Arrow #1.20: “Home Invasion” Recap & Review Arrow #1.20: “Home Invasion” Recap & Review
Matt Tucker reviews the twentieth episode of the CW's hit series Arrow. Arrow #1.20: “Home Invasion” Recap & Review

Home InvasionSummary: An episode that could get lost in the shuffle but holds some actual emotional depth to the characters that leads to influential decisions.

If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!

Recap

While Oliver and Diggle get a line on Deadshot, a man Laurel is bringing to trial takes out a hit on a family who will testify against him. When the child of the family escapes from the hitman, Laurel takes the boy in, putting she and Tommy in danger. They turn to Oliver for help, bringing Oliver and Laurel closer, much to Tommy’s chagrin. When Oliver sides with protecting Laurel in his vigilante duties just when Diggle needs him most to take down Deadshot, it causes a rift between the two that might prove irreparable.

For a full recap of this episode, visit our handy episode guide.

Review

A confession to start: Both times that I’ve watched this episode so far I have been distracted. At the moment, it’s hard to say if that’s a fault of the episode itself or pilot error — most likely the latter — but there was something that kept me from fully investing myself in this particular story. This is said as a disclaimer if certain things didn’t hold the impact and relevancy for me as perhaps they should have.

The final four episodes of the season kick off and as Oliver is coming to his inevitable confrontation with the Dark Archer and the Tempest group, dramatic imperative dictates that the structures of Oliver’s world begin to unravel to really push him into a corner from which the means of escape aren’t readily apparent. The latter half of the season has given us an Oliver who is finally starting to open up to his life in Starling City again, who is finally starting to let more into his life than simply the mission of revenge with which he came back. Yet, just as he’s done so, revelations have soured some of the things he’s always held dear but has only now begun to really appreciate.

Aside from the obvious meaning, the title “Home Invasion” is apropos because the very support system Oliver has built over the last few months has been corrupted and torn from within. First Tommy and now Diggle have both felt betrayed by Ollie and abandon him. What makes this a compelling and, at the same time, heartbreaking development is that Oliver’s hands aren’t clean in this, both mens’ reactions are direct results of Oliver’s actions and choices. While at times the rift with Tommy has leaned a bit on the side of feeling forced, there is a very real and palpable schism between friends who thought they knew one another. For Diggle, he felt he had a brother, a kin relationship that knew exactly why his pursuit of Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, was of such vital importance. To feel that importance shoved to the side, Diggle had every justification to move on.

An interesting development — or perhaps not — was that both things are specifically tied to Oliver’s relationship with Laurel. Even his initial refutation of Shado during the island flashbacks is because of Laurel. While it’s clear — or rather, that should say obvious — that Oliver still harbors feelings for his ex-flame, there is less in the story the last few weeks that supports that, not to the point of his discussion with Tommy after he kills Mr. Blank (guest star J. August Richards). There is something about the reassertion of Oliver’s feelings as an overriding force in his life that doesn’t quite feel earned yet. That makes Tommy’s decision to break up with Laurel and Diggle’s jumping ship both seem a bit of a reach, even if both aren’t inconceivable outcomes.

In fact, what makes both of those big developments work are that they are tied to emotional states of the characters that help define them further, giving us more depth and color on the series. Tommy’s decision isn’t rational, which is why Laurel is left floored by it, and it doesn’t have to be. Tommy’s last two major life changes — quitting Verdant to join Merlyn Global and now giving up on his relationship — have been driven by the strong emotional response to his knowing of his best friend’s alternate life. Both now set up an adversarial dynamic between Oliver and Tommy that begs to be borne out over the next few episodes or beyond.

Diggle’s choice, too, is an emotional response. Brought into the team because he was the more rational of the two and could help to shape and frame Oliver’s campaign into something more than just revenge, the odd romantic footing with his brother’s ex, Carly, and learning of Lawton’s survival have not only reopened the old wound of his brother’s murder but cut into it fresh. He will have his vengeance now, no matter what. While he’s noted Oliver’s preferential treatment of Laurel in the past, it’s also reason why he chooses to lash out over Oliver’s concern for her this time around, though seeming to come off a bit out of the blue. Diggle is beyond reason — or excuse, as Oliver did make a choice here — and Oliver’s less-than-full support makes him useless to Diggle’s ends. It will be very interesting to see how that affects what both men want to accomplish over the next few episodes.

