Stars:  Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Susanna Thompson, Colin Salmon, Willa Holland, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, John Barrowman, Manu Bennett
Writer: 
Ben Sokolowski & Beth Schwartz
Director
: Ken Fink
Network:
The CW, airs Wednesday Nights
Original Telecast
: April 24, 2013

Despite the high body count, “Home Invasion” is an episode dedicated to romance.  Specifically, it delves deeper into Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell’s) romantic feelings for his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and how they’ve been complicated by his secret life as the hooded vigilante, and the fact that his best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) is currently dating her.  A lot of innocent people have to die this week in order to clarify where everyone stands in this love triangle, and so it’s probably fitting that the resolution they arrive at leaves everyone unhappy.

The episode starts strong with John Diggle (David Ramsey) again explaining how badly he wants to take revenge on Deadshot (Michael Rowe) the professional killer who murdered his brother, and his compatriots, Oliver and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), lay out how eager they are to help him do it.  When Oliver takes a break from their strategy session to go have lunch with Laurel, however, neither Diggle nor Felicity accepts his proclamation that this is just going to be an innocent lunch between friends.

At Laurel’s office, Oliver meets her new clients, the Moore family, Eric and Nancy and their young son Taylor, who are about to give Laurel a deposition where they will point the finger at Edward Rasmus, the crooked businessman who swindled them out of their life savings.  Their arrival means Oliver’s lunch date with Laurel is cancelled.  And, almost immediately after Laurel takes their testimony, Rasmus’s hit man, credited as “Mr. Blank” (J. August Richards), shows up to cancel the Moore’s.  After seeing Mr. Blank kill both his parents in their home that night, young Taylor escapes through a window, setting up the pursuit at the center of “Home Invasion,” as Mr. Blank psychopathically explains to his employer that because the boy has seen his face, he’s not going to stop until he’s been reunited with Mom and Dad. (In death, in case I didn’t make that clear enough).

Meanwhile, Diggle is pursuing Deadshot by leveraging his connection with Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) an “Argus” Agent, whom he apparently had some dealings with during his time in the military.  But Lyla’s done her homework and finds out that Diggle’s interest in Deadshot is not professional, and that he’s been pumping her agency for information about the guy so he can “end” his brother’s killer himself.  She’s not happy and tells him he’ll be arrested if he interferes with her agency’s efforts to capture Deadshot alive.  This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’s going to deter Diggle, however.

In the aftermath of the killing of the Moores, Laurel agrees to take Taylor back to her apartment, which she shares with Tommy, in order to keep him safe.  Unfortunately the police protection she’s received isn’t sufficient, and Mr. Blank tracks them down right away.  There’s a nice scene where Mr. Blank tries to pass off a phony Starling City PD badge through the peephole in her front door in order to gain access to her apartment, but she knows enough about badge numbers from having a cop for a dad that she knows he’s a liar and is able to buy herself, Tommy and Taylor, some time to escape the first round of gunfire.  She buys a little more time with a shotgun immediately after, but clearly the three of them are no match for Mr. Blank’s superior skill-set as it pertains to killing people with guns.  And so, right on cue, Oliver, in the hooded vigilante costume, bursts through Laurel’s apartment window in order to even the odds.  Oliver saves them but Mr. Blank gets away unscathed, and will be back for another attempt. This forces Tommy, who’s just learned about Oliver and Laurel’s clandestine lunch plans from the prior day, (and who I’m starting to feel really sad for), to walk back some of his tough (but factually and morally correct) talk about the wrongness of Oliver’s vigilante career.  Obviously he wants Oliver to protect Laurel now that she’s in mortal danger, and he suggests taking the boy to the Queen’s mansion where security is ostensibly tighter.  Laurel’s Dad, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) agrees with this plan.

While Oliver has Diggle hire two bodyguards to protect Laurel, Tommy and Taylor at the Queen residence, no reasonable TV viewer would give those two beefy, nondescript bodyguards more than a 15% chance of surviving the episode after seeing them.  Tommy is also upset that both Oliver and Diggle both plan to immediately leave the house, telling Oliver in private that his hooded vigilante abilities are the only real reason he brought them to the mansion for protection.  But Oliver and Diggle have their own reasons for leaving.  Initially, both men are going on the hunt for Deadshot.  Felicity’s hacking skills gave them access to Argus’s plans to arrest Deadshot when he re-enters the country, and Diggle’s plan is to scope out their sting operation with Oliver, then swoop in and make a kill rather than an arrest.

Diggle does, in fact, get into position behind Lyla in her team, staking out a bus terminal, but much like the bodyguards we’ve just been introduced to, it quickly becomes obvious that the undercover Argus agents who are lamely dressed as janitors and whatnot are also dead meat, and their plan to catch Deadshot is doomed.  And their chances of survival are not at all improved when Oliver is given the whereabouts of Edward Rasmus at the last minute by Felicity.  Rasmus is fleeing the country, and Oliver must choose whether to go to help his friend Diggle obtain revenge for his dead brother, or strike back at the man who tried to have the woman he loves killed.  He chooses to go after Rasmus.

The predictable result is that, when Deadshot makes the uncover agents, takes the high ground and shoots all of them, including Lyla, dead, Diggle must fight his brother’s killer himself.  And, also predictably, Diggle isn’t able to win that fight without Oliver.  I didn’t buy Deadshot’s rationale for not pulling the trigger on Diggle after besting him in combat, (“no one’s paying”), but I’m going to cut ARROW a break here because I want Diggle to survive.  Meanwhile, Oliver, having chosen to go after Rasmus, has no trouble bringing down his bad guy, forcing him at arrow-point to confess his crimes rather than killing him.   Rasmus goes to jail.

