Of course, she’s a nominee in an episode that highlights both the deadly efficiency of Slade Wilson, and what a virtuoso Manu Bennett is with a sword. If anyone can make a man out of Oliver, it’s Slade, though each one’s definition of what that entails differs. The literary shout outs, and Darwinian discourse make up the episode’s jaw-y bits, which all boil down to a choice that Oliver has to make when he, and Slade have their one-way tickets off the island booked: fly off with his new life coach, or rescue his old one. Turns out, Oliver would rather save Yao Fei than leave him to be bombed by the ISAS, which Slade assures us is objective #1 once they get back to Oz.
There are a couple of sticking points here, the most relevant to the story being that Slade has only just recently revealed that he, and his betrayer of a partner (Billy Wintergreen, a rather subtle DC nod) were originally on the island to save Yao Fei; blowing up your rescue target sounds like a violation of mission protocol. More puzzling is the decision Oliver has to make, though calling it a decision is a stretch. An unfortunate drawback of this being a flashback comes from knowing that the airplane evac isn’t meant to be; if Slade is the rest of the crew of the S. S. Minnow that’s earnestly trying to get off the island, that leaves newbie Oliver to play Gilligan, accidentally sabotaging every legitimate chance at escape, no matter how foolishly. I believe the Oliver of this episode feels incredibly indebted to Yao Fei, but having him sacrifice a sure shot at returning home out of a sense of honor, and friendship seems far too great a growth of conscience for what we’ve actually seen him experience in the last six months.
We do get some nice compensation for the inexplicably discovered cajones, in the form of a big (more obviously CG than usual) shootout at Fyres’ base camp. Oh, and, what the hell, Slade and Oliver bro-ing out by episode’s end was pretty great (if it means we get to spend more time with Bennett, you won’t hear me complaining). Yet, I can’t help but think I wanted a little something more from the show’s big trip back in time. Granted, the episode is, in many ways, what I’ve been begging Arrow to resemble for months: action-heavy, focused, and Tommy/Thea-less.
While there’s definitely plenty of action, it feels kind of perfunctory most of the time. Oliver stepping on a landmine does nothing but chew up a few minutes of runtime, and his inability to complete the one task assigned to him during the airfield assault makes you question why Slade needed him in the first place. Oliver’s not really in harm’s way, and killing any of his potential teachers this early would only further complicate the path ahead of him. The action is all still flashy, and enjoyable, but toothless in a way that forces the episode to insert a jarringly left field dream sequence for the sake of a cheap shock.
Really, the episode’s biggest game changer has very little to do with Oliver, as Felicity (who I’ve been calling Smoak, mostly because I forgot her first name), finally gets drafted by Team Arrow. “The Odyssey” makes further attempt to wring tension out of an inherently tensionless situation, by having Felicity and Digg restart Oliver’s heart (though a subsequent fake out is nicely played), but the best moments come from watching Smoak relish her vindicated suspicions. When given an offer proper from Oliver, she accepts in typically humorous fashion. It’s funny because she thinks she means it when she tells Oliver, and Digg she’s only helping them until they find Walter. We don’t need to see into the future to know that Smoak has a long career in fighting crime, and aging operating systems, ahead of her.
- Stray Thoughts
-I don’t want to alarm anyone, but this is the third straight week of Arrow to not have a party, or a charity fundraiser, or a club scene, or a ball, or even a soiree! They’re probably cutting back on the budget to save for a finale that’s just a 45 minute rave-birthday-dance-4th of July-Bar Mitzvah. Maybe that’s what “The Undertaking” really is.
-I like David Ramsey, but his reading on “unfortunately, there are always casualties when you’re fighting a war,” needed to be 60% more sarcastic, and bitter. Otherwise, it kinda invalidates his big Al-from-Die Hard speech about his time in Afghanistan. Incidentally, the new (apparently God-awful) Die Hard co-stars Jai Courtney, who was in Spartacus with Manu Bennett. So…there’s that.
-So, Yao Fei has a daughter that Fyres got his hands on. I think I liked the brainwashing idea better. Still, the matching tatts she and Oliver share are a nice hook.
-Speaking of Yao Fei: he’s going to be awfully busy teaching a class of Fyres’ men how to use a bow. What are the odds one Malcolm Merlyn is somehow among those matriculated at Bad Guy Island U?
-I don’t buy Island Oliver’s bravery as much as his cunning: offering to outbid Fyres for Wintergreen’s loyalty was pretty convincing.
-Slade, you’re awesome and all, but loudly clacking bamboo sticks with another dude, while standing in a wide open field, is pretty freaking stupid.
-The island’s name in Mandarin means “Purgatory.” Please form an orderly line when cracking Lost comparisons/jokes.
-So Fyres has somebody paying him a lot of money to keep up the Colonel Kurtz shtick. Unlike the references to “The Undertaking,” this is a far less interesting development, as it undercuts Fyres as a villain, and just puts us one step further from finding out what the hell is going on.
-Ab-tastic Workout of the Week: More shirtless convulsing from Amell. I’m curious how many GIFs will be made of this, but think the answer might be too creepy to find out.