Arrow: 114 “The Odyssey” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
I’ve said in the past that, for me, Arrow is at its best when it embraces its comic book heritage, and “The Odyssey” is a prime example of this concept. The amount of ‘easter eggs’ sprinkled throughout Slade Wilson’s backstory alone is staggering, and immensely rewarding for those of us who have knowledge of DC Comics.
One of the main strengths of “The Odyssey” is its focus: whereas previous episodes have watered down the main plot with a number of largely unnecessary subplots, this episode features just two parallel stories. The first is Diggle and new Hood accomplice Felicity’s struggle to keep Oliver alive after a gunshot wound inflicted by none other than Moira at the opening of the episode, and it has to be said that it is the less satisfying of the two stories.
That said, I am glad to see Felicity as a full-fledged collaborator to Oliver in his vigilante guise: the excuses and lies cooked up by Oliver to strong-arm her into helping him had become contrived in the extreme, and it’s refreshing to have her find out for definite about his alter ego.
Felicity and Diggle make a good pairing as they struggle to keep Oliver alive, as Felicity finds out more about her boss and Diggle reveals the reasons why he is working with Oliver. Naturally, they save Oliver after a few close calls, and Felicity upgrades Oliver’s apparently antiquated computer system: when Oliver regains consciousness, Felicity tells him that she has decided to work with him and Diggle, at least until they find Walter.
Oliver also convinces Diggle to back off Moira, based not on the fact that she shot him, but on the fact that she mentioned Oliver and Thea as she was begging for her life. It’s a flimsy reason, but an understandable one in narrative terms.
The second, and more engaging story, concerns Oliver and Slade’s unlikely partnership back on the island as they prepare to attack the airstrip. Slade spends a considerable amount of time alternately hitting Oliver with sticks and calling him a girl in an attempt to train him to become something vaguely approaching a soldier.
As it turns out, Slade needs Oliver to take out a single guard at the airstrip while he carves his way through dozens. After a slight mishap involving an old Japanese landmine, the pair of them have a bonding moment over a campfire, wherein Slade tells Oliver that the man who tortured him is his former partner, Bill Wintergreen, the godfather to his son, Joe. This may seem like an odd detail to include, but this is an important part of Slade Wilson’s backstory in the comic books: the first time he defies orders from his superiors in the military is to rescue his friend Wintergreen from a Viet Cong prison; and his son Joseph is rendered mute due to Slade’s inability to prevent his kidnap. Whether these elements will come into play in Arrow is yet to be seen, but it is satisfying enough as a fanboy-teasing easter egg if not.
Eventually, they reach the airstrip and things go mostly to plan, although Oliver screws up his single job and Slade has to rescue him. A few things occur in quick succession at this point: Oliver is given access to a phone and uses a few spare minutes to call Laurel, although he hangs up without a word at the sound of her voice; then Slade returns and calls the people flying in. The pilot calls in a security code, which consists of part of a line from ‘The Odyssey’: fortunately, it is the only book Oliver read at college, and he is able to complete the line and call in the plane successfully. Slade then reveals that he is planning to call in an airstrike before they leave, and Oliver runs off into the wilderness to rescue Yao Fei.
After finding Yao Fei, Oliver is captured once again by Fyers and Wintergreen and put to death. However, Slade saves the day once again, attacking the camp and killing Wintergreen with a sword through the eye: another nod to the comic books, as the reason Deathstroke wears the two-colour mask is due to an injury which left him with only one eye.
On the way out of the camp, Slade is shot and the pair watch as the plane flies off overhead, leaving them stranded. Back at the downed plane Slade lives in, Oliver digs the bullet out of Slade’s arm and makes a nice reference to the Tom Hanks movie Castaway, saying he is stranded on an island and his only friend is named Wilson. He and Slade decide to partner up and find out what is happening on the island, and find out who is paying Fyers to do what he is doing.
Speaking of which, we get a tiny glimpse into this as Fyers speaks to his anonymous ‘superior’ on the phone, and allows Yao Fei ‘five minutes’ to see the reason he is working with Fyers: namely, his captive daughter, who has a tattoo which matches Oliver’s exactly. It’s an intriguing set-up for future storylines, but something of an anti-climax to the rest of the episode.
While there are a few flaws in the logic presented in “The Odyssey”, the episode benefits from more focus, and a move away from the multi-stranded episodes we’ve seen thus far. It also gave us some good action sequences and the best look at what is happening on the island thus far, along with a few tantalising comic book easter eggs for the fanboys.