It could even be argued that emotional response is precisely behind Roy Harper’s seemingly unreasonable quest to find and perhaps help the vigilante. He had made a lot of rationalizations for the life he was leading up until he was caught and nearly executed by “the Savior.” Rescued and given reprieve by the Hood, he now feels an inescapable bond with the man. On one hand, it comes off as the kind of tiring “destiny” crud that seems to gum up a lot of superhero projects in regards to lining up with their comic source material. On the other, it actually seems to fit Roy’s personality, someone who is cause driven. Even his criminal activities seemed to be based on a misguided view of doing for the citizens of the Glades who were dealt a bad hand. Not in any sort of Robin Hood fashion but in an entitlement one born and bred of the Glades without hope for anything better in life without taking it. While his near-death ordeal helped to show error in his ways, that emotional response of being saved, being spared, appears to fuel this whole endeavor, even after being shown firsthand the fruits of the Hood’s labors. Even Thea’s decision to help him is governed on her feelings for him more than a rational response of steering him away from the possible dangers of pursuing this further.

Upon reflection, this episode seems to hold a lot more weight than it would appear to on the surface. It’s particularly bolstered by fine performances throughout. Donnell and Ramsay, both standouts on the season already, continue to shine. While Tommy as written could do with more intrigue, Donnell continues to invest him with a strong emotional life that really makes you feel every inch of his belief of betrayal on Oliver’s part. Ramsay sells without question Diggle’s shift to someone more along the lines of Oliver at the start of the season, someone who would use people like Lilah and the A.R.G.U.S. team for his means. Haynes, Holland, Cassidy, Michael Rowe, Celina Jade, Manu Bennett, and Paul Blackthorne, who was on fire the entire installment, all chip in solid work, anchored by an unsung Stephen Amell this time out. Amell has become such the rock solid foundation of the series that it allowed everyone else to feel more prominent this time out without sacrificing Oliver’s importance to the story or the effect on him as he’s losing these key elements of his life.

Richards also gives a compelling, if not flashy, performance as Mr. Blank, the assassin hired by Rasmus. The emotionless, methodical nature of the man gave a nice counterpoint to the otherwise emotion-led episode. Every bit the Terminator, including some schlocky exposition and delivery, Blank ranks among the best of the guest star turns this season in both execution and helping to create the realistic world for which they’ve been striving. It’s doubtful to say he will be especially remembered down the road in, say, Season 4 — particularly because they, unfortunately, offed him — but he proves one of the more worthwhile villains for his given story this season. He also provides one of the most memorable fight sequences, as Oliver gets a nice tête-à-tête to show off his skills, including some handy work with a fireplace poker that ends with an inevitable but still gasp-inducing conclusion.

This is one of those episodes that is deceptive in its simplicity. While it would be hard to rank it among the finest of the chapters on the season, it nevertheless holds both strong character points and changes in motivations that will hold much weight on how the season turns out. Again, it’s hard to say if it was the episode or a distracted POV that seemed to limit the full impact of the hour, but it’s clear that the final resolution on the season could not exist without the developments here.

Odds & Ends

  • A pet peeve: Blank randomly shoots at things in Laurel’s apartment. In a sense, this was supposed to help drive out his prey, but it felt primarily like they wanted to show just how dangerous the situation was by having him actually shoot some things. There are better ways to set up tension. Though, Laurel popping out with a shotgun was a bit of a surprise.
  • Another pet peeve: You mean to tell me that professionals aren’t going to recognize that the voice they are talking to on the other end of a radio is one that they’ve never heard before, not to mention that it doesn’t match any of the voices they’ve heard up to that point in the evening. Why do TV shows and movies assume that Random Guard #3 is just too stupid to not pick up on this.
  • Oliver’s body count on the season, at least those recovered by the police: 26
  • The little bits of humor they’re allowing into the series are fantastic, yet so throwaway as to not distract from the story. During the scene where Felicity informs Ollie & Diggle that Lawton is back in town and goes on her diatribe about cyber hacking, possibly being sent to Guantanamo Bay, and being a bottle blonde, Amell has Oliver do this lean-in to inspect Felicity’s hair that is just priceless.
  • Speaking of humor, writers Ben Sokolowski and Beth Schwartz pepper their script with outstanding one-liners, most of which were delivered with absolute aplomb by Paul Blackthorne. A few key samples: “Feels like it might be time for you to move.” “You got another friend named Oliver?” “Is that a police radio in your pocket?” “No, just happy to see you.” “You’re thinking too much.” “Nobody ever accused me of that before.”
  • Lance refers to Thea and Roy as “the Wonder Twins.” The Wonder Twins are, of course, DC Comics characters who first started life as characters on the Super Friends cartoon from the late 1970s. Zan and Jayna are aliens who have the ability to shape shift.
  • Oliver never actually allows for Tommy to be with Laurel. During his little discussion with Tommy following Blank’s invasion of the Queen mansion, he never once assures Tommy that Laurel is with him because of who Tommy is and he would never get in the way of that. Instead, he just assumes that his life as the vigilante prevents him from being with her and that’s only consideration he should make. It’s not surprising why Tommy would feel like he’s just in Oliver’s way.
  • While at times it feels that the opening theme for the series is a bit too short and slight — please consider an opening credits sequence — series composer Blake Neely does some fine work, particularly in this episode. The score during the Tommy/Laurel break-up scene is especially exceptional.

