Act III of the season begins.
With the first of the final four episodes of season 1, Oliver alienates his best friend even more, and his bodyguard, all for the love of a girl who could love him back but who he won't let because of his extracurricular activities. Season 1, in my opinion, is following the structure of a summer superhero flick, only the writers have successfully spread it out over 18 hours and counting. "Home Invasion" marks the time when Oliver loses the people he trusts because he's selfish with the people who've gone above and beyond for him. Diggle's gotten burned more than once by Oliver since joining him in his crusade against the bad men of Starling City, and he gets burned again when Oliver chooses to take down a man named Edward Ramus rather than the man who took his bodyguard's brother's life.
Oliver's various mistakes throughout the episode aren't made because he's a selfish dude who only wants the love of Laurel. The issue is deeper, going back to his time on the island. Arrow's emphasized Oliver's isolation sparingly this season. One of the best stories involving Oliver's isolation was Oliver's and Thea's distance and their shared acknowledgement that they both went through changes that can't be undone. Too much happened for both of them. Thea dealt with the double blow of her father's and her brother's death and she turned to substances that helped her feel less sad and horrible everyday while Oliver went through a ton of nonsense that transformed him. Isolation didn't change him, but betrayals did. Oliver has trust issues. Diggle stood by him for months, but Oliver continues to keep him at a distance. What happened on the island, and what will happen in future flashbacks, will inform the character and his actions this season more than any scene in which he chooses Laurel over Diggle.
The island flashbacks are ho-hum until Yow Fei walks into Wilson's shelter. Oliver's learning to shoot a bow-and-arrow. Shado is his teacher. Shado and Oliver make eyes at one another throughout the training. The bow-and-arrow training seems like an elaborate bit of foreplay. They eventually kiss. Oliver won't let himself move past the kiss. Feelings of regret, and love, for Laurel discourage him from doing anything with Yow Fei's ridiculously attractive daughter. Thoughts of Laurel move Oliver in "Home Invasion." He saves her life twice and tries to have lunch, alone, with her. Oliver threw himself into The Hood after McKenna left, but now he's all about her, i.e. Laurel.
Thoughts of Laurel move Oliver in the present, but memories, or whatever, of Yow Fei, and whatever else happened that we've yet to see, move him always. Yow Fei's surprising appearance is less fun once army of armed men storms the camp and assume power over Oliver and Wilson. Yow Fei's acting in the interests of his daughter, which isn't that different from present Oliver's motivations. Oliver accepts collateral damage. Diggle gets on Oliver for bailing on the Deadshot capture because four agents were killed. Oliver chose to stop someone who ordered a hit on a family, with only a small boy surviving the attack. A consistent theme of Arrow has been Oliver's acceptance of what he cannot control. Someone dies, regardless if he chooses Deadshot or Edward Ramus. It's like the scene in The Dark Knight when Batman needs to choose between Harvey and Rachel. Batman won't win because one of them won't be saved. What's a super hero to do then? Yow Fei seemingly, and indirectly, taught Oliver this that day on the island.
Diggle leaves Oliver's side after the Deadshot failure. Deadshot declines killing Diggle because he's not paid to kill him. Deadshot continues to shoot high-profile men. Oliver wants to make amends, but Diggle tells him that nothing short of an arrow in his back will stop him from walking out the door. Oliver watches him go, just as he watches Tommy push him away further after a pointed discussion about Laurel. The day she learns about Oliver's other life is the day she chooses him over Tommy, and Tommy won't let it happen. Tommy left Oliver's side and he leaves Laurel before she can leave him.
Oliver protects Laurel, Tommy, and the seven year old boy, from an assassin named Mr. Blank. Mr. Blank hates when people see his face and live to identify him. Blank's hunt for the seven year old boy is the darkest story yet involving Oliver-as-The Hood. J. August Richards plays Mr. Blank coldly, without remorse, more machine than man, with the unsettling reaction to being seen. Mr. Blank's an easy to loathe villain, so it's great when Oliver kicks his ass in their fight scene before he puts a fire poker through Blank's chest. Their fight scene is another excellently staged/choreographed fight in a season of many.
The triumph over Blank is temporary, though. People Oliver cares about have left him. Bad folk are still at large. Oliver's personal journey has focused on his re-integration into Starling City. Blank wonders what Oliver learned on that island before his death. Oliver responds, "You're about to find out." In a related story, Roy's trying to find the vigilante. Det. Lance takes him and Thea to look at the corpse of a man killed by Oliver to show the violent nature of the vigilante Roy reveres for saving his life. Is The Hood a monster or a man? That's an easy answer: he's both.
-I sense a set-up for Roy to become Oliver's sidekick. Roy's dating Speedy, so he'll be sidekick Speedy by proxy. I don't know. Willa Holland's gorgeous.
-I don't think I've seen J. August Richards in a television role since ANGEL ended nine years ago. Rumor is he's been cast on S.H.I.E.L.D., which would be great. Mr. Blank is a good character for Richards. The character reminded me of late season five Charles Gunn; specifically, the conduit Charles Gunn who's all stone-faced and evil.
-Thea promised to help Roy find The Hood for him. I suppose I should just run with what’s been stated on the show. The writers don’t really seem to try to do anything interesting with Thea. The little kid in tonight’s episode had more development than the Roy/Thea romance. Thea told Roy that he means the world to her and that is why she’ll help him.
-I don’t care about romantic couplings on TV shows unless couplings make sense and aren’t just there for characters to do stuff. Dawson’s Creek basically ruined TV couplings after the writers relied on couplings for its final three seasons. The Secret Circle only defined its character through relationships. I never cared about the LOST love triangle, and LOST is my favorite show of all-time. I was most invested in the Sayid/Nadia relationship. Anyway, I prefer Shado/Oliver over Laurel/Oliver. Celina Jade and Stephen Amell have lightning chemistry. Katie Cassidy and Amell do not have any chemistry. If Arrow plans to shove romance nonsense in my face, bring Shado to Starling City.
-Ken Fink directed the episode. Ben Sokolowski & Beth Schwartz shared the writing credit.