Arrow "An Innocent Man" Review: Occupy Starling City

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Nov 01, 2012

Arrow S01E04: "An Innocent Man"

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the iconic version of Green Arrow was crafted by Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil. Oliver got the goatee and a new costume from Adams, and O’Neil transformed the billionaire playboy who fought crime as a hobby into a man who'd lost his fortune and decided to fight crime to help those who needed it most: the poor, the disenfranchised, and ethnic minorities.

Oliver Queen very much became the 1970s liberal, and he was contrasted with law-and-order beat cop and cosmic do-gooder Hal Jordan, a.k.a. Green Lantern. The two emerald-clad heroes set out on a road trip through America, helping loggers and Native Americans, stopping drug lords, facing the perils of overpopulation and pollution, and even dealing with a Charles Manson-type cult leader.

That version of Green Arrow laid the foundation for what would continue for years in the comics, with stories often centered on social issues instead of supervillains. And even when Oliver came back from the dead (as all characters do in comics), he was still a liberal iconoclast who would rail against Aquaman for not allowing elections in Atlantis. This notion of the character even carried over into the animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, where the character was recruited for the expanded Justice League because of his emphasis on the “little guys.”

I only bring all this up because Arrow started to inch into this particular aspect of the character in “An Innocent Man.” It’s worth knowing where the show is attempting to come from as it tries to reconcile the Oliver who's out to help people who cannot help themselves because the system has failed them with the Oliver who's very much a vigilante with demons weighing on him.

Oliver maintained throughout the episode that he wants to help people like Declan, the episode’s client/case of the week, a man framed for the murder of his wife/would-be-whistleblower. Oliver believes that people like Declan can’t get a fair shake because the “criminal elite” of Starling City “see nothing wrong with raising themselves up by stepping on other people's throats.” There’s an element of class warfare here (regardless of where we all land about Oliver shooting bodyguards or murdering people, though clearly he has murdered people if he’s being charged with it), and Oliver is well aware that those in power, including his own father, have made it so that only those are already rich survive. He’s looking to make sure that such things stop.

And we even got this through Diggle, as he lamented that his current job in private security affords him no opportunity to make a difference, and instead he “protects punks and spoiled one-percenters.” It’s what drove him to accept Oliver’s offer to help clean up Starling City (not as a sidekick, thank the TV gods), but perhaps as a new mentor, someone who can keep Oliver’s soul from being “scrape[d] off in little pieces.”

But there’s a wonderful friction between these two men’s world views, and how they see this war for Starling City, as they both refer to it. Oliver comes off as the spoiled brat playing soldier (an attitude Diggle does not appreciate), a man who doesn’t fully understand the philosophy he’s spouting. Oliver is very much the white knight Diggle called him out as last week, the well-meaning limousine liberal who just doesn’t get it.

In "An Innocent Man," Diggle provided a needed corrective on the issue. It was astounding last week that a show on a broadcast network, let alone on The CW, would mention gentrification, and now this week Diggle confronted the privilege that Oliver enjoys, puncturing in a small way the fantasy that much of TV operates in for the sake of narrative convenience. I don’t expect Arrow to give up the fantasy, but I’m so very intrigued to see how the series navigates this tension, and how much of a voice for this sort of thing Diggle becomes.

The episode also put Oliver’s lack of faith in the system up against Laurel and Quentin’s belief in it. Laurel, in her role as a lawyer in legal aid, is doing similar work to Oliver... but through the system, just as Quentin taught her. However, even Laurel is aware that the system is broken, and she admitted as much to Oliver when she said she “thinks there's too many people who only think about themselves” in Starling City.

It’s just that Oliver isn’t well-balanced enough to deal with such a notion. The rage he showed as he mercilessly beat the man who attacked Laurel in the prison shook Laurel out of being a potential ally and into someone who sees, as Diggles does, a man who's gotten lost trying to do right in a way that may have worked on the island, but doesn’t necessarily work in Starling City. She’s still too attached to the system to break out of it completely, and believes that it can still be fixed from the inside, through legal (or slightly extra-legal) means, not unlike Hal Jordan did in the comics I mentioned above.

