We’re back with more Arrow episodes! Last time we got to meet Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke, someone who is destined to become one of Oliver’s best friends, but also one of his worst enemies. Not to be outdone, this batch of episodes introduces Green Arrow’s long time sidekick, Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow, someone who will almost appear in every season of the show. It’s a big deal for me because he’s one of my favorite underrated characters, and while he’s straight, his actor is gay. Happy Pride Month!
Have we reached the point in these posts where a summary would help? Just in case, Arrow season 1 follows the return of millionaire playboy Oliver Queen after he spent five years on an island named Lian Yu. During that time he learned the skills needed to become a vigilante–referred to sometimes as “the Hood”–in order to cleanse Starling City of the corrupt elite. One of those members is his mother, Moira Queen, who is working with Malcolm Merlyn (AKA the Dark Archer) on something called “the Undertaking” which will kill thousands of people. Joining Oliver’s mission is his bodyguard John Diggle, with the new recruit being nerd hacker Felicity Smoak (who is there on a temporary basis, but give it time). In the flashbacks to 5 years ago, Oliver worked with Slade and a man named Yao Fei to survive while they tried to not be killed by Edward Fyers, a mercenary who was up to something sinister.
Kicking off this batch of episodes is “Dodger,” named after a jewel thief of the same name played by Mr. James Callis (AKA Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica). He’s stealing jewels, but his methods involve putting bomb collars on civilians and getting them to do the dirty work for him. As a sign of good faith to Felicity, Oliver decides to stop Dodger after she suggested it. Along the way Felicity also encourages Oliver to ask out Detective McKenna Hall, and Diggle to ask out Carly, his dead brother’s widow. Both dates go horribly, and elsewhere, Dodger avoids the cops with ease. Deciding to use a jeweled necklace as bait, the trio manage to catch Dodger in the act, but he slaps a bomb collar on Felicity and escapes. One chase scene later, Dodger is incapacitated and Felicity is free! John and Carly get back together after putting the baggage of “dead husband/brother” aside, and Oliver and McKenna go for a second date. Meanwhile, Moira wants nothing to do with the Undertaking after the Hood pointed an arrow in her face last episode, so she asks an old friend Frank Chen (Chin Han, AKA the accountant Lau in The Dark Knight) to help her out. He sets her up with a meeting with Triad member Chien Na Wei, AKA China White, where Moira asks her to kill Malcolm. Over with Oliver’s sister, Thea Queen, she gets her purse snatched by a guy named Roy Harper (Colton Haynes). Roy is pretty easily caught, but gives a sob story that touches Thea’s heart. She drops the charges and goes to his house in the Glades (the slums of Starling City). Turns out he was lying, but he does give her purse back. The sexual tension between them is palpable!
Episode 16 is “Dead to Rights.” An assassin named Guillermo Barrera flies into Starling City to fulfill a contract, but is killed by the Hood before he can do… anything, really. The Hood grabs his phone and gives it to Felicity to see if she can figure out who the target was. It’s eventually revealed to be Malcolm (but we the audience already knew that). What we might not have known is that Deadshot, last seen in episode 3, isn’t dead. Chien Na Wei hires him to kill Merlyn, even giving him a cybernetic eye to replace the one that the Hood shot. The assassination takes place at benefit honoring Malcolm, something Tommy Merlyn, Malcolm’s estranged son, grudgingly attended. When the shit hits the fan, Malcolm protects his son by demonstrating his ruthlessness. Right before he can tell Tommy the whole truth about him being the Dark Archer, Deadshot shoots Malcolm. A bulletproof vest saves him, but the poison Deadshot uses is now threatening his life. The Hood gets Tommy to trust him by revealing he’s actually OIiver–who happens to be Tommy’s best friend–and the two save Malcolm’s life through a blood transfusion. For those keeping track, that’s now 3 people who know Oliver’s secret identity, and none of them are his family. Malcolm survives, but knows that someone within the organization is a traitor, seemingly not realizing it’s Moira. Oliver relays that Malcom being poisoned means Deadshot is still alive, and Diggle–whose brother was killed by the sharpshooter–is understandably upset. Meanwhile, Oliver and McKenna are still dating, and Laurel is surprised when her estranged mother, Dinah Lance (Ms. Alex Kingston, AKA River Song from Doctor Who) shows up and says she believes Sara is alive.
