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"Words to live by."
As Aerosmith (or, uh, Gene Autry) would say, Arrow is back in the saddle again and all it took was a little pushing and prodding from his consigliere Diggle. Oh, and one phone call from Laurel to the aPhone. So much for the inferiority complex and fear of death instilled by the Black Archer, when the single female lawyer dating your best friend calls for help, you answer even if it means facing your fears and once again donning the hood. And, after a bit of a struggle to regain his confidence in "Burned," our hero is ready to fully resume hunting. Those who have failed this city better beware because Arrow is back in fine crime fighting form for Episode 11, "Trust But Verify." There were also several other interesting aspects of "Burned" that set the stage for a great follow up and the eleventh installment, although not quite as combustible as last week, did not disappoint.
Put the bow down!
The word 'trust' being in the title should give the audience a pretty good idea what the episode is about thematically. Almost all of the threads running through "Trust But Verify" have to do with one or several of the characters putting their faith in others and dealing with the fallout whether positive or negative. Oddly enough, the major 'trust' issue that was raised last week in "Burned," Detective Dad giving Laurel the bugged aPhone, did not factor into this week's storyline but Arrow didn't have a shortage of other characters who were dealing with, or denying, a similar kind of betrayal; Ollie putting his life on the line on the island, Thea struggling with the lies of her mother, Moira and Tommy having to handle the mysteries of Malcolm Merlyn and finally, Diggle (our moral centre) learning a valuable, if harsh, lesson about putting too much faith in people.
"I'm not gong to let you 'WIlliam Tell' an innocent man."
"Trust But Verify" opens with an introduction of this week's villain, or in this case, villains in the form of a small group of ex-soldiers using their military background to knock over armored vehicles. The first scene is a pretty exciting little heist even if it makes stealing look incredibly simple. And how will Ollie hear about the string of similar crimes ripping through Starling City? The television, of course! The trusty TV interrupts family time, plus Tommy, to show Detective Lance briefing the public on the latest stick-up in the string. And once Oliver hears of the spree, there's clearly only one thing to do, take to the Arrow Cave for a contemplative workout and surf of the super-computer. Dig arrives just in time to get the break down on his partner's list of suspects, namely Blackhawk Security which is run by John's former commander in Afghanistan.
"People change John. And everyone deserves a chance to prove it."
I don't normally call him John but since so many people appeal to his real name in the episode, I thought I'd slide a few into the recap. Ollie's speculation that former commander Ted is involved in the heists sparks the weekly conflict between the dynamic duo with Dig pointing out that Oliver's been wrong about the list before and that perhaps he should put more faith in his PIC-F. The thing is, Oliver has put his faith in a partner in crime fighting before and this week's flashbacks highlight the past, and unforgettable betrayal by his former mentor. But as usual, these bits of info are teased out slowly over the entire episode. I was a bit disappointed that Oliver didn't do more with the new found map and supplies (I was expecting the birth of a badass hunter) than simply try to go undercover in the balaclava clan to rescue his mentor. Oh well. It's still better than the brief soap-opera inspired visits with Tommy and Laurel as they get prepped to meet the Merlyn.
"That's not who she is Ollie. She's a liar and a cheater. And you really don't know here at all."
Every time the series cuts to Tommy working as the dutiful GM of the nightclub, I can't help but roll my eyes. I'm unsure why the best friend underwent such a change in character with the re-arrival of Ollie. Remember, Tommy was still a playboy for the first few episodes and started changing before he was cut off from Daddy. If Laurel is the reason, well, she was in Starling City all along. Perhaps the threat of losing Laurel to the newly serious survivor prompted Tommy's maturity? Either way, every scene with him and his lady serves to bring the series to a standstill. It's just hard to care, especially when they are going to the full manipulative lengths of bringing in dead moms, sorry, murdered moms and abandonment issues. Although it was cool to see that his wife's death was probably the catalyst that spurred Malcolm Merlyn into becoming the Archer and, who knows, even begin this whole conspiracy with the Starling City elite. You know, the list.
"Your convincing is going to have to be a lot more convincing."
The list. That brings us back to the main thread of the week, the superhero section of the story that pits Arrow against the thieving Blackhawk security as Dig tries his best to play mediator. Dig stops the first assault on Ted and tries his best to find out how or why his former commander's name might have ended up on the list before returning to argue with Ollie about being innocent until proven guilty. To find the proof, Diggle takes Ted to his hot dog spot (the latter also knows Carly from her husbands time in the service) and all is going well until a shady character from their military past arrives on the scene as another member of the Blackhawk team. Hm. This is a great moment because Ted telling Dig that people change is way more about himself than this Knox fellow. Ted was once a guy worth trusting but, like he said, people change. But before Diggle's eyes are fully opened and he's roped into the final heist (always a final score), Ollie is doing his own due diligence to be absolutely positive that Blackhawk isn't the one to blame. You would the suspicious too if you had gone through Oliver's experiences on the island.
"After what happened to me on the island, it's difficult for me to trust anything...."
For his side of the investigation he turns to Felicity Smoak, the resident computer hacker who hasn't been seen in some time and isn't afraid to tell you, and she's able to disable the firewalls (or whatever computer jargon applies) to reveal plans that detail how to knock over armoured cars. Even though the evidence clearly shows that Blackhawk is behind the crimes, Dig doesn't want to give up on his trust in Ted and assumes it's only the bad eggs working for him that are guilty. Of course, this isn't the case and Ted turns out to be a super-douche running the whole show and even ropes Dig into the final score using Carly as incentive. They're a man down, what else are they supposed to do? Speaking of the man down, that previous action sequence when Arrow thwarts the heist was brief but pretty rad and I especially liked our hero using the garbage can as a shield Captain America style. But yeah, man down and that means Dig's along for the ride. Being a superhero, Oliver is always on the ball, even when celebrating his sister's birthday, and has bugged his partner which allows him to know everything that's going on and, more importantly, about to go down.
"But that trust was misplaced."
The hero arrives on the scene just in time to save Dig (and not just his life but from him having to pull the trigger) and the trust they have or don't have in each other is ultimately what the episode has been driving towards. After all these instances of faith misplaced, the final scene between the partners serves to solidify that, despite their disputes, they both are deserving of the other's trust. The last thread I wanted to discuss involves the Queen family soap-opera, not because it's the least interesting but since it directly leads into next week and the a DC inspired villain. Thea's suspicions about Mom are running high because she sees the latter getting chummy with Malcolm Merlyn since Walter's disappearance which is exactly what happened when Robert and Ollie went missing. The family spat leads to Thea popping a few pills and the drug, called 'Vertigo,' not to mention the man peddling it (Seth Gabel!) will be the primary focus for Arrow for the foreseeable future.
Arrow returns with "Vertigo" next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.