Despite all this, I still found the core of this episode dull. The Declan case felt... blah, is really the best word I have for it. It was more of a vehicle for ideas than an actual plot. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Arrow isn’t on sure-enough footing yet to carry off that sort of an act.

But with that said, the series is showing no fear about burning through plot. Quentin had the bright idea to check the security tapes from last week’s shooting at the auction after Laurel mentioned Oliver using a ski mask in the prison, and there he found Oliver digging a costume out of a trash can. It was a gutsy move on Arrow's part to tell this story so early, and I’m interested to see how the show wiggles its way out of this particular narrative bind while still maintaining just enough believability.

Meanwhile, Walter discovered the remains of the Queen’s Gambit in a warehouse owned by Tempest, LLC, a fake company that Moira started up. This was done a little too easily, and mostly off-screen, limiting the enjoyment of that particular chase. But on the upside it meant more Felicity, and so we’ll call it even. Plus it means a big potential blow-up between Walter and Moira!

And speaking of Moira, we finally met the man in the limo played by John Barrowman (I imagine there was some squeeing at his appearance for many of you). I’m withholding comment on Barrowman’s character until he has a larger part to play (which I believe starts next week), but I do want to use that scene to bring this post full circle a bit.

With that scene, the show sort of backed off its desire to be seen as having Oliver not going after “the rich” but after “the list.” The list, this brief scene implied, just happens to be rich. It was a disingenuous thing to do given the narrative of the rest of the episode, and it left me just a tad worried about how dedicated Arrow is to fully exploring these ideas.


NOTES


– Hopefully you all found Thea much more tolerable this week. No doubt you’ll say, “Well, she wasn’t being a spoiled brat, but she was still useless! Get rid of her already!” Consider your objections noted and filed.

– Flashbacks were fine. I'm enjoying getting to see how Oliver goes from a spoiled layabout who struggles to kill a bird to a man who nearly beats people to death.

– Your DC Comics factoid of the episode: Blüdhaven is a sister city, of sorts, to Gotham City (where Batman hangs out), and actually has worse crime rate than Gotham. When Dick Grayson stopped being Robin and became Nightwing, it’s where he relocated.

– No Tommy this week. I can only assume that’s because Colin Donnell was trying to figure out how to survive being a traveling actor using only his guitar and a Microsoft Surface tablet.

– The producers haven’t revealed who Barrowman is playing, but I’m predicting/hoping he’s Maxwell Lord (minus the powers). Of course, the show could just play me for a sap and make him Deathstroke, but then what about the mask in the pilot, huh?! NOTE: If you’ve seen a spoiler about the character’s identity, PLEASE DO NOT SHARE IT IN THE COMMENTS, or even hint at it.

  • Comments (93)
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  • zauberfee Nov 05, 2012

    Its clear, what they will do to prove Oliver's alleged innocence. Thinking back to smallville where Clark Kent had to wear the Arrow costume to deceive luis that Oliver was not the Arrow, I think Diggle is going to do the same but the question will be why Oliver took this Costume from the thrash can. Waiting to see how they maneouver over this little fact

  • miasma Nov 05, 2012

    4 episode test for me failed, it's just so boring and I don't have empathy with any character.

  • TobiasSchneid Nov 04, 2012

    Hey barrowman wa sin doctor who so he is above every critism. The Creme de la Creme. The Rozals plazed there I just thought

    What is Jack harkness doin in Arrow_ he is an other Reason to staz at the show

  • estella87 Nov 04, 2012

    Ok, first of all: any ideas where Oliver really got the list? Second: Is the archer on the island real? I don't believe for a second it is a coincidence that the first word he said to Oliver was the last he heard from his father.

