After last week’s action extravaganza, Arrow settled back into more familiar rhythms with "Dodger," meaning there was a villain-of-the-week, a small variety of non-vigilante subplots, an island flashback, and a little bit on the Undertaking. So, you know, a really busy episode.
None of this felt super rushed or crowded—though I likely could’ve done without the island flashback, if only to give the episode just a little space to breathe—because it’s clear that this hour was about setting up a lot of other stuff for the show’s back stretch and establishing some new dynamics.
First and foremost was Felicity joining Team Arrow. Certainly, her being in-the-know about Olivier’s vigilante activities streamlines the narrative a bit; the procedural aspects of hunting down Dodger felt smoother than they have in the past. Felicity was right there to talk to Oliver and Diggle about the case, no need to head over to Queen Consolidated and make up some lame excuse. If anything, her being involved freed up the episode to include those date scenes.
But since Felicity is only on the team “provisionally” and has a bit more of conscience than Oliver or Diggle do about Oliver’s mission, "Dodger" had to rehash the whole “Why don’t you target people who aren’t on the list, too?” conversation, kind of like what it did when Diggle tried to go after some bank robbers earlier in the season. Both Diggle and Felicity are pushing Oliver to expand his scope and do more good for Starling City, and it seems that Oliver does little cases like this to make sure they both stay on board... lest he have to kill them. Seriously, Oliver needs to readjust his loyalty expectations just a tad, because that’s a little much.
At the same time, these appeals and smaller cases do help nudge Oliver past the vigilante persona and toward that of a hero—but seeing the effects of these cases on Oliver’s behavior is what’s missing from the group dynamic. Even small acknowledgments of it would help further the arc the show obviously sees Oliver as having, but I’m just not seeing it yet. Maybe I’m missing something?
At least Felicity’s presence also allows conversations to shift in new ways, and thank goodness for that. Previously, the process of planning out how to go after the Dodger would’ve been sort of mechanical, so her nudging Diggle about asking out Carly, and who in turn needled Oliver about McKenna, opened up new interactions for each character. It gave Diggle and Oliver something different do and new ways to respond to each other. It also finally gave Diggle a bit of a personal world, which is something I’ve been wanting for that character for a while now.
Of course the dates were disasters, between Diggle bringing up Andy, a major faux pas when you’re on a date with your former sister-in-law, and Oliver shutting down when McKenna questioned him about his time on the island. I’m not crazy about how the show positioned Oliver in that case, as if his reaction to her questions was wrong or a reason to apologize. The guy’s in pain and denying his trauma by going around and shooting arrows in people. He clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. Sure, he was rude-ish, but I think most anyone in his position would be a little prickly about it. But Oliver will deal with it now since McKenna’s been drafted to work on the vigilante case with Quentin, giving him an inside track on how that investigation goes.
What I may’ve liked best about the episode, however, was Thea hunting down Roy Harper (played by Teen Wolf’s Colton Haynes) for pilfering her purse. It wasn’t so much that I cared whether or not Thea got her purse back, because I didn’t, but through the introduction of Roy, we finally got into the Glades a bit. The Glades have been dancing through stories for a while, including Oliver’s club, Laurel’s work at CNRI, and the Count’s drug ring, and Roy finally gives that space a face, albeit one that is white, chiseled, and CW-handsome. But at least we also got to walk through it a bit as well. Starling City as a physical place has never felt particularly solid, but considering the importance of the Glades, that needs to change.
And since the Glades seem central to the Undertaking, that may happen. Moira reached out to fellow member of that cabal (Chin Han from The Dark Knight), one who was previously fairly unsure about the whole endeavor. They mentioned the Undertaking’s connections to the Glades, and that things have gone awry, and while I have no theories about what the Undertaking has planned for the Glades, I have to imagine that the death of Mrs. Merlyn was the catalyst for either its creation or it going off the rails. In any case, after having her current husband kidnapped, blowing up her first husband, and coming face-to-face with an arrow as a result of all of this, Moira has contracted China White and the Triad to kill Malcolm. Which should be exciting.
I’ve talked about how the Green Arrow character became a liberal iconoclast in the 1970s, and the Glades, for me, represent the opportunity for Arrow to really start dealing with class. It’s not only a case of class-crossed lovers for Thea and Roy—there's no doubt as to where that’s heading—but now, with the information that the Undertaking is connected to the Glades, I want the show to dramatize how a city’s elite think they can deal with the poorer sections of the city, whether through improving or demolishing them. And I want very much for Oliver to see this as an opportunity to become the hero of the people who need him the most. He may not be Robin Hood, but you don’t have to be Robin Hood to help those that the system is designed to keep in their place.
– Despite my feeling that the island flashback could’ve been saved for a less busy episode, I did like seeing the beginning of distrustful and survivalist Oliver.
– Dodger’s not a character I’m familiar with from the comics, and back issues featuring him weren’t readily available for digital download, so I have no firsthand information for you. According to a DC Comics wiki, he was a British thief in the comics, but he was more focused on stealing technology, not jewels. I enjoyed James Callis in the episode, and the character was tailored to his strengths: calm, ruthless, and a little slimey.
– Roy Harper, however, is a major character in the Green Arrow mythology; he was Green Arrow’s first sidekick dating all the way back to the 1940s. He became a heroin addict in the early 1970s (a major deal then), eventually recovered, and struck out on his own as either Red Arrow or Arsenal, depending on the time period in the character’s life. On Arrow, he actually reminds me a bit of Jason Todd, the second Robin in the Batman comics. Though less sociopathic. Hopefully.
– DC Comics Fun Facts: That street names Felicity mentioned—Adams and O’Neal—were named for Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil, the team behind the aforementioned 1970s update of Green Arrow. Cass Derenick, the fence that Dodger shot, was named for Tom Derenick, an artist for various DC titles.
– The show missed a prime opportunity to have Oliver and Diggle embark on a hilariously awful double date with Carly and McKenna. I know they already did that joke once with Oliver and Helena and Laurel and Tommy, but this would have been a whole different set of dynamics to mine for hijinks.
– “It was like old times. Except the PG version.”
– “And the Dodger absconds with your family jewels?”
– “You know, you showed some real sack coming down here.”