Then it’s “The Huntress Returns,” featuring, well, the return of Helena Bertinelli. Last seen in episode 8, she’s in Starling City after finding out that her father, Frank Bertinelli, is avoiding jail time by agreeing to testify against another crime family. He’s going to disappear into witness protection, and she wants to kill him before that happens. She puts pressure on Oliver, going so far as to hurt Tommy to get what she wants. Oliver reluctantly agrees, but it turns out the police escort the pair ambush was a trap for her. The Hood breaks her out of jail, but there’s no chance of finding Frank now. I mean, unless there was a super smart hacker who could break into the FBI database… Oh. So Helena forces Felicity to help her, finding the location of the safe house. Frank escapes, but a showdown between Helena and a very pissed off Hood ends with Helena’s escape–we won’t see her again until season 2–and McKenna getting shot. She’s not dead, but wounded enough that she’s moving to Coast City, breaking up with Oliver in the process. Meanwhile, Thea runs into Roy again and offers him a job at Oliver’s new club, Verdant. Get it? Verdant… green… Green Arrow… Anyway, he no-shows, but he does save Thea from some thugs, getting wounded in the process. He’s afraid of needles–I’ll talk about why that’s grimly funny in a bit–so Thea kisses him as a distraction. Ah, young love. Also, Laurel gets her dad, Detective Quentin Lance, to listen to her mom, but things are still tense after he used Laurel as bait in an attempt to get the Hood back in episode 13. He eventually agrees to listen to what his ex-wife has to say.
In the flashback, Slade was shot rescuing Oliver last episode, and the wound got infected. Oliver rushed to Yao Fei’s secret cave to find some kind of healing salve, but runs into a man named Alan Durand (Jarod Joseph). Alan claimed to have been recently shipwrecked on Lian Yu, but Oliver refused to help him due to a lack of trust. Spoiler alert, that was the right decision. Back at their crashed plane base, Slade recovered and Oliver fixed a radio, but the duo couldn’t send a distress call. They did hear that Fyers was receiving an anti-aircraft missile launcher named Scylla, a weapon that could start a war. Oliver and Slade stole the processor chip and used it as leverage over Fyers–if he wanted the chip back, he’d have to give them a way off the island.
Did somebody ask for comic references? No? Well too bad! Dodger is a pretty nothing character in the comics. He had a fling with Mia Dearden (AKA Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick at the time), but her TV counterpart, Thea Dearden Queen, will have a future with Roy Harper, the original Speedy. Roy is a longtime character, debuting in More Fun Comics #73 (1941), which was also the first appearance of Green Arrow. Did I ever go over that? I don’t think I did… Anyway, the two were inseparable for years, although Roy fell to the wayside when Oliver Queen underwent a change in character, becoming the mustached and goateed left-winger that comic fans more likely know. Roy would be reintroduced in this new comic run as a heroin addict–that’s why the Roy’s aversion to needles in the show is grimly amusing. It was part of the “My ward, Speedy, is a junkie!” storyline, “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” in Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86 (1971). Roy would kick the habit and even joined the Justice League for a while as Red Arrow, but his life after that was pretty tragic. He got his arm ripped off by Prometheus (we’ll get to him if/when we get to season 5), his daughter Lian died when Star City was nearly destroyed, and then he died while seeking help at the superhero equivalent of a mental health facility. But the DC universe had a… reset of sorts, so now he and his daughter are alive, but they don’t know about the other. In fact, I had to do a last minute edit to this post because just this week Roy was featured in Infinite Frontier #1 (2021), wearing–spoilers if you’re reading that series–a Black Lantern ring?! Long story short, that’s very not good. But unrelated to Arrow, so I won’t go into it.
The other two episodes had fewer references. A family photo reveals that Sara had a black canary as a pet, a nod to the hero of the same name (even though it’s Dinah Laurel Lance who took the name, not her sister Sara, who they made up for the show). Guillermo Barrerra is a comic character, but no one I’d ever heard of. Brutale? Enemy to Nightwing? Wears a stitched-together gimp suit with, like, a million knives? Whatever. Coast City is mentioned again, but I talked about how it’s the home of Green Lantern Hal Jordan previously. And Dinah Lance–mother of Dinah Laurel Lance–is a nod to the original Black Canary, who I talked about in the pilot episode post.
So Roy’s a big deal. I think he’s going to be the first hero to join Team Arrow–I’ll get into Mia Dearden’s history when Thea Dearden Queen suits up a while from now–who has a comic book counterpart–Diggle’s comic debut came after the show–and was also a costumed hero–pre-Arrow Felicity was a civilian (who didn’t even like heroes that much). So far the show has shied away of too many other costumed heroes/anti-heroes with the Huntress being an exception, and she got a whole two-parter dedicated to her introduction. But we only have one episode more with her, and I will never count Malcolm Merlyn as being anywhere close to “heroic.” Anyway, it makes sense to slowly introduce these characters since this is the first season and all, but Roy Harper in the comics is one of my favorite characters, so seeing him is a “hell yeah!” moment for me. Certainly doesn’t hurt that Colton Haynes is a gay man. I don’t think any of that bleeds into the show–he didn’t publicly come out until 2016–but it’s nice that for this last weekend of Pride Month, the two shows I talked about have some queer content. Just a smidgen, but still.
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