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Arrow Review: “Damaged” (Season 1, Episode 05)

That’s more like it. Though a single episode isn’t enough to prove that a show has definitively found its footing, week five of Arrow was firing on all cylinders, delivering the tight, fun, respectably acted hour of superhero television that the show has been striving towards, one which will hopefully become the new template for future stories.

Why exactly a snot-nosed punk like the Oliver of ’06 would submit himself to torture for a man he barely knows is questionable, but it’s a conceit that leads to an absolutely thrilling fight between Deathstroke and Ur-row. Whereas Oliver’s technique relies heavily on gymnastics and hiding, the rumble in the jungle was quick, clean and brutal. We don’t know why Fyres is interested in Ur-row, though a photo of him in uniform indicates a military background, but a sense of urgency has finally been brought to the island scenes. Now if only we knew what was in that magical bag of healing (insert a Colorado legalization joke at your own discretion).

Despite fitting Oliver with an ankle bracelet to keep him at home while the charges are cleared up, the episode keeps up the pace with, what else, a party, one meant to confirm both Oliver’s rabblerousing image, and that he really isn’t Arrow. Another name on the list comes to town unexpectedly and throws a wrench in Oliver’s plan, forcing him to take out the target by proxy. Digg dons the green cape and handily stops an arms deal, while leaving witnesses to prove that Oliver Queen can’t really be in two places at once. Digg’s flawless disposal of a couple thugs might seem too easy, but it’s good to know he can actually be a badass when Oliver isn’t making a fool out of him.

Digg taking issue with being kept out of the plan until the last minute, despite being Oliver’s chief confidant, is only a taste of the kind of harm Oliver is doing with his deception. He almost wins Laurel back thanks to a tried and true “Revealing of Scars/Sexy Pecs” scene, but when she busts him on an inconsistency in his polygraph, he gets her to back down with as much misdirection as honesty. He keeps the truth about what the island inspired in him hidden by playing the PTSD card, claiming to be much weaker physically and mentally than we’ve already seen, but there’s an a definite truth to his self-diagnosis as “damaged.”

As Walter learned from his security guard dying mysteriously after meddling in Moira’s affairs, the more you let people in, the more you can put them at risk. But Oliver’s lies have serious ramifications, maybe not yet for Laurel, but certainly for her father. With a level of care heretofore unseen, it’s revealed that the death of Sarah drove Detective Lance deeper into his work, and his wife away from the family. Now that he’s alone in thinking Oliver is the masked vigilante, Lance’s professional world is in danger so long as he pursues Queen, and he doesn’t look like the type of guy to back down.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, though there’s plenty of road left to cover this season now that the show has a full season order. While “Damaged” had more to work with than your average case-of-the-week episode, its technical improvements in direction, writing, and music will hopefully carry over from here on out. Just as last week was too early to call Arrow a dud, it’d be overly optimistic to think that every episode will be operating at the same level as “Damaged” from now on, but with the number of improvements made this week, and all the other ones just waiting to happen, it’s entirely possible that the show will get even better.

  • Stray Thoughts

-I’m extremely pleased the writers not only flipped the typical Widow Mother/Nefarious New Dad dynamic, but also made Walter’s leaving on a business trip at the episode’s end both emotional and smart. We probably don’t need him every week, so bring him back when a Walter story matters.

-“You will die badly.” Ur-row offers words of encouragement.

-Tommy shows up for one scene again. Maybe he should go on a business trip too.

-Oliver was born the same day as Danny Trejo. Just thought you should know.

-The Island’s name translates to purgatory. “I can make it feel like hell,” snarls Fyres. That, and Moira threatening John Barrowman that she’ll burn his world to ashes, are competing for favorite overdramatic line I bought.

-The villain hierarchy remains unchanged, with Americans being the financial crooks, and foreign baddies being responsible for import of drugs and guns. Let’s change it up a bit next week, okay?

-Speedy has one brief scene this week, but it’s a good one. Bringing back the arrowhead Oliver gave her was a nice touch, as was his lie that it was just an airport trinket he picked up.

-Coming up soon: Entertainment Weekly has the first images of Australian actress Jessica De Gouw as fellow cape Huntress http://bit.ly/QpSQ6D. Looks good so far, probably thanks to a more than passing resemblance to Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman.

About the author

Sam Woolf