Arrow: Betrayal (S1E13)

    Arrow, I feel confident enough in saying this, is a show that will always be defined far more by its characters than its plot. Part of this is because the plot is sometimes haphazard, part of this is because the characters are just more interesting (and there are so many of them), and maybe it’s all really just because the characters are often my most and least favorite part of the show. They have such a range of depth that is occasionally brilliant but also occasionally terrible. The spectrum is so wide that I never feel like I know how any of them are going to act, and that’s the shows best and worst quality.
    Laurel, for instance. Last week, she was the real hero for at least a portion of it. She stuck her neck out with her father to give Thea a second chance, and it was a really selfless thing to do, as there’s no indication that she did it to somehow gain favor with Oliver (who she pretty much already has all the favor in the world with, anyway). However, she’s completely flipped the switch in this episode. I mean, it’s hard to hate the girl that gets kidnapped most of the time, but she makes it pretty easy. Detective Lance finally cashes in on his wiretap of The Hood’s phone (which he knows Laurel took from him), and gets the chance to, with a team of officers, crash a meet and greet between his daughter and the Green Arrow. He used her, and that’s cold, but it also shouldn’t be surprising, seeing as he did warn her repeatedly to stay away from the guy and had taken a multitude of precautions to ensure his daughter’s safety during The Hood’s potential capture. She reacts by telling him to stay away from her, which I understand but personally find to be rather unreasonable. This is, much like the scene between Thea and her mother last week, a rather weak point in the episode. The argument between her and her father about her involvement with The Hood is cliched and played out. Neither of them add anything to the discussion or put new ideas on the table, and when it’s all over, everybody is mad and they’ve really just wasted time getting there. They should have skipped to her argument with Tommy, which was also cliched, but definitely worth it given the circumstances. Tommy iterates that her father was right, which is an awesome boyfriend thing to do. His honesty is something I truly appreciate, and I think it shows what kind of person he’s turning into. The easy thing would have been to agree with Laurel and just move on with it, but he stood his ground and looked out for her interests instead of his. That’s big growth for Tommy, and it was done subtly and believably.
    But the best part of the entire ordeal is that Laurel gets kidnapped. And despite the fact that we feel for her and that’s obviously bad... she deserved it. She absolutely deserved it. Her father told her that she’d get hurt if she played with The Hood, and she did. And even though I of course don’t want Detective Lance to catch Oliver, there is definitely a pleasure in seeing him be right. It seemed inevitable that she’d be kidnapped almost from the beginning of the episode, but it played out nicely enough.
    She was kidnapped by Cyrus Vanch, who is really just a terrible, useless character (as written, anyway). Vanch is so one-dimensionally evil that he’s almost boring to tears, and it’s telling that his best scenes are some of the shows most ridiculous, both of them involve him making grandiose statements about his general prowess juxtaposed with The Hood shooting all of this henchmen with arrows. It’s cheesy and hokey, and it’s bad.
    As well, the flashbacks have been getting worse and worse. I didn’t much touch on it in the discussion of last weeks episode, and that’s because I found them to be completely forgettable. This week has Arrow hanging out with Slade Wilson (Deathstroke), and hopefully this will eventually lead to something meaningful, but right now it’s just filler. That entire portion of the plot is beginning to feel way too much like Batman Begins, and it’s absolutely killing it for me. Jeffrey Robinson, the actor playing Deathstroke, even sounds like Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, and if there isn’t a large culminating piece in which something that really shakes the show to its core as a result of this entire ordeal, I’m going to be very disappointed.
    Thankfully, this episode had a lot more to offer. And that’s all because of the show’s best (and my personal second favorite) character: Diggle. In this episode, he balances cunning and caution in equal measure, proving that he’s, at least presently, the smarter, and arguably more useful member of The Hood team. When Oliver explains to him what Felicity (FELICITY!) has given him (the notebook that Walter stole from his mom), Diggle is honest and clear to Oliver that he needs to investigate her just like he would anybody else. When Oliver goes to confront his mom about the notebook, things get heated, but she diffuses the situation (“The only way to keep this family safe is for everyone in it to stop asking questions”). Diggle is unsatisfied with the conclusion Oliver has come to, so he proceeds to play Morgan Freeman (that’s a Driving Miss Daisy joke) for a while, intermittently spying on her in sometimes silly, but ultimately effective ways. Diggle going behind Oliver’s back like this definitely indicates that the dynamic between the two of them might be shifting in his favor, and also that he learned a great deal from “Trust but Verify,” in which he was similarly betrayed by somebody close to him.
    So, Diggle gets the proof that Mrs. Queen is the terrible person that everyone watching the show already knows she is, and confront Oliver with it. This leads to the biggest moment of the show, when The Hood comes crashing through Moira’s window, and tells her that she’s failed the city.
    This is, of course, the climax that the Arrow writers have earned. Though their stumbles-and occasional outright failures-have certainly cost them many moments, it didn’t cost them this one. In these 13 episodes, they’ve made Moira one of the least likable characters I’ve ever encountered in any format. She’s worse than any of the villains the show has given us because she lies to those closest to her about what’s truly happening, she’s willing to hurt her family to protect herself and she’s just all around a completely terrible human outside of that.
    The Arrow writers have done something truly impressive, because outside of blatant child abuse, it’s really hard to justify having a son dress up as a vigilante and confront their parent. But that’s exactly what the Arrow writers have done, and that’s a testament to the potential of this season and this series.
    Next week will truly be make or break for the show. How they handle The Hood’s confrontation of his mother is imperative to everything the show has been striving for up until this point. It’s earned a fantastic paycheck, and I sincerely hope they cash in.