In my opinion, Arrow never really recovered after the disastrous “Legacies”, which was an irksome, slow episode with a ridiculously bad plot, and was the first episode where the show’s lack of talented writers became evident. And, up until “Trust But Verify”, the flaws of “Legacies” were never fully shaken off. Both episodes featuring Helena Bertenelli, aka the Huntress (Muse of Fire and Vendetta) were atrocious failures, that substituted depth with bad writing and even worse plots. “Year’s End’ and “Burned”, while not quite as bad, certainly did nothing to help the show’s case, especially with some of the atrocious writing and directing.
Thankfully, that all changed in the show’s 11th episode, “Trust But Verify”. Just as I was about to give the show up, “Burned” gave me a little bit of hope, and I decided to watch “Trust But Verify”. It’s a lucky thing that I watched it too, because, had I not, my memories of Arrow would have not been all too fond. Instead, I find myself extremely excited for this week’s episode of Arrow.
“Trust But Verify” introduced the theme of inner conflict to the show, a theme that looks like it will be sticking around. Before the show’s eleventh episode, neither Oliver nor Diggle had any real conflict about what they were doing. Sure, Diggle had a few reservations about Oliver killing people. But never before had either of the two actually had to deal with a foe that they had personal connection too. In this case, it was the commander of the Blackhawks, who was also a former friend of Diggle’s.
While Ted Gaynor really deserved a lot more development than he got, Diggle’s inner conflict was great to watch. He seems to have assumed the role of something of a moral compass for Olvier, and refuses to overlook the good in people. “Trust But Verify” seems to have shaken him a little bit, as he slowly came to realize that Ted Gaynor was far from the mentor he remembered.
“Vertigo” continued to give the pair a personal connection to what they were doing. Granted, there is little internal conflict in ‘Vertigo”, in either of the characters. But for Oliver, catching the Count is the only way to ensure that he keeps his sister, Thea, out of prison. I found that to be a nice touch to the episode, and shows that Oliver really does care about something other than his mission, surprisingly enough.
“Betrayal”, however, did continue the theme of inner conflict, this time in Oliver Queen himself. Because, finally, we saw some forward movement on the overall plot. In “Vertigo”, Felicity reveals to him the book that Walter gave to her before his disappearance at the end of “Year’s End”. “Vertigo”, which was focused mainly around the Count, wasn’t able to develop this plot point in it’s scant forty minutes, so, naturally, the next episode, “Betrayal”, was centered around it.
Oliver, at first, believes that Moira is completely innocent, yet seems to be conflicted about it at the same time. This time, the inverse of “Trust But Verify” happened – it was up to Diggle to convince Oliver about Moira’s lack of innocence. He manages too, after listening in and recording one of her conversations with Malcolm. Even after this, Oliver’s conflict continues. His inner torment is evident, both by his actions in the show and Stephen Amell’s acting of the character.
“Betrayal” was the first episode to truly see the show’s overall plot move forward, getting closer to the endgame referred to as “the undertaking”. I have numerous predictions as to what that could be, but that’s for another time. Anyways, the advancement of the plot means that we may be seeing some better developed villains. Moira has gotten quite a bit of development, and Malcolm has gotten his fair share as well.
With those two possibly sharing the stage as the show’s main villains from this point on, there is even more promise for the show in the future. Since the beginning, it’s been plagued by weak, underdeveloped villains. As awesome as the Blackhawks and Deadshot were, neither were awarded the development that they deserved. However, the return of Deadshot in two episodes means that he will possibly get more development in the future.
The Count was probably the show’s most developed villain by the time “Betrayal” rolled around, and he was sadly taken out of the picture, though his return was hinted at. Hopefully, we’ll see him return with something resembling his powers in the comics and other media. Moira and Malcolm, however, have both been developed quite a bit, and will provide much more interesting villains than those we’ve seen so far.
And then “Odyssey” rolled around. It is, without competition, the best episode of Arrow by far. Everythign about it was well done, from the writing tot he action. It turns out that there are actually two Deathstrokes in this universe, and the man we saw in the Deathstroke costume really isn’t Slade Wilson – in fact, Slade isn’t even allied with the men on the island. His former partner, William Wintergreen, is the Deathstroke that stabbed Oliver in “Damaged”.
The episode built a great dynamic between the two of them, one that is sure to continue in future episodes. There’s also a great dynamic being built between Diggle, Oliver, and Felicity, who now figures out Oliver’s identity, mainly because she helped save his life. She seems to be an addition to the team, at least for now, and with her position being elevated in the season 2 trailer, it’s likely that she’ll stick around for quite some time. And she will certainly add an interesting dynamic to Oliver’s ever growing team.
Which will only continue to grow, with the introduction of Roy Harper on Wednesday, who is likely to become Speedy/Red Arrow/Arsenal at some point, and is yet another reason to watch the resurgent Arrow.