Trust. There isn't much of it between the characters in this latest Arrow installment, but the test of trust ends up strengthening bonds in some ways and majorly failing in others.
This week, the bromance continues with yet another twist. The bastard of the week, who is resorting to knocking over armored cars and killing the innocent drivers, happens to be Diggle’s old commanding officer, Ted Gaynor, played by sci-fi fav Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate SG-1). While I’m really impressed that Arrow is bringing in some wonderful and well reputable actors to play these guest roles, it’s a shame when the characters written for these people are saddled with some really lame stories. Mr. Browder really got the short end of the straw in this one.
Oliver has Gaynor pegged as guilty from the word go, because he’s on the list. They’re on that list for a reason. Digg says that the list is wrong. A confrontation ensues and Digg ends up working for Gaynor. After two viewings I hadn’t figured out if he took that job to go undercover or if he truly was working for the guy. He was still going to the Oliver cave, so I guess he hadn’t quit his sidekick job. I’m also suddenly wondering why Oliver is holding such faith in the list, because didn’t he find out from the Dark Archer that Oliver’s father wasn’t the one who created it? That it isn’t what he thinks it is? Ah well, something has to drive tension between these two, so bring on “the list does no wrong” mentality.
Oliver was right, and there wasn’t a lot of proof that needed to be sought. The dude was straight forward guilty, and his MO of using military tactics to rob these vehicles was like setting of a beacon of wrongdoing. I think the biggest victim of this very black and white scheme is Felicity, who was robbed of a great bottle of red wine. The way she craved you’d think she’d been nursing a case of Two Buck Chuck and was dying to upgrade.
The ultimate lesson though is to continue the trust building between Oliver and Digg. Despite the fact that Diggle was wrong, Oliver stuck by him anyway. Dig easily found the bug Oliver put on him, but he kept it on anyway, as if to prove a point. Digg isn’t stupid, because if he was wrong, he knew Oliver would come and help. It’s a nice test for them both, because it proves that no matter what their philosophical differences, and they still have many, they both have each other’s back. I especially like that Digg doesn’t want to know who’s on that list, because that means he won’t be tied to it like Oliver. Once of them has to remain objective!
The end point between Digg and Oliver was strangely uplifting, even though the actual plot was lighter than a feather. I mean what sort of idiot bad guy gives the man who’s being coerced into robbing an armored car the grenade launcher? Sure, a cool line came out of that, but how boneheaded was that move? It must be the same idiot who left the USB drive out on the desk for Oliver to steal that detailed in incriminating fashion all of their bloody heists. Also, what was the motive? That was never clearly explained, even though Digg did ask. Because they were disrespected when they came home from war? I get that greed is always a great motivator, but killing the drivers in a cold blooded ambush made absolutely no sense. Soldiers are usually against killing innocents. Also, the lines are still sorely lacking. While Digg said, "Ted, I think your convincing is going to have to be a lot more convincing," I got sick. Come on, Digg is more bad ass than that!
How about saddling such a line on someone who isn't that well spoken, like Thea. Honest, her spoiled brat routine is wearing very thin for me, as is her completely inconsistent characterization. Boo hoo, mommy is a liar and she doesn't love me (eye roll). That's no reason to take an illegal drug and go off driving your new car. There's differences between being a brat and being completely stupid and often Thea is not shown to be stupid, like when she verbally bitch slapped her mother last week to take over Queen Consolidated. It's sad that I was actually hoping for her demise when that car crashed, only to be disappointed when she lived. Instead, she got the Queen suite that’s kept just for this family in the hospital, since someone seems to be there at least once a week.
I kind of felt sorry for Tommy this week and it's nice to see his character get some background story, but I still wasn't completely into it. Tommy just doesn't have enough depth to sell a tragedy like his mother being shot and killed when he was eight. I'm still not feeling those tender and special moments between him and Laurel either. His Dad showed grief so much better, even if he was being a total dick while doing it. Mr. Merlyn has certainly flown off the deep end, don’t you think? His wife dies tragically and he loses all faith in humanity? I suppose in the comics it’s stories of tragedy that drive either heroes or villains, and the fine line can get thin, but I’m not sure how that drove him to being a crappy father too. Why does he want to close the clinic now? His motivations are still too murky to me, other than he’s some dude misguided by hate. We need more.
I actually found the flashbacks to be more interesting that the rest of the story this week. Oliver took a real chance by disgusing himself to be a soldier to go in and rescue Yao Fei. It's about time his island personna got out and did something! Of course that whole story ended in Oliver supposedly being betrayed by Yao Fei to Edward Fyers, but I'm certain more to that story is coming. Might I say that Edward and Yao Fei both show way more charisma in those tiny flashback sequences that the entire supporting cast (except Digg). Come episode 11, character weaknesses are much more noticeable.
I’m usually patient with a show that’s in its first season, especially a genre show. There’s a lot to establish character wise on top of getting a mythology going that will keep people engaged every week. I think that Arrow has done an acceptable job of balancing both aspects of character development and mythology development well, but after the last few episodes, some things are just falling off the rails.
For one, the fluidity is missing a lot from these scripts not just from episode to episode, but from start to finish within an episode. They get started well, but somewhere along the line all that build up in the story results in a hurried finish, resolutions that are too cheap and don’t make a whole mess of sense. It's possible that between building the villain of the week stories, trying to do the flashbacks, and giving time to side plots with supporting characters that there's too much happening for it all to cleanly come together. The result has been a very uneven season so far.
Character development has been the show's greatest weakness. Both the supporting characters and guest actors remain wildly inconsistent from one episode to the next, and we really don't have a good grasp on who these characters are and what role they're supposed to be playing in this overall story other than filler. Tommy and Laurel are getting a decent amount of screen time and earning relatively little growth or story. As a result, they're boring. Don't get me started on Moira and Thea. We just don't know who's showing up each week. When these characters are lacking depth it's been hard to form an emotional connection with them.
"Trust But Verify" may have exposed glaring weaknesses but the main strength, the partnership in crime fighting between Oliver and Digg, continues to get stronger and better. Let's just hope that for the rest of the season the whole episode pulls together much like their partnership. Maybe then Arrow can truly live up to its potential.