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"Can I trust you?"
After a bit of time off, Arrow was fully back in hunting mode come last week's "Trust But Verify." Taking on a bank robbing trio with ties to Diggle strained the trust that has been building between the hero and his partner but the theme ran deeper than just our leading men. Thea was spying and suspicious of her mother's actions with Malcolm Merlyn (aka the Black Archer and nemesis) and Ollie encountered quite the surprise while playing cast-away. In fact, with the issue front and center, it was a bit surprising that Detective Lance's deceit of his daughter would have played into the episode but something tells me the choice to use Laurel and keep her in the dark might lead to, well, some dark and dangerous situations, especially with the arrival of a dizzying drug known only as "Vertigo." It seems there's a new drug kingpin in town that Arrow will have to take to task for failing Starling City.
"Do you know why they call him the Count?"
Once again the bugged phone didn't play into the twelfth installment but, in a way, that only serves to highlight how Arrow has managed to successfully balance a mixture of episodic and serialized storytelling. Laurel actually had a rather tame turn (which is a shame since she's the one that really triggers Ollie's aggressive side) playing 'big sister' to Speedy, sorry, Thea in her driving under the influence case. And this brings us back to that serialized bit of Arrow's narrative with the Queen daughter landing in hot last week with "Trust But Verify" planting the seeds for "Vertigo." If his love for Laurel isn't going to fuel Ollie's rage, vengeance for Thea being a druggie will have do and the episode opens with the Hood in full hunt of a fleeing drug dealer. Seriously, do these thugs think they can outrun our hero? He hardcore parkours. Third time is a charm though and Ollie finally comes back to the Arrow-cave with a name. You know, the Count.
"Leave the policing to the police."
The episode is split between the vigilante hunting down the drug kingpin and his alter-ego playing doting brother to his sister's ongoing, and sadly cliche, legal troubles. I do think the sibling chemistry is coming along nicely, with 'Speedy' being less grating than its first few uses and big brother stepping into Daddy's shoes was rather sweat of him. It seems he's doing a far better job juggling the two sides of his life, the success probably a result of Diggle's hounding. Even though it rarely works, at least he's there to try and keep Ollie in line. And big brother doesn't just deliver some tips on how to handle a courtroom but attends the proceedings where the judge, surprisingly, decides to make an example of the wealthy family. Vertigo has pushed the system this far (already) which means that... Boring! I prefer Oliver's solution of finding the big bad and bringing him down before Thea is put away. That would send a big enough message. Oh, and I didn't buy for a second that Thea would take jail time just to spite her mother, tantrum or not.
"The Hood. Coming for me? Interesting."
The flashback sequences continue to be more exciting and unexpected than I anticipated back when the show was still in its infancy. Last week saw the betrayal of Oliver's only friend on the island and right after the former did the stupid, yet brave (these often go hand in hand) attempt to rescue his mentor. But it doesn't matter that Ollie came back for the original Hood, there is no saving the prisoner now. Or is there? Obviously. Now, if you were looking into the drug racket in town, where would you turn? And at SCPD HQ visiting the Vice Department, our hero runs into one of his old friends (small town this Starling City) who is now a detective and another convenient way for Oliver to gain access to more information as well as cultivate allies in law enforcement. Did I mention that the old friend, vice cop is SHIVAKAMINI SOMAKANDARKRAM!. Sorry, she probably hates that. The new Detective who seems to have a thing for her old pal, or could be corrupt cop since she reminds me of Batman's Ramirez, is played by Janina Gavankar. She's awesome, so a more than welcome addition to combat Detective Sourpuss.
"Vertigo is measured in lives. 56 people died to perfect this high. Believe me when i say, they did not die for nothing."