  • legersem Nov 03, 2012

    I think this recap hit the nail on the head with Arrow. The writers are doing an excellent job of crafting story and their characters' beliefs instead of simply having one action scene after another. Oliver, Laurel, and Diggle are all becoming very fleshed-out characters and it's only four episodes in.



    My only bone to pick with this episode was over the police finding Oliver. I definitely believed the fact that Oliver overlooked the fact that there would be cameras; as was said in the recap, he's used to island life, not big city vigilantism. But wouldn't the police have already scoured the security tapes for evidence? And seeing as Oliver was front and center in that one camera, I feel like they would have flagged it as suspicious anyway. Oh well, looking forward to next week. I'm also surprised they're tackling this plot early, but I'm excited to see what they do with it.

  • noelrk Nov 03, 2012

    Someone else mention the police tapes below, and given the timeline of events, it's only been a few days since the Deadshot assault, so it's likely someone looked at the tapes but wasn't looking specifically for that and was looking for more Deadshot-related footage.

    Just an idea.

  • katikool Nov 03, 2012

    So the password to Moira's super secret lair is her dead husband's first name? Were 'guest' and '12345' already taken?

    I think that Laurel has taken Thea's place as most needlessly annoying character. She keeps self-righteously telling people off! And why is everyone acting like Oliver spent the last 5 years at a Sandals resort? Even if it had been just a deserted island it still wouldn't have been a picnic. They all need to go rewatch Cast Away and gain a little perspective.

    And I fully agree, I really hope the show sticks to its social critiques and leaves the cartoonish supervillains for another franchise. And I can't believe they've already uncovered Arrow's identity and arrested him!! I was not expecting that until at least the season finale.

  • bluemystique Nov 03, 2012

    I agree with all of this!!!

    I laughed at the whole password thing too because it seemed too obvious.

    I agree about Laurel and her self righteousness etc. Which is why I maintain that the only characters that have really had my full attention and seem developed enough are Diggle and Oliver. The others need a little more dimension but that isn't a bad thing, it's just something that they have to work on over time and I'm willing to wait for that. SOOO agree about the resort thing. The way that has family and friends etc seem to disregard the fact that he's gone through a pretty horrible ordeal continues to boggle me. That is why I do like Diggle. I can tell already that Diggle will be that one character that sort of acts as voice for the audience, tempers out Oliver and things of that nature. Diggle is the one who acknowledges Oliver and what he's gone through without coddling him or making excuses for him either. I think him being a former solider is crucial to that understanding.

    Shows willing to make social criitques in a realistic and gritty way are unprecedented so definitely agree.

  • klotensen Nov 03, 2012

    I want to know more about the original, Chinese Green Arrow!

    The case of the week was more a meh than a blah to me. I was quite excited when Oliver had to break in the prison and how he lost it with the killer.And more Felicity Smoak PLEAAAASE!

  • CrazyAsian1080 Nov 03, 2012

    I really hope they crammed all these story arc/plot element/character development hopelas into this episode because they are planning some crazy 3, 4, 5 episode action packed non-stop fiasco. I mean they literally burned through 4 or 5 character building plot points and twists all in one episode. I can only assume they have more things in mind (like introducing Firefly... not the show the villain... and Huntress) and don't need the material.

  • bluemystique Nov 03, 2012

    agree.

  • DavidAbdelMal Nov 02, 2012

    Anyone noticed that the wrong hand was bandaged? Arrow shot at the left hand!

  • JeremyStratten Nov 02, 2012

    I like the fast moving story but I fear they might be moving too fast and they'll run out of plot way too soon. If the show continues to have decent ratings the CW will want to keep it for 8-10 years, but I can't imaging it being watchable for so long.

  • CrazyAsian1080 Nov 03, 2012

    You can always keep a show going even when it shouldn't. It just feels like they are skipping over the "who knows what when" comic book superhero development section of this show pretty quickly. I mean it took what 1-2 seasons before anyone realized Clark was super in Smallville and another season for Chloe to find out and even longer for pretty much anyone not in the JL/from the future/in alternate timeline.

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