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- Airdate: 11/20/2013
- Director: Bethany Rooney (Hart of Dixie, Drop Dead Diva, 90210, Private Practice, and Brothers & Sisters)
- Writer(s): Marc Guggenheim (Arrow’s Co-Creator/Executive Producer) & Drew Z. Greenberg (Arrow, Warehouse 13, Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Arrow was once Batman Begins the TV show with a generous side helping of Brothers & Sisters-style family drama and CW romantic anguish. It was kind of an anti-comic book show, or at the very least definitely not Smallville. This season, however, they are fully embracing their comic book identity, and throwing every soap opera trick they can think of at us. That can actually be a lot of fun when done well. Most of the big plot developments don’t really make any damn sense, but other than their apparent attempt to assassinate the character of Laurel it’s all managed to be escapist fun. Can you still be mad at their whole “Oliver was just lying about Sara the entire time last season” thing after Caity Lotz turned out to be so awesome as Sara/Canary? Plus, even though it was a classic “that character would never behave that way” situation, Oliver’s hook-up with Isabel (Summer Glau) in the last episode was played as a fun, humorous moment.
When does it go too far? Around the time Malcolm Merlyn showed up at the end of “State Vs. Queen” to reveal not only is he alive but he’s also discovered he is Thea’s biological father. What. The. Hell. Was. That? As a result, “State Vs. Queen” was an episode which might be defined most by its last minute of screen time. There was a lot to get through before we saw that, though. So, let’s break it down:
THE MAIN PLOT
State Vs. Queen –
Moira’s trial has finally arrived. Because this is a TV show, the actual trial only lasts one episode, which appears to take place over maybe 1 or 2 full days. The prosecution uses Thea not having visited Moira in prison all summer to torpedo any argument about Moira having a close relationship with her children (keep telling yourself, “Marc Guggenheim has a law degree and was a practicing lawyer prior to c-creating Arrow and now writing this episode. On matters of law, he knows what he’s talking about, right?”). This forces Moira into testifying, but the prosecution – with Laurel the lead attorney after her boss gets a bad case of “abducted by Count Vertigo” – found the thing Moira dreaded: evidence that she had an affair with Malcolm Merlyn. Basically, the prosecution’s argument is Moira confessed to being guilty on live TV, is a bad mother, and was also a bad wife with a romantic relationship with the man who supposedly coerced her.
So, of course the jury finds Moira not guilty of all charges. Why? Because Malcolm “I Was Only Mostly Dead” Merlyn bought the jury for her. Plus, he has discovered that he is….pause for dramatic effect…Thea’s biological father. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
Vertigo Is Back –
Count Vertigo (Seth Gabel) has been out of prison for 6 months now, after escaping through a V-shaped (you know, as in V for Vertigo) crack in the prison wall caused by Merlyn Malcolm’s earthquake machine. But, wait, wasn’t Vertigo basically insane and comatose last time we saw him? Yeah, but…shut up. Felicity later says Vertigo recovered. So, just go with it. His plan is to slip a super-addictive new iteration of his vertigo drug into flu shots as a way of luring Arrow out into the open so that he might kill him, as per Sebastian Blood’s orders. Oliver and Felicity first catch on when Diggle is infected with vertigo, but the Count fills them in on the rest after abducting Felicity and deducing Oliver is Arrow. Oliver puts three arrows in Vertigo’s chest before he can inject Felicity with a fatal dose of his drug. Felicity’s super sorry Oliver had to violate his new moral code and kill someone. She’s so sorry, in fact, she kind of uses her body language during their conversation to invite him to kiss her if he’d like, an invitation rebuked. Or they’re just really close friends comforting one another and not everything has a romantic subtext (except here it totally did). Oh, Diggle’s apparently fine because Queen Consolidated scientists produced a cure in world record speed.
Meanwhile, On the Island… –
Ivo and his men (and Sara) find Shado and Slade’s hide-out on the island, and apparently think that if you shoot at something and nothing happens in response that means it’s completely empty. Of course, Shado and Slade were in there, both being excellent at hiding and bomb diffusing. They later rescue Oliver, who drags Sara along with him. Due to Ivo’s rantings, they know the arrowhead Oliver found earlier this season is definitely the key to his research, and Sara says they should look for a Japanese WWII submarine that surfaced on the island. Whatever is in the submarine can, in combination with the arrowhead, help cure Slade of his near critical wounds, including a pretty much completely half-black face.
WHAT I LIKED
–Moira standing trial while also being directly responsible for the heinous actions perpetrated elsewhere in the plot by Count Vertigo was a nice, albeit overly convenient, way of connecting the plots. Vertigo only escaped from prison due to the effects of the earthquake machine Moira helped Malcolm Merlyn put into place. Plus, Vertigo also let the Doll Maker out, and we saw what horrible things that sick bastard did in episode 3. So, while Oliver is responsible for not having taken out Vertigo in the past, it is his mother who played a part in Vertigo being back onto the streets.
