ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 1.14: The Odyssey
The CW's new superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance's Matt Wilson will be following along all season to see how he fares.
In this week's episode, Moira begs for mercy, the two Deathstrokes battle it out, and a new member joins Team Arrow!Things pick up exactly where they left off last week, with Arrow reciting his "failed this city" speech at Moira in her office while everything but her hair freezes up like a deer caught in a well-lit wind tunnel. Moira begs for her life while Arrow asks if she knows anything about Steele disappearing a few weeks back. She offers a half-truth and Arrow presses harder, asking about the Secret Rich People Cabal. Finally, Moira drops to her knees and holds up a picture of her family, begging Arrow to save her life for their sake. Arrow relents.
The way Susanna Thompson mentions Ollie's name while she begs makes it sound for a second like she's addressing Arrow by his real name rather than just saying her son's, but otherwise it's a pretty well played scene, to the point that when Moira reaches over and grabs up a pistol to take some potshots at Arrow it's legitimately surprising. She gets him with one of her wild shots and crouches behind her desk to call security. When she stands up, there's nothing but a bloodstain left.
Of course, leave it to this show to follow up on a decent payoff to weeks of building tension with something inexplicably goofy, like, say, Smoak finding a wounded, but still heavily eyeshadowed Arrow in the back seat of her car in the Queen Consolidated parking garage.
Unless the window to Moira's office faces out to the level of the garage Smoak parks in every day and Smoak also just happened to leave her car's rear door wide open that morning, this strains believability just a hair. Anyway, Arrow reveals his identity to her and insists she take him to the Arrowcave, not a hospital.
At that very Arrowcave, Dig is watching Starling City's One Channel's lackluster coverage of the attack on Moira when Smoak shows up and asks for some help. Dig reacts first by aiming a gun at her (it's just what people do 'round here), then scurries off to get Ollie so he and Smoak can set to work on the bullet wound. Dig hunts up some of the blood Ollie has banked up for himself in case something like this happened and conveniently lets us all know he had some medical training in the Army. Smoak is freaked out by the whole thing, which means there's finally something she isn't trained for. She may be able to break down military-level network security, and she may have her own personal lab that can identify the ingredients of drugs, but she is no field medic.
Dig tells Smoak not to worry because Ollie's been through worse, which segues right in to a flashback training montage and origin of that sparring-with-staffs thing Ollie and Dig are always doing. Slade, who I didn't note last week is played by Manu Bennett from Spartacus, offers some helpful calendar-reading in the midst of the training: Ollie's been on the island six months and a supply plane, which the two of them hope to hijack, is coming in 10 days.
Ollie eventually gets fed up with the training, whining that guys with guns aren't going to be particularly afraid of bamboo staffs. Slade tells Ollie to stick a gun in his face and quickly disarms him with some sweet CQC moves. Slade makes some strong points about how Ollie's got to train up so he doesn't die, and the training continues.
Some time later, Ollie and Slade make plans to get to the airstrip where the supply plane will land. It feels like Stephen Amell is playing Flashback Ollie as even more oblivious and naive than usual this episode, and I kind of love it. There's a clunky, expository exchange about the name of the island that Amell sells just by making Ollie so proud that he knows anything at all. As weird as this sounds, I kind of prefer Flashback Ollie to current-day Ollie, if for no other reason than Amell seems to have more fun playing him.
Slade assigns Ollie the unpleasant task of going into the air traffic control tower and killing the operator. Ollie says he can do it because, as ol' calendar-brain Slade notes, there isn't another plane coming for three months. The two comrades head to their respective beds, Ollie clutching his photo of Laurel.
And wouldn't you know it, there she is, lying in bed in a sun-drenched room with Ollie, who decides to ruin the moment by bringing up how he slept with her sister. Laurel's got other topics in mind, though. "Did it hurt, Ollie?" she asks. "Did what hurt?" he responds. "When they killed you." Cut to Ollie, who's bleeding from a wound in his forehead while the music gets all horroresque.
It's Arrow's attempt at a David Lynch-style dream sequence if people in David Lynch movies (or dreams, for that matter) very directly expressed their fears and worries.
Slade wakes Ollie up and they grab their gear. Slade makes a conscious decision not to take his Deathstroke mask with him (I can only assume for the benefit of the audience when he fights the other guy with the Deathstroke mask later) and the two venture away from the set of Lost. They trek across the island for a while until Ollie's foot finds itself on a Japanese mine left on the island from World War II. Of course, that's when the mercenaries show up.
