Friday, August 1, 2014

Arrow: Dodger

Question: when you watch an episode like Dodger straight after one like The Odyssey, does it feel like a dud because it is, or because it’s on the heels of something so superior?

The Odyssey had a tight plot with a key goal; Dodger by comparison was a messy combination of villain of the week, new character introduction, half-baked moral quandary, and filler. Oh, and the usual handful of Moira-related scenes that moves the overarching plot forward a few inches.

By trying to pack all of this into forty-five minutes, none of it is given the attention it needs to feel particularly important. That’s not to say it’s a waste of time, just that it’s more like a handful of popcorn than a proper meal.

Ironically, the plot-line that’s given the most amount of attention is the one that matters least. A string of high-class burglaries are brought to Oliver’s attention, the work of a criminal known as the Dodger because he never gets his hands dirty by stealing the artefacts himself. Here I was thinking it was an Oliver Twist reference, though I suppose if that was the case he would have been better off calling himself Fagin considering his modus operandi.

It turns out the Dodger works by coercing an unsuspecting security guard or other personnel to steal things like fake-looking rubies from art galleries by slipping an electric collar around their neck and threatening to detonate it if they don’t do his bidding. He’s played by yet another familiar face; this time it’s James Callis, a talent Arrow manages to waste even more than Merlin did.  

There was initially a touch of something rather interesting here; the fact that he used tasers to knock out his victims rather than pulling the “I’m so evil” card and blowing them up regardless of their obedience in bringing back the goods, and that there’s a certain amount of ambiguity over whether or not the collars are in fact deadly.

In other words, as a man who uses fear to force others into doing his bidding, he’s an awful lot like Oliver himself, and by the conclusion he becomes the umpteenth villain to pull the Not So Different card on Ollie. But what could have been an interesting contrast is mangled by the fact that a) the Dodger argues that their point of similarity is not in their tactics but in the fact both rob from the rich, and b) by this point we’ve seen that the collars are the real thing and that he’s more than capable of killing people when it suits him.

Imagine a scenario in which a non-lethal villain confronted a deadly-force-when-necessary hero and insisted that he had the moral high ground. Alas, by the time the Dodger is served vigilante justice that ship has long sailed, and all we get is a rather lame assertion from Oliver that he’s not Robin Hood. Um, okay. No one specifically said you were.

The rest is a scattering of non-related bits and pieces. It almost feels like the writers had a checklist of things they wanted to achieve and this was the only episode that they could squeeze it all in.

So first of all Felicity gets her requisite bout of second-thoughts when she looks up the familial details of the next man on Oliver’s list and decides she’s not totally on board with the vigilante threatening a widow and father. She walks, he apologies, and I’m going to bet that this is the last time Felicity demonstrates any reservations about what The Hood does.

Meanwhile, Moira is also beginning to have second-thoughts, only hers are about the Undertaking. She meets up with fellow conspirator Frank Chen to plead a meeting with the Chinese mafia and orders a hit on Malcolm Merlyn. It’s only a sliver of forward momentum, but it promises to pay-off big time in the next episode.

Elsewhere, Thea gets mugged by a young man (in broad daylight, on a relatively empty street, wearing a bright red hoodie), only to be so moved by his sob story about a drug-addicted mother that she decides not to press charges. Oh, but this is after she tracks him down with nothing but a wallet chain and actually turns up at his house to confront him about it.

My limited knowledge of comic book lore failed me, as apparently Roy Harper is a big deal (or will be a big deal) later down the track. I only found this out after watching the episode, and it gave what felt like an utterly superfluous subplot a definitive point. I guess we’ll be seeing more of this guy soon.

Over in the flashbacks, Slade is suffering some sort of fever from his injected gun-shot wound and Oliver offers to head to Yeo Fei’s cave in order to fetch some medicine herbs (lame). Once there, he’s approached by a bound and bleeding young man who claims that he’s been shipwrecked and attacked by operatives in the forest.

What to do: ignore his plight or help him out? As moral crises go, it feels shoehorned in to pad out the run-time, and has neither the weight nor the sense to feel like a crucial character-building decision.

First of all, if this guy is an operative, then what’s he really trying to achieve by a fake-out? Presumably it’s to win Ollie’s trust and therefore find out where his hideout is, but then why not simply stake out the cave (which was clearly already being done) and follow him home? To be honest, I think Ollie made the right call in leaving him to his own devices (that story was sketchy as hell), which means that it wasn’t so much a difficult decision as it was basic common sense.  

Oh, and Ollie and Diggle go on dates – Ollie with cop McKenna Hall and Diggle with his brother’s widow Carly. Both are a disaster, the former because McKenna won’t stop asking questions about the island, and the latter because he’s with his brother’s widow. I’m not the only one creeped out by this, right?

Hey, have I mentioned that your dead husband and
my dead brother are the same person yet?
And that’s it for this episode! I don’t even have any miscellaneous thoughts.

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