Review: Arrow - 1.04 - "An Innocent Man"

One would think that an episode of The CW's "Arrow" that didn't rely on its strongest asset would mean a drop in quality for the series. Strangely enough, "An Innocent Man," while sparse on action is heavy on heart and emerges as my favourite episode the series to date. We pick up right where we left off last week: bodyguard Diggle is reeling from the effects of Deadshot's poisonous bullet, nursed back from the brink of death by Oliver Queen. The big Queen/Arrow reveal to his bodyguard is underplayed, to say the least. "Hey," Oliver says nonchalantly, as Diggle regains his footing and realizes what his employer has been up to after ditching him the past few weeks. I suppose the writers were going for deadpan humor here, but perhaps comedy isn't Stephen Amell's strong suit. Thankfully things pick up from there, with the actor relating his character's change-of-heart during to his stay on Purgatory and earnestly asking for Diggle's help in his quest to clean up Starling City. Alas, his bodyguard does not react well, calling his employer a common criminal and murderer before tendering his resignation. Thankfully, Queen doesn't give up that easily (or perhaps he dislikes his poor new bodyguard Rob that much), and we're treated to the most engaging subplots of the series so far. The bodyguard has quickly become my favorite character on the show, and this episode is a prime example of why, as Diggle's moral quandary was paced well, skillfully acted, and reached a resolution that paves the way for some interesting developments down the road. The subplot and the island flashback tackle Queen's seemingly aimless moral compass, where Diggle and Detective Lance's labeling of Arrow as a murderer is related to Queen's first experience of taking a life. We cut back to the early days of Purgatory and Oliver's cave roommate/future sensei bringing him a little dinner, albeit still with its feathers. The seemingly minor act of killing for survival appears to be the root behind Oliver's current moral gray area -- what some people see as murder, Queen sees as killing for survival. Five years of isolation and fighting has perhaps loosened the definition of 'survival,' but the way of thinking remains. Diggle's positioning as not only a crime-fighting aide but also Queen's future moral compass is nicely set up and is sure to play a big role in the next episode or two if this week's cliffhanger is any indication. Our hooded hero also crosses paths for the first time with Laurel Lance, enlisting her help in exposing the truth behind the set up of accused murderer/death row inmate Peter Declan. While everyone else has bought into Declan being a monster, Oliver senses a frame-up after tying Declan's wife to Jason Brodeur, one of the many names in his little brown book of bad guys. While Arrow handles Brodeur in the shadows, Laurel flexes her lawyer muscles to push for a stay of execution, nicely underscoring the "you can't do this alone" theme of the series so far. On a side note, instead of borrowing Christian Bale's Bat-growl to maintain his secret identity, Oliver thankfully uses an electronic voice modulator when confronting the future Black Canary. He probably should've employed a face mask of some kind as well, but perhaps I'm nitpicking. In another subplot, the writers do a nice job unraveling Moira Queen's shady dealings which up until now have really only been hinted at. At Queen Consolidated, Walter is feeling the heat from a missing chunk of money. Moira initially feigns ignorance at the thought of someone embezzling funds before claiming it was money lost in a start-up venture, but her expression suggests she knows more than she's letting on. Walter enlists tech expert Felicity Smoak, who aided Oliver last week, to poke around into the dubious transaction, which she tracks to a shell company named 'Tempest.' The plot twist that results suggests that there's far more to Moira's character than loving wife and protective mother, and Walter is just as in the dark as the rest of us. Again, there is a distinct lack of action this week, but the show really doesn't suffer as a result. Cheesy acting notwithstanding, the show's dramatic subplots grew more intriguing with this episode, as the writers touch on the relationship undercurrents of Thea and Ollie, Laurel and her detective father, and most entertainingly, Diggle. I had previously noted that a lack of action would be a huge detriment to the series, as this was the one thing that set it apart from any other suspense serial on the airwaves these days. However, this week suggests that there's far more to "Arrow" than meets the eye.

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