Arrow has steadily gotten better about crafting episodes that pit Oliver's two lives against each other, and "Home Invasion" was another entry in that set. Most of the time these conflicts have served to illustrate the burden Oliver experiences in having dual identities—shooting criminals with arrows gets in the way of family time or hanging out with a girlfriend—and how it chips away at his soul, as Diggle mentioned that it would so early in the series' run. Revealing his identity to Tommy ended up adding another layer to this dynamic, but that strain has largely been part of how Oliver the man functions and not how Oliver the vigilante operates.
Where "Home Invasion" managed to differentiate itself a bit was in the way the episode's two primary plots managed to not only intersect with one another, but to also have ramifications in both areas of Oliver's life. Admittedly, I care about some of these ramifications more than others, but at this point in the season's run, that really shouldn't surprise anyone.
Since getting on board with Oliver's mission, Diggle has been pushing Oliver to look beyond the list and to try to do better by Starling City—to show Oliver that dealing with criminals like bank robbers or drug dealers can do just as much as, if not more than, scaring the city's elite out of the corrupted ways. In the process, the two have come to not only respect and trust one another, but also to like one another. So when Oliver decided to focus on taking down Deadshot and to give Diggle some much-needed closure, it was as much as a gesture of protecting Starling City as it was Oliver showing how much Diggle means to him.
It was an interesting shift, then, that Oliver the man ended up undoing Oliver the vigilante as opposed to the other way around for once. Yes, we ended up with yet another "Laurel's in danger!" plot (I appreciated the show hanging a small lampshade on this as Quentin suggested it was time for Laurel to get a new apartment, but if you keep doing it, show, the lampshade only means so much), but it forced Oliver to reconsider his priorities, and he decided that his top priority was not the man who'd been supporting him, saving his life, and carefully guiding him for a number of months.
It's possible to see Oliver's choice of Laurel over Diggle as a result of Diggle's influence, as if Diggle's managed to protect enough of Oliver's soul that Oliver would make such an emotionally driven choice. Maybe that's what it was, but Oliver getting involved in Diggle's vendetta against Deadshot was an emotional gesture as well. When you factor in Diggle's experiences as a soldier, as being part of a something larger than himself and having to implicitly trust those with whom he fights alongside, the betrayal was doubly damning.
I don't doubt that Diggle will eventually return to the Arrow Cave*, and so I'm intrigued to see not only what will bring him back (probably the Undertaking and Diggle's sense of duty), but how the events of this episode will affect the dynamic between Oliver and Diggle when he does. Considering that the relationship between these two is the show's most developed and interesting one, it deserves to be treated with its due respect.
*Provided the writers don't kill Diggle off within the next three episode. I swear to the TV Gods that if that happens, I will break things.
As for the events of this episode that I'm not really invested in, there was more with the Oliver-Laurel-Tommy triangle. I struggle with this triangle, since I've never really been able to completely buy into the idea that Oliver still loves Laurel. He's hidden it very well due to a desire to protect her (I guess), but he's also never really pined over her, either. The relationship with McKenna, half-baked though it was, wasn't undone or negatively influenced by a love for Laurel, nor did it ever really seem like a "consolation prize" sort of situation. However, when you consider that Oliver wants to protect Laurel by never telling her about his other life, but that he didn't seem to have this concern with McKenna, he looks like a real jerk.
The episode attempted to sell the idea hard, though, with the island flashbacks showing Oliver as dedicated to Laurel despite smooching Shado, Moira wistfully reminiscing while she and Laurel flipped through old photos, and that ill-advised, lingering hug between them in the hallway as Tommy lurked nearby. It didn't alter my opinion at all, but the show is dedicated to playing this out, so I'll just grit my teeth and bear it.
It did result in Tommy breaking things off with Laurel, which was likely the final step in Tommy's brief-ish journey toward taking his place at Malcolm's side. Like Oliver in some ways, he's now isolated from those he cares about, and will likely end up coping under the wing of his father and his father's agenda. I will say that this breaking down of Tommy has worked for me a bit more than I thought it would, considering that Laurel's attention toward and belief in the Hood dates back several episodes, as opposed to just happening now, and given that the Hood and Oliver are one and the same, his assertion that if Laurel knew, she'd pick Oliver over Tommy does ring true.
We have three episodes left in the season to see how it all plays out, though, so I reserve the right to change my opinion.
– J. August Richards was decidedly good here as Mr. Blank. I haven't seen him in very much beyond Angel, so this was a neat, creepy new side to him. However, even he couldn't make that clunky line about feeling pain all the way into the wood paneling of Queen Mansion feel anything but really comic book-y.
– In the lightest plot of the episode, Roy became convinced that he and the Hood are "connected" and began his search to contact the Hood by stealing a police radio. The only interesting tidbit to come out of all of this was that we learned that Oliver's killed 26 people. Which is lower than I thought it would be, honestly.
– "I dye actually. ...I keep your secret!"
– "Well if it isn't the Wonder Twins." I'm liking Quentin a lot more since Dinah showed up and then left.
– Slade likes to watch. I think, deep down, we all suspected as much.
– I'm guessing that Moira took two Ambiens, and that's why she didn't emerge from her room while Blank shot up the mansion.
– Curse Yao Fei's second sudden but inevitable betrayal that will still likely result in putting the kibosh on Fyers' evil machinations, as the Chinese archer has likely devised some cunning plan that requires Oliver, Shado, and Slade at the camp.
What'd you think of "Home Invasion"?