Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Arrow' Review - 1.14 The Odyssey

        On the newest episode of The CW's Arrow, Oliver is shot and Felicity and Diggle have to team up to save his life; and, as Oliver hovers between life and death, he flashes back to a seminal event on the island - a daring escape attempt with his new friend Slade Wilson.

        Arrow was renewed for a second season by The CW this past week. This comes as no surprise as the show is the second highest rated show - and the most viewed - on the network's schedule. I have been keeping up with the show regularly this entire season and felt like this was the a good episode to return to reviewing the series.
        Over the course of these first fourteen episodes, Arrow has established a great narrative that works really well when doing episodic television. It theoretically works identical to a procedural in that every episode there is a villain running amuck in Starling City with Arrow's journey to bring them to justice the chief focus. That structure works well because it allows for many self-contained plots while still having a sense of ongoing story. Through in a couple of scenes focusing on the superfluous supporting characters and that is your typical episode of the series. The biggest problem that the show has run into however is how to balance the need for episodic plotting with this grand mythology. Every scene that focuses on Moira or an Malcolm promises things that are much larger than anything Oliver - and thusly the audience - could imagine. And yet, the show has been very hesitant on allowing this mythology to be revealed and the characters to change. Sure, we get great sequential moments like Malcolm being the Dark Archer or of Arrow crashing through the window of Moira's office. But we are still majorly left in the dark with their true plans and motivations. The series' island flashbacks have worked under the same guidelines as well. each episode offers a new, very tiny piece to a huge puzzle that does leave us questioning but perhaps not excited.
        "The Odyssey" essentially took all of this structure and reversed it - with the island flashbacks taking on the bulk of the hour with the present storylines taking a backseat. The thematic purpose of the flashbacks is to showcase Oliver Queen's psychologic journey from being a hard partier to our hero we know in the presence. This is a very simple premise and yet the show has added such a dense backstory to the whole proceedings with the additions of the entire society on the island. The journey has stepped away from philosophical one to a more tangible conflict. The atmosphere takes on an "us" vs. "them" vibe here. The threads of the original premise are still there - the arguments shared between Oliver and Slade on being out for yourself or for others are the most profound in the episode. And yet, the focus of the episode was these two trying to get off this island which we know from the start is a doomed mission but the drama continue to adds stuff to keep the material sustainable for a season long arc. That material is simply not needed - like the phone call to Laurel - and thusly this whole plot has slowly become more and more superfluous to the whole story and our hero's journey.
        Speaking of inevitable endings, the present-day material here is also majorly void of dramatic tension. We simply know that Oliver will not die because he's the protagonist. However, the drama did a great service by officially bringing Felicity into the major fold as she has proven herself time and again to be a major asset. However, she is not a simple rehash of the story where Diggle himself joined Oliver's mission. Both of the two see how morally ambiguous his crusade is and will most likely continue to be the voices of reason on the series. And yet, Felicity's addition is simply to find Walter because of the bond she had with him and the desire to see him alive and well. She's wants nothing more than that which is a much better story in the long-term narrative perhaps than Diggle's continued obedience/assistance to Oliver.

So what did everyone think of the episode? Did the island flashbacks resonant well with you? Excited by the prospects of added screentime for Felicity? Share your thoughts in the comments.