Last episode’s “An Innocent Man” was a heavy-handed musing on the morality of vigilante justice. Diggle was initially vehemently opposed to Oliver’s actions, denouncing him as a criminal and murderer. However when Oliver revealed that he defeated the assassin that killed Diggle’s brother, an act accomplished outside of the law, Diggle reconsidered the offer to team up with the hooded archer as an opportunity to do good and that the end justifies the means.
Continue reading for full spoilers on Arrow Season 1 Episode 5 “Damaged”:
As the season progresses, one of the questions many viewers may ponder is why no one in Starling City has made the connection that the timing of Oliver’s return coincided with the emergence of the hooded vigilante. Rather than leave this loose end hanging, the writers have taken preemptive measures to address this very issue in “Damaged”.
In a surprising turn of events, it was Oliver’s intention to be caught on security camera footage taking the archer’s hood out of a garbage can. Oliver’s orchestrated arrest was the first step in his elaborate plan to refute claims he could be the vigilante. Attaining Laurel as his attorney, wearing the ankle bracelet, throwing the house party and even taking the lie detector test were all deceptive sleight of hand ploys.
Oliver was able to pass the polygraph test by admitting to a version of the truth. Oliver didn’t steal millions of dollars from Adam Hunt, he deposited the money in the victim’s bank accounts. When asked if he was the hooded man in the picture, he thought of his mentor Yao Fei instead of himself. Oliver did confess he killed someone but only to Sara’s death aboard the ill-fated yacht.
As many viewers surmised at the end of the last episode, Diggle would don the green hood to prove Oliver could not be the vigilante. And he looked pretty bad-ass in the costume! What makes Diggle a great sidekick is how his humanity is like an anchor that keeps Oliver from drifting into darkness. Diggle’s function as a trusted confidante allows the viewer access to Oliver’s inner most thoughts, which would be incredibly awkward if it were spoken in the voice over narrations. Further, Diggle is the one person that can see through Oliver’s manipulation and call his partner out on his lies.
Oliver is highly adept at playing different versions of his persona and telling people what they want to hear. He can be the carefree party-goer, his old former self. He can also embrace his tortured soul; the broken man that survived life on “Purgatory”. What Oliver didn’t account for in his plan is how hard it is to deceive the closest people in his life. Thea is unable to reconcile the way Oliver has been acting since his return. The arrowhead gift for Thea was an oversight as was his answer to the question if he ever been to Iron Heights prison. There are aspects of truth in his confession to Laurel about his time on the island that explain his inner demons which he is coming to terms with. The final conversation between Diggle and Oliver was important because even if the viewer can accept Oliver as a murderer of criminals, it’s harder to accept our anti-hero as being deceitful to those that care for him. Oliver corrects Diggle’s assumptions: his lies have in-fact weighed on his conscience and he has considered the ramifications.
Although the island flashbacks haven’t been as engaging the last couple of episodes, they do serve multiple functions: as an origin story, an extension of the themes explored and counterpoint to present day Oliver. This episode’s flashback is the strongest in recent memory. We witness Oliver’s first arrow shot; it’s interesting to note that’s he’s not a naturally gifted archer. What cannot be trained is Oliver’s will and inner fortitude to conceal the location of Yao Fei’s lair despite being tortured by Deathstroke. The showdown between Deathstroke and Yao Fei is easily the best choreographed fight on the show to date. As they say in show business, always leave the audience wanting more.
Overall, this was a strong episode that revolved around deception, lies and the value of truth. What do you think of Laurel’s on/off relationship with Ollie? Are you interested in why Moira salvaged the remains of the Queen’s Gambit? Do you know what is in the pouch that Yao Fei gave to Oliver? What are your thoughts on Deathstroke? Are you enjoying the show’s formula and pacing so far?