“An Innocent Man” picks up all the forward momentum Arrow lost in “The Lone Gunman.” This episode is significantly more character-driven than the last three episodes. The lack of action, however, does not detract from the experience. In fact, the episode might be better for throwing the action away in favor of actually developing the characters.
The most notable development is that of Walter Steele. Up until this point, Walter has pretty much been a non-entity. He’s just the guy that married Moira and took over the company after Robert died. Arrow hasn’t really given Walter anything to do or a personality to speak of. “An Innocent Man” fixes that by giving him a full subplot. It’s established that Walter is not one of the corrupt businessmen that seem to plague Starling City so. Instead, he spends quite a bit of his own time and energy to figure out discrepancies in the company’s finances, in the process starting to unravel Moira’s schemes. Like Oliver in “The Lone Gunman,” Walter also enlists the adorably awkward IT person Felicity Smoak, who seems as if she might actually become a character at some point.
This episode also has some very touching moments on the family side, too. Diggle spends quite a bit of time with his sister-in-law struggling to decide if he should join Oliver as a vigilante or not. He’s torn between thinking vigilantism is morally wrong and believing that there isn’t justice for people like his brother, whose murder was left unsolved. Carly, in turn, encourages him to do what he thinks is right while reminding him that he has to be safe for his nephew’s sake. Ultimately, Diggle does decide to join the Green Arrow, but to keep him from losing himself completely.
On a very similar note as Diggle, Laurel also struggles with vigilantism. As the daughter of Det. Lance, she has always believed that justice could prevail while working within the law. However, she takes up a case trying to get the titular innocent man off death row two days before his scheduled execution. The law ultimately fails her, but the Green Arrow does not. It’s only when the Green Arrow nearly beats a man to death in front of her, with no remorse, that Laurel is swayed back towards the law.
The last, and best, notable bit of character development was Thea’s very, very small role in this episode. For the last three episodes, Thea has been throwing temper tantrums that no one will open up about their pain to her. To deal with her own pain, she’s been drowning herself in drugs, alcohol, and parties. Overall, she came across as an insufferable, selfish brat. However, in this episode, she finally set aside that side of her and became an almost tolerable character. She, instead, focuses on giving Oliver dating advice and getting to know the “new” Oliver.
Honestly, “An Innocent Man” might be the best episode yet. It did a lot to establish the characters and humanize them. They started to feel like people the audience would want to watch every episode, instead of cardboard cutouts.