Oliver isn't able to get too much from the visit, or add anything substantial to Officer McKenna Hall's investigation, but he does lift the very light file for trading purposes in the future. A future exchange that reaffirms my suspicions of Shiva but more on that in a second. First, we finally get to meet the Count, played by the also awesome Seth Gabel (or as many might know him, Lincoln Lee from Fringe... sorry, no screaming), and, although he doesn't really resemble his character from the comics, as a villain he's kind of great. Unhinged, scenery chewing, with a high pitched-voice, Gabel is giving a bad guy reminiscent of the recent string of memorable adversaries like Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow, Heath Ledger's Joker or Javier Bardem's Silva. In fact, you could say that the Count and "Vertigo" are very much an homage to (cough, rip of) Batman Begins' Jonathan Crane storyline but who cares, it was still very entertaining. Since we're on that line of thinking though, there is something very Bane-like about Deathstroke as well. You know, in the vicious physicality not the walrus voice as we've yet to hear him speak.
"I don't need the bow."
Laurel, once she's sufficiently advertised the Window's snap-tablet thing, is roped into Thea's case officially thanks to a visit from Oliver in the morning. Awkward. Anyway, he convinces the single female lawyer to talk with Detective Dad and see if the Sourpuss will pull a few strings for the young Queen. Despite a heated discussion and his hatred of everything to do with that family, his daughter convince him to help and he starts calling in favors. Good news! The calls work and the 'example' is reduced to being babysat by Laurel but, in typical bad-Thea fashion, she spits in the face of the offer because Mommy wasn't perfect. How many people thought that little stand was going to last? Of course, Thea ends up working for Laurel at the law firm and all it takes is Oliver spilling the beans about their father's failings. Sure, Moira is temporally pissed at her son but in the end everything works out and Thea is crying in Mom's arms. And pulling long hours!
"You're no hero. You're what i always said you were... a killer."
"Vertigo" shifts back into Arrow mode with Ollie using his connections with the Russian mob in order to set up a meeting with the Count. How he came to be a captain in the Bratva is a mystery for another episode (happening somewhere between the island as we know it and rescue), however, the relationship proves fruitful and all Oliver has to do is kill a dude. Sorry, fake kill a dude. Anyone else feel like that 'little trick' as Diggle calls it was destined for a callback? Yeah, kind of took the suspense out of the who flashback fight club sequence and ensuing dump. Still, Deathstroke has some serious moves and the action was really well choreographed, both that fight and the next that pitted Oliver against his mentor. Now that he's free and with the map, I wonder if he'll start hunting the mercenaries down as I predicted he would before he foolishly walked into capture. The wars in his past are just beginning while, in the present, Oliver and Dig are trying their hands at the drug trade. The rooftop exchange was a lot of fun and I especially liked the story about how the villains count the product's worth by number of deaths in testing.
There was that aforementioned tip about Shiva's possible shadiness when the Count said he's not worried SCPD. Hubris or someone on the inside? Remember Shiva keeps talking about a CI (confidential informant) as well, perhaps her info is coming straight from the course. Another thought what that Dig is tipping off the cops when he feels his partner can't get it done alone. Like after Ollie gets a dose of the pure stuff and suffers a reaction similar to Bruce's when exposed to the Scarecrow's weaponized flower. Good thing he's got his own Alfred, and Dig makes the pain go away. Kind of. Ollie actually isn't 100% for the rest of the episode, struggling with a hangover when he goes to Smoak to get the drug analyzed and pinpoint the big bad's lair. Obviously, a little Vertigo isn't going to keep Arrow down and he ventures out bow-less to take down his new adversary. A few goons later and they come face to face (or, to be fair, back to back) but before the Hood disposes of the Count, the detectives arrive and keep him from being a killer. Off to the Starling City's Arkham equivalent for that nut job and things seem good in the Queen household.
Arrow returns with "Betrayal" next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. WAIT! Did I say all was good in the Queen household? I guess I forgot about the tag, when Smoak finally puts her trust in Oliver and brings out Moira's notebook that put Walter out to pasture. Or so she thinks. What do you do when your mom is on the list?