Arrow: Trust But Verify (S1E11)

This episode is probably one of the densest hours of TV I’ve ever seen. It was frequently frustrating, enlightening, demonstrative, important, definitive and unfortunately inconsistent. But, for its purposes, it was mainly effective, despite being maddening as well. It’s also worth noting that there were disturbingly few shots of Stephen Amell working out, which leads me to believe that either the writers room cares less about ab-centric viewership, or somebody realized it was pretty weird to have two dudes talking while one of them was needlessly shirtless. Either way, no complaints about that.

So, as a quick primer for anybody who couldn’t remember all the shit that happened: we find out that Oliver isn’t telling the whole truth about his time on the island, that Malcolm Merlyn really likes touching Moira’s lower back, Thea is a pretty good judge of character (though not a great detective), John Diggle is wrong, then right, then wrong again, Oliver really cares about people, Tommy and Malcolm really don’t get along (like, at all), John might not be such a good judge of character (but is a pretty good detective), and that the Arrow writers really, really like blatantly obvious foreshadowing. And, as a demonstration that this show has way more important characters than it knows what to do with, Detective Lance is barely even in this episode.

So now that all of that is out of the way, I can talk about what any of this shit means. Probably coming in as the least important thing to happen during this episode is the actual hero plot, involving some guys robbing armored trucks for the hell of it (their motivation is unclear). It starts a very predictable argument between John and Oliver about Oliver’s trust in THE LIST (which will henceforth be published in all capital letters, all the time) over John because one of John’s former army buddies is Oliver’s suspect in the robberies as well as on THE LIST. So, John goes to investigate and gets in The Hood’s way and whatever and whatever. It looks like John is wrong, and then he isn’t, but then he is again, so everybody goes home unhappy. For a plot that had at least a little potential to really grow the relationship between the team, it really didn’t do much for either of them. They had a conversation at the end of the episode that seemed to be the closing on a large growth, but they way they were talking, it seemed like everyone was pretty much back where they started at the beginning of the episode.

The more compelling pieces of this episode (and it really almost hurts to say this) are the parts that make it a show on The CW. The drama between Thea, Moira, Malcolm, Tommy and to an extent, Laurel was, for lack of a better term, crazy as all fuck. Moria ditches out on Thea during their Mommy and Daughter day (which, I mean.. they hate each other, definitely not a solid call) to meet with Malcolm about whatever shady business the shady business people talk about, and Thea assumes they’re having an affair, because what else do rich widows and widowers do, if not have affairs. Though she completely misunderstands the situation, she has a spot-on line or two about who her mother really is, and I appreciated the way the writers worked in her being right without actually being right.

Malcom, though, is quickly becoming an unsustainable character. To put it lightly, he’s the prickiest prick that’s ever been a prick to anyone, and he’s that much of a prick to everyone. It seems as though they’re meandering around some sort of big growth in him, or at least some substantial reveal that will somehow justify whatever is going on with him, but a wife that’s been dead for 15 years doesn’t really cut it, and his aggressive pushing away of his son has really run its course as far as worth goes. Anyway, he’s going on being a dick to Tommy, and tries to get him to sign some papers that would close his late mother’s free clinic for no apparent reason, other than that she’s dead. He’s also a dick to Laurel, giving her a picture of his wife’s body on the pavement with a bullet in her head, for no conceivable reason. My point is that his epic levels of negative action have to be building towards something. His role as the Dark Archer is an interesting one, and the way the Arrow writers handle this arc will define the success or failure of the second half of this season.

And they also give the viewers really powerful pieces of information as to what took place on the island, revealing that The Hooded man on the island was not his ally, but working for the people that initially captured him. This leads to a long list of questions, not the least of which is this: why, exactly, would Oliver choose to emulate a man who betrayed him? This, I presume, is going to tie in nicely with the tidbit Oliver spit out early in the episode saying that he found the confirmation of the importance and truthfulness of the list somewhere within the last five years, but not on the island.

And, for what it’s worth, it’s confirmed that, for now, Walter is still alive (though the proof was ridiculously shaky, and I assume that it’s probably just lazy writing as opposed to a plant for a later realization that Walter was dead and has been for sometime). The “Walter is Kidnapped” plot has had weirdly little gusto in the last two episodes, and it’s only real significance is in Oliver and Thea frequently looking at one another and going “Is mom acting weird or what?,” which effectively adds nothing to the show. I get that the writers wanted Moira to feel like somebody was on to her, and I think that’s definitely a good call, but having Walter be kidnapped was a hell of a way to do it. If the resolution of this arc isn’t really good, it’ll have cost the show much more than it earned.

Thea takes drugs because she hates her mom and crashes the car that she probably shouldn’t have had anyway, and gets arrested, which will add density to a ludicrously dense show. I still don’t know how to feel about this, but I don’t like it. Thea had been showing a lot of maturity in recent episodes, but threw it all out the window in a childish act of rebellion that she really should have been passed already.

So, I’m pretty sure I forgot something because of how much went on in this show, and I’m sorry for that, but I’ve already written too much, and I feel like I’ve really just scratched the surface. This show is running dangerously cross to reaching its critical mass of what it can do in an hour, and with Thea’s arrest, I’m pretty sure it’s going to push itself off the ledge in the next episode. There’s something to be said for simplicity, and seeing a plot all the way through, but that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening. The show is going to have a lot more loose ends to tie up than it has time to do so. But at least it’s entertaining.