Arrow: 115 “Dodger” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After last week’s more focused and island-heavy episode, this week’s Arrow is back to the multi-stranded plotlines of earlier weeks, and the content feels as diluted as one might expect. While this is not the fault of Arrow, as it is a problem which is endemic to US TV shows whose seasons run for so long that a great deal of content is usually filler, it is still frustrating after the much more streamlined episode we were treated to last week.
The central plot of “Dodger” concerns a suave jewel thief of the same name, played by Battlestar Galactica’s James Callis, who avoids being caught by using innocent people rigged with explosive collars to commit the robberies. He comes to Oliver’s attention after he kills a fence who planned to steal a ruby from him, and Oliver tracks him down but is thwarted when Dodger uses one of the explosive collars to distract him, forcing him to use his secondary superpower: money.
He donates some antique jewels to a local auction to entice the Dodger, which it does, and after a genuinely exciting car chase through the streets of Starling City, he takes the Dodger down and saves the day. The Dodger case felt far too basic and formulaic, and over far too quickly to be truly enjoyable: however, it is the secondary part to this plot which makes it at least bearable, as Felicity becomes a fully-fledged member of the Arrow gang.
She begins by showing a conscience, delaying Oliver from taking down the next target on the list due to his being a recently-widowed father of one. Oliver reacts badly to this, and Felicity storms off, basically saying that she doesn’t want to play this game anymore. Oliver and Diggle turn up to her office with their tails between their legs and apologise before they decide to take the Dodger down. Felicity suggests Oliver bugs McKenna Hall, the senior police officer on the case and former love interest (more on her shortly) to find out the Dodger’s movements, which he does. Felicity’s final act in the episode, and the one which secures her place as part of Oliver’s ever-increasing little gang (again, more on that shortly) is to confront the Dodger at the auction and get a bomb collar strapped to her, making Oliver’s race to catch the Dodger that little bit more exciting.
I’m glad that Felicity is really a part of the gang as it saves us from Oliver’s increasingly contrived excuses for getting her to do stuff, and it’s also nice to have someone who sees the world in far more black-and-white terms than Oliver and Diggle, if only because it will undoubtedly create some tension further down the line.
Speaking of tension, it’s Awkward Date Night in Starling City! Oliver encourages Diggle to ask out Carly (his dead brother’s widow, because he’s just that classy), and Diggle says he’ll only do it if Oliver asks out McKenna. So they both go out on their dates, and they both end disastrously: Diggle brings up the touchy subject of his dead brother, and McKenna brings up the touchy subject of what happened on the island. Anyway, both women storm out (even though it was really McKenna’s fault – bringing up a prolonged traumatic experience isn’t exactly first date conversation material), but both couples patch things up before the episode’s close. There have been a lot of criticisms aimed at Arrow that it’s more of a soap opera than a superhero show, and this was one of the times I agreed with those criticisms: I realise that it was an attempt to give both Oliver and Diggle some semblance of ‘normality’ within the chaotic milieu of the show, but both relationships are so obviously going to end badly that it can’t help but feel like a contrived attempt to co-opt drama.
Meanwhile, another new relationship is beginning as Thea has her purse snatched by an ‘Abercrombie-looking’ young man in a red hoody. She manages to track him down by the name ‘Roy Harper’, and he soon finds himself arrested and being questioned by Detective Lance: he tells the story of his dead father, who left a lot of bookies unhappy, and his former Vertigo-addicted mother whose hospital bills are piling up, and that he only steals to help his family. Thea buys this, albeit in a typically bratty fashion, and drops the charges. However, she follows this up with a visit to Roy’s house, where she gives him her own sob story, which seems somewhat churlish, but it apparently works and Roy returns her purse, after which he tells her not to believe every sob story she hears.
The reason these interactions are important is because of Roy Harper’s significance: in the comics, he is also known as ‘Speedy’, ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Red Arrow’, the sidekick of Green Arrow. He’s already displayed criminal tendencies and a talent for parkour, so I’d say he’s already well on the way. Anyway, he’s confirmed as a recurring character and a love interest for Thea, so we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.
After all the island-based antics last week, this week’s flashback is brief but intense: Oliver heads back to the cave Yao Fei was living in to fetch some herbs to help Slade recover from his gunshot wound. While he’s there, a beaten-up young man appears and asks for his help, saying he was on a fishing trip and he got stranded and captured by the soldiers. Oliver struggles to believe him, and ultimately leaves him tied up in the cave because, in Oliver’s own words, “I don’t know you”. It’s brutal, but we’re seeing island-Oliver’s transformation happening already, and it’s a nice concise example of the ‘bad things’ he had to do on the island to survive.
The final strand of this week’s episode concerns Moira’s attempts to get out of the ‘Undertaking’: she contacts an old friend and asks for his help. He is reluctant, but ultimately gives Moira some information, and the episode closes with Moira contacting China White (you know, the Triad assassin who pops up very occasionally to cause some chaos and then get stopped by Oliver?) and asking her to kill Malcolm Merlyn, thus neatly setting up next week’s episode and simultaneously continuing Moira’s slide into desperation.
As you can see, there was a lot going on in “Dodger”, but very little of it made a particular impression on me: points are awarded for the introduction of Roy Harper, Felicity’s new role in the show and an almost chilling island flashback; points deducted for contrived emotional drama, underuse of the wonderful James Callis as Dodger and a general sense of overstuffing.