Arrow "Trust but Verify" Review: Oliver vs. Diggle, and Malcolm in the Middle

Arrow S01E11: "Trust But Verify"

I think this may be the most balanced episode of Arrow we've seen in a long while, and I say this despite the fact that at the halfway point of "Trust but Verify," I typed in my notes that it was very stuffed. There was the case of the week and its accompanying threads; there was the Thea, Moira, Malcolm plot; there was the Tommy, Laurel, and Malcolm plot; and there was an island flashback. But it all ended up coming together in very productive ways.

Let’s dig in, shall we? The case of the week involved Diggle’s old commanding officer, Ted Gaynor (played with just the right degree of mock innocence and dangerous aggression by Ben Browder), not only being on the list but also potentially robbing armored trucks. Of course the whole thing put Oliver and Diggle at odds with one another, as Diggle wasn't convinced of Gaynor’s badness, despite Oliver’s faith in the list, and the similarity between the tactics employed against the trucks and those Gaynor used overseas.

Compared to last week’s rather miserable case, this one had time to breathe. Diggle did some investigating, and the episode put Gaynor’s involvement in the whole plot under at least enough doubt that, even though it was inevitable that he was involved (he was the guest-star of the week!), between the casting choice of Browder (he plays good guys!), his meal with Diggle, and the red herrings, I wouldn't have been totally surprised if he wasn’t the mastermind. And it was all possible because things happened around the case that didn’t involve just shooting things.

The case didn’t set Oliver and Diggle at odds as much as I would have liked, but the tension between the two, rooted in the nature of Oliver’s mission and methods, has been a recurring one, so questioned validity of the list gave it an added dimension that can be explored further down the line. But it also served to reaffirm their overall trust in one another, and that was the ultimate goal for this particular case.

Speaking of issues of trust, Thea had some with Moira after she blew off a birthday shopping spree to go meet with Malcolm but said it was Queen Consolidated business. Thea assumed that history was repeating itself because just before the yacht sank, Moira spent an awful lot of time with Malcolm while also fighting with Robert. The situation also drew Oliver into the mix, and nicely so, as he confronted Moira about Thea’s suspicions and she told him it was indeed a business issue (Malcolm’s got lots of great advice!) and also that Robert was a philanderer (not completely sure I buy that, but who knows?), and that explained the fighting.

Thea’s suspicions were generally justified (the heavy-handed shots of Malcolm’s hands on Moira's body made sure we arrived at the same connections), but her behavior didn’t completely click (she was yelling at Moira to be more focused, and then she was too erratic). Once again, the lack of a really firm baseline for Thea’s behavior prevented her story from working as well as it should have. The issues she’s dealing with, including her emotional baggage, can explain the inconsistencies and help to justify her backslide into drug use with the green Vertigo narcotic (important plot point for next week, folks!), but her arc is still hobbling the show a bit; Thea needs to feel like a character instead of a bag of shifting neuroses.

So while Malcolm was trying to maneuver Moira into dealing with a rogue member of their little club who was attempting to gentrify the Glades, he was also trying to... teach Tommy another lesson, I think? I’ve been patient with the whole Tommy and Laurel subplot, and was hoping that Malcolm’s presence in it would shake things up a bit, but it didn’t. I haven’t minded it being separate from the rest of the show, but Malcolm’s direct intervention in it, with no form of integration happening as a result, was just frustrating as hell. And I’m really not convinced that Laurel needed to try to see the good in Malcolm again. Yes, the episode showed a softer side of Malcolm with him staring at an old family photo in his lair/dojo, so Laurel wasn’t completely off-base, but her complete and utter belief in people is just becoming a bit too much to swallow.

That belief in people is what provided the final twist of the episode: Oliver’s savior on the island, the Chinese archer, turned out to be in league with Fyers. It taught Oliver his first big lesson of trust on the island, and it mirrored his own trust issues in this episode (I really loved how he didn’t let Moira off the hook very easily). If I didn’t care for the flashback last week due its failure to complement the main plot and feel gear-turny, I’m willing to forgive it as this week paid off the gear-turning and managed to provide a parallel to the rest of the episode.

And that’s why the episode worked so well. Gabrielle Stanton’s script balanced Arrow’s different genre impulses very well, and everything was ultimately thematically coherent, with each plot offering some variation on the episode title of "Trust but Verify," and the perils of doing the former without also doing the latter.



Notes & Quotes


Nick Copus, who directed this episode, didn’t break the mold with any of his choices, but little touches, like the slow-mo leap during the Oliver’s interruption of the robbery, called back to—though didn’t match—David Nutter’s work in the pilot episode. But it gave the sequence a nice way to kick things off, and felt a bit like a splash page from a comic book.

– Ted Gaynor is a character from the comics, but it’s a character who's outside my knowledge base. I do know that he was a member of a group of World War II pilots known as the Blackhawk Squadron (referenced with the Blackhawk Security company name, obviously), but that his time with the squadron was fairly short-lived, and that he wasn’t particularly happy about that.

– While I’ve been annoyed with Arrow killing off its villains-of-the-week, this is really the first time I’ve been legitimately frustrated. I’m not entirely sure where Gaynor could’ve gone from here, but I would’ve liked to have seen that potential future, and for Browder to return to the show.

– Was that a Merlyn Global Groups decal under the Blackhawk decal on the SUVs?

– Was this the first mention of a video that Robert made about the list? Or am I just totally blanking on this? Because maybe a bit more time should’ve been spent on that? Or hopefully we’ll see it soon? So help me if there’s a DHARMA station on the island...

