Last week's focus on character development with less action was arguably the series' best. "Damaged" follows this up with possibly the best balance between action and characterization so far, and left me more intrigued than ever on things to come.
The writers use a common plot hole to their advantage, crafting a cool story while addressing a common fan complaint. Many viewers have raised the question of how authorities can't put two and two together when Oliver Queen returns to the city and a vigilante conveniently shows up as well. Queen himself is well aware of the questionable timing, and coordinated everything that closed last week's episode, from the security camera footage to the arrest, in an intricate plan to ultimately throw suspicion off him. Convenient timing that Diggle agrees to help him in his vigilantism, as while Oliver stages a party celebrating his inevitable freedom, his brother-in-arms can don the hood to take down a shady arms dealer across town.
With Queen incarcerated for his vigilantism, we flash back to a time of incarceration on the island of Purgatory. As we've seen before, Oliver and his sensei are not the only ones on the seemingly deserted island. Indeed, a small militia led by the mysterious Edward Fyers has set up base here: well-stocked with supplies, well-armed, and dead set on taking out his sensei.
Enter: Deathstroke! Admittedly, the mask is a bit cheesy looking -- think ski-mask with a frowny face mold, leaving me to wonder why not just a simple ski mask? -- but otherwise he's a suitably menacing presence, the silent muscle behind the physical interrogation on the island which is cleverly intercut with Queen's polygraph interrogation in the present time. It's clear that faking a lie detector is child's play compared to what he endured on Purgatory, as we learn how he acquired the hideous scars all over his body.
The episode's sole ugly transition comes at this point, as we cut from the emotional scene of Ollie blaming himself for the death of Detective Lance's daughter to... Queen breaking out the party boy facade at his prison-themed palace shindig. All while Detective Lance is there. If Ollie won any points with the detective for sharing his genuinely heavy conscience and guilt, he basically tossed it out the window soon after. In any case, with Ollie under the eyeballs of numerous party attendees, Diggle makes his move in The Glades and suspicion is officially thrown off our anti-hero.
A brief low point of the episode, and Diggle's character, has to be the bodyguard's comical exploration of the Arrow Cave. He pricks his fingers on sharp arrows and says "Ouch!", paws at a piece of surveillance equipment like its a strange and unfamiliar toy... this guy used to be Special Forces, and the scene has him come off as a bit of a buffoon. Thankfully it's short and doesn't mar an otherwise excellent episode.
Despite the faked polygraph and the Green Diggle's throwdown, Detective Lance remains unconvinced of Queen's innocence, and we learn why: while Ollie and Laurel's complicated relationship continues to mend itself, Laurel lets on that after the shipwreck, Lance's obsession with work led to her mother leaving him. With a dead daughter, a wife who hates him, and another daughter he can barely maintain a relationship with, the Queen family has basically ruined the detective's life.
Meanwhile, Walter follows up on his discovery of the remains of the Queen's Gambit in his wife's warehouse, asking his head of security to move the shipwreck to another location for analysis. Unfortunately, the security head meets his untimely demise under questionable circumstances, courtesy of John Barrowman's villainous character. We learn a bit more about the upstanding kind of man Walter is, as he leaves on an extended "business trip" when confronted with his wife's dishonesty and shady dealings.
Our moments of action are good enough, though perhaps just shy of the series premiere. Deathstroke and the sensei throw down in a great martial arts display, showing off the formidability of both characters as they essentially fight to a stalemate before Queen and his friend make their hasty escape. We also get to see both Diggle and Ollie don the hood and take out some well-armed baddies in Starling City, though Diggle appears to be less content with permanently stopping Mueller and his thugs.
While it fails to top last week's stellar episode, this week goes a long way toward proving the showrunners can ably balance characterization and action. On top of that, we got the introduction of one of the more hotly anticipated super villains and a few other intriguing subplot developments.
Final Grade: B+