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Roughly a week has passed since Oliver Queen's homecoming and Arrow's activities have the rich and powerful of Starling City scared, particularly Moira Queen. Ollie continues to give everyone around him a hard time, being distant from his friends, angry at his mother and stepfather's attempts to bring him into their company and squabbling with his sister about her new party-girl persona and drug use. Why? Because he's just now starting to realize how much he has changed and how much they have changed too. A talk with Laurel Lance, who pursues in the courtroom the same criminal that Ollie stalks by night as Arrow, causes Ollie to realize that the Oliver Queen his family want him to be is not someone a person he can live with being, especially if he is to honor his promise to his father and continue his work as Arrow.
Green Arrow: Year One (the character of China White first appeared here, though she was a druglord there rather than the Triad assassin depicted here), Hamlet (Ollie's conflict with stepfather and mother, Ollie’s soliloquies about honoring his father)
Cool though it is, how is the digital recorder arrow supposed to help Laurel’s case or force the DA’s office to go after Martin Somers? Surely a recording made by a wanted vigilante is inadmissible as evidence unless the rules of evidence in this universe are drastically different from our own?
Stephen Arnell continues to impress, playing several different versions of Oliver Queen across two points in time and two personas. There's the jackass playboy Ollie he plays up in public, the real Ollie he starts to reveal to Laurel in one beautifully romantic scene, the brutal agent of justice he becomes as Arrow and the slowly becoming less of a jerk Ollie from the five-years-ago flashbacks. It's an amazing achievement for an actor to manage that kind of balancing act but Arnell does it with style.
Despite the legal scenes generally being the weakest sections of the show so far (though that may just be my own burnout regarding legal thrillers talking) Katie Cassidy does a fine job portraying Laurel as a tough woman who won't back down to anyone. The conflict between Laurel and her dad could have become annoying quickly but Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne come off as a real father and daughter - two people who clearly love one another yet still exasperate the hell out of the other.
Willa Holland hasn't gotten much screen time as Thea Queen but she has dominated what few scenes she's had. The scenes where Ollie tries to confront her about her drug use only for her to throw his emotional distance back at him are powerful moments of drama amid all the action.
Another actor who makes the most of what limited screen time they get is David Ramsey as John Diggle. Despite being made a fool of by Oliver several times, Diggle still maintains a quiet, soldierly dignity. He does not ever lose his cool or raise his voice except in the middle of a combat situation and you get the feeling, even as he's being dressed down by Moira Queen for failing to keep up with her son, that he is a man who feels no need to justify himself to anyone.
The opening fight scene is brief but effective. Stephen Arnell seems to be using a proper archer's stance even when doing a "not looking" shot and the thugs do a credible job of trying to mob Arrow all at once rather than fighting him one at a time.
The flashback scene with a younger Ollie trying to protect his dad's body is disturbing and horrific, even though we don't see what was left of Robert Queen's head after he shot himself. Despite not seeing Ollie vomit or just how badly the birds tore away at the corpse, the scene is still graphic enough I'm surprised it got the censor's OK to air during the family hour.
Laurel's case in this episode involves the murder of a man named Victor Nocenti. This is likely a tribute to Ann Nocenti - the current writer of the monthly Green Arrow comic.
Some of the other names in Robert Queen’s journal might be familiar to fans of the Judd Winick run of Green Arrow, as they correspond to the real names of several villains. Among them are Danny “Brick” Brickwell, Hannibal “Everyman” Bates and Albert Davis – a millionaire who dabbed in demonology.
Many of the scenes from this episode were replicated in the first issue of the Arrow web comic.
Tommy: (after Ollie gives both him and Diggle the slip) This happens to you a lot, doesn't it?
Ollie: Sorry to give you so much grief.
Diggle: I served three tours in Afghanistan, Mr. Queen. You don't even come close to my definition of grief.
Ollie: Do you think this is what Dad would want for you?
Thea: Dead people don't want anything. It's one of the benefits of being dead.
Ollie: I was dead. And I wanted a lot.
Thea: Except for your family. You've been home a week and all you do is avoid Mom, ignore Walter and judge me.
Walter: Everyone here understands that this transition is really difficult for you.
Ollie: Thank you, Walter. Which part, though? Everyone fantasizing that I got my MBA while I was on the island? Or the fact that my father's CFO now sleeps down the hall from me?!
Ollie: I’m a jerk. Before the island, I was a jerk. And now I’m just a… I’m a damaged jerk.
Dinah: What’s in the bag?
Ollie: I thought about many things on the island but there was one thing that I thought about every day. I even dreamed about it. And I promised myself that if I ever got the chance to do it again, I’d do it with you. (holds up a carton) Eat ice cream.
Ollie: (seeing his alter ego on TV) This guy gets more air-time than the Kardashians!.
China White: Then we kill the sluts.
The Fridge Factor
Though little is said about China White's background here, she appears to have been reduced in station. Originally an independent drug lord in Green Arrow: Year One, the China White we see here is referenced as being a Triad assassin/smuggler. She is awesome at what she does but it is somewhat disheartening that she's apparently working for someone instead of working on her own.
Continuity: Ollie has apparently been in court four times on charges of driving under the influence, assault (attacked paparazzi), car theft (stole a taxi) and peeing on a cop. Ollie appears to be mildly claustrophobic or afraid of crowds, having flashbacks of his near death at sea as he is surrounded by reporters on the way to his court date to be declared legally alive. Laurel refers to what Ollie said in Pilot about how she should stay away from him and calls it "good advice". Ollie slips past Diggle for a third time, driving off alone as Diggle is trying to hold back the reporters after Ollie's hearing. Oliver is so skilled an archer he can lightly cut a man's cheek with a razor-tipped arrowhead. Ollie is also a skilled knife-thrower. Ollie can speak Chinese and makes use of a digital recorder built into a miniature arrow. In the past, Ollie was shot through the shoulder with an arrow shortly after burying his father. The Queen’s Gambit was sabotaged and Moira Queen was involved somehow. Robert Queen carried a blank journal with an odd-symbol on the cover – a symbol that is also associated with whoever Moira reports to.
Ollie seems to have gone after a few other corrupt businessmen during the week between Pilot and this episode, judging by the news coverage. Perhaps the corrupt official in the second issue of The Arrow web comic was one of them?
The Bottom Line
For all the fuss that was made about Kelly Hu playing China White, there's surprisingly little of her in this episode. That's okay, though, given that the best parts of this episode don't involve her character or subplot. The real treat here continues to be the main cast, with Arnell playing four different versions of Oliver Queen with equal ease. Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne take a father/daughter squabble that could have been cliched and made it seem realistic. Yet David Ramsey and Willa Holland steal nearly every scene they are in. This isn't the kind of acting you're supposed to get in a superhero show and thank goodness for that!