Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Arrow "Unfinished Business" Review

The Count's a villain that the writers are evidently quite fond of since he's still going after two episodes. The Count's first appearance led to Thea's car accident and subsequent community service wherein she met Roy from The Glades. Oliver hasn't forgiven The Count for bringing a drug into Starling City that nearly cost his sister her life. The drug resurfaces and gets a girl killed on a crowded street. The death brings attention to the club because Tommy's books suggest some illegal business is happening in a secret room to get more people, and their money, into the club. The episode uses an old villain and his weapon to tell a personal story of revenge and mercy for Oliver while also using the same villain and his weapon to tell another personal story between two friends who are growing apart. Indeed, it is about "Unfinished Business."

I'm convinced Oliver's friendship with Tommy will follow the course of Peter's friendship with Harry in Spiderman, so it's important to show where the friends were and where they are now. Tommy's depth as a character has been shown in his complicated relationship with Malcolm. Tommy and Oliver have been apart for many episodes this season. Tommy's relationship with Laurel temporarily put a wedge between the friends. Oliver's reveal to Tommy about his other life was significant. Tommy reacted poorly to the revelation. The through-line with Tommy and Oliver has been Oliver's five years of fun on the island and wherever else he was, and how they're not the friends they were. The disintegration of their friendship is happening but it's not like their friendship has been strong all season. Oliver's closest relationship is with the people who Know, i.e. Diggle and Felicity. His closeness with Laurel isn't being felt as strongly as the writers would like, and his interactions with Thea and Moira are too few and far between to have a lasting impact. The show successfully made Oliver an island unto itself, with two close companions, as it was on the island with Shadow and Slade.

Since Tommy and Oliver's friendship is lacking in the present, Arrow resorts to the past to get something--anything--out of its disintegration. Oliver doesn't defend Tommy against accusations about selling vertigo out of the club, because he remembers a time when Tommy hung with hard people. Tommy's honest and reformed, though, and his frustrations with Oliver are about Oliver's reluctance to accept his honest transformation. The police suspect Tommy because of Oliver's vigilante work. What raises red flags involve Oliver's vigilantism, and Tommy's forced into covering his friend's ass. The friends reach a mutual truth in the end of the episode after misunderstandings and hurt feelings--neither knows the other well anymore. Oliver changed on the island, but so did Tommy. Tommy won't cover Oliver's ass, so he quits Verdant and asks his father for a job.

Oliver doesn't pay much mind to Tommy's legal troubles throughout "Unfinished Business" because of his unfinished business with The Count and his weapon, the drug vertigo. Oliver doesn't pay any mind to Diggle's own deal with Lawton. Oliver's totally concentrated on his vendetta against The Count. The Count plot has the usual twists and turns, with the villain being a non-factor chief among the twists. Vertigo's an okay plot device. The drug expands Oliver's interest beyond nailing corrupt businessman. Vertigo deteriorates Starling City citizens. Users won't be met with an arrow and threats because they're victims of the city. Oliver even shows mercy for The Count once the vertigo outbreak is stopped. Diggle wonders why. Oliver tells him he showed mercy because The Count is vacant, empty, and no longer a threat. The idea is that people change.

Of course, The Count's going to come back. The series clearly loves the character, even though he's not much more dynamic than OUAT's The Mad Hatter. The episode has one aspect of positive change. Laurel's father drinks a soda at the bar instead of a beer, and he begins the process of letting go. I wonder how quickly he returns to the bottle once he learns how close he was so many times to finding out Oliver Queen is The Hood. Laurel and her father's story didn't differ from any of their stories earlier this season. Well, Laurel decided not to cut her father out of her life for going after Tommy in the vertigo case. While he's changing, she's also changing by learning to forgive.

"Unfinished Business" doesn't shy away from the difficulty of change; you know, the idea that change doesn't happen overnight because a person goes to sleep hoping they change they want sweeps over them during the night. Change happens gradually, in increments, often without the person realizing he or she is undergoing a change. A lot brought Tommy in front of his father, asking for his place in the family back, which made me wonder how much of it Malcolm planned. A lot brought Laurel's father to the glass of soda instead of a glass of scotch. A lot of stuff happened to separate long-time best friends Tommy and Oliver.

The process of change is depicted well in the flashbacks wherein Shadow teaches Oliver to fight. For days, Oliver puts his hand in a bowl of water. Shadow makes him repeat it over and over and over again. Oliver doesn't understand the purpose until he picks up a bow and shoots a straight arrow. Shadow's Yow-Fei's daughter; her instruction is traditionally Eastern. The girl quotes Lao Tzu about beginning a thousand mile long journey by taking a single step. The arrow scene reminds us that it took Oliver five years to become The Hood and that his transformation from idiot playboy into badass vigilante took a long time.

So, yes, people can change. "Unfinished Business" ponders on what follows that statement. Will they?

Other Thoughts:

-Tonight's actual villains were morons. They decided to overdose Oliver Queen instead of reveal him to the town. Arrow and Diggle kill both. Neither dwells on it afterwards.

-Michael Offer directed the episode. Bryan Q. Miller & Lyndsey Allen were the credited writers.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Her name is actually "Shado" not Shadow. Ollie seems to pronounce it "S-h-a-d-o-w" the same way I did when she was first introduced in the comic so many years ago but my retailer told me her name was pronounced "S-h-a-d-o" just as it is spelled.

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