– “You might want to think about a side entrance for your... Arrow Cave.” Yeah. That’s right. Arrow Cave. (I wish I could take credit for this but, again, Green Arrow had an Arrow Cave in the comics. And an Arrow Car. And an Arrow Plane.)

– I’m obviously all for the show acknowledging social issues and city-planning challenges like gentrified neighborhoods, but I’d really like to actually see it on screen at some point.

– The death of Mrs. Merlyn: What set Malcolm off on this little endeavor to do something to Starling City...?

– “I’m not going to let you William Tell an innocent man.”

– “So, no wine then?” Man. Felicity really deserves some wine. In fact, Felicity deserves a Big Lou!

– “You’re forgetting one thing, guys: I’m the one with the grenade launcher.”

– “Your father’s even beginning to call me now.” “Don’t waste your minutes.”

– The promo for next week has me both very excited (big villain!) but also nervous (trippy drug episode). Promos can be misleading, and it’s not easy to stick the landing on trippy drug episodes. I’m still excited.


What'd you think of this week's episode?

Comments (91)
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I'm just waiting for Felicity to finally confront Oliver over his activities. She's not stupid and his stories whenever he goes to her for help are obviously bogus. At the very least she has to know he's up to something. The things he has her do, coupled with the hood showing up to solve whatever problem Oliver had her research should easily allow her to put the pieces together and figure out that he is at least working with the hood, if not that he's the hood himself.
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It seems the post was too long. That wasn't a thing before, but it's probably for the best. The rest of the post wasn't any more flattering than the first part.
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I guess we could call this episode "TOW Diggle gets to do something...get saved by Oliver again."

It took me a while to watch this, mostly because my GF just gave up on it and I had to force myself to keep going with it. This episode was better than last week, sort of in the way last week's was better than Congress, or Donald Trump, etc.

Diggle was thrown a bone this week, a meatless, mushy bone that caves in only to hand out a mouthful of old, sad air. His quest began with a mild argument with Oliver about an old friend of his, which was essentially began as:

Diggle: "You don't know him like I do."

Oliver: "The Bible--er book that some...guy made--doesn't lie, man."

and essentially ended as:

Diggle: "Yeah, soo, you were right. My bad. Thanks for saving my life again....but I'm still not your sidekick; I'm more like a buff Lois Lane now with...y'know."

In general, the worst part about Oliver's last-minute killshots / weaponshots is that they take the choices away from everyone. This doesn't matter much with the bad guys (aside from ever using them again), but with Huntress and Diggle, they run out there in the field, and achieve nothing for themselves. Would Huntress have killed her dad? Would Diggle stand there and get killed, knowing that Gaynor would hunt down his sister-in-law and kill her too? We'll never know. They're just incidental stepping stones to Oliver's ascension to CW-quality greatness. I'll give them credit for letting Diggle be smart enough to not only notice the obvious bug planted on him, but also be smart enough to keep it there. Pride or no, it doesn't make sense to drop the leash that feeds you...or w/e.
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Hmm, I tried posting here (twice), but it's either not saving, or I can't see it. I'll try again later.
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But I can see that one. Odd / sad
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so who was the vilian in this week episode that was from the comics? Why is it that they have to kill off every villian on the show except Malcolm's character. so is vertigo green arrow villian or someone else's? he looks like a joker knock off
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Ted Gaynor, Ben Browder's character, was from the comics.

And the villain next week is one of the more prominent Green Arrow villains, though he's done battle with other heroes as well.
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thanks
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"So help me if there's a DHARMA station on the island..." LOL
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I am saying it right now: if Arrow doesn't make it for at least five seasons, I will definitively give up on TV. For one thing we have a kinda LOST island motif that is really interesting; a kind of mercenary paradise/hell thing going on. It has a hero trying to find his way both as a hero and as a human being; knowing that one will affect the other- so what is the right balance? There is a conspiracy wet dream of a Cabal who seems to run the show; and still no Lex Luthor on the horizon.We have all seen literary Cabals come and go, and yes it has the fetid taste, the rotten smell, and really bad perfume smell of any of the old such secret oligarchic organizations- but there is also a little extra. The family ties just gives it that extra stink that can actually open the way to some really great plots ahead.
Arrow also has a secret ace up its sleeve, and yes folks, it's Thea. I know, I know, she is looking like the stereotypical spoiled brat sister who always finds trouble.But I still see great potential in this character, precisely because it is so empty. There is room here to really turn her into a great and major attraction; a screwball that can either disrupt the whole Game or add to its intricate development. We already see that she is catching on her mother's ambiguous role, and she is bound to see who her brother is really ,sometime- no one can be that clueless for that long.
Felicity is also too smart not to be kept out of the loop for long. Sidekick material? Also, Oliver is not really seeing her, but what if she is given the chance to appear in some ball or some social gathering with him and she appears like the stunning girl she is. I , for one, would love to see the so called nerd girl get a really great looking charming prince.
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Fantastic episode. Pleasant surprise especially after the last one. The scenes on the island finally seem to be fitting together nicely. And i would really like to see more scences with felicity. Can we exchange thea for felicity please...
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I liked the episode especially the scenes on the island. I really want to know what happened to Oliver on the island. So as someone else suggested: An entire episode on the island would be soo cool.
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It was a strong episode but i guess the weak point in every episode right now is the case of the week ! The development for characters is pretty awesome "except for Thea , I don't get why they always - in movies and shows- put the spoiled hot girl character with empty personality and alot of drama!"
The high point of the episode is the Island...the ISLAND!!!! the freaking island!!!!! "iF ONLY they just made a whole episode on the island <3" !!!
Alot of comments about The chemistry between characters in this show and i really can't see any chemistry between any couples here , just plain acting . The only time i felt that olie has feeling with someone , when he was talking about the island and trusting others in this episode and he was talking with Diggle !!! xD
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Quick question: What's a splash page?
Also, definitely leaning towards "lair."
Not sure/couldn't remember if we're supposed to know about the whole "dad made a video. I found it." plot, but I really felt like I was missing something in that scene. Ollie (secretly) leaving the island certainly explains a lot ---> super-skills/languages/Russian mafia connections. What has always baffled me however, is why the hell he would go *back* to the island. Is there some specific, in cannon, reason why he had to return to/be found on the island?
Next week: Seth Gabel. Yay! (he better live, dammit)
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I thought Ollie said his dad left him a message, not a video. So it could be a video, could be a letter or any number of other things.

