Arrow breaks out the big guns as it heads into the two part fall finale, including the return of two villains and a secret lovechild. So why is everything so damn obvious?
Let’s bitch it out…I spent the last seven weeks trying to put my finger on what’s not gelling with the second season of Arrow. This week the source of my displeasure is easy to identify: the obviousness. Perhaps I’m just fatigued of this style of narrative storytelling (virtually all of The CW’s genre shows feature flashbacks, villains at every turn and convoluted love affairs), but as we head into December, I can’t admit that I like the show the same way I did at this point last year.
‘State Vs. Queen’ features three different elements that draw on the series’ past in significant ways: the return of the Count Vertigo (Seth Gabel), the return of Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and the “revelation” that Thea (Willa Holland) is Malcolm’s daughter with Moira (Susanna Thompson). The problem is that all of these plots are dramatically inert.
While the Count’s reappearance is unanticipated (frankly I’d nearly forgotten about him since his last appearance), he fails to bring anything new to the show. Gabel’s line delivery remains a joy, but the Count’s plan – to get everyone who was vaccinated for the flu hooked on Vertigo – makes no sense. What’s the long term plan: turn the city into drug addicts? He’s going to get rich off of minor drug sales? And what will prevent Arrow from pulling the pin on the plan as soon as the lab location is discovered (which is more or less what happens)?
Not only does the Count’s plan seem remarkably short sighted, there’s no sense of scope. On Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) screen we see a dozen spots where people have been infected, but on screen we literally see two people fall sick: Diggle (David Ramsey) and
Hot Paul DA Donner (Dylan Bruce). That’s hardly an epidemic and while I’m sure budgetary constraints play a factor, it doesn’t require that many extras to convey an epidemic (or a panic for that matter).
When Oliver (Stephen Amell) ultimately dispatches the Count, there’s a clear sense that we should be horrified that Oliver has killed again. The problem is that it doesn’t feel that significant; it plays like a much smaller moment than intended. Felicity later apologizes for putting Oliver in the position of having to kill, but instead of playing up the morality/guilty conscience, the writers simply use it as an Olicity shipping moment. Good for the romance lovers, but unsatisfying as a narrative development considering how much emphasis has been placed on Oliver’s decision not to kill this season (so much so that it’s now in the opening preamble).
Even less successful is the double “twist” ending of the episode featuring the reappearance of S1 villain Malcolm and the admission that he fathered a child with Moira. This wasn’t really something that I had anticipated…until Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) conversation with Moira at the prison practically spells everything out, so much so that I didn’t realize we weren’t meant to know one of the two Queen children were bastards. The emphasis on Thea (and her age) made her the most obvious choice, so when Malcolm drops the bomb in the carpark, it goes over with a shrug.
Even Malcolm’s return isn’t all that surprising. Most online commentors speculated John Barrowman would return, so when Moira’s hilariously unreal two day murder trial resulted in Moira’s acquittal clearly, it became pretty clear that someone high up was pulling the strings. My money was on Blood (Kevin Alejandro) because that would have re-established him as this season’s main adversary. Instead Arrow brings back Malcolm Merlyn, defying all logic and turning Arrow into a series where no one ever truly dies.
I’m not unhappy to see Barrowman because I always thought he excelled in the role, but at this point I feel like I can predict the outcome of every storyline because it is so telegraphed, or repeats patterns of behaviour and characters from last season (Black Canary = Huntress; the one-off return of China White and now Vertigo). With two episodes left before the holidays, I really hope that Arrow pulls an ace out of its sleeve and dazzles. Judging from this first batch of episodes, though, I’m not holding my breath.
- My favourite part of the episode occurs after Laurel rips into Moira in the courtroom. She walks out, sees Oliver, stops dead in her tracks and runs away. It would have been a perfect moment if only Ollie hadn’t gone after her
- Can we please send Felicity to bootcamp? If she’s going to insist on getting involved in the action, she needs to learn how to protect herself a little. The moment she heads off to investigate the vaccine truck, there was no doubt that she would end up captured and held hostage and watching women repeatedly used as wimpy hostages is starting to become an epidemic
- Groan worthy moment: Count Vertigo escapes from prison via a giant ‘V’ shaped gap in the wall. Not incredibly subtle
- I hope that we’re coming up on another “all Island” flashback episode because things have slowed to a snail’s pace. Four flashbacks to rescue Oliver and discover longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates on the arrowhead? Manu Bennett, Celina Jade and Caity Lotz deserve more from these scenes
- The Count (addressing the TV cameras): “I’m Count Vertigo and I approve this high.”
What are your thoughts: am I just being grumpy or did ‘State vs. Queen’ feel excessively obvious? Were you disappointed Seth Gabel’s return didn’t amount to much? Surprised at Malcolm’s return or his newfound status as Thea’s father? Sound off below
Arrow takes a two week break and returns with its part one of its fall finale on Wednesday, December 4 at 8pm EST on The CW