Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Arrow "Betrayal" Review

"Betrayal" is an example of a tightly written and structured episode of television, the kind of writing that separates the amateurs from the professionals. "Betrayal" is the kind of episode one could point to whenever in discussion about television writing, about how to make the most of every beat and how to combine and build stories. The episode's not a landmark episode in television. I don't think I'll name it to my year end nonsense list celebrating the best episodes in television. Average episodes of television still have impressive structure. "Betrayal" is impressive.

Betrayal is the theme of the week, and various betrayals come together to make a gripping whole. Dangling plot threads were suddenly not dangled any more. Revelations that should've been revealed a little earlier were revealed. Character interactions built off of their history together, e.g. Diggle and Oliver's sparring during Diggle's insistence that his friend couldn't be responsible in the robbery crimes was reversed as Oliver refused to believe his mother's been hiding things, that her possession of The List was a coincidence. Finch's paranoia about the hood as well as his abject despair and pain over the losses in his life drive led him to use his daughter to get the hood. The plan backfires, of course, and Finch is forced to deal with what's going on inside him. Finch is forced to process how he'd get to the point he'd put his daughter in harm's way for the sake of a case.

The thoughtfulness of the episode is its strength. David Anders' villain Vance is among the more forgettable villains the show introduced. Vance is a brutal villain responsible for all sorts of drugs on the street and over 52 homicides. Vance just exists to bring Oliver and Finch together for a common cause, which is the rescue of Laurel, who's been kidnapped from her apartment and used as a bait to draw the hood out. Finch doesn't think about the consequences of putting Laurel in danger. Finch thinks, and rightly so, that the vigilante won't harm her. Laurel feels betrayed, and she goes for the heart when she tells him why what he did was wrong. Finch is a sad and regretful man who's trying to right the wrongs of his past even though the vigilante is separate from his past; however, he represents all he loathes, Finch will tell Oliver, but he can't help but call on him for help in his hour of need, when not even his fellow officers can be trusted after a leak led Vance to his Laurel.

Laurel's secret connection with the vigilante disrupts her personal life with Tommy, too. Starling City seems split on the hooded man who prowls the streets and stops bad guys with arrows. The city missed him when Oliver stopped for his family. Finch's boss asks Finch to reconsider his pursuit of the man since he took down two criminals the force couldn't. Tommy recoils when he learns of Laurel's connection with him, and Finch looks sick in the gut whenever he thinks about his daughter's correspondence with the hood. "He's a killer," the men in Laurel's life remind her. The episode traces Oliver's killing back to the island days. Arrow's shown Oliver's first kill on the island, but his new friend Wilson basically demands Oliver learn to kill to survive. Wilson wore the mask of Deathstroke and forces Oliver to fight to prove his worth to him in the abandoned, crashed airplane. Oliver's mentor with the hard to spell name (from memory that is) sent him to Wilson. Together they'll do some more stuff that will show Oliver's transformation from innocent coward/playboy to badass archer. The show established the difference in Oliver taking a life versus Malcolm and his mother.

The Laurel plot wraps up neatly. The best scene involves Tommy and Oliver in which Tommy approaches Oliver about Laurel. Oliver's advice to Tommy is completely hypocritical and guarantees a break in their friendship once Tommy learns the truth about Oliver's vigilante hobby.

Meanwhile, Diggle follows Moria after Oliver tells him about copy of The List she possessed, that Walter got, which is an important detail considering Walter disappeared without a trace. Oliver won't believe Diggle's suspicion. Moira's his mother. She's not capable of what Diggle suspects of her. There must be an explanation, Oliver thinks. Moira explains the book as Robert's way of keeping track of the people who performed favors for him. When Oliver tells her he researched the names and learned they were bad men, Moira tells him to forget he saw the list, for his own good. Diggle pursues and pursues, drives Moira to places, and follows her to where she's meeting with Malcolm. Diggle records the bitter truth, to Oliver's ears that is--she knew the Queen's Gambit was sabotaged, and she's hidden the evidence.

Oliver decides he needs to speak with his mother again, leading to the series most badass moment, a moment I've been waiting for since October. Oliver bursts through the window of his mother's office, shoots some arrows, and yells that she's disgraced the city and must pay.

Oh, hell yeah.

Other Thoughts:

-These Arrow reviews have been hit or miss. Comments from people besides DISH employees would've been welcomed during the reviews I referred to Malcolm as The Barrowman. The actor is John Barrowman. 'The Barrowman' parts of my reviews were the low points of the entire blog. Son of a gun.

-Vance clearly stabbed his lawyer in the gut. Laurel's new legal friend tells her Vance is on the loose and that his lawyer turned up dead but no foul play was suspected. Do the writers consider the audience fools? We clearly saw Vance hug him, put a knife into him, and let him fall to the floor, dead. The man lain in a pool of his own blood. I'm surprised Anders didn't take a meatier villain role in Arrow. Of course, Anders is in Once Upon A Time. Any role on any other show is better than a role on Once Upon A Time.

-I read TWoP's Arrow forums the other day and learned a portion of the fanbase quite dislikes Katie Cassidy. Katie Cassidy was really good tonight. Cassidy's been vanilla in her performance for the most part, but she brought it to Laurel's scene with her father. Cassidy's face and tears were perfectly expressive of her feelings--it was the face of an angry and betrayed woman, and she cried in the way people don't want to cry when they're angry and betrayed, but she can't help but cry. I'm on your side, Katie Cassidy.

-Lana Cho & Beth Schwartz wrote the episode. Guy Bee directed it.


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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.