And the splash page, once upon a time the standard comic book format was to have 9 panels\images per page (although no-one seems to do that anymore). A splash page is one image that takes up one or two pages on it's own and is usually either a big sweeping background shot (Ollie stood on top of a tower looking out over all of Starling City) or a big action shot (Ollie crashing through a plate glass window while skewering a villian on the end of an arrow)
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"Was this the first mention of a video that Robert made about the list? Or am I just totally blanking on this? Because maybe a bit more time should've been spent on that? Or hopefully we'll see it soon? So help me if there's a DHARMA station on the island..."

@Noel: I thought that Oliver was simply bluffing (and he didn't say a video, just a message of some kind). His initial reaction, his hesitation. Diggle was pressuring him for answers, wanting to hear the justification for Oliver's blind trust in the list (especially after learning that Robert wasn't the author). As well as pointing out weak links in the story ("I thought you took that book off your father's dead body, how can he have been so chatty?" etc.)
So what was Oliver supposed to say? "Well, man, I just had these hallucinations of my father when I was trapped in a cave on the island, and then I noticed that the notebook actually contained a list of names. So I made a promise to right my father's wrongs, and the list seems to be the key to doing just that"?
That would've hardly convinced Diggle (not that he seemed entirely convinced anyway), and Ollie was just acting like he wanted to drop the subject as quickly as possible. We know one thing for sure - he hasn't told Diggle about the visions of Robert.

But seeing how you and a number of others seem to have taken Oliver's statement at face value, I suppose it could be treated as a potential truth. And that my belief in it just having been a blatant lie is way off the mark.
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I've never watched this before. Is everyone enjoying it? Now that I notice Captain Jack (errr, John Barrowman) is in it, I may have to check it out.
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"...Thea needs to feel like a character instead of a bag of shifting neuroses", loved that line. So true. I liked the episode. We spent quite a bit of tome on the island recently and i like it. I find myself more interested in that plot than whats actually going on right now.
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I continually (even last week) find the island more interesting than the rest of the episode. Second most interesting: anything in the Arrow Cave.
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I know what you mean. Seems like the only scenes that advance the story.
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I don't think Ted Gaynor is very well known in comics. His time with the Blackhawks were short lived, and the Blackhawks are supposed to be on the side of good, so in a way, it opens up the possibility for Lady Blackhawk to guest star in the future. Also, the arrow to Ted Gaynor's chest was fairly centered. He probably has a ruptured trachea instead of damage to the heart.

Browder also tends to play the good guys, but he's had a string of baddies. I think the most recent bad guy roll he played was on Chuck. He's also played a bad guy on Stargate in one episode.
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Either way he's still dead...Still, I went to double check where the shot landed & it looks to be right where the heart would be. The center.
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Based on where I saw the arrow hit, it looks high enough so that it might have missed the heart. Possibly hit the aorta, which would also be lethal. However, it's theoretical that he could still be alive if they take him in for surgery fast enough. No body really stays dead in comics or science fiction. Either way, minor comic book character, with little importance for plot.
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Yeah, minor character and all that, but wouldn't it be a real bummer to waste Browder's insane charisma like that?
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I really like Katie Cassidy, but, boy, that blonde chick is cute.
More blonde geek chick, please... and wine...
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Well said. But I don't care whether the geek chick is blonde, brunette or purple haired, as long as she exists.
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Such a huge improvement over last week...
Let's hope Thea's Vertigo drug doesn't lead to a one episode Count Vertigo arc where he dies at the end. I hate the way they kill off major characters from the comics, but if they do it with someone as important as Vertigo I'll be REALLY annoyed.
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I was with you right up until you said Tommy/Laurel/Malcom's storyline came together with this episode in productive ways, as I haven't a friggin' clue why we watched that storyline - it went absolutely nowhere and told us nothing of importance and connected in no way I could detect.

This episode started in a rather stupid way, the very first 2 things that happened were utter eye-rollers: the armored car drivers are screwing around with the radio instead of paying attention to their surroundings while driving at night (you almost never see armored cars driving at night for just this reason). Then the ambush fires a smoke grenade through bulletproof glass... BULLETPROOF GLASS!!!

Luckily that wasn't a sign of storytelling choices to come (except Thea, and it's her job to be stupid). Moira could have been smarter with her lies about Malcolm, but it didn't feel boneheaded, just shortsighted.

While I did like the slo-mo shot of Ollie in mid-air firing that arrow, there's still not enough focus on the stalker-hunter aspect of the character, the sniper aspect of the character, the patience and skill required - the action on this show still feels too much like Smallville when it could be much more interesting AND burn through more screentime without a bunch of expensive storyline stuff. For a show that's about a lone superhero, there is a lot of focus on everybody but him.

