".... all part of the plan."
Despite some stiff acting and the occasional bad bout of on the nose, cringe-worthy dialogue, The CW's Arrow is a really good show. That makes it sound like a surprise but perhaps it shouldn't come as one since the network did such a solid job handling a DC property the last time around with Smallville. Arrow is very different than the angst-ridden, episodic teen drama that grew into adult tights because of the former's dedication to a Christopher Nolan inspired 'gritty reality' but the quality, like the characters, is definitely in the same universe. And speaking of universe, the comic book series also share the DCU and, even though last week's installment was pretty good without a guest spot from the rogues gallery, "Damaged" features another famous villain in Deathstroke. This is the third comic book baddie worked into the show but this time, things are a little different...
"5 Years Ago."
For the first time the episode not only opens in flashback but the backstory on the island also contains the week's DCU villain while the present for the most part finds Ollie holed up in Queen Mansion. "Damaged" begins with the marooned hero playing dog to his mentor's hunter before we see, not only his initial weak-assed attempt to shoot an arrow but also the balaclavas (what I'm going to call the mysterious militia) come and take him captive. In a nice parallel, the action moves back to Starling City to pick up on the end of "An Innocent Man" where Ollie was arrested for vigilantism only, as I guessed in the recap, it's all part of his plan. That's right, this week Arrow decided to tackle the common comic book logistical issue of why nobody can connect the dots between the return of the person and the arrival of the hero. It's not really an important problem for fans of the medium (we've kind of been letting it slide for a while now) but it does offer up an interesting story to counter the action on the island and allow for Dig to step into the suit! Pretty rad. But first Ollie has to find himself in a situation that benefits from the alibi, beginning with an interrupted interrogation by Detective Lance.
"Because he's actually trying to make a difference. We both know that's not really your style."
Daddy might not be the most objective cop on the case and it doesn't take much to start poking a few holes in the evidence because really, what does the footage actually show? Before getting all of his excuses out, Walter and Moira arrive to put an end to the questioning and also procure their son a lawyer. Can you guess who he wants to represent him? Moira can't initially convince Laurel to take on the case but of course she shows right in time to finish someone else's sentence (a common courtroom practice I'm sure), get him put on house arrest (a GPS might gum up the works), and restate how little she thinks of Ollie. Predictably, Detective Daddy is not too enthused with his daughter defending the guy who killed his other daughter but Laurel does her best to ensure him that it was his fault, not Ollie's, that his wife/her mom left. How nice! Meanwhile, Oliver is playing the playboy during the GPS fitting and arranges an alibi, sorry, jail themed party at Queen Mansion. Too bad the alibi is the only part that doesn't really make sense.
"Well, you know us billionaire vigilantes, we do love our toys."
Sure, Dig donning the suit to disrupt the arms deal will definitely do the trick but Ollie didn't know that the former soldier would be part of the team when he was caught on video. He was very much the lone ranger at that point and couldn't have known how close he and his bodyguard would become. Remember, his mom arranged all that, not Ollie. Either way, it was still pretty awesome to see Dig out doing the dirty work and it starts with him just following the bad foreigners (ze Germans!) with the help of the billionaire vigilante's toys. And Dig really digs those toys. The other main thread running though "Damaged" has to do with Walter's discovery of the Queen's Gambit last week. What the hell is the lost vessel doing in a warehouse in Starling City? Pretty good question and Walter wants to secretly move the boat to a more secure location before confronting his wife so he enlists the help of his head of security. That can't end well.
"Think on that while you're begging for death."
Ollie's case continues with the DA bringing them a deal since Detective Daddy didn't bother to consult anyone before making an arrest but, of course, our hero isn't going to plea bargain when he can just as easily beat a polygraph. Laurel tries to convince him that insanity is a gift and to think of how this could effect everyone else which seems like bad advice from a lawyer who thinks her client is innocent. And what, going to a looney bin is going to make his loved ones feel awesome? The show cuts from the interrogation with Detective Lance to an interrogation on the island where a very civilized man pours a carbonated beverage and tries to get information from Ollie about his mentor. It looks like the man is a former Chinese soldier and for some reason this really big operation has been deployed to track him down. He doesn't tell the man anything about his companion and the ensuing introduction to Deathstroke was pretty great.
"It doesn't have to be me in the hood."
Thea doesn't get much time this week but the evolution of her character from needlessly cold hearted, druggie loser to supportive, seemingly smart sister thankfully continues. Ollie does his best to throw her off the scent but she doesn't completely buy the Pandaman defence. Moira's secrets also continue, with her visiting John Barrowman's 'Well Dressed Man' a couple of times this week, first to ensure him that her son is not Arrow and then to, well, threaten him for trying to kill Oliver anyway. Do you think he takes her threats seriously? Probably not. The polygraph scene was one of the best moments of "Damaged," cleverly cross-cutting between the Detective's questions and Deathstroke's torture. Oliver also finds a few interesting ways to beat the test, like admitting to killing the Lance sister, before the show has him flat out lie and still pass (albeit with quivers). Ollie's poly success doesn't dissuade the Detective, however, who still knows a guilty man when he sees one which is why the cop leaves the house arrest in effect and attends the bash. After a few moments being the trust fund dick, Ollie retires downstairs with Dig to convince him to don the hood and stop the arms deal.
"You don't... Laurel, you don't have to go."
The exchange is another particularly strong scene since these two have the best relationship on the show (although I'm quickly liking Ollie and his Mentor together on the island as well). And Dig not only agrees but makes quick work of both sides, the horribly stereotyped Eurotrash arms dealer and the gang banger buyers. Back at the party, Laurel arrives to inspect his scars and the two have an awkwardly tender moment that ends with her storming off. Katie Cassidy is fine (no worse than Stephen Amell) but the show is really struggling with her character. She just keeps flip-flopping about everything (is he Arrow? do I like him?) while uttering terrible dialogue. Fortunately the next sequence returns to the flashbacks and finds Ollie's mentor come to the rescue. He and Deathstroke have an intense showdown in the tent (moves mirrored by Ollie in his next fight) and, even though the latter loses, it looks like the villain's involvement in the show could be just beginning.
"If you knew, you'd see me differently. And not as some vigilante guy... as damaged."
The other thread is still unwinding with Walter finally summoning the courage to summon his wife to discuss the Queen's Gambit not to mention the death of their head of security. Sorry, accidental death. Walter's rightly suspicious and decides that since he can't trust her, he should probably move out of the Queen Mansion until he feels differently. Speaking of the Mansion, the party continues to rage while Dig calls to confirm his take down of the arms deal and then there's the aforementioned hit on Ollie that isn't successful thanks to the hard work of Detective Lance. I think this is the second time Ollie's thanked him for saving his skin and, because of Dig's work, this occurs right before the Detective removes the GPS anklet. House arrest over! Alibi successful! Laurel says they can't be together! Oh, yeah. A bit of a downer ending with her putting on the brakes and Dig reminding him how much he's alienating himself from his family. At least he got to let off a little steam by taking down ze German who failed Starling City. Nothing like a few murders to quench the loneliness. And remember to breathe.
Arrow returns with Episode 6, "Legacies," next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.