Once in jail, Mr. Blank visits Rasmus under the guise of being his lawyer.  He’s on his way to tie up loose ends, and so obviously this is curtains for Rasmus, although the manner in which he’s killed, (Mr. Blank does something with his bare hands to the veins in Rasmus’s wrist that causes an air bubble to carry back into his heart and end his life with an embolism) is new and unique, and a technique that I hope does not exist in real life, because…. Geez.  Let’s not teach people how to do that.

Mr. Blank does make another attempt on the life of Taylor at the Queen mansion, which leaves a delivery boy and both of the bodyguards dead, as expected.  Oliver, not in costume, is able to protect everyone else in the home, however, and after the (well choreographed) fight between him and Mr. Blank ends with Mr. Blank dead with a fireplace poker through his chest, this act of heroism is attributed to one of the dead bodyguards when the cops arrive, keeping Oliver from having to blow his cover.

The Queen mansion has always looked like a soap opera set to me, and it really lives up to that this week, especially in a scene where Tommy overhears Laurel tell Oliver how much she respects how he’s changed since coming back from the island, which ends in them hugging and Tommy watching, heartbroken, from down the wood-paneled hallway. There’s also a scene at the end of the episode where Tommy confronts Oliver about whether he still has feelings for Laurel, and Oliver essentially says “yes, but I can’t do anything about it because she can’t know I’m a vigilante.”  Tommy counters with a nice line, saying he “doesn’t know how to be with Laurel knowing the whole time that if she ever found out who you are (i.e. the vigilante that’s saved her life multiple times) she would choose you.”  (It’s been well established in prior episodes that Laurel likes bad boys and fighting for justice in equal measure).  This leads to Tommy dumping Laurel at the end of “Home Invasion,” during a moment when she’s feeling emotionally fragile after seeing Taylor’s grandparents take him away to an uncertain, and sad future.  So, even though all are arguably doing the ethical thing by one another, neither Oliver, Tommy nor Laurel get to be happy at the end of the episode.  Oliver especially gets to be unhappy because Diggle is upset that Oliver broke his promise to help him kill Deadshot, and is so disgusted with Oliver that he apparently quits Oliver’s vigilante crew.

Other subplots on “Home Invasion” also involve romance.  During this week’s island flashback sequence, Yao Fei’s daughter, Shado (Celina Jade) teaches Younger Oliver how to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time, in advance of some assault they and Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) are planning on the stronghold of Edward Fyres (Sebastian Dunn), and things get steamy between them during target practice.  Shado senses Oliver’s romantic hesitation, however, and assumes he’s thinking of someone else from his life before being trapped on the island.  He is:  Laurel.  And the timing of this flashback is meant to bolster the idea that she’s his real soul mate, which is playing out in the current timeline.  Of course, this week’s island flashback ends with yet another scene where Fyres’ forces capture Younger Oliver, Shado and Slade, and Yao Fei’s true loyalties are again revealed to be a mystery.  This must be the fifth time this has happened, and I’m not sure how many more captures and escapes I want to see from this storyline.

Also, there’s a subplot where Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) steals a police radio from Detective Lance in an effort to locate the hooded vigilante who saved his life in an earlier episode.  The police figure out that he did it instantly, and arrest him, but in the process of going to jail and getting out, Roy and Thea (Willa Holland) get closer, and Roy reveals how much he feels drawn to the vigilante and wants to find him.  Thea agrees that she will help Roy find this mystery man, obviously not knowing that he’s actually her brother.  The best part of this subplot is when both Thea and Roy get a “scared straight” lecture from Detective Lance, and he takes them to the morgue and shows them an unidentified corpse, with arrow holes in the torso, that arrived there courtesy of the masked vigilante, who Quentin considers a menace and a killer.  This lecture is wasted on Thea and Roy, but having Quentin remind the audience that Oliver has killed 26 different people during his career as a vigilante keeps alive the other side of the argument about whether Oliver’s decision to use lethal force as a self-appointed guardian of the city is appropriate, or moral.  The show needs this tension at its core, and I’m glad they keep bringing it up.

If I were to select the strongest part of “Home Invasion,” though, I’d have to say it’s how ARROW’s creators are handling Tommy’s character.  This character has no superpowers, never factors into the action sequences of the show, and was always destined to be cuckolded by his more handsome and athletic best friend, who loves the same girl he does.  And yet, Tommy’s still a strong, charismatic character, with perhaps the best moral compass of anyone on the show, and in many ways I’m more interested in his struggle than Oliver’s.  The scene in this episode where Tommy tries to comfort young Taylor by showing him how he visualizes his murdered mother every time he closes his eyes, and how the boy can do this whenever he wants to see his dead parents as well, was really touching, and really makes me root for Tommy, even though I know he’s kind of a lost cause.  Probably in the next several episodes it’s going to get worse for him, as he finds out that his suspicions about his father being a bad person were, in fact, overly generous, and the guy’s really a murdering monster.  So, given that, and given everything else ARROW’s resident beta male has had to endure, would it be so bad if they decided to let him get the girl in the end?  Oliver might be upset, but I, for one, would have no objections.

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Article: TV Review: ARROW – Season 1 – “Home Invasion”

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