much of the villains as I’d like is that usually there is a strong plot thread concerning other characters and/or a flashback. 
            This week’s secondary plotline concerned Thea (Willa Holland). I’m really enjoying her, so I was happy to see her storyline get a bit meatier. We first see her in this episode having lunch with Laurel (Katie Cassidy) at the hotdog stand of a man that Laurel was able to help through the CNRI. Laurel is providing the good influence and example that was missing in Thea’s life. As they are walking down the street, a man grabs Thea’s purse and runs off with it. They find part of his wallet hanging on a fence, and Thea is able to track him down through it. She then has Laurel contact Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) to arrest him. Once she hears Roy Harper’s (Colton Haynes) story, she no longer wants to press charges. She makes a connection with him when he pleads with Quentin to let him go because he was only stealing to help his mother who hasn’t been the same since getting hooked on Vertigo. Even though she no longer does the drug, its effects have left her debilitated. Thea is obviously touched while watching the interrogation. She goes to visit Roy after his release. Roy accuses her of slumming, and she is shrewd enough to see that he is embarrassed and doesn’t want either pity or charity, so she tells him that she only came to get her bag back. In the comics, Harper becomes the Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy, so it will be interesting to see how and if that happens here. Certainly, Harper’s parkour moves over the fence to get away would indicate that he is up to the job.
            This episode marked Felicity Smoak’s (Emily Bett Rickards) becoming a member of the team. It was, however, almost very short-lived. Smoak is horrified when Oliver is going to go after Kent Williams. Oliver sees someone who has cheated hundreds of people out of their life savings, but Smoak sees a widowed father of a ten-year-old son. She locks Oliver in and tells him she won’t be the accessory to a murder, and that he could be doing real good in for the city. Rickards is terrific throughout the episode, but particularly in this scene as she stands up to Oliver. Oliver is too charged with adrenaline to explain himself clearly to Smoak, and Amell does an excellent job demonstrating Oliver’s more dangerous side. Diggle seems amused by the entire exchange. I’m very much enjoying the dynamic between the three of them. I like that Diggle and Oliver treat Smoak as an equal. She makes up for what she might lack in physical prowess in intelligence, but it would have been very easy for the writers to paint her in a “little sister” role. 
            Smoak refuses to compromise her own principles and walks away. I really love that her character is completely frank. When Diggle and Oliver show up at the office, she tells them she knew they would come and assures them she won’t tell their secret. Oliver was sure she wouldn’t. It’s a nice moment between Oliver and Diggle, when Diggle asks Oliver what he would have done had Diggle gone to the police and Oliver responds immediately that he would have shot Diggle – Ramsey’s reaction is perfect. I also thought it was perfect that Oliver pulls Smoak back in by inviting her to help take down the Dodger – proving that he isn’t simply obsessed with the list, he truly does want to help Starling City. 
            The scene at Carly’s diner is terrific as Smoak teases both of them into asking women out: Diggle Carly and Oliver McKenna Hall (Janina Gavankar). Given Smoak’s barely concealed crush on Oliver, I found her urging him into the arms of another woman a bit curious. Both Diggle and Oliver end up on dates that go horribly wrong. Diggle brings up his dead brother making the entire date cringe-worthy and uncomfortable and Oliver shuts down Hall as soon as she starts asking questions about the Island. The parallel between the two dates was a nice touch structurally, though I found my interest waning somewhat. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t note Amell’s brilliant performance. We finally see Oliver bashful and happy, and it provides a stark contrast to the stiff, cut-off character we’ve become used to, and it demonstrates the real restraint Amell has been exhibiting. This episode more than any other showcases the many faces of Oliver and Amell’s terrific range in playing him.
            I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely smoking hot Smoak is at the fundraiser. I also very much appreciated that Diggle and Oliver’s appreciation of Smoak’s new look was completely understated. She is also given a chance to shine as she doesn’t lose her head in the face of potentially, actually losing her head and is able to still help take the Dodger down. An interesting Easter egg in the episode is when Felicity says the Dodger is near the corner of Adams and O'Neil, that's a shout-out to Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil, who drew and wrote the classic early 1970s Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories. The final confrontation between Oliver and the Dodger – who actually manages to dodge Oliver’s arrows in an earlier scene – is great. The Dodger tries to get Oliver to identify with him by saying “I’m exactly like you. I only steal from the rich.” To which Oliver replies, “I’m not Robin Hood.” Perfect.
            I was disappointed that we got so little from guest star Rekha Sharma as Claire Abbott, the second fence that the Dodger goes to. Hall arrests her, but I’m hoping she will appear in future episodes as she’s a terrific actor. I was also a bit disappointed in the way two scenes were shot. The walking shot of Thea and Laurel seemed to go from close up to distance at odd moments, and the chase scene at the end made a lot of use of sped up footage, which never works for me.
            The flashbacks from this episode, while interesting, didn’t strike a chord with the main plot for me. Oliver keeps saying he has to make hard choices and the flashback does touch on that. It also brings up the issue of trust. When Oliver goes to Yao Fei’s cave for medicine for Slade he finds a guy beaten and tied up there. It’s very suspicious to say the least. The guy tells Oliver he’s an exchange student who was ship-wrecked, captured, and beaten, and he begs for Oliver to help him. Oliver is about to, but ultimately doesn’t because he doesn’t know him and therefore can’t trust him. The moment does create a bit of a tipping point. The flashback shows Oliver begin to be cut off and to lose his ability to trust. He doesn’t share the experience with Slade either. The present storyline highlights Oliver beginning to open up again and begin to trust in at least Diggle and Smoak. He even tells Thea as he prepares to leave for his date that he “has a life.” His budding relationship with Hall seems like it may be doomed, however, as Quentin Lance asks her to join his taskforce to capture the Vigilante at the end of the episode.
            One final storyline in this week’s episode is Moira’s (Susanna Thompson) attempt to extricate herself from the Undertaking. She is visited by Frank who she hopes can get her out of the Undertaking and possibly get her some clue from Malcolm Merlyn as to Walter’s whereabouts. Frank says he’ll help get her out, but he won’t get information from Merlyn. He feels that the loss of their family may be the price they have to pay. We do learn that the Undertaking was started with good intentions – to fix the Glades – but turned into something else. I’m still not sure that I trust Moira. She says that it was the Hood threatening her children, but it was really the threat to her own life that seems to be spurring her actions. The final scene in which she meets with China White (Kelly Hu) is certainly chilling as she arranges for White to murder Merlyn.
            While this might not have been my favorite episode so far, there were still a lot of great moments to recommend it. What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you like the pairing of Oliver and Hall? Are you looking forward to more Harper? Let me know in the comments below.

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