— Seth Gabel’s two performances last season as Count Vertigo were incredibly divisive. Others have described Gabel’s work as Vertigo as him cackling his way through an incredibly regrettable imitation of The Joker in Dark Knight. I was prepared to hate Gabel’s performance, and it did get off to a rocky start. However, his entire last sequence with Oliver and Felicity was fantastic. He brought with him an incredibly new menace to the performance that made me legitimately unhappy to see the character killed off. The notion of a villain who knew Arrow’s identity could have been fun to play with, even if Vertigo figuring it all out so fast makes poor Quentin Lance seem extra stupid for having yet to figure it out.
–Barrowman! He’s back! Yes, he’s a hammy actor who has yet to meet a melodramatic head turn he didn’t like, but he is the perfect match for Arrow and was generally great last season. Due to that as well as holdover Doctor Who/Torchwood affection, I was instantly delighted to see Barrowman again even if it wasn’t a total shock. After all, this show pretty much only puts Moira in limousines as a precursor to one of her patented clandestine meetings in a darkened alley with Malcolm or someone of a similar ilk. Granted, Malcolm absolutely should be dead, and his explanation for having faked his death like a magic trick is laughable. However, they had kept his fate a bit vague, and the recent Sara example has taught us that the characters on this show are no good filthy liars. Malcolm’s return certainly cheapens his exit, but that’s not the real bad part…
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
–What cheapens Malcolm even more is bringing him back only to give him baby daddy drama. It’s like, “Crap, we killed off both Barrowman and the guy playing his son, and they were amazing. So, umm, bring Barrowman back and just say one of Moira’s kids is actually his? Problem solved.”
So, Moira and Malcolm had an affair? Even though we had already done that plot last season? You remember how they made Thea believe the two were having an affair, but Moira denied it, with the audience knowing the truth that Moira and Malcolm were actually secretly planning the undertaking. You could argue that they kept it purposefully vague last year with Moira ducking Oliver’s direct questions about Malcolm. We simply assumed it was part of her effort to hide the undertaking from the family. It turns out there was more to the story.
However, Malcolm cheated on his wife? The same wife whose death was the straight up sole motivating factor behind his decision to become a mass-murderer targeting the poorest people in all of Starling City? Granted, nothing in that necessarily inherently means the two had a model marriage prior to her death. In fact, we can add an extra layer of guilt to his motivations in that regard. However, we also had no real reason to suspect anything of the sort until now. This screams of a show that is making this up as they go, are searching for a way to re-introduce conflict into Moira and Thea’s relationship, and need another big secret for Moira and Malcolm to discuss in clandestine meetings. Just like the Isabel/Oliver pairing last week, though, this doesn’t make any sense.
–Oliver broke his new moral code, and killed Vertigo to protect Felicity. Angel fans might be reminded to some degree of the season 5 episode in which Wesley (Alexis Denisof) kills what he believes to be his father because it meant saving the life of Fred (Amy Acker), particularly how instantaneously our hero reacted in both cases to save the girl when she was placed in supreme peril. However, for Oliver’s dilemma to really mean anything there needed to be some consistency here. Oliver had absolutely no problem watching Russian guards being gunned down last week, and it sure seemed like he was killing all of The Mayor’s men in The Glades a couple of episodes ago in “The Crucible.” They did at least play with Oliver’s not-killing vs. Sara’s preference for killing.
–One of the promising elements of a return for Count Vertigo was the potential to see what he was like after his experience in the mental hospital. Or at the very least we would find out how exactly he recovered from his last encounter with Oliver. Well, we pretty much got neither. He acts as he always did, and there’s no explanation, really, for why he’s not more messed up. However, part of his menace in the last scene is directly due to his justified anger at Arrow for giving him a near-fatal overdose last season.
–Laurel yet again being asked by Oliver if she is okay is bad enough, but her just flat out running away from him? What the hell are they doing with this character anymore? Katie Cassidy is giving it her best, but she deserves better than this. This is starting to seem like a long-form PSA for substance abuse. I foresee a commercial break where after Laurel has finally had her break-down and asked Oliver for help we will see Katie Cassidy deliver a solemn, short speech about not being afraid to ask for help and then directing us to a website or phone number for more information.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The trial of Moira is now behind us, Malcolm is back, and Sebastian Blood is gunning for Arrow. That all promises good things. However, while the trial may have been an unpopular story line among some it seems ridiculous they’d rush through the actual trial in one episode, and have Moira get off scott free in such an obviously unjust way it’s a wonder there wasn’t rioting. Plus, Malcolm has been brought back because he’s Thea’s dad? It’s certainly a surprise, just not a good one. They finally managed to get the villain Vertigo right. So, of course they killed him (probably).
1. The Flash Tease of the Week
We hear via news report that the STAR Labs particle accelerator project will take place on schedule.
2. Roy Let Thea Know the Joys of Boxing as Stress Relief
That was kind of sweet, actually (I guess).
The show will return in two weeks for the first of the two-part mid-season finale. Don’t worry, though. It’ll be back in a flash, with Grant Gustin as Barry Allen showing up in the next two episodes. Here’s the CW’s official trailer:
What did you think? Like “State Vs. Queen”? Hate it? Let us know in the comments section.
All of the pictures used in the above review came from CWTV.com © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.