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Arrow, Ep. 1.04: “An Innocent Man” helps the series find its footing

Arrow, Ep. 1.04:  “An Innocent Man” helps the series find its footing

Arrow, Season 1, Episode 4: “An Innocent Man”
Directed by Vincent Misiano
Written by Moira Kirland and Lana Cho
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW

The bulk of episode 4 continues Arrow’s quest to take down the evil businessmen whose names appear on “The List”. Only Oliver takes his job one step further as he attempts to exonerate, Peter Declan, an innocent man on death row for allegedly killing his wife.

Anyone who’s been following Arrow since the start can clearly identify the show’s recipe: Hokey voiceover, top notch archery-inspired action sequences, a few flashbacks, deep focus on Stephen Amell’s abs, sexually frustrated antics between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), a common corporate-villain-of-the week, and a cliffhanger that is somehow either tied to Arrow’s identity, or the conspiracy involving Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) and her husbands death. Did I miss anything?

I’m willing to allow a series a few episodes to find its footing, but Arrow is quickly closing in on do or die territory. While “An Innocent Man” has its many faults, the series seems to be heading in the right direction. This may not be the strongest entry yet, but I’m happy to announce, “An Innocent Man” actually has me excited for next week’s episode.

Arguably the best reincarnation of Green Arrow was created by Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil who famously gave the Robin-Hood-like-Avenger a thick goatee, a new costume and a new attitude. Their Green Arrow’s personality had a rougher edge and the stories dealt with various social and political issues including corruption, racism, pollution, and drug abuse. It was their version of Green Arrow that laid the foundation for the character’s continued success. “An Innocent Man” further affirms that the CW creators are definitely following in Adams and O’Neil’s footsteps, using their stories as the general framework for the series.

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Arrow’s new partner in crime Diggle, once again steals the show. Actor David Ramsey is head over heels above the various other supporting players and the best scene of the episode comes from his one on one conversation with Oliver at the diner. Diggle, who delivers honest, raw monologues, will no doubt act as the voice of reason for Oliver’s emotional outbursts.

“You were born with a platinum spoon in your mouth, Queen. You spent five years on an island without room service and suddenly you found religion?”

There’s a visible contrast between his world view and Oliver’s current beliefs and even though Diggle and Oliver don’t see eye to eye, he agrees to work with him. While his motivations may seem formulaic or lazy on the part of the writers, their contrast is something the show really needs. After weighing the pros and cons and rights versus wrongs, Diggle acknowledges that Oliver presents him with an opportunity to actually make a difference, instead of, how he explains “protect punks and spoiled rich kids.” His motivations only make sense and now that we have confirmation that Deadshot was responsible for the death of his brother, the Diggle-Oliver team-up can only improve the show.

In the Adams/ O’Neil comic run, Green Arrow was constantly partnering up with Hal Jordan (Green Lantern). Arrow spoke for radical change while Green Lantern was an establishment liberal figure, never, ever crossing the boundaries of law. Jordan would work within the system; whereas Queen was a law-breaker and a pusher for social and radical change. They would constantly be butting heads much like Oliver and Diggle. Dig not only serves as the straight man to Ollie but also as his mentor. Now that he is no longer a temporary bodyguard, Dig can prove to be the key ingredient to developing a better future for the series – particularly in giving Oliver someone to talk to and thus eliminating the horrendous inner monologues we’ve had to suffer through.

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Reiterating information over several episodes has becomes a common staple for network TV. While I understand that the writers do so in order to communicate vital information to potential new viewers, the creators of Arrow have yet to find a winning formula that doesn’t feel awkward and forced. With that said, “An Innocent Man” handles it’s flashbacks with more care than it’s predecessors (something I’ve grumbled about for weeks). The island is where the best story is and while I’m not particularly fond of how the sequences are usually edited sporadically throughout, tonight’s flashbacks were inserted at just the right moments, never once breaking the pace and flow of the episode.

The other major focus of the night was the moral showdown between detective Quentin Lance and attorney Laurel Lance. The episode put Laurel’s faith in the system in question, and at odds with Quentin’s beliefs who berates her for cooperating with Arrow. But Laurel is a strong women and a good lawyer and someone who prefers to view all the facts before making a final decision. Only it doesn’t take long for her to conclude that murder is murder, no matter what the cause, and Arrow must be stopped. As Oliver is quickly losing both friends and allies, one can only assume we’ll be introduced to a number of new characters in the upcoming weeks. Huntress anyone?

Its common that Superheroes conceal their identity from the public. As Oliver explains, he hides his face to protect the people he cares about. “An Innocent Man” delivers the most shocking plot turn yet, as Oliver’s secret identity is unveiled via the security cams. It’ll be interesting to see if the writers stick with it or if they will find a way for Oliver to excuse his presence during the prison riot. Next week’s episode should reveal a great deal about where the series is headed and might just be the first season’s most crucial episode.

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Other observations:

John Barrowman appears in the episode’s final reveal, and while we are not yet sure who he is playing, fans are speculating it could be either Maxwell Lord to Deathstroke. My bet is on Lord.

This episode offered a few more DC Universe cameos including Iron Heights Prison and mention of Bludhaven.

I’m glad to see that the show isn’t ignoring Ollie’s excessive force and murderous activities. As I mentioned back in my review of the pilot, this is not a show about a superhero but rather an anti-hero.

Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil were also responsible for the most famous Green Arrow storyline (Green Lantern vol. 2 #85–86), which revealed that Speedy was addicted to heroin. It was such a success that it prompted a congratulatory letter from the mayor of New York, John Lindsay. Clearly the creators of Arrow intend to include it in the series given Thea’s party habits.

It is quite clear now, Walter is meant to be a friend and not an enemy to Ollie. The question is, how long will he stick around considering Colin Salmon is still credited as a guest star.

Felicity Smoak A.K.A. Emily Bett Rickards A.K.A the show’s “It Girl” once again provides some much-needed levity in her brief scenes. We need much more of her.