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”I’m not Robin Hood.” — Oliver Queen
If you’ve sat through enough episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Bones, or watched the 2011 comedy 30 Minutes or Less, you’re well-acquainted with the premise of “Dodger”: A criminal straps explosives to innocents and forces them to do his bidding. While not exactly a new idea, on Arrow it has the benefit of being executed by Battlestar Galactica alum James Callis, who plays an international jewel thief known as Dodger.
But just as with last week, the nominal main storyline doesn’t really matter here. Oh, sure, the daring theft of the Sherwood ruby (get it, Sherwood?) sends Team Arrow and the police crisscrossing Starling City in search of Dodger, but that pursuit isn’t particularly compelling and ends the way most do on the superhero series. Instead, the interesting developments occur around the edges as the writers move the pieces into position for the final leg of the show’s first season.
That begins with Moira Queen calling upon longtime family friend, and fellow participant in the mysterious “Undertaking,” Frank Chen for help in making a break from the shadowy cabal that won’t result in the death of her husband Walter. “We started this to fix the Glades, to cure the city, not lay waste to it,” she implores. Frank agrees to assist Moira, but as we’ll see, his solution could trigger a war in Starling City that will make that business with the Bertinelli crime family look like amateur hour.
Felicity Smoak, who was welcomed into Oliver’s inner circle in the previous episode (just in time to help save his life), plays a prominent role in “Dodger,” even if at times it feels as if her character takes one step forward and two steps back. One moment she’s locking down the secret lair to prevent The Hood from going after one of the names on his list – sure, Ken Williams orchestrated a pyramid scheme, but he has a child! – and the next she’s blushing over an unintentional double entendre about Ollie’s “family jewels.” Felicity shifts from confident tech ally, coming up with an information-gathering solution that doesn’t require threats of violence, to damsel in distress after she’s fitted with one of Dodger’s exploding collars (to her credit, though, she keeps her cool, and helps in the apprehension of the thief). Perhaps it’s merely a matter of Arrow’s writers getting a handle on the character as she moves from minor supporting character, and deus ex machina, to a more prominent role.
However, in “Dodger” Felicity is more than just tech guru, moral compass and hostage. She’s also a needling Cupid, goading Diggle into asking out his brother’s widow Carly, and Ollie to make a move on Detective McKenna Hall. This being a CW drama, those first dates go disastrously, with Diggle spoiling the mood with talk of his dead brother and Ollie shutting down McKenna’s questions about his time on the island, but as you would expect, the episode ends with our heroes asking for another chance.
Speaking of the island (which Oliver clearly doesn’t want to do, so don’t even ask), our visit to Lian Yu is far briefer than in “The Odyssey,” with Slade Wilson fevered and dying from an infected gunshot wound, leaving Ollie to make his way back to Yao Fei’s cave to retrieve miraculous “super-herbs.” There, he’s confronted with a beaten and bound young man who claims, much like Oliver, to be the only survivor of a shipwreck. He begs to be freed before the mercenaries who left him there return, but a skeptical Ollie ultimately refuses, saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t. … Because I don’t know you.” (I’m not sure I understand the scene, beyond the whole “Sometimes we have to make tough choices” moral. If the mercenaries wanted to lay a trap for Ollie, couldn’t they have just watched the entrance to the cave and pounced once he entered?)
Thea Queen is faced with a moral decision, and a potential liar, of her own after her vintage purse is stolen by a red hoodie-wearing parkour practitioner who’s careless enough to leave behind a distinctive wallet chain. As a tenacious pursuit of lawbreakers apparently runs in the family, Thea tirelessly tracks down the accessory to a leather-goods store, which provides her with the name of the customer: Roy Harper, a name familiar to DC Comics readers as the identity of Speedy, the longtime sidekick of Green Arrow who eventually became Arsenal.
Thea’s next call is to Laurel, who has her father haul in the young petty criminal from the Glades. (Come on, detective, shouldn’t you be arresting murderers? Of course, Quentin does recruit McKenna to help him track down The Hood, which will undoubtedly complicate her budding relationship with Ollie.) Roy feeds Detective Lance a story about his Vertigo-addicted mother who requires more help than their cash-strapped family can afford. Watching from behind one-way glass, Thea feels sorry for the boy, and asks that the charges be dropped.
She later braves Roy’s neighborhood after dark to ask for her purse back. He not only returns the bag, but he gives her two pieces of advice: Stay of the Glades, and don’t fall for every sob story a guy like him tells the police. Ah, love is in the air.
While her daughter makes eyes at a new bad boy, Moira has grave matters on her mind – namely, the murder of Malcolm Merlyn (say that five times fast). It turns out that Frank Chen’s helping hand reached out to China White, last seen in “Vendetta” leading an assault by the Triad on Frank Bertinelli’s mansion. Clearly, this arrangement is destined to end about as well as Moira’s other shady dealings.
THIS EPISODE’S DC COMICS CONNECTIONS
The Dodger: A British thief who specializes in information and advanced technology, not rare jewels of a certain era, was introduced in DC Comics’ Green Arrow and Black Canary #7 (June 2008).
Roy Harper: His DC Comics namesake was covered in the recap, but it’s worth noting the red hoodie is a nice touch. Throughout his costumed identities – Speedy, Red Arrow, Arsenal – Roy Harper largely wore red.