Arrow: Vertigo (S1E12)

 Arrow, now in the back half of its first season, is a show that constantly backs itself into corners. Maybe it’s too much zeal, or maybe it’s just high levels of ambition, but the show spends a lot of time, as far as I can tell, reaching past its means and then reigning itself back in. But by doing this, they lay the seeds for something greater. They allow coincidence, happenstance and sometimes thin, thin lies to back their characters out of trouble almost entirely, which is often times just lazy writing. It works because they allow the characters to be rather aware of this fact and they never let them escape entirely, but if the show doesn’t make better use of the tropes it’s leaving behind, it could end up in trouble.

    Take this week, for example. Thea is being brought up on some serious charges, and deservedly so. Possession of a controlled substance and driving under the influence of a controlled substance are not jokes, and I think the show definitely reached much too far into its bag of tricks for this one. The details of how she gets off with the gift of a deal that she does are kept vague, and that’s the best way to do it, but it still feels like a cop out. However, there is a great potential for dense, meaningful stories to come from her work with Laurel, and that’s hopefully the direction they’ll take it to justify the means.
    The court case also allows Oliver to segue into the plot for the Hood in this week’s episode, as he goes after The Count, the vertigo dealer (It’s worth noting that The Count is a terrible name for a villain and only makes me think of cereal; it’s also worth noting that the random Russian guy explains the name for The Count, but doesn’t say anything that makes any sense). The Count is, essentially, Scarecrow from Batman Begins, and I assume that’s no mistake, as this show continues to get more and more Nolanverse-esque. I’ll let it go because it’s working, but it’s going to have to define itself outside of “gritty superhero interpretation” if it wants to thrive.
    The Count is fine, as far as one episode arc villains go, but Arrow is running itself into the ground with one-dimensional criminals. I understand that some people in the world are “just bad,” but nothing is interesting if there isn’t any duality. I know the writers can’t just have the best villains all the time because there aren’t that many with the depth necessary for fleshing out, but things are just boring when the guy is bad through and through.
    The duality that they don’t have in the villains, they do have in Oliver, and that’s saying something. The hood has been walking the moral line a great deal, recently, and that’s perfect for this show. I was very impressed this week when Oliver gave The Count the police’s file on him. Less impressive was the ridiculous meet-up with the Russian Mob, in which they randomly ask a billionaire to kill a man with his bare hands. It’s absurd, and it served very little purpose other than to pointlessly foreshadow to a point that really wasn’t that exciting anyway. All it did was create an opportunity for Diggle to be Diggle and actually think Oliver killed a guy for no reason, which was a reaction that I really supported.
    And now let’s talk about Diggle, the show’s best, most nuanced character. His moral center is stronger than Oliver’s is, his intuition is better, and he’s less selfish. I don’t know if the writers are doing this on purpose or if it’s just happening, but Diggle is clearer the stronger, smarter of the two characters, and appears to be right a lot more frequently than Oliver is. He’s also the shows best chance at calling itself on its own bullshit, like when Oliver gave Felicity the worst lie yet to get her service.
    And lastly, what’s really going on with the Queen family? The quality of their sometimes maddening drama definitely waned this week, and to be blunt, the show didn’t earn the emotional payoff it was after and everything really fell flat. The big moment is supposed to be when Thea apologizes to her mother for saying that she wished her mom had died in the boat accident instead of her father, and then they embrace and everybody is happy again. Except this was easily the worst moment in this episode, and probably in the series as a whole. There isn’t a viewer watching this that felt good after seeing that. What had made Thea such an amazing player in the this up until that point was the fact that she actually understood her mother. Thea knew that her mother was a truly terrible, mind-numbingly bitchy person. She wasn’t able to pin down exactly what actions made her this way, but she knew it to be true, and that made Thea a vital piece of the puzzle. Now she’s back to being a hapless, clueless high-society girl, and that isn’t good at all. The show definitely took one of its most intriguing options of the table when it did that.
    But, despite the big problems with episode. It finds a way to do something truly fantastic with its end: Felicity gives Oliver the notebook that Walter gave her. Oliver knows, now, that his mom has the same list he does. The show has been building to this plot the entire season, and how they handle it will really define the show.
    And, the most important note is the one I’ll end on: the show needs more Felicity. Like, there can never be enough Felicity.