Stars: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Susanna Thompson, Colin Salmon, Willa Holland, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards
Andrew Kreisberg & Marc Guggenheim
Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg
: John Behring
The CW, airs Wednesday Nights
Original Telecast
: February 13, 2013

In “The Odyssey” episode of ARROW we finally see how the plan Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has devised to confront his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) about her possible involvement in a sprawling criminal conspiracy works out.  The answer is:  It works out terribly.  In an exciting opening sequence, Oliver, disguised as his hooded vigilante alter ego, bursts into his mother’s office and holds her at arrow-point, then demands to know what she knows about the recent disappearance of her husband, Walter Steele, (Colin Salmon).  But Moira holds up a picture of her children and begs for her assailant not to “take her away” from them.  Oliver, staring now at a picture of himself, and having his emotions tugged in a way that’s impossible to imagine, reluctantly puts down the bow and arrow.  Then Moira shoots him.

From that moment on, “The Odyssey” never lets up.  The danger Oliver faces as he hovers unconscious and near death from his gunshot wound serves as a helpful pretense to segue into an extended flashback sequence from a time when he also faced mortal danger on Lian Yu Island.  ARROW actually spends precious little time in present-day Starling City this week, giving us only the necessary wraparound story where Oliver’s associates John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) try to keep him alive on a makeshift operating table in their hideout.  The notable takeaway from this storyline is the culmination of weeks worth of ARROW teasing us that Felicity would learn the masked vigilante’s identity and join Oliver’s team.  That moment finally came this week, with the not-really-unexpected twist that she pretty much knew it the whole time, and that even after joining them, she will be limiting her involvement to the search for Walter.

But this is all we get of Starling City.  Mostly “The Odyssey” is an action-packed story about Younger Oliver’s attempts to both escape from his island prison and to do right by his friend and benefactor Yao Fei, (Byron Mann).  And it’s this storyline that helps ARROW really soar this week.  A lot of my early skepticism about the character of Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) had to do with ARROW’s confusing choice to add a second Yoda to mentor Oliver’s Luke.  They had already placed Yao Fei in that role, so I wasn’t sure what value-add they were getting from bringing in a second guy this late in the season.  But Slade’s character became more fun this week, explaining to a whiny Oliver during a round of intense martial arts training that his actual options on the island are “escape or die” and then beginning to beat the entitled rich boy attitude out of him, which was quite satisfying.  And, in a really strong sequence where Oliver steps on a landmine that will detonate if he moves his foot, Slade has to creatively save Oliver’s bacon again.  The overall repartee between these two men was nice as well, such as when Slade gently mocks Oliver’s pathetic desire to one day set things right with his girlfriend after he’s slept with her sister.

Younger Oliver screws up their plan to escape the island, and the clutches of Edward Fyres (Sebastian Dunn), repeatedly this week, because, true to his character, he’s still not a soldier and hasn’t learned to adapt to the ruthlessness of the new world he inhabits.  But “The Odyssey” is the episode where Oliver finally makes up for his lack of brawn and fighting skills by using his head, his heart, and his wits.  Oliver surprises Slade by coming up with a quote from the Odyssey, which serves as the secret code necessary to convince a supply plane pilot to land on the island as normal and not alert his superiors that something’s wrong.  And once the two of them find that their escape time window has actually opened, Oliver refuses to leave the island without his friend Yao Fei.  He stages a doomed rescue attempt that costs them their opportunity to leave, but strikes a blow against Fyres and his thugs in any event. Oliver even gets in a semi-decent CASTAWAY joke this week.

Since we knew two things already:  1) That Oliver was not going to die from that gunshot wound, and 2) That he was not going to escape from Lian Yu island with Slade this time, (the present-day storyline does not depict Oliver escaping from the island by hijacking a supply plane with Slade), it’s a credit to ARROW’s creators that they managed to make this episode so tense anyway.  The timely decision to break from the show’s usual fare with a stripped-down, all action episode, devoid of romantic subplots or family dramas, served the series well this week, and I hope it’s a strategy that gets re-employed the next time ARROW finds itself in need of a shot in the arm.


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Article: TV Review: ARROW – Season 1 – “The Odyssey”

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