Robert was probably a philanderer, Ollie would have picked up that behavior somewhere, and Robert didn't seem to mind his son bringing the girlfriend's sister on a boat trip.

Laurel, I keep wanting to give a chance, especially since she chose Tommy who has gotten his crap together pretty well so far, but man do they give Laurel the most unlikable, shallow, simple-minded writing and it's infuriating to have to sit through. The director also seems to just have given up with her, odd performances, odd camera angles, odd makeup.

They could use a better way to make Ollie look different in flashbacks, the balaclava covering his raggedy hair really made him seem like today-Ollie.

Ugh, that Blackhawks reference was so clumsy, why did they even bother? The Blackhawks are rough & tumble flying adventurers, Gaynor was a member who was too by-the-book so he was kicked out and took revenge... none of this was remotely like what they had here.

As for this Ted Gaynor, he was about to shoot Diggle who wasn't willing to shoot back despite Dig's faith being pissed away in the character, so arrowing him was a necessary choice - although that killshot didn't seem like it'd stop the guy from pulling that trigger, the only hit that could definitely prevent that would be an arrow between the eyes, anywhere else and the body can keep going for a few moments.

Under the Blackhawk decal on the van was a cable company logo, I thought.

A video that Robert made? I didn't catch anything about the message being a video. I couldn't figure out what Ollie was on about, was this about his hallucination in the cave, or was there a message for him tucked into his boot or something stupid?

I got the impression that Malcolm or his group killed his wife, but that's mostly speculation, yours is much more hopeful.

Count Vertigo is kind of a big deal for Arrow, but I'm worried that they're going to drop the ball here as they've been pretty sloppy with these sorts of characters so far.
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Agree entirely with your first paragraph.
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Oh, and plot-wise, no, the Merlyns and Laurel plot didn't sync up, but thematically, they worked with the episode overall, even if it *was* the least well-executed thematic thread the episode made.
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Could you elaborate? I am not seeing how it fit thematically either.
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Wouldn't go too far down this thematic rat hole JT. That entire scene should have been left on the cutting room floor.
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I agree, I feel it shouldn't have made it through the script phase either, but Noel is the reviewer and I'm curious about the reasoning behind his point that it fit thematically. I'd rather know why someone sees something differently from my perspective than not, if I have the opportunity.
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It was still bound up in issues of trust: Laurel's unyeilding faith in Malcolm's general goodness (or anyone's for that matter), and Tommy being disappointed that he allowed himself to be duped again by Malcolm. Again, least well-executed aspect, but still there.
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I see your perspective on it. I think the reason I can't follow that line of reasoning is that Laurel is generally an overly trusting sort, and she had next to no frame of reference with Tommy and his dad yet had a say anyway. Hence, I didn't really feel like it was "trust" so much as "gullibility" and "blind faith".
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I'm going to start replying to ludicrous things that happen on Arrow with "BULLETPROOF GLASS" in the same way I use "SMARTER THAN FEDERAL BOMB EXPERTS" with The Good Wife when Kalinda does something way too smart in an effort to move the procedural aspect of the show along.

I like your idea about the sniper-y aspect of the archery, but it would sort of cut down on the all the gymnastics they get to do...the comics didn't often play that aspect of archery up either (and probably still don't, but I've given up on the current Green Arrow run). Like, Grell's run in the 80s balanced both, depending on the needs of the plot, but Ollie was loosing arrows pretty quickly and bloodily there, too.

I couldn't entirely make out the decal. I thought I saw Global and Group, hence the idea they were connected to Malcolm somehow, but I'm not entirely sure as it was sort of a quick cut AND I was furiously typing.

The message seemed wrapped up in the indication that Oliver didn't spend all his lost five years on the island, but it's still very unclear. It's not really bothering me (too much), but it felt like a big-ish thing to mention and then taper off on.

And Vertigo is a big deal for the show. I'm probably way too hopeful that he won't end up like Firefly or Deadshot, especially given the personal nature of this particular prey, but we'll see next week.
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Ouch, poor Kalinda being just so much better than everybody else when it comes to any pretense of police work. Between the cops looking inept and the FBI being dumb as a stump... oh, sorry, this is Arrow's thread. Anyway, your point is taken and should I see "BULLETPROOF GLASS" anywhere in the future, I'll think of this.

I can easily picture gymnastics being part of the sniper/hunter thing, remember how Ollie scaled the side of that building in the pilot (was that the pilot? One of the early episodes anyway), he's got to get around the city somehow, why not exciting death-defying stunts and gymnastics? Following a car from rooftops? Gymnastics! Target in an elevator? Gymnastics! Killer disguised as an olympic gymnast? Dress up like a coach! Batman does that stuff all the time and they rarely take the time to show it, why not Ollie steal that thunder since he's a Batman ripoff anyway? Usually he just appears out of nowhere to jump & nock arrows as it is.

It was definitely a cable company, I went back and looked because the scene was a tad Scooby Doo, but it wasn't memorable so I didn't note it in my head. It might have started with an "I".

Well, you were right when you assumed Island Ollie was trying to infiltrate the camp, so you could be right here too. I can't imagine why he'd go BACK to the island to get re-rescued though, they sold a pretty heavy idea that he was changed from the island in the foundational episode.

Vertigo I fear will be shallow and dopey more than I fear he'll be killed. What would we have done with that Firefly we got if he had survived and been captured?
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Dude... I know this is completely random but is it just me or is there more chemistry between Ollie and Felicity then Laurel and Ollie? I'm all for Felicity being an Oracle type for Ollie's Archer.
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There's more chemistry between Ollie and a block of wood than there is with Laurel. I was going to say "... and Diggle" but I really don't want to fuel any slash fanfic... "any MORE slash fanfic" I should assume.
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Lol. True true. There are some really weird CW slash fictions. (cough supernatural cough) I just hate that the CW is almost doing this "subtle" set up of Ollie and Laurel as this star-crossed romance out of some reverence to the comics and then casting two leads and writing two characters that have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. I mean they changed it up with Smallville,(well sort of) , so be bold give Ollie and his abs a leading lady worth their salt. Plus... as a fan of BBC's sherlock, I'm a big fan of the unrequited love between geeky girl and unattainable guy. Ah one can hope that the wine thing leads up to a moment of adorable shipping later.
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YOU SHOULD SEE MY DEVIANTART PAGE, @JT_KIRK.
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It sounds like I should do the exact opposite. EEEEK!
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Best episode in a while.

Didn't see the Yeo Fey twist coming, honestly don't know how I feel about that. We'll see how it progresses in the coming episode.

I'm chalking up Thea's iradic behaviour to her being a 17/18 year old teenange girl. When my sister was that age she was all over the place.

I give the episode 8.5/10
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I have to agree, it was a very balanced episode. Aside from the obvious and cliche plot of Thea, but it is ok because that is all I really expect from the character.

As for the killing off of the enemies, I am not sure because I have never read any of the comics. But one would presume that they know they have a limited amount of characters to deal with. However, this is science fiction and the hero universe and I am sure they can bring some of them back. After all, Oliver got hit what 3 times with arrows, once on the island and two by black arrow.

As for Malcom, I really like the character. It is almost as if it is a glimpse into the future if Oliver didn't have his family and diggle to check him into being a good guy. If the death of his wife is what led him to potentially create an organization where he controlled crime in order to perhaps limit it. I don't know it doesn't seem that far off that he would have started off like Oliver. Which makes it kind of better as are most of the wars between "villains" and heroes, because often it boils down to both parties thinking they are doing good. Which I always like in a story. Now it doesn't really make me sympathize with Malcom, but it does make him more human. And I like it.

Yea I think you're right about Robert's video. That is the first time I remember hearing anything about it.
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It bothers me that Laurel wants to see the good in everyone, except Oliver. I get it, star crossed lovers and all, but either make her selective or it just looks dumb.
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She has a similar issue with Quentin, but she seems to be making progress with that. Of course, him bugging the Arrow Phone she now has is likely to undo all of that.
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I actually have nothing big to add to anything for this episode, but I am glad we have an avenue for how Oliver has learned Russian and Chinese and is apparently a captain in the Russian army...I am guessing the big different thing about Deathstroke in the show is that he is more of Oliver's actual mentor on the island as opposed to Yau Fay (?)
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We got a good amount of backstory for Malcom and his relationship with Tommy this week which was good. Tommy's mother died when he was 8 (similar to batman) and Malcom became distant and dissapeared for a year. Of course the viewer is shown that this is likely the year that Malcom trained to become the Dark Archer. I do wonder who trained him though, maybe the League of Assassins.
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Thats my theory as well. I don't know if they will call them the leauge of assassins, but with everything we now know, I think this is exactley where they are going.
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...MALCOLM IS ACTUALLY RA'S AL GHUL (It explains why he looks so young!)
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John Barrowman always looks young, thats why he is believable as the immortal Captain Jack Harkness.

Interesting though that Malcom's group and Ra's, especially the version in Batman Begins, seem to have similar goals..Ra's Al Ghul was an eco-terrorist whose goals included destroying Gotham because it had become too decadent and corrupt and he wished to restore balance. This seems very similar to what Malcom and his group seems to be planning by what he said to Moira.

Also like Ra's, whose wife was killed spurring him to become the Demons Head, Malcoms wife was also killed spurring him to become the Dark Archer.
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Fun episode to watch this week. The flashbacks & the Olliggle storylines were satisfying enough to make the episode worth the time. That said, I pine for the day Ollie moves out of the house. The Queen family just become more & more tedious to watch as time goes on.
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You're going to be pining for a while, I think; I really don't see the show giving up the family dynamic, at least not in this season. It's way too invested in these aspects right now for its long-term stories.
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I dunno about you guys but I for my part just can't take Laurel seriously. Katie Cassidy is just too pretty for her character to be believable. Yes, even for a pretty-girl-character.
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One point in your favor is a CW thing, it's not a matter of how pretty the actress is (she has some angles where her face is way too flat for my tastes), it's the idea that she's that well put together and yet still a successful low-pay lawyer.
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Her face *is* too flat. Makes me envision her walking into a glass patio door. I just don't get the Katie Cassidy love. Maybe it's cause I'm in the wrong demographic since I'm not a dude/lesbian?
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That might be it. And just to clarify, I'm not saying she's oh so hot, just that she's your typical ... pretty girl. I dunno, hard to explain.
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Part of it is that the actress is a blonde, so this brunette hair and eyebrows look isn't her look at all.
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Comic book characters are way more attractive than this, even the majority of nerdy and bookish and ugly girls in comics are drawn hotter than Katie Cassidy, so it gets a pass. I can't take her seriously because of how the character is written and acted.
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Err.... its a CW show isnt it. i dont think Ive ever seen a show by CW where there was an ugly character!
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I know exactly what you mean...although to me, it's not that she's too pretty to be believable, it's that she can't act well enough to be believable & they try to distract us of that fact by over glamming her
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Think the same too, she cant act well and does not look the part of a smart lawyer. She looks more like a sorority girl honestly.

I dont she is pretty at all though, they are so many other pretty girls in Arrow.
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Ruby was a better character for her.
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I am jumping on bandwagon here:D She sucks and just drags show downward. Every one of her scenes are horrible. Katie thinks she is acting this smart,though woman,but in reality she is just thinking,if she already ate today and might probably just drink some water:D
And I give around 3-4 episodes,before Tommy and Laurel break up.
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Better written dialogue, a more compelling reason to exist & 20 to 30 pounds less cosmetics could possibly turn the character completely around.
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Good episode
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The thing with the decals on the Blackhawk vans was a bit odd, the fake decal was under the real decal which makes no sense at all.

And while Noel tries to avoid major comic book geekery after the dinner between Malcom & Tommy, the Merlyn's almost have a feel of the Wayne's about them.

Normal DC cannon has an 8 year old Bruce Wayne watching both his parents get shot and we all know how that ends. Last year DC did thier Flashpoint crossover, where it's Bruce that gets killed and his father Thomas turns into the psycho-vigillante.
So are Tommy & Malcom Meryln versions of Bruce & Thomas Wayne where they witnessed the murder of thier mother\wife?
Ok it's a bit of a stretch, but you've got to ask how many 8 year old billionares have had thier parents murdered?
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Its not really a stretch. Flashpoint Batman was more ruthless and violent much like Malcom and like Malcom, he felt justified in doing it. The only big difference was that Mrs. Wayne became the Joker after Bruces death and here Tommy is not a criminal.
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Agreed. It feels more inspired by that Flashpoint version, which did occur to me, but as @Gully_Foyly noted, I've been trying to avoid comic book geekery a little bit, AND Flashpoint's alternate universe explanation of things veers really deeply into that territory.
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....Like, Grell's run in the 80s ....
....MALCOLM IS ACTUALLY RA'S AL GHUL....
....the more liberal streak the Oliver Queen character has become known for...

How's that comic book geek avoidance thing working out for you? :D
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It's in the comments! Less likely to get yelled at in the comments for stuff.
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Apropos my comment below regarding Felicity I just read a preview blurb on youtube for next week’s episode which contained the following: "Felicity (guest star Emily Bett Rickards) gives Oliver some disturbing news about Moira (Susanna Thompson)." It's about freaking time. Felicity holds the key to Oliver making some important plot connections, but her character and her importance to the plot seems to take second place to the Thea, Laurel and Tommy nonsense.
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Way better than last week's episode. Last week's episode is something to forget.
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There was an episode last week? I don't remember that... ;)
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Those were some impressive one hand push-ups.
Yeah it also hit me out of nowhere,with Ollie saying, that Robert made some video about the list. This aside,there are times,when I think I am psychic:D I knew it,what will Thea say to her mother, when she got car and then also drugs,I knew it,she will crash & burn. And do kids really listen to that crap? I mean, they must use drugs to be able to listen to that crap,right?
This episode was better than last one. At first I thought,ok at least Laurel scenes are bareable in this episode,TILL she started her hypocrisy again and her double standards,while making herself look like "saint".
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Hey Noel, agreed with much of the points in your review, but they led me to the opposite conclusion. I really like Arrow, and will continue to watch it, but was really disappointed in this episode, which felt more like a season filler, than advancing the story. I agree with you the episode felt “stuffed”. Too much of the Thea, Moira, Malcolm, Laurel and Tommy side show, which like you, I find very frustrating. And this is where I believe the show is being “hobbled,” as you suggest, taking time away from the focus on Arrow. Honestly, I just fast forward past these bits. These scenes do seem “separate from the rest of the show” and leaves me thirsting for the real Arrow.

I also appreciated the flashback scenes in this episode, and would have preferred more time in flashbacks, and more integration of Felicity, than the useless, time consuming, Thea-Moira-Laurel-Tommy diversions.

Which is another frustrating thing. How long are we to be strung along regarding Felicity’s cluelessness about Oliver? This is supposed to be an intelligent character. Yet we’re supposed to believe she is unable to connect the dots despite knowing that these ‘friends’of Oliver’s have nothing to do with the laptops, arrows, hard drives or any other computer related tasks he’s asked her perform. Does she go home to some other planet where she doesn’t see news about the vigilante’s activities and their connection to whatever Oliver has brought her? She’s already made the connection between the book of invisible names and the vigilante, which she told Walter. And speaking of which, it’s been how many weeks since Walter disappeared, and Felicity is nowhere in the story even though she’d been on the phone with Walter, and he was on his way to see her about the book when he suddenly disappears. Instead we have Thea and Moira, and Laurel and Tommy filling screen time. Useless, rustrating, and doesn't advance the story. Like one moment you're moving ahead at a decent clip and the next someone's stomping on the brakes.

And for someone who trusts nothing and no one, when is Oliver going to get a clue about what is going on right under his nose?

I’m aware the show needs to fill a full season, and maybe they’re saving all this for sweeps or a season finale cliffhanger. But in my opinion Felicity’s absence is a strain on the show’s credibility, and the Thea, Laurel, Tommy side show is bogging down what ought to be a fast paced, action oriented series.
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Ummm really, lack of Felicity is killing the shows credibility?, if anything the presence of Felicity is really whats killing the show's credibility. She is made into Chloe 2.0, its blatant plagiarisism from Smallville. And it sounds like they are shoe-horning her more screentime in an episode that sounds very much ripped off from a Smallville episode.

They are already losing credibility, seems like they have just started to pander to fans who want to see more of Felicity regardless of whether she is needed or not. And its likely to have a strain on the character too as she sounds more and more obnoxious every episode, with more than necessary screentime.

The other characters are not wasting time, its being used well we dont need a whole episode of Felicity trying too hard to be funny and bubbly forcibly. Believe me I like the character, but I dont agree with just giving characters too much just because of vocal internet fans, when it makes no sense to the show.
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You may find this hard to believe, but some of us DIDN'T WATCH Smallville.
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True, I sort of forgot a bit that some people never watched smallville. I guess its a good thing you are seeing a bit of it in this show. It was a good show for superman.

I still think it ruins the credibility of the show though, if they continue to take too much, because even if some fans havent seen smallville many others have, as well as the media and critics etc. How long can the show get away with very little creativity and originality.


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Except this is the "real" Arrow. There's not a secret version that exists somewhere else. There's possibly a Platonic ideal of Arrow that exists in yours and many other people's mind, but that's not what we have, for better or for worse.

Felicity, frankly, I'm willing to work through because of budget issues. Emily Bett Rickards is a guest star, and they can only afford her so often (and this was a big guest star episode with Barrowman and Browder also in the mix), and while the show doesn't often get to deploy her as well as I think most everyone would like as she seems to be a fan favorite, they could also just be saving her for, as you identified, sweeps and other more pivotal moments in the show. I'm really okay with this.

While Moira and Thea's interpersonal aspects may be among the show's weaker aspects, they're still a part of the larger stories of the show that tie into Oliver's vigilante persona (mainly Moira, though). Cut those out, and you're left with other, less personal avenues for exploring those connections. They do need better consistency in characterization, which is where my frustration lies, but I'm generally okay with where they fit in the narrative spaces, and they do provide advancement avenues in the story.

Less okay is Tommy and Laurel. While I've defended their plot in the past, it's tough to justify their continued lack of integration into the larger plot, narratively speaking. (Thematically, they're okay here, as I pointed out.) Certainly Malcolm presence provides a way for that happen, as does Tommy's presence in the club and Laurel's occasional CNRI case, but it may've become too slow of a build-up, meaning that when it is eventually paid off, it'll need to be worth it.
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Noel I appreciate the reply. The "real" Arrow I'm referring to is not a separate "platonic" version of Arrow but the version that gets interrupted by the Laurel Tommy diversions.

As a writer I’m attracted to shows for the writing - the plot, the characterizations, the tension and suspense. And I like Arrow enough to not excuse its weaknesses. So far the show has not made the case that the relationship between Thea and Moira, or Laurel and Tommy, are actual subplots. Rather these storylines as written serve to define the main character (Oliver), as he navigates the characters populating his life, the history he has with them (backstory), and the effects these relationships have on him (the emotional component). Technically the only plot relationship is the one between Moira and Malcolm.



To devote so much time to Thea and Moira, and Laurel and Tommy, beyond establishing the dynamics of their relationships and how that relates to Oliver, is a drag on the pacing of the show (unnecessary exposition and filler). And actually the island flashbacks are more relevant to Oliver/Arrow’s persona than these relationships. I’d rather see more flashbacks, and less of Thea, and Tommy.



The story is at a stage now where the conflicting dynamics between Laurel and Oliver, and Laurel and The Man in the Hood, can be focused on, explored, played with, have dramatic or even comedic fun with. (Imagine a scene where Laurel learns Oliver is the Man in the Hood, and how her character might react, knowing what we do now). The relationships and back stories have been established. Why do we need to see the Laurel-Tommy relationship being played out? What does watching them on a date, or working through relationship issues, or deciding on drawer space, have to do with Oliver/Arrow, or the plot? How many different ways do we need to see Thea’s neuroses play out? The girl has issues. Got it. Now let’s get on with the plot already.

And ispeaking about plot, Arrow’s writers made the decision to give Felicity’s character a pivotal role, holding the clues Oliver/Arrow needs. If the show’s budget can only afford a guest star so often, then a less pivotal role might have been written for that character, rather than have her disappear from the storyline at crucial moments, or spending the budget to shoot storylines which do not advance the overall plot.

I like Arrow, will continue to watch it. But I’d also love to see it step up its game.
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This is an ensamble show so there is bound to be side plots that dont have anything to do with Ollie. I think eventually it will all come to a head, but until then we are left with some Tommy/Laurel on the side
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I agree that this episode did a good job of balancing out the various storylines. I thought it was a great episode in general, and especially like how it made some nice steps toward looking at the future. For a while now, Malcolm has been hinting at this master plan that he and the other people on the list have. And tonight we had one big step toward revealing what the plan is, as well as what I'm pretty sure is a fairly big tie in. Since there has been quite a bit of focus on the Glades in this show, I wasn't surprised when Malcolm told Moira that one of their fellow listers was trying to gentrify the Glades, which wasn't part of their plan. Unless I'm mistaken, this would imply that their plan has much to do with the Glades.

My personal theory is that they plan to completely demolish the Glades and build something big. This obviously can't be just a better neighborhood, since that would be gentrification. So it will probably be one hug structure, or a series of structures, or maybe even a giant factory or something. But I'm pretty sure this ties in nicely with the free clinic that Malcolm tried to get Tommy to sign off on destroying at their dinner. Because if you want to get people out of a poor neighborhood so that you can do whatever you want with that land, destroying a free clinic is a good step in that direction. So yeah, I think we can expect to see a lot of people on the list try and make lives miserable for people living in the Glades in order to force them to sell and move.

The island story was also very enjoyable this week, complete with a nice twist at the end that tied into the episode as a whole, which last week's flashback very much lacked. Now, it didn't escape my notice while I was watching the episode that the guard he talked to primarily was Asian, and I did think that maybe it could be the archer. However, I didn't think that he would be in league with the mercenaries, because of what that implies. It implies that they have been simultaneously helping Oliver and teaching him to survive, while also torturing him (for the location of a guy who has been presumably in league with them) and trying to kill him. Such a thing is pretty darn crazy, even by television standards. This leads me to believe that either A. the archer only recently joined up, maybe because he had to, B. This is all some crazy tactic to break him even though he doesn't seem to be all that important, or C. The guy we saw isn't actually the archer and it was a trick to make Oliver doubt his trust in his one ally on the island.

Now, on other shows I would be a little worried about this twist, which seems almost too unrealistic, and might be wondering how this show can possibly explain it. However, this show has already dealt with Oliver being accused of being the Arrow, and it handled that one quite well, so I'm really not that worried. Instead, I'm just looking forward to where this show is going, since it looks like it could be going in some very fun directions.
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I dig your theories about the Glades, but I'd like to see it actually play out on screen, like I mentioned. (Of course, that may mean a return to their stereotypical gangbangers that we saw in the episode where Diggle donned the hood, and it may not be worth it then...). It'd also tie back to the more liberal streak the Oliver Queen character has become known for, but we'll see how that plays out.

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I agree. I think the biggest issue that Arrow has it that it tends to bite off an awful lot, and then not surprisingly has some trouble making sure to chew everything properly before swallowing. In a standard episode we'll have a case of the week, scenes with Tommy, Laurel, and Thea, a flashback, Oliver's being the Arrow conflicting with him being plain old Ollie, and maybe an ominous conversation between Malcolm and Moira. While not all of these things will always happen in one episode, they do more often than not, which can lead to a lot of crowding.

In most TV shows, this format would translate into a case of the week with one tie-in to the season-long arc. White Collar is a perfect example of this, in that they will solve a usually unrelated case, and then have a minute-long scene at the end where they inch a little bit closer to whatever it is they're trying to do. But Arrow has two of these big season-long arcs going for itself. The first is the listers' plan, as relayed to us only a little by Malcolm and Moira, which is a lot of what you would expect from a show like this: Rich, powerful people planning something big and probably diabolical that our hero will have to stop.

But there's an added layer in the flashbacks, which are the second season arc. And often times, the flashbacks bring us the moments that season arc reveals normally do, like this week when Oliver got taken prisoner, thrown in a case, and was shown that the one man he trusted couldn't be trusted. This scene made me really pumped for the next episode, not the part where Thea got arrested, even though that is the scene that foreshadows what will happen next in the present day. And this really highlights both a great strength, and a great weakness, of Arrow. Because Arrow has so many stories going on at once, they don't all really need to work for each viewer, or work period. Thea's arrest doesn't need to interest me in the slightest, as long as Oliver's imprisonment and betrayal does, and vice versa (though I don't know who that would apply to). So the show sets many hooks, and really only needs one to catch and reel you in. But this also tends to be a problem, in that the show then doesn't need all of these hooks to be as polished as they could be.

Basically, the big plan of Malcolm, Moira, and the listers is pretty underdeveloped. As I point out in my previous comment, I think that there is a lot of groundwork there, but these are more breadcrumbs than anything, rather than the trail-markers the show could really use at this point. Because I completely agree with you that the show should have this plan play out on screen more. Thus far, since the show has dealt with so many things at once, it hasn't really needed to talk about the plan all that much to keep us interested. But now that they have mentioned the plan a bit, they really should at least have less vague conversations between Malcolm and Moira, or at least have Malcolm look ominously at some blueprints that we can only partially see. Or, preferably, have a case of the week actually tie into the plan, so that at the end of the episode Malcolm says: "well, the Arrow may have taken so-and-so down, but at least we were still able to do this-and-that." That way we won't have to continuously wonder if someone on the list laid off all their workers because of the big plan, or if it was just to make more money because he/she is greedy.
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Theopratt, I totally agree with your assessment. The show just has too many things going on that takes away from the main action and plot. I agree the groundwork has already been laid – the back stories, the character conflicts, the seeds of the big plan. And at this point the show needs to get on with it. I also have a problem with the show dropping breadcrumbs for the audience, but not for Oliver or Dingle. Is Oliver/Arrow really going to be completely clueless and get blindsided when the plot is finally revealed? This is a missed opportunity to inject a mystery into the show for Oliver and Dingle to solve.

Agree the show ought to play this out on screen more. They’ve already established Thea and Tommy as background complications in Oliver’s life. Leave them there – in the background, until they’re needed for a crucial event in Oliver’s character arc. It’s now time for more plot. How did Moira get mixed up in all this? What is her real role in it? What is the grand plan for Starling City?

Much more interesting, pertinent, and dramatic than Laurel, Tommy or Thea, would be Oliver developing a reluctant suspicion of Moira. How does that affect him, and their relationship? And the collateral relationship to unstable Thea, and Tommy, the big bad’s son. These elements don’t need to be piled into one episode, they can be plausibly and suspenseful stretched over a season as you suggest, with elements dropped in each week, rather than the unconnected Laurel-Tommy saga.
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The twist and its implications were quite crazy. I hope whatever explanation they give it's not "B. This is all some crazy tactic to break him even though he doesn't seem to be all that important".
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AWESOME EPISODE!
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