Once last night’s episode of “Arrow” was finished I had to go check the episode number for myself.  This is only episode 4?  My God, how did things unravel for Oliver so fast?  There were a few reveals that I didn’t see coming and suddenly we have a game changer.

“An Innocent Man” is easily one of the stronger if not the strongest script of the season.  The pacing was much better, the dialogue sharp, and the emotional moments just perfect.  I’m too used to episodic television dragging things out and two of the shocking twists are definitely coming way earlier than I had planned.  Detective Lance figuring out that Oliver was “The Hood” so fast threw me.  Sure, evidence could prove next week he’s wrong, but I like how Oliver isn’t up against clueless dummies here, which is often common in superhero stories involving hidden identity.  Plus it also reinforces that Oliver is in way over his head and will need help.   My concern from last week that Oliver and Lance were on friendly terms so soon was addressed and now I don’t have to worry about it.  They went back to hating each other like real men.  All is right with my world!

It all kicked off in continuation from last week, back at the lair with Oliver taking off the hood after healing John Diggle.  Oliver asks John to join the crusade.  Dig rightfully can’t get past the vigilante part.  But his rent-a-cop career after saving people in Afghanistan isn’t working for him either and Oliver’s admission that he took out the guy that killed his brother convinces him by episode end he needs to do more.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect too, because the events of the episode reveal Oliver needs someone to keep him in line.  If anyone is going to tame that savage within Oliver in weeks (or perhaps even years) to come, I sense Dig is going to play a significant role.

The other major player in Oliver’s out of control psyche is obviously Laurel.  The scenes between her and Oliver, and this week with The Hood, are perfect comic book love story fare.  When Oliver realizes that an innocent man is about to die, and it’s happening because of one of the people on his list, he instantly goes to Laurel for help.  Why not, he has the evidence, she happens to be a lawyer who believes in justice.  Right, the fact that he loves her has nothing to do with it (not!).   He went outside the law though to get this info, and that pushes the inner conflict button that we know will lead Laurel into becoming the Black Canary (more very clever foreshadowing).  She so wants to protect the innocent, but is continuing to lose faith that staying within the law will do that.

Naturally she becomes all dewy eyed over this green hooded man and their rooftop encounters, seeing what he’s doing as heroic and noble.  In what is one of the best moments of the series, there’s a long shot on Oliver’s face underneath the hood after Laurel commends him for his commitment to protecting the innocent.  His heart clearly dropped to his stomach, and he takes her words to be that he’s finally earned her love.  That brightens his mood quite a bit in scenes afterward.  It’s very sad that he fails to realize she’s fallen for the idea of hero and not him, although given the fact she keeps checking in on Oliver to see how he’s doing, she obviously does have a lot of affection for him.  Oliver still doesn’t realize he can’t love her and be someone else.  That ties into the flashback, when the Manchurian archer (I really don’t know what else to call him right now) tells him in order to survive, he has to forget her.  He wanted in prior episodes to forget her too, but he clearly can’t.  It’s the classic hero struggle.

Laurel in her starstruck state ends up confusing justice with the reality of the law.  A judge even tells her so, and dismisses her evidence as bunk.  Detective Lance has to ground her, reminding her that whoever this hooded guy is, he’s no hero.  He’s a killer.  His brand of justice disrespects the law.  She defies him at first but during the prison riot, she realizes how right he is.  Oliver breaks into the prison to save her and victim of the week Peter Declan, wearing a prison guard uniform and a ski mask.  A guy jumps on Laurel and chokes her, setting off that homicidal, crazy side of Oliver that’s madly in love with her.  He beats the guy senseless and would have killed him if cops in riot gear hadn’t busted in.  This makes Laurel think that The Hood is nothing but a psycho, but since she doesn’t know it’s Oliver, she doesn’t realize that perhaps his rage came from his love for her.  It’s interesting, since they’re seen kissing next week after Oliver is arrested for being The Hood.  No doubt this will continue to play out for a while.  Ah, well done conflicted vigilante love stories make me so happy!

Want to know what else makes me happy?  Learning that Oliver’s stepfather is a good guy!  These secondary plots, especially involving Walter, have gone nowhere so far and this week’s story was an awesome surprise.  He finds 2.6 million dollars missing, and decides that Moira’s quick “I invested it so don’t worry about it” statement just isn’t good enough.  Once the quirky IT lady gives him the info he needs, he finds where the money went.  A shadow corporation was created and they bought a warehouse.  He finds the warehouse, figures out the password (Moira really is a dingbat, isn’t she?) and I gasped really loud when he went inside.  The Queen’s Gambit!  The entire wreckage was there.  Why would she keep that boat?  Oh right, dingbat.  Walter is stunned and suddenly, we have a whole new storyline here.

The fact that there was some humor in “An Innocent Man” makes it standout as well.  It’s a nice tonal shift from what we’ve gotten from weeks prior.  They need to keep doing this.  The quirky IT lady from Queen Enterprises also has won me over and earned her extra time this week.  I actually loved her last week, when Oliver came to her with a bullet ridden laptop telling her he spilt a latte on it.  (“There are bullet holes in it.”  “My coffee shop is in a bad neighborhood.”)  She was cool enough to let it go.  This week, she is loads of fun when she rants at Walter, thinking his summoning was so he could fire her.  However, the real comedic treat is watching Oliver walk all over his new bodyguard.  The poor kid never had a chance.  I especially like when he was waiting for Oliver with Dig, and Dig had figured out he was long gone by now.  What seems like so little adds so much when most of the scenes involve brooding and darkness.

There are still some rough edges.  I did have trouble with Oliver easily forcing a confession out of the bad guy.  I know that was meant to setup the drama at the prison, but I didn’t like it.  Also, I very much enjoyed Oliver this week, but he’s been written inconsistently from weeks prior.  So now he’s back on friendly terms with Thea?  What a quick change of heart.  He also seems to be far less dour and more determined in his vision.  Finally, Laurel can kick ass, right?  So why in the world didn’t she unleash some of that mojo at the prison?  It would have been awesome!  But I’m overlooking those nitpicks because everything else that happened was pretty damned good.

I’ll tell you one thing, Tommy wasn’t in the episode last night and I didn’t even notice.  His uselessness as a character is more glaringly obvious when he isn’t there.  I do hope they have him pegged for an upcoming “shocking character death.”

While I enjoyed “An Innocent Man,” I don’t need shocking reveals every week to keep me interested.  This week’s episode sold me on a very well blended and entertaining script.  As long as they keep that going every week, Arrow will continue to get stronger as weeks progress and the season arc unfolds.

So what did you all think?  Do you think the reveals are coming on too quickly?  What about the interaction between Oliver/Arrow and Laurel?  Are the scenes working for you?  Do you like what you’re seeing so far?

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