Arrow: 120 “Home Invasion” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a couple of weeks off the air, Arrow returns with a slightly ramshackle episode that for some reason I really enjoyed, even with its many visible flaws and gaping plot holes. Maybe I’ve grown attached to the characters, or the general over-the-top tone of the show itself, but this week I was perfectly willing to forgive Arrow for its problems.
“Home Invasion” was another episode where a lot happens in a short space of time: the two major plots of the episode concern a hitman trying to kill a small child and Diggle looking for revenge against Deadshot respectively, with a sprinkling of Roy-and-Thea relationship development and a splash of island-based shenanigans thrown in for good measure. Altogether, it’s probably too much for a 45-minute episode, but it seemed to hang together considerably better than some of the overstuffed episodes in the season thus far.
So, to the first plot: early in the episode we meet a family Laurel is representing in a case against one Edward Rasmus, a nasty piece of work who cheated the family out of their life savings. Naturally, in a family unit made up of mum, dad and cute little kid, disaster is just around the corner and the parents are killed by an odd-mannered hitman played by J. August Richards (best known as Charles Gunn in the Joss Whedon show Angel). The kid escapes and somehow winds up in Laurel’s custody. After Tommy calms the kid down by telling him about how he dealt with the loss of his mother, the hitman shows up at Laurel’s apartment and tries to kill the kid in a very inefficient manner, before being scared off by a combination of a shotgun-wielding Laurel (although why you would keep a shotgun with only one shell in it, I don’t know) and a certain hooded vigilante crashing through the living room window.
Tommy then suggests that they go and stay with the Queens, as the family has enough security that they will definitely be safe: what he actually means is that they’ll be safe with Oliver the crazy vigilante in the house, but that remains unspoken. While at Queen Manor (as I assume the big house is called), Tommy spots Laurel and Oliver hugging, and combined with the fact that they previously had lunch plans Laurel didn’t tell Tommy about, he’s understandably pretty miffed.
Meanwhile, Diggle has used his A.R.G.U.S. contacts to set up a sting operation to catch Deadshot in the act, with Oliver’s help of course. However, as Oliver is supposed to be heading over to help Diggle, he gets a call saying that Edward Rasmus is fleeing the country, and goes to stop him instead, leaving Diggle to try and take on Deadshot alone. It doesn’t end well, and Diggle nearly gets his head caved in, which in turn causes Diggle to leave Oliver, as he is upset that his friend would choose Laurel over him (sure, because all of the evidence would suggest otherwise. Use your head, Diggle).
Once he has given himself up, Edward Rasmus is visited by his ‘lawyer’, the hitman, who proceeds to kill him with a medically implausible pressure-point handshake which causes an air bubble to travel through his veins and into his heart. He then shows up at Queen Manor to cause a ruckus, killing an innocent delivery boy along with the entire ineffectual security staff. Oliver takes him on sans-costume in a pretty decent fight, complete with falling off balconies, rolling down stairs and crashing through coffee tables, before stabbing him in the heart with a fire poker and claiming it was one of the dead security guards when the police show up.
One of my biggest problems with the episode was the characterisation of the hitman (who, according to the end credits, is called ‘Mr Blank’): the writers clearly couldn’t decide whether they wanted an efficient, businesslike contract killer or a raving loony, and he ended up an awkward mash-up of the two sensibilities. He claimed he was just taking care of business, but as he monologued his way into each hit, it came across as though he was enjoying the whole thing a little bit too much for him to really be that businesslike. One or the other would have made for an interesting, complex character; the combination just took the sting out of this particular villain.
While Diggle leaving Oliver was the most devastating break-up of the episode, a secondary one showed up as well as Tommy left Laurel, coldly excusing himself by saying that he thought he wanted Laurel, but it turned out he didn’t: however the real reason is that he knows that if Laurel knew everything about Oliver, she would choose him. And so the most irritating pairing on Arrow, if not on TV in general, comes to an end.
Meanwhile, on the island Shado attempts to teach Oliver how to use a bow so they can infiltrate Fyers’ camp: her lessons don’t sink in too well, and then Oliver cuts it off when they finally get all the subtext and lingering glances out of the way and actually kiss, telling her that he is still in love with Laurel (who I’m realising causes more problems on this show than she solves). Slade, meanwhile, is apparently hanging around in full combat dress just to make snarky comments at the pair, and when they all head back to camp they are ambushed by Yao Fei and a team of Fyers’ goons, because Yao Fei hates anyone knowing which side he’s on.
Finally, Thea decides to help Roy with his hunt for the vigilante, because suddenly they somehow have the most functional relationship in the entire city.
While enjoyable enough for me to overlook the many, many failings of the episode, “Home Invasion” still wasn’t quite good enough to excite me for what remains of the season. However, with just three episodes left, here’s hoping the Arrow team can pull together and give us the finale the show deserves!