Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Arrow "Trust but Verify" Review

What a dull yet effective title--"Trust but Verify." Couldn't the writing staff think of a title that meant 'trust but verify' without stating it in the title? Each story dealt with a character that trusts someone else, but it's a guarded trust. Doubt lingers about the trustability of a character, whether it's Tommy's father, Diggle's old army comrade, Moira Queen, or a helpful Chinese man on a deserted island that isn't deserted at all, actually. Other characters try to verify through trust in another character. It's all rather heavy-handed.

Diggle and Oliver were bound to clash. Diggle's past in the army had to become a plot point sometime during the first season. Diggle's old comrade, Ted Gainer, is in Starling City. Oliver suspects Ted's leading a ring of bandits that launch grenades at armored vehicles. Diggle doesn't believe Oliver, doesn't care what the list says, and would appreciate it if Oliver trusted his judgment once in awhile. Genre shows always have an episode wherein the hero clashes with his partner in saving the world, or a city, or whatever. Giles, in Buffy, was the solid and stable librarian. Buffy cringed thinking he had a life outside of the library and outside of his role as a watcher; but Ethan Ryan shows up in season two. Rayne was part of the Ripper period of Giles' life. Giles suddenly isn't the wise Watcher--he's human, flawed, and capable of bad judgment, bad judgment that haunts him in the present. So it is with Diggle, who went to war with Gainer and proudly knew he and his friend came back alive and in one piece. His friend couldn't be on the list.

Oliver stresses that he came home from the island and intentionally lied to the people he cares about to protect them because he knew what he had to do, and he knew what the people on the list did. As sorry as he is that Diggle needs to confront the truth about his buddy, Oliver's going to bring the man to justice. Oliver's saving the city; he's not saving the memory of a friend just because the truth sucks. Diggle becomes Ted's bodyguard in the hope he'll prove Oliver wrong, to show him the book got it wrong one time. There are red-flags around Ted. Ted talks about what he's doing as if it's virtuous. A man they toured with, too, Knox, would be shooting up gas stations if Ted hadn't hired him. Meanwhile, Oliver cracks a computer code to figure out when the group of robbers will strike as well as the specifics of their plan. Diggle hung his hat on the fact Ted recruited him for Blackhawk a few months ago. Blackhawk's a front. Ted's real work made him a bad man.

The truth disappoints Diggle, though he finally suspected Ted wasn't the man he said he was. The last act unfolds like the last act of Point Break. Ted kidnaps Carly to force Diggle into committing the crime. Oliver saves the day, though; he wired Diggle to protect him from the people who meant to hurt him and Carly, not because he didn't trust him. Trust is an important trait in the world of Arrow. Trust bonds men, women, family, friends, etc. Trust bonds Oliver and Diggle. Oliver can't trust people. On the island, Oliver went undercover to save the life of his hooded friend. He's caught and put behind bars. The English villain scolds him for having honest eyes and lets him know what eyes reveal about a man. A nearby solider removes his mask, revealing the hooded friend of Oliver. Oliver, though, trusts Diggle because Diggle represents what he lost, which is the ability to see the good in people. When Oliver loses perspective, he leans on Diggle's. So, a blandly contrived plot had a satisfying conclusion because it developed their partnership and deepened it.

Arrow's set up the next phase of the Moira/Mr. Merlyn plot. Thea suspects her mother's having an affair with Mr. Merlyn. She fears her mother's doing what she did after Robert disappeared (get together with another man). Oliver calmly confronts his mother about it. Moira's answer isn't satisfactory, but he lets it go. Perhaps he filed it in the back of his brain for further investigation later. Mr. Merlyn has dinner with Tommy under the pretense of healing old wounds and getting to know Tommy's beloved Laurel. The B and C stories are instances of two characters needing to verify the trust their parents want them to feel towards them. Thea winds up in a hospital from crashing her brand new car while high on Vertigo because she just doesn't trust her mother; Tommy learns his father wants him to sign papers that'll allow for the destruction of his deceased mother's store, a request that horrifies Tommy. We're led to think Tommy's father's villainous behavior stems from his wife's death and desire to protect his family. He stares at a photo in his evil lair. The Dark Arrow wardrobe is behind him, a literal shadow that he becomes in his darkest moments.

When truth crumbles, trust crumbles, and Starling City crumbles. Diggle doesn't want to see the list until they've taken down the men on the list. Thea doesn't want to see her mother. Oliver watches with sadness his sister's arrest for drug use. Tommy's just bummed out about his father's inexplicable behavior. Starling City is a sad place by episode's end. Oliver understands the importance of lying, but he also understands its toll as he reveals to Diggle. The other characters don't understand that. Oliver's beginning to learn his role expands beyond bringing justice to the corrupt folk who are ruining his city. His journey from vigilante to hero continues.

Other Thoughts:

-I'm running out of adjectives to describe Willa Holland's beauty. I need to read more Nabokov and borrow his descriptions of a pretty girl in describing Ms. Holland. Thea celebrates her 18th birthday. Holland wore a rockin' black dress and her hair up, with bright red lipstick. She looked best in her first scene in which her hair was curled. Girl looks good. Also, Arrow tricked us into thinking Thea would figure out her mother's actual secret, but we're just back in 'Thea's-a-wild-youth' story. Oh well.

-Is Walter dead or alive? He's probably alive. Stay tuned.

-I'm quite curious about the island story now that the hooded man has been revealed. I assume the story won't really pick up until sweeps, February or May.

-Nick Copus directed the episode. Gabrielle Stanton wrote the script.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.