Arrow takes the easy way out to deliver an overly telegraphed episode that can basically be summed up as “be careful who you trust.”
Let’s bitch it out…One of the shows I regularly review is ABC’s Revenge, which distills every theme and episode into a single word. It works well for that show’s voice-over narration, but can also do the show a disservice by oversimplifying things.
What the eff does this have to do with Arrow you may ask? In many ways ‘Trust But Verify’ does the same thing as every storyline boils down to a simplistic message: don’t trust. Diggle (John Ramsey) defends his old commander, Ted Gaynor (Ben Browder), so naturally he is the villain that Oliver (Stephen Amell) – and the book – believes him to be. Thea (Willa Holland) believes that her mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) is up to no-good with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and while they’re not having the affair she imagines, they aren’t comparing notes on how to be business savvy, either. Even Oliver gets in on the distrustful action as this week’s island flashback reveals that his mentor, Yao Fei (Byron Mann), is actually working with the black ops group that tortured Oliver.
Who can you trust? Apparently in the world of Arrow, the answer is nobody.
This could all be good and fine (narrative symmetry doesn’t have to be problematic), except that everything – minus the island flashback – is incredibly obvious and telegraphed. It’s as though the episode’s writer Gabrielle Stanton took what she learned writing angsty melodrama on Grey’s Anatomy and mashed it together with a copy of Screenwriting For Dummies to produce an entertaining hour of television for monkeys. Of course Thea gets drugs for her birthday, otherwise she wouldn’t drive her brand new convertible into the ditch after witnessing what she thinks is a clandestine meeting between her mother and Malcolm. Of course this occurs after Ollie makes a joke about her inability to drive without crashing earlier in the episode. Because no one will anticipate that the very thing he’s joking about will happen, but in hindsight it will seem so obvious! Ugh x2
You may argue that my familiarity with the tropes of television shows explain why I found the plotting shoddy and predictable. You may also just call me a bitch and leave it at that. I’m willing to confirm both charges, but that doesn’t justify how uninteresting the episode is. Sometimes the destination truly isn’t the most meaningful part of an episode (so long as the journey is worthwhile, we can know where we’ll end up).
The problem is that the story here isn’t engaging. We don’t learn anything new about Diggle aside from the fact that he’s too kind and willing to believe in people’s goodness – which just makes him a variation of Laurel (Katie Cassidy). We already knew that Malcolm is a scoundrel, so the reveal that his dinner with Tommy (Colin Donnell) and Laurel is less than altruistic is hardly shocking. And thank goodness we have confirmation that Thea likes to party and get into trouble, because we haven’t covered that in nearly every episode she’s been in. Aside from her penchant for being petulant and yelling at others, this is her only contribution to the series thus far!
Boring and predictable is one thing. But boring, predictable and failure to tell us anything new about our characters? This episode is a big ole fail.
- Anyone willing to put money down that Malcolm wasn’t involved in the murder of Tommy’s mother all those years ago? If yes, then I have a message from a desperate Shiek who will split his fortune with you if you provide your bank account number and a lovely piece of property to talk to you about
- Mythology tidbits: Moira and Malcolm were meeting before the boat crash (hardly surprising). The criminal masterplan does not involve the gentrification of the Glades. And, in some creatively revisionist rewriting, Ollie apparently found a message from his dad explaining the list after his time on the island, which somehow proves its veracity (not sure how that works)
- Thea’s 18th birthday party looks like a really crappy rave (dear The CW/MTV: stop trying to makes raves “happen”. They’re not happening)
- The one shining ray of light in this otherwise boring snoozefest? The brief scenes with Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) who manages to make lines like “So, no wine then” amusing. Memo to showrunners: promote her to series regular already. What are you waiting for?
- Finally, I know it’s petty but Ben Browder got faaaaaat. Like Orca Fat. Like someone inflated him from the inside with air. Like he entered that restaurant challenge where if you eat the giant steak you get it for free…and then he celebrated doing it by eating another giant steak. FAT
So…not my favourite episode of the season. Thankfully Fringe’s Seth Gabel shows up next week to continue the Vertigo drug storyline. In the meantime, what’s your take: did you find ‘Trust But Verify’ too obvious, or were you surprised bythese reveals? What do you think Moira and Malcolm’s plan involves (aside from the closure of free clinics)? And how terrible did Colin Salmon’s Walter look into that text photo? Yikes! Comment away below
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW