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Wednesday 8:00 PM on The CW (Returning Season 4 October 7, 2015)

Arrow S02E07: "State v. Queen"

So where do you guys want to start?

Do you want to start with how great Seth Gabel was this week? Because he was great, hitting a blend of camp and darkness that managed to feel totally organic to the show's world. I loved it.

Or would you rather talk about how Moira's attorney is clearly the worst lawyer in the entire world? I assumed Laurel would be horrible, but, no, oh no, Jean Loring is far, far worse. Also: Adam Donner is horrible as well. No one in Starling City should be a lawyer. No one.

Or perhaps you'd like to share you feelings on Slade's horribly but perfectly symmetrically scarred face? Poor Manu.

Oooh I know! I know! You'd like to discuss how "State v. Queen" served as an interesting take on the anxiety surrounding vaccines, an allegory about how relying too heavily on them can contribute to the mutation of diseases into drug-resistant superbugs, resulting in a pandemic! 

No? None of that? Well, what do you want to talk about, then? 

Oh! You want to talk about Malcolm? Okay, I guess we can talk about Malcolm. Sure, why not? Wait, you don't want to talk about Malcolm being alive and well? I mean, sure, it was a decent guess that he would still be alive—Arrow is a superhero narrative, after all, and as I explained a while back, people just don't stay dead in superhero narratives, no matter how much we'd like them to sometimes—so his still-alive status may not've been all that surprising, and probably shouldn't have been.

But what DID you want to discuss then? There was literally nothing else of note that happened in this episode.

Oh. Right. That. Okay. Let's talk about that little reveal. I have to imagine that for any of you who were still sitting on the fence about Arrow—even though it has become a very fine show this season, certainly at least a bit more interesting than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—might have thrown something at your TV, or at least let out a loud sigh. (Me, I let out my sigh when Malcolm showed up, because I very much wanted him to stay dead, but I'm already over it.) However, I think that even those of you who've been grooving on the show as of late might've had a similar reaction to this particular bit of information.

The notion of Thea being Malcolm's daughter—which, ew, makes Tommy's mention of how hot Thea had gotten in the pilot episode just... oy—is such a decidedly soap-tastic thing to do, and Arrow's soapier elements haven't been A) the show's strongest suit, or B) a favorite element among those you of who wanted the show be more action-centric. This season has been decidedly light on the suds, especially compared to last season, what with Moira in prison and Thea and Roy happily together. Sure, Laurel is having a number of emotional breakdowns, but we've all pretty much agreed to just ignore her whenever possible. There just hasn't been enough room lately for those aspects of the show to not be connected to the costumed stuff, which has made that particular strand of the series work better; see: Sara, Return of.

That being said, I don't think this is a terrible development for Arrow. Part of that opinion stems from genre acceptance, as I've already incorporated it into my understanding of how these types of shows function, like with Malcolm not being dead after all. Surprise familial relations are part and parcel of both superhero stories and more traditional melodramatic narratives—and this reveal is no worse than anything that, say, Scandal has done this season. What's more, I was a defender of the show's soapier elements back in Season 1, and while I haven't necessarily missed them so far this season, I'm not unhappy that they're back in some capacity. Certainly, Thea's disgust at finding out about Moira's affair with Malcolm is going to become a billion times worse now, which may give Thea something to do beyond look like she's running a club, and I'd like for that to happen.

Really, if I have any concerns, they have to do with Malcolm being back, and with how the show will offer variations on him and his relationship with Moira, apart from Malcolm's knowledge about how Oliver spends his nights. Obviously the League of Assassins will figure prominently, which will shift Malcolm's actions away from personally driven revenge on the city to probably a representative of that organization—they had to know he was still alive, yeah?—plus whatever plans the League has in/for Starling City, assuming it does have plans. At the same time, even with that particular difference, how will this be different from what Moira did last season? It's too early, of course, to know, but it feels like we could very well just end up with Moira being stressed, worried, and secretive, like she was last season.

Anyway, there's still the whole rest of the episode to consider. The Count was back, having recovered from his Vertigo OD, with a nasty new plot in the form of spreading a withdrawal-symptoms disease to people who'd gotten a flu vaccine. The only cure? An addiction to Vertigo, of course. It all seemed very nonsensical, but not as nonsensical as Malcolm still being alive. It was also, for a drug manufacturer and dealer, a very clever plot to ensure a steady stream of customers.

I rather enjoyed the flashback showing his escape from the prison during the quake, and how, after passing up a number of other prisoners—"No, no, too violent. Sloppy. Too stupid. Too ambitious."—he settled on releasing The Dollmaker. While the plot was unfurling, complete with the operation he'd set up, I was struck by the fact that The Count had laid low for so long following the quake. Given his generally flamboyant and attention-seeking attitude, that was a little surprising for me. As a result, the reveal that Blood had been the one who set up The Count, and in an effort to draw out Oliver, not only made sense, but added another glimpse into Blood's operations, even if his overall goal remains a mystery.

Sadly, just as I thought that the show and Gabel had found a way to make The Count really click—Gabel's line readings were loopy and delightful in a way that they just weren't last season—they had to go and kill him off. Sure, on the one hand, this is because the show couldn't have a typically wildcard character like The Count knowing Oliver's identity, or, worse, telling Blood about it too soon, but on the other hand, it did force Oliver into the tricky position of deciding just how important his "no kill" rule is. Part of me would've found the situation a bit more compelling if a bunch of Russians hadn't likely been killed last week, and it wasn't even cause for concern, like The Count's murder was in this episode. Consequently, it was difficult to buy into Oliver's regret; Stephen Amell did a nice job of selling it, but the writing wasn't there for it to completely work.

However, I am glad that the show is addressing this now as opposed to later; I imagine these sorts of "win by losing" situations are only going to crop up more often given Sara's willingness to kill, an organization made up of assassins, and whatever Blood's got cooking. I actually liked the cutaway to Blood's (fantastic) office as he stewed over the fact that The Count got Oliver's "killing spree" started up again. On one level, it's really nice to see other people responding to Oliver's actions and not in front of Oliver, and on another, it showed a degree of concern on Blood's part for how a perceived renewal of killing might interfere with his plans.

While I'm willing to buy into nonsense like The Count's withdrawal disease and Malcolm being alive, I do get to draw a completely arbitrary line somewhere, and so I'm taking a Sharpie to the ridiculousness that was Moira's trial. I can handle courtroom silliness in various forms: I love David E. Kelley's law shows, and I enjoy nothing more than when Jack McCoy brings down some righteous fury on a witness in a Law & Order rerun, but Moira's trial was the epitome of Arrow's melodramatic tendencies at their worst. None of those lawyers—from the DA who handed the case over to Laurel instead of taking it over herself (again, ignoring the fact that Laurel shouldn't have been second-chairing in the first place) to Donner's questioning of Thea to Loring never once objecting to anything Donner did—behaved even like TV lawyers. They just did what would cause the most dramatic action. Any resemblance to anything that might pass for an example of a legal system at work, in the real world or on TV, was completely ignored.

On the upside, at least Oliver realized something was fishy about Moira not being convicted because, yeah, she likely would've been. I'm not sure how much he'll follow up on this, as the show already has quite a bit going on each week, and it's adding more next week, so the story may just fade into the background until Malcolm makes his next move, whatever that move may be.

On the island, not a whole lot happened. Ivo's after the hosen the trio snagged from the grave cave because it has—surprise!—the coordinates for the sub that has the super-soldier serum. It seems like this serum may be more important than just making people really strong and tough, given Sara's mention of how it could save the human race, but for the immediate future, it'll be about getting Slade to stop shuffling about like he's a zombie.


– Why did I include the photo above? Because the woman in the background who's looking at something—probably Amell—is just wildly out of place with everyone else around her. I love it.

 For those of you who were really hung up on the lack of an age difference and appearance between John Barrowman (46) and Colin Donnell (31) last season, you'll be happy to know that Willa Holland is 22. Hopefully that's enough of a difference for you.

– "Quiet, please, I’m threatening."

– Arrow is off next week, so I'll see you all back here on Dec. 4 for "The Scientist," the episode that will include the first appearance of Barry Allen, the man who will become The Flash.

What was your verdict in the matter of "State v. Queen"?

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