Saturday, July 12, 2014

Arrow: Betrayal

It’s the halfway point of the first season, and so the show wisely decides to steps up a notch when it comes to its overarching plot. For the first time Oliver is forced to confront the fact that his mother might be complicit in the shady dealings that his father urged him to investigate, and naturally he’s not handling it too well. The evidence is in the small book of names that Felicity brings to him: it’s identical to Robert Queen’s, but according to her it belongs to the still-missing Walter – and he found it in Moira’s bedroom.

Diggle is detached enough from the situation to look at it objectively, though Oliver naturally doesn’t want to believe that his mother is wrapped up in any objectionable business. Having been confronted with the book, Moira calls it a list of people who owed Robert favours before promptly throwing it in the fire.  

Even without all the scenes that the audience have been privy to, her demeanour is enough to tell us that she’s lying. But Oliver doesn’t want to think the worst of her, and so gives into the temptation that most of us fail regularly: that of doing nothing instead of getting involved in something that we don’t really want to know more about.

Terrible things happen in this world on a daily basis, and most of us cope with it by pretending that nothing's wrong. But even for a vigilante who runs around with a bow and arrow to confront crime each night, it’s too much for Ollie to consider that his mother might be a part of it. So the blinkers go on, and he focuses on recently-released-from-jail crime boss Cyrus Vance.

But Diggle isn’t in this show just to drive the white people around. Taking matters into his own hands, he investigates Moira and eventually manages to record a compromising conversation between her and Malcolm (smoothly deflecting one of Malcolm’s security guards in the process).

There’s no hiding from the truth now, and the episode ends on a fantastic cliff-hanger in which The Hood bursts through Moira’s office windows and delivers his familiar spiel: “you have failed this city.”

It’s a bit extreme, as surely the situation warranted a little more investigation to establish what exactly she was meant to be failing at, but it makes for a great final scene.

On a related note, it interests me that the audience has known for some time about Moira’s back-handed dealings and her relationship with Malcolm Merlyn – certainly not in any great detail, but enough for the audience to remain one step ahead of Oliver in regards to what’s really going on.

This is a somewhat risky storytelling manoeuvre, for though it’s been used to create suspense over Oliver’s growing awareness of the truth (and anticipation of the inevitable confrontation between mother/son), it also could result in what I call AAK Syndrome (Audience Already Knows Syndrome) if dragged out too long.

Making viewers aware of circumstances beyond the protagonist’s knowledge can be an enticing way of making them feel as though they’ve been let in on a secret, but it also runs the risk of making the protagonist look stupid or of trying the audience’s patience if his/her ignorance is dragged out too long. As such, I’m hoping that they’ll forge ahead with this particular plot-thread and make the fall-out of The Hood’s confrontation with Moira worthy of its set-up.

But there was a whole other B-plot to get through in this episode, one which picks up a thread I’d thought the writers had forgotten about: that of Detective Lance bugging The Hood’s phone and giving it back to Laurel, planning to track the vigilante if she ever makes contact with him.

I do have some sympathy for this guy, especially when he says: “if [the vigilante] is a hero, I don’t know what my life as a cop in this city means.” But like Oliver, he sees what he wants to see, and to him The Hood is bad because he exists outside the law – no arguments. And if using his daughter as bait is the way to catch him, so be it.

Ironically, despite each man’s constant declarations that all they want for Laurel is her safety and happiness, the two of them seem to do nothing but put this girl in jeopardy. My favourite scene of this episode, perhaps even more so than The Hood confronting Moira, was Detective Lance and The Hood on the rooftop, the former pointing a gun at his own daughter, the latter using her as a hostage so he could get away safely. Sure, the cops all had rubber bullets, but Oliver – and more importantly, Laurel – didn’t know that at the time.

Following on from this scene, it made sense that the final sequence against this episode’s antagonist was a team-up between the two men to rescue her, but that she isn't particularly impressed with the conduct of either one. 

But hey, look who our Villain of the Week is! Doctor Whale (a.k.a. Doctor Frankenstein) from Once Upon a Time! David Anders may look like the Cheshire Cat in human form, but unfortunately the writing didn’t do him much favours. Let it hereby be known that the old “gimme a hug so that I can stab you with a hidden weapon” may sound like a great Character Establishing Moment, it’s long since earned its place on the list of villainous clichés. Don't do it.

And it gets worse. Apparently the police can’t arrest or even investigate him without evidence, even though you’d think that a lawyer going missing and a criminal setting up residence in his house would raise a few red flags. That was topped only by Vance using murky security-camera footage to count how many arrows The Hood uses (twenty-four) and planning his own security measures by hiring... twenty-five men.

I’ve often wondered if the show would ever touch on the inherent weakness of arrow being Oliver’s weapon-of-choice, particularly in regard to their tendency to run out after a while, but to do it like this made it seem remarkably silly.

Meanwhile, over in the flashbacks, things are getting ever-more convoluted – though hopefully some clarity is on its way. After being tossed off a cliff by Yeo Fei, Oliver wakes up and realizes that he’s been given a map.

Anyone home?

It leads him to a crashed plane (what every reluctant flyer about to embark on a plane ride wants to see) where a man is hiding out. It’s Manu Bennett playing Slade Wilson! Okay... I know the name Slade and I know he’s bad news, but considering this is a fresh continuity, I’ve no idea where all this is headed.

Miscellaneous Observations:

Why do all those arrows knock the random Mooks out instantly? They should be writhing on the ground, screaming in agony.

I do like the tape-recorder arrow though. Think we’ll ever get the infamous boxing glove arrow?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a chauffeur? I had to do so much driving around today, and the sight of Moira hanging out in the backseat of her luxury car while Diggle did all the work made me sigh with envy.

David Anders gives us a lesson on evil eating: keep your chin up, chew voraciously, and have your mouth open. It really brings across that “I’m gonna eat you!” vibe.  

A conversation in which one of the participants knows more than the other will always make for a good scene. In this case we had Oliver commiserate with Tommy over Laurel’s deception concerning The Hood – he rather audaciously scolds Tommy for not protecting Laurel from the vigilante, but you could also tell that he was maybe a little bit pleased that they’re having couples trouble.

I know that a regurgitation of Oliver/Laurel is inevitable, even though the emotional obstacles between them are practically insurmountable, but for now I’m glad that Ollie seems committed to keeping his distance (except when the plot requires him not to).

I love that they let Laurel put up a pretty good fight against her assailants, though she inevitably reverts back to Distressed Damsel for the climax.

It hit me in watching Tommy and Detective Lance’s reaction to Laurel’s kidnapping that it’s all down to the actors to sell moments like this. No one in the audience really fears for Laurel’s life, so it’s the reactions of her nearest and dearest that have to demonstrate that her endangerment has an effect on those around her.

Lucky that John Barrowman’s voice was so garbled on that tape recording. They’re obviously going to hold back on the reveal of him as the Black Archer for as long as possible.

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