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Arrow 1.20 "Home Invasion" Review: Changes

    This week’s episode of Arrow, “Home Invasion,” was written by Ben Sokolowski and Beth Schwartz and is actually the first episode that they have written together. I’m convinced that the Arrow writing room is one of the tightest in television. Each week they turn out consistent multi-layered episodes that carry a theme through multiple storylines and feed into both the flashback and current story-arcs. And of course, the flashbacks are moving to fit into the beginning of the current story-arc. This week is no exception. The episode was directed by Kenneth Fink. Besides shooting an amazing climactic fight scene, Fink also brought the best out in his actors, and the episode features some amazing emotional performances. One shot, in particular, really stood out for me, however. As Diggle (David Ramsey) is waiting for Deadshot (Michael Rowe) to appear, he is outwardly calm, but his inner turmoil is betrayed when the closeup shot reveals a bead of sweat trickling down the side of his temple. It’s a beautiful, subtle moment.

     The title of the episode, “Home Invasion,” is realized in several ways. The hitman, Mr Blank (J. August Richards) trashes the home of the Moores to make it look like a home invasion. He also invades the home of Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Tommy (Colin Donnell). For their part, Laurel and Tommy invade the Queen mansion when they seek refuge there. Mr Blank also invades the Queen mansion. The dissention between Diggle and Oliver (Stephen Amell) invades the hideout which is their home of sorts. Oliver invades the home of Laurel and Tommy, first physically as the Hood and then with the ghost of his past with Laurel. Shado (Celina Jade) invades the home of Oliver and Slade (Manu Bennett), and then Yao Fei (Byron Mann) invades with Fyers’ men.
    The theme that runs throughout the episode is change, and more particularly how people have changed and whether other people really understand that change. We see that Oliver has had a profound influence on changing Roy (Colton Haynes). He is determined to find the Hood. Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) tries to discourage Roy and even resorts to trying to “scare him straight” by showing Roy the corpse of one of the men Oliver killed. He tells Thea (Willa Holland) that he owes the Hood everything. He’s changed who he is and he doesn’t want to go back to the way he was. Thea recognizes how important this is to him – “it means the world to you” – and vows to help him find the Hood.

    Perhaps the saddest change is that of Diggle who is clearly obsessed with wanting revenge on Deadshot. He tells Oliver that they are no longer even in the same book let alone on the same page. As Oliver has tempered his revenge, Diggle has gone in the other direction. Diggle is increasingly being the one who is closed off emotionally – except for his anger – instead of being the voice of reason. The show is more complex than to paint either Oliver or Diggle in the wrong. Diggle’s revenge is motivated by the death of his brother, but Deadshot is also a ruthless killer. Oliver really only had one chance to catch Rasmus, but ultimately the threat came from Mr Blank anyway. Oliver also had given his word to Diggle that he would help him and let him down, resulting in four men dying and Diggle being hurt, yet it’s hard to find fault with Oliver catching Rasmus before he disappeared out of reach.
     Oliver himself has clearly changed. Amell’s marvelous acting has clearly shown the audience that in the nuances of his performance of Oliver from the early days on the Island to the present. Laurel tells Oliver: “When you first got home, I didn’t think you’d changed much. But you have. It’s nice to see.” The flashbacks nicely echo this, and we see that the womanizer Oliver actually pushes Shado away because he finally recognizes how much he loves Laurel, and he wants to go back to her. In many ways, Tommy has changed as much as Oliver. When he leaves Laurel at the end of the episode she says to him: “If you’ve changed, and I know you have, you’d never do this.” However, she fails to see just how much he really has changed. He’s seen Oliver hugging Laurel and he confronts Oliver, stating that Oliver still loves her. Oliver tells Tommy that it doesn’t matter what he feels because what he does prevents him from ever being with Laurel. He tells Tommy that Laurel will never know the identity of the Hood. Tommy, however, tells Oliver that it doesn’t matter because he knows and therefore, he knows that if she ever did know, she would choose Oliver over him. It’s ironic that Laurel thinks that Tommy is giving up on them when in fact what he’s doing is showing his love by selflessly setting Laurel free. Laurel sees that the two guys who have been in her life for so long have changed, but she fails to see just how much they’ve changed.
     Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) didn’t have a lot to do in this episode except offer support. She is united with Diggs in thinking that Oliver being friendly with Laurel is not going to end well, and she obviously not impressed when Diggs is hurt because Oliver fails to show up where he’s supposed to. She does, however, get the two best lines in the episode. She tells Oliver that she dyes her hair, and then reminds him that she keeps his secret! Amell then subtly checks out her roots – just love the two of them together. Later she remarks that Oliver “Sniping a sniper” is ironic.
     The fight scene in the mansion between Blank and Oliver is nothing short of epic. Oliver skewering him with the fire poker was the perfect end. James Bamford deserves a special shout out as the fight choreographer and fight coordinator. He just keeps delivering bigger and more amazing stunts and fights. Oliver, of course, doesn’t take credit for saving the day and instead heaps praise on the dead security guard, Mr. Robbins (Paul Lazenby), saying that he was the one to save Oliver’s life and kill Blank. It's clear that Oliver is starting to want to take credit for his actions, and it's likely that he wants Laurel to know that he was protecting her. I wondered if Oliver's failure to kill Blank back in Laurel's apartment was a factor of his not wanting Tommy to continue thinking of him as a killer.
    When Shado is teaching Oliver to shoot, she tells him to find his anchor point. This is an important theme going forward. Each character really does have an anchor point that helps to keep them on target. Laurel has been that anchor point for Tommy, and I think without her, he is much more likely to go down a dark path – maybe with his father. Oliver’s anchor has been Diggle to a large extent up to now. Diggle, however, seems to have lost his own anchor and his own moral compass. It may be that Felicity can act as an anchor for both of them. There is an interesting parallel between the trio of Oliver, Slade, and Shado on the Island and Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity in Starling city. Slade, however, almost seems a bit jealous of the bond between Shado and Oliver. But in both cases, the three are stronger when they work together.
     I have to say that the two most powerful scenes both go to Colin Donnell this week. He continues to impress with his ability to take the emotional tension of a scene to new heights. When he was telling Taylor about the death of his own mother, he tears up, but he also clearly demonstrates why Tommy is the way he is. He has to be motivated on some level to walk away from Laurel before she can be taken from him as his mother was. He will still have her when he dreams or closes his eyes too. Likewise, the final scene with Laurel is very powerful.
    The episode ends with Yao Fei capturing his own daughter, Slade, and Oliver. He tells Oliver that his time on the Island is at an end – which could mean that he’s going to attempt to kill him or that Oliver is getting off the Island. Either way, the tension is building as we come to the final three episodes of the season. Tommy has left Laurel and gone back to his father – will he become a part of the Undertaking? Will Laurel and Oliver get closer? Will Roy find the Hood? Will Diggle and Oliver bury their differences? What did you think of the episode? Are you excited for what’s coming next? Let me know in the comments below.