Look, I get that these flashback sequences are supposed to show how Ollie went through hell and toughened up, but these constant scenes in which Ollie is supposed to be in mortal danger are such a waste. We know he lives, guys! And that he's got both his legs! Surely there have to be other situations -- moral crises, other characters in sticky predicaments, the threat of severe wounding to explain more of his scars -- that would be more suspenseful, right?
Anyway, Slade kills all the guys really easily and rolls one of them onto the mine.
Elsewhere on the island, Fyers has asked Proto-Arrow to his office tent to inform him that a bunch of compound bows are coming on the supply plane. Fyers wants Proto-Arrow to train his men to shoot bows. Then Fyers vaguely threatens PA's daughter. All right, great meeting!
Ollie and Slade have set up camp, and Ollie's struggling to get a fire going by rubbing a couple sticks together. Slade taunts him for a while with the threat of wolves coming before pulling out his lighter and starting the fire. Can this show just be retooled as an odd-couple comedy with these two guys? I think that'd be a good move.
After some ho-hum talk about Ollie's lady problems, Slade mentions his own partner. "Do you remember the guy who tortured you?" he asks. "The huge guy with the mask and swords exactly like yours? Nah, can't recall him," Ollie doesn't reply but should. Turns out Other Deathstroke's name is Billy Wintergreen. Billy. Wintergreen.
I know Wintergreen was a fairly important character in New Teen Titans, where he was Deathstroke's mentor rather than partner, but you'll never convince me that Marv Wolfman didn't come up with that name by looking at the pack of gum on his desk and just saying, "F**k it." Also, at least the comics version got to go by just his last name. On Arrow, this ruthless torture and murder machine is named Billy.
Billy and Slade were on the island to get Proto-Arrow off the island, by the way, but their mission went belly-up and they differed on whether to join up with Fyers. Slade's got some trust issues because of it.
In the present, Dig finishes stitching up Ollie's bullet wound while Smoak reveals she had a pretty good inclination Ollie was Arrow (all those times he said "Hey, look at me, I'm Arrow" probably gave it away). Dig implies she's already a part of Team Unnamed Vigilante.
And then we're back to the past. Slade and Ollie are at the airfield, where Slade's shooting guards with a sniper rifle and slicing them with his sword while Ollie girds himself to kill the control tower guy. Ollie finally skulks into the tower with one of Slade's swords and manages to botch the whole thing pretty royally and before long the operator is holding him at gunpoint.
Present-day Ollie and his leather pants aren't faring much better. He has a seizure and flatlines, so Dig and Smoak pull out the defibrillator and start his heart back through sheer guesswork. That's how medicine works. You just poke around and see what happens!
Just as the control tower guy is about to call Fyers for backup, Slade swoops in and guts the guy. So why'd he need Ollie again? Slade kind of shakes his head and chuckles at Ollie's incompetence before handing him a gun and leaving the tower, presumably to take a whiz, because there's no other real reason he'd need to leave.
Ollie notices the phone the operator was planning to use and dials up a pre-hair-highlights Laurel with it. She answers, unaware of the havoc accepting the call will wreak on her wireless bill, but Ollie isn't able to say anything before Slade rips the phone out of the console and yells at Ollie that Fyers is probably monitoring all the calls. That was a short pee break, dude.
Just then the supply plane radios in to say it's about three hours out. Slade radios back with some legit-sounding lingo, but then the supply plane hits him back with a code phrase. Slade doesn't get it, but Ollie knows what it is, because it's
a really obvious allusion that even Ollie points out from the one book he read in college, The Odyssey. Good choice for a secret code phrase there, mercenary group. Only one of the oldest and most widely known pieces of world literature. Much better than just making something up!
Slade says he's going to radio in an airstrike before he and Ollie raise up off the island, but Ollie's got an issue with that: Proto-Arrow is still there. They argue for a while, but eventually Ollie insists on going to save PA because he used to be completely selfish and it's time for him to think of someone else for once. It's a nice acting moment for Stephen Amell -- it's obviously a real change in Ollie's life -- but I was a tad distracted by how much he looked like classic comic-book Ollie Queen in the scene.
Somewhere along the line, Flashback Ollie's hair went from looking like a wadded-up mop to looking pretty authentically like his comics counterpart's, so nice turnaround, hair and makeup crew. Or maybe it's the lighting, because as soon as Ollie moves a step toward the door after Slade tells him if he's not back when the plane arrives that he'll leave him, he doesn't look the same.
