Arrow "Unfinished Business" Review: Character Turns Ahead
"Unfinished Business" was perhaps less about things left unfinished—though that was certainly a running thing—than about the episode's other repeated theme: "People can change." Sadly, such changes don't always play out as well as they should, or as consistently.
The inciting incident for everything that happened this week was a new form of Vertigo flooding the streets, resulting in the death of a woman who was at Verdant, and supposedly picked up the drugs there. It put Oliver onto the Count's case and it also ended up putting Quentin and Oliver onto Tommy's case, as both suspected Tommy of dealing drugs in the club, a notion made even more compelling after the discovery that $10,000 was missing from Verdant's books.
Oliver hunting down the Vertigo stuff was pretty fine, so far as that sort of thing goes. As before, when the show has executed it well, the investigative nature of the case was nicely worked out, from Diggle buying the drugs ("Person of color has successfully purchased your drugs.") to following those drugs around the city in the hopes of finding someone who was going to lead them back to whoever was producing the new Vertigo, and later checking toxicology reports of victims. It had clues, it had dead ends, and so it felt like something resembling an investigation. There were a couple of nice set pieces, including the scenes at the docks and the aquarium, though I wish the latter had remained in the actual aquarium as opposed to the behind-the-tanks pipe world. It was so much less visually interesting than a strung-out dude with a gun in front of thousands of gallons of fish.
The problem with the Vertigo plot, sadly, was that the conclusion was telegraphed as soon as Quentin arrived in the asylum. The orderly looked decidedly shifty and glance-y at Quentin and the Count's doctor as they went up the stairs in like the third or fourth scene of the episode. "Ah," I said. "The orderly's the one making the new drugs." The extra oversold it, and the direction lingered on him too long. So, mostly I was waiting for them to circle back to the asylum the entire episode, and while I sort of enjoyed the fact that the doctor got to indulge in a little monologuing, I still ended up pretty bored with the overall approach to the case.
The bait-and-switch with the Count and his doctor did prove useful as a character moment for Oliver, though, as he decided not to kill the Count, even after leveling multiple arrows at the madman. Mercy stayed Oliver's bow (just like it did against the Vertigo user in the aquarium) as the realization dawned on Oliver that in the Count's current state, "there didn't seem to be a point" in taking his life. It's something we might've been looking for in the Savior's final moments last week, a chance for the Glades' avenger to redeem himself, but at least it shows some movement on Oliver's morality needle. People don't always fail the city, and not everyone deserves an arrow through the jugular.
However, Tommy was probably wishing he had received an arrow through the jugular in this episode. No one believed that he wasn't dealing drugs in the club, even though he did bribe a city official to forego the building inspection to protect the Arrow Cave. So, just for the record: not dealing drugs but protecting a vigilante who used to be his best friend. It wasn't enough to spare Tommy from other people's horrible attitudes.
Quentin's response to Tommy I totally understood, and I imagine that on some level, even Tommy understood it. And I dug how it affected him and his fears over it causing another divide between him Laurel. The show hasn't handled Quentin super-well, but but he seems to have found something like a grip on his character, and the writers are following through with it, and I can appreciate that. He's even drinking soda instead of soda with alcohol, so hurrah!
But what made things fell apart for me was Tommy's response to Oliver throughout the hour. Tommy's anger and frustration with Oliver is what we should've seen two weeks ago when Helena returned, and instead Tommy didn't show any signs of that. In fact, he was a paragon of understanding of Oliver's plight. Here, Tommy was very frustrated not only with Oliver's betrayal of their friendship, but with Oliver's lack of faith in him. It's the lack of consistency in Tommy's behavior that irks me. His struggle to come to grips with Oliver's vigilante life was never fully dramatized so as to lend this back-and-forth any real weight. And none of this is Colin Donnell's fault. His performance in this episode was very strong, just as it was he was sort of being understanding about Oliver's life two episodes ago. It's just haphazard writing and character plotting.
It's possible for a person to snap and have a bad day, and for a confluence of events, like the ones that happened here, to lead to rash decisions. But there's a difference between a person and a character with an arc on a serialized television series, and it makes all the difference when that arc feels truncated. Tommy was probably always going to end up at Malcolm's side somehow or another, and the tensions between him and Oliver were likely going to drive him there. The events in this episode did feel like a justifiable reason—he bribed a city official and then turned the Arrow Cave into a storage area ALL TO PROTECT OLIVER, and Oliver was being a jackass about it—but the small hiccup in the journey to get there sort of made the whole thing feel rushed.
In actual viewing pleasures, Diggle received some non-Arrow Cave love this week. It seems like things with Carly are progressing well enough, but also like he's very much weighed down by Deadshot still being alive. While it's all very much a set-up for the next new episode, I appreciate that Diggle not only got some time to do stuff on his own, but that his plans put him into a slight conflict with Oliver. They're partners, yes, but it's Oliver's mission that takes priority. Oliver at least realized the error of this attitude, and decided to make Deadshot a priority. It'll be interesting to see how Diggle's "kill only with necessary cause" mindset comes into play when presented with the opportunity to confront his brother's killer again.
NOTES & QUOTES
– On the island this week, Shado began her Mr. Miyagi-esque training of Oliver by having him slap water ("We're almost out of slapping water."). It strengthened his arm enough so that he could draw the bow without hurting himself. But it put Oliver another step closer to becoming who he is today. It also clearly means I've been wasting my time lifting weights.
– "Oh, good, you're here. Of course you're here. You clearly love it down here."
– Casual name-dropping of A.R.G.U.S., the organization that employs Lyla, Diggle's contact (and the same contact from last week's Arrow digital comic, by the way). In the comics, A.R.G.U.S stands for Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans and was, among other things, the liaison group between the U.S. government and the Justice League. Now they've formed their own Justice League of America headed up by Steve Trevor. Who knows what the hell the group is here, other than a massive intelligence operation. Although I do sort of love the idea of Steve Trevor showing up on Arrow. *Update*: As Gislef kindly pointed out, in Arrow A.R.G.U.S stands for Advanced Research Group United Support per producer Marc Guggenheim in a tweet.
– "I doubt you could aim a single arrow." And Oliver couldn't. So he aimed three arrows. One for each of the doctors he was probably seeing.
– Speaking of arrows, there was an uptick in the novelty arrows this week. Explosive-tipped arrows, explosive-with-a-trigger-on-the-outfit arrows, and medicinal herb concoction-injecting arrows. Boxing glove or buzz-saw arrow by the finale!
– "Looks like I'm the last one standing. Sitting. Spinning. Something to do. What was I going to do? Memory not what it once was. Nothing what it once was. Is there a name on the gravestone? No. It's new. And clean. And waiting." Seth Gabel had a lot of fun with the Count. I'm hopeful that the Count somehow achieves a degree of rehabilitation and comes back to haunt everyone again.
– Arrow's taking the next two weeks off, so it'll be back on April 24. After that, it'll have an uninterrupted run all the way to the finale on May 15.
What'd you think of "Unfinished Business"?
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