Arrow episode 5 review: Damaged

Arrow picks up the pace in what might be the season's best episode yet. Here's Caroline's review of Damaged...

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 Damaged

Just when we all thought Arrow had reached its peak, it might have delivered its best episode yet. Last week’s wholly unexpected twist of Oliver’s secret identity actually being discovered is played out in interesting and unanticipated ways over the hour, and characters and relationships have come out of the other side developed and changed ready for future episodes. The series might even be rivalling The Vampire Diaries in terms of pace right now, and it’s more than a little refreshing to see after living through ten years of Smallville’s relentless pondering.

As I’ve said before in these reviews, I’ve been impressed so far with the show’s willingness to paint Oliver as more loose cannon than outright hero, and that thread runs through this episode to even better effect. The beginning voiceover states his disbelief at being called a killer and a menace, before showing us how seemingly arrogant he is about getting caught. Of course, we later learn that the whole thing has been staged so as to pre-emptively prove his innocence, and it’s a rare example of a show answering one of its own bothersome fan queries.

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We’d all wondered why the characters in this show wouldn’t connect the dots between Oliver’s return and The Hood’s emergence, and it seems that our protagonist had the same worry. He’s staged the whole arrest, relying on a reluctant Diggle to pose as The Hood (because that’s what we’re apparently calling it now – what was wrong with Green Arrow?) while Oliver is under house arrest. The plan is successful, but not before we’re treated to a cracking break-down of Oliver’s character. This is really Detective Lance’s episode, with a personal vendetta mixed with genuine good intentions leading to a proper interrogation down at the station.

My favourite scene might have been their face-off over the polygraph, which really showed off both men’s side of things. As far as Quentin’s concerned, Oliver killed one of his daughters while breaking the other one’s heart (and he admitted as much during his questioning), and he’s utterly convinced that he is also the masked vigilante he’s been tracking. The trouble is that Oliver directly requests Laurel be his defendant, and the conflict of interest escalates to a whole new level. I love the dynamic between the three of them, and they’re what make this episode so great.

And the show’s central romance actually gets marginally interesting this week too, with Laurel essentially finding out her ex’s secret directly after he’s proved his innocence to the rest of the world. Whether she’ll let her father in on what she knows at some point remains to be seen, but to have the love interest be the second to know is a nice switch-around from the usual status quo (I was expecting Thea to know by now). Their ‘will they, won’t they’ dynamic is already wearing me down, however, and if The Hood remains the main obstacle to them being together for any extended amount of time it’s going to get annoying.

The flashbacks have more to do with the present day action than they have before, with Oliver even voicing some of his experiences during Quentin’s interrogation. While out hunting, Oliver was captured by a mysterious group of Brits and tortured for information about his island bowman friend. We’re to believe that most of his scars were a result of this torture, but I’d be really surprised if he doesn’t get into a few more scrapes over the next five years. If I liked the pace of the present day action, I’m a little worried they’re giving away too much of the island too soon. Like with Lost, there’s a real danger of running out of interesting flashback stories.

This might not have been the most action-packed episode of Arrow, but it’s still an immensely enjoyable undressing of what we expect from superheroes on TV. At this point, I realise it’s churlish to think they might be peaking too soon but, if this is where we are in week five, I can’t wait to see what happens in week twenty-two. 

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, An Innocent Man, here.

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