A SECOND OPINION

by Derek B. Gayle

“Home Invasion” is clearly a bit of a stepping stone for the season. There’s not much by way of a twisty plot here; there’s so little, in fact, that there was enough time to essentially paste two A-plots together and still have ample room for Roy’s B-plot. But the episode intertwines the Deadshot story with the Rasmus story adeptly, carrying similar themes and crossing over at precisely the right point.

After so much time building up a warmer, friendlier Oliver who could bring more people into his life, his actions are finally catching up to him and breaking those relationships down. This back half of the season has done a nice job at twisting the knife in Oliver every time he becomes more vulnerable, and the beatdowns from Diggle and Tommy only sell this point further. And while the episode does a good job at making Oliver responsible while keeping him sympathetic, the alleged motivations fall flat. Not unlike Diggle’s “You still love Helena” assertions in “The Huntress Returns,” Diggle’s jealousy (or whatever you may call it) over Laurel, who he sees Oliver “choosing” over him, comes a little out of the blue. Oliver mentions going to lunch with her a couple of times, but it never happens. Considering the minimal amount of screen time the two have, it just doesn’t play out; if anything, Oliver is too married to his rigid sense of justice, not too attached to Laurel. It’s a frustratingly forced development that brings down an otherwise solid theme.

The developments between Tommy and Laurel, while also a little forced, play out well. It’s actually a unique spin on the superhero love triangle, and I quite like it. The boys aren’t protecting the girl from a dark secret—they openly admit that a big chunk of keeping Laurel out of the secret is out of selfishness, to keep her from hooking up with Oliver. It doesn’t make Tommy or Oliver look particularly good, but it’s good set-up for what will inevitably blow up in both their faces.

Katie Cassidy as Laurel was much stronger this week, thanks to a significantly more focused goal. While Laurel’s characterization has been shaky-to-poor this season, the show has done a good job at not making her seem physically weak or weak-willed. If the plot demands her to be a victim, it’s through bad luck and circumstance, not her own lack of ability. The shotgun conveniently locking up/being out of ammo was a little contrived, but at least it didn’t make her look incompetent; and her deducing the hitman’s identity from the badge number was clever.

J. August Richards clearly indulged in his oddly-written assassin role, and while he was not at all believable, he was loads of fun. His little self monologues were something straight out of a comic book, and wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if played by a lesser actor. The hitman follows in line with what Gabel’s performance as Vertigo put forth; over-the-top for sure, but only as much as it needs to be. It’s sad that his character was killed off so quickly, as he’d be a fun recurring villain. Colton Hayes, meanwhile, has been a nice surprise this season, displaying a great amount of depth even in his brief appearances. Michael Rowe’s Deadshot was also a little more fun than his earlier appearance, especially with a cool new costume, though he’s still little more than a plot device.

“Home Invasion” is a decent enough episode, functioning best with the foresight that there will likely be dire consequences to everyone’s actions by the end of the season. While the plot is a bit forgettable, the guest stars shine, not to mention stellar fight sequences.

Matt Tucker Editor/Senior Writer/Reviewer

Matt Tucker is a stage and film actor, writer, Seattleite, comics nerd, sports fan, and aspiring person. Someday, he’ll be a real boy. He's an editor and senior writer for KSiteTV network (GreenArrowTV, DaredevilTV) and the sports blog Sonics Rising. He's also Movies/TV editor at SmarksOn. Follow him on Twitter at @MattBCTucker.

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