Arrow recap: Arrested Development
Twists galore! The Arrow in cuffs, John Barrowman arrives, a sidekick is hired, and a long-lost ship returns
It’s only the fourth episode and Oliver Queen was arrested for being The Hood?
That’s a shock. Arrow already took a big story-step forward last week letting Oliver’s wannabe bodyguard in on the big secret. Now all of Starling City could find out their favorite callow playboy is the mean-green vigilante. This is Homeland-style, full-speed-ahead story momentum, right there.
But first, a confession. [Recapper removes hood]. As you can see, I’m not your usual writer. New York City city is apparently suffering from some kind of weather problem. (Something about a giant storm? Have you heard anything about this?). So LA-based EW writers are acting as substitute teachers this week. Try to resist throwing anything.
That said, this week’s story, apart several great twists at the end (including the arrival of John Barrowman), felt weaker than previous episodes. There was too much speechifying about the nature of Oliver’s vigilantism and clunky dialog. “I always thought the law was sacred, that it fixed everything,” Laural declares at one point. “I think there needs to be someone who cares about the lives of other people, someone like you.” Arrow aims to be a grounded take on the superhero genre, but nobody talks like this.
Top of show: Oliver’s bodyguard John Diggle wakes up. In addition to having a total porn-star name, he’s got a major hangover from last week’s poison. Oliver lays his cards on the table and tries to enlist Diggle to his crime-fighting cause, appealing to his military service background. “You’re not a solider,” Diggle says. “You’re a criminal … and a murderer.” Ouch.
Oliver goes home and finds Laurel Lance just hanging out in his foyer. His sister has it right. For somebody who supposedly hates him, Laurel is a bit stalker-y. Laurel says his family deserves his kindness, but claims she doesn’t want any for herself. “I made peace with your selfishness a lot time ago,” she says. “I care about the lives of other people. Maybe you should try it sometime.”
NEXT: They’ve got to stop meeting like this (because we’re not buying it)
The next morning we learn Laurel’s insults have given him nightmares — not having a psycho sniper shoot at his family, mind you, but Laurel’s mere words. Never underestimate the power of passive-aggressive put-downs. Next we patiently wait while Oliver’s sister Thea gives any first-time Arrow viewers who happen to be watching some exposition about Oliver’s sordid and tragic history with Laurel while trying to sound all casual about it.
Oliver says: “I know it might not seem like it sometimes, but I’m not the same person I used to be.”
Thea replies with that standard piece of not-as-effective-as-we-wish-it-would-be dating advice: Just be yourself!
Oliver later learns bodyguard Dirk Diggle quit, but without selling his secret identity out to the cops. He’s got a new guard now, a stiff named Rob. We figure Rob isn’t going to last very long, but it’s amusing to see Oliver outmaneuver him.
At this point we have to start caring about this new guy, Peter Declan, who supposedly murdered his wife and his going to be executed. We get a few scenes of Arrow and Laurel figuring out he’s innocent. Most interestingly:
— Laurel’s apartment: Oliver breaks in, all hooded and threatening-looking. Laurel grabs a pistol from her desk drawer. If you’re worried about intruders, probably a better idea to keep the firearm next to the bed.
— That vacant-looking diner: Oliver pesters Diggle to join his quest. This is probably the clearest we’ve heard Oliver describe his mission. He explains these bad guys on his list were part of a wealthy criminal conspiracy — and so was his father. He’s not just trying to save the city, he’s trying to atone for the sins of his family.
— Laurel’s office: She can’t help but tell her co-worker about her encounter with the mysterious hooded man. “He goes against every thing I was taught to believe in,” she says, sounding rather … turned on.
— A rooftop: Laurel and Oliver meet again. Okay, we’re now suspending a rather large amount of disbelief here. She still can’t tell who he is? If your ex-boyfriend showed up in a green hoodie talking all breathy, wouldn’t you know him? And can’t he just text her from a Google Voice account or something? Beats jumping off a roof after time you want to have a chat.
NEXT: A bird in the hand is worth something-something…
— Train tracks: Nice twist on the classic damsel-in-distress, with a bad guy tied to the train tracks. It still works.
Next we get into the show’s big set-piece at a prison. But before we do that…it’s time for…
Oliver is in the cave and hungry. Bearded Asian Guy gives him a live bird in a cage. He keeps repeating a foreign word. It sounds like he’s saying “Szechwan.” I kept wanting Oliver to reply, “Yes, thank you, Szechwan-style is fine.” But Bearded Asian Guy ignores him until he’s cooking his own tasty creature and Oliver tries to grab some. He smacks him away. I almost expected some variation on, “snatch dinner from hand” here, but instead he explains Queen has to kill a bird himself. Oliver whines that he’s never killed anything before. But eventually he gets hungry enough to snap the bird’s neck. “You want survive this place; bird not last thing you kill,” says Bearded Asian Yoda.
Back the the present: Oliver breaks into the prison dressed as the world’s scariest security guard and rescues Laurel from a manufactured prison riot. During the fighting, Oliver starts whaling on an attacker until Laurel grabs his arm and he practically elbows her, furious (that’s right, just like Roger assaulting JWoww when she tried to interfere with his fight on Jersey Shore a couple weeks back).
[Behind-the-scenes factoid: Oliver originally was just about to break his attacker’s neck when Laurel stops him — just like he broke the bird’s neck. But in post-production, the action wasn’t clear enough — it looked like Oliver was giving the man a hug. So producers re-shot this scene to simply have Oliver pummeling the guy.]
Oliver rescues Laurel, and the wrongly convicted man gets set free. But now Laurel is really disturbed and no longer believes The Arrow is necessarily a good guy. “There’s something inside of him that’s not human,” she says.
Okay, so the episode is winding down, right? Wrong. Now we get, not one, but four really intriguing developments:
NEXT: Holy ship!
— Oliver’s mom meets with Barrowman’s mysterious wealthy man, who’s apparently one of Oliver’s future targets. “He’s not targeting the rich…he’s targeting The List” — so they know about that list of names too. And, also: Captain Jack!
— Diggle returns and agrees to join Oliver’s fledgling justice league. “I’m not signing on to be a sidekick,” he insists. Sorry dude. The show is called Arrow. You’re a sidekick.
— Detective Quentin spots Queen changing into his outfit on the security tapes. He knows! Cops arrest Oliver.
— Walter Steele finds that his wife funneled more than $2 million into a project called Tempest (hmm). When he gets to its secret warehouse door he guesses the code (“ROBERT” — Oliver’s father’s name … couldn’t his devious criminal mastermind wife have made it “1-2-3-4-5” or “PASSWORD” to make it just a tad easier to guess?). Inside is …whoa. The Queen’s Gambit? The yacht that sank with Oliver, his lover and his father? We know that Oliver’s mom was somehow involved in the sinking, but this is really a head-trip.
So Oliver took his sister’s advice and showed Laurel who he really was — and terrified her in the process. We also got the clearest demonstration yet of how much the island changed Oliver, going from a man who wouldn’t even hurt a little bird to a man willing to beat somebody to death.
What do you think?
Will Diggle get a cool sidekick costume? What’s up with the ship in the warehouse? Will Oliver get away with murder? And will Laurel still not be able to figure out Oliver and Arrow are the same person? Sound off! (And if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, find my archive of recaps here).