Flashback Ollie runs back to Fyers' camp while Now-Ollie is still laid out on a gurney as Dig justifies his boss killing people with arrows because one time in Afghanistan Dig shot a young insurgent to protect a local warlord. "There are always casualties when you're fighting a war," Dig says. Yup, it's apples to apples. Moral quandary solved!
At Fyers' camp, Ollie manages to find Proto-Arrow fairly easily and tries to convince him to come with him to the airstrip. Ollie drops Slade's name, and PA seems oblivious to who that is. Before Ollie can explain, Fyers walks in and PA has to knock Ollie one to keep up appearances of his loyalty to Fyers.
Slade clears the supply plane for a landing while Fyers informs Ollie that, unlike last time, he isn't participating in a sparring match but in an execution. Other Deathstroke beats the snot out of Ollie while Ollie tries to get through to him by saying his name, appealing to his patriotism and finally, bribery. None of it really works, so it's lucky that Slade, who is apparently also The Flash, shows up and starts blowing s**t up.
And then it's Deathstroke Wintergreen vs. Deathstroke...let's say Spearmint.
As they're leaving the camp, a merc attacks Slade and Ollie. Ollie pulls some of those CQC moves Slade did earlier to disarm and knock the guy out. Given that he was so inept at this stuff just a couple hours ago that Ollie couldn't even properly stab a guy with his back turned, this is quite an immediate improvement.
Then the plane flies over, leaving Ollie and Slade behind. So they head back to base and Ollie cuts the bullet out of Slade's arm. Slade thanks him, and Ollie has a little laugh to himself about being trapped on an island with a lone friend named Wilson (I'd love to imagine this is a sly nod to me somehow, but even my ego can't justify it this time). Ollie sure does love his fiction involving men lost at sea for years. Also: Severe diss to Proto-Arrow! If he's not your friend, what is he? A work acquaintance?
Slade and Ollie agree to try to keep each other alive while they work to find out who Fyers' employer is. I seem to remember Fyers pretty clearly saying it was the Chinese military about four episodes ago, but here he is, on the phone with some mysterious, non-accented voice accosting him for all those explosions Slade set off. He does the whole "it won't happen again" bit and hangs up just in time to see Proto-Arrow.
Fyers says PA did a good job knocking out Ollie earlier, so he gives him five minutes with his mysteriously dragon-tattooed daughter. Nobody's ever written a story with a girl with a dragon tattoo before, right?
Ollie wakes up in the Arrowcave; Smoak and Dig are happy to see him up and around. Smoak somehow magically makes the DNA sample the cops collected from the bloodstain on Moira's office floor disappear with a few keystrokes. She also gives Ollie a new computer setup. Oh good, she's capable of everything again!
Smoak agrees to join Team The Hood or Whatever You Call Him, but only to get Steele back. After that, she's out. With that out of the way, she asks for the bathroom. So, of course, Ollie stops her to shake her hand and say thanks. Just let her pee, man.
Ollie and Dig argue for a while about Moira's culpability in having Steele kidnapped but they get nowhere. Then we see one of Ollie's tattoos we somehow haven't seen before: That same dragon that PA's daughter had! It's the barbed-wire-around-the-bicep of the Arrow Universe, it would appear.
Ollie returns to Casa Queen and promises Moira that Arrow's never going to bother her again like he knows the guy or something.
For an episode that shares its basic storytelling structure with that April Fool's Simpsons clip episode, this wasn't a bad episode at all. It's the first of the show's run to focus far more on island flashbacks rather than present-day wheel-spinning, and I'd say it's better for it. Flashback Ollie is more fun, Bennett is pretty dang good as Slade, and there's more room for action, which is turning out to be one of this show's strong suits. I even liked the marginally surreal dream sequence. I hope that's the start of a really weird turn for the show; like, by season three Ollie's having dreams about backwards talking people and monster babies.
By virtue of this being a superhero show rather than a stranded-on-an-island show, this kind of episode isn't possible every week, of course. And the island stuff has its own problems. As I said, the putting-Flashback-Ollie-in-mortal-danger moments all fall flat, because this isn't a time travel show (yet, anyway). The island's geography is a mess, considering that Slade can go halfway across the island and set up a bunch of explosives in basically no time.
And jeez Louise, if you're going to pick a secret code, don't pick The Odyssey. At least go for The Aeneid. I read that in a college Latin class and barely remember a thing from it.