Episode 11: Trust But Verify
By: Carlos Uribe
Arrow is a show about the Green Arrow, a vigilante who seeks justice. It is based on the DC comic superhero Green Arrow.
It can be very entertaining to see two friends who have a disagreement and are forced to work against each other. Their relationship will usually be salvaged after the arc is done as this experience usually bonds them closer. It makes them realize just how valuable they are to each other. When done right, it can serve the characters while exploring the show's themes. This week's case promises to pit Oliver against Diggle but then it never really does much with it. They have a couple of disagreements and their partnership is tested to it's limits. The two make up at the end of the episode as they realize that both of their claims were right. Oliver was correct about who the bad guy really was but Diggle was right that Queen didn't trust him. This is all very fine and all but it all feels very shallow for three reasons. The first is that the show is too busy with other plot-lines to truly make the story work. The one time the two are really at odds is a scene where Oliver and Diggle aim weapons at each other. It's a tense scene that the show quickly gets away from because it had to rush the narrative. They might disagree for the rest of the episode but that's basically it. The writers made it clear that their motivations were conflicting with each other but it really never came to anything. The one time it came close was before they even realized they disagreed on a fundamental issue that was going to get in their way. That's the second problem: it simply promises they're going to be working against each other when in reality they just use words. That might be fine for dramatic scenes but narratives survive on the actions of characters. If the writers really want them to disagree on what needs to be done then show them constantly butting heads in accomplishing their mission. What should have happened is Oliver and Diggle working the mission in such a way that they at the same time trying to stop the other. What happened is that they run their investigations separate from each other that didn't really put them at odds. The third problem is the most important one.
That is Diggle and Oliver's partnership is most superficial at this stage. Don't get me wrong: I like the idea of Diggle and the guy in the hood working together. It has allowed the writers to give Oliver a voice of conscience while it gives Diggle a sense of purpose. This makes sense. What also makes sense is that it would take a while for their partnership to form into being actual friends. The two might have started to create that bond but they largely professional towards each other at this point. Making two friends work against each other works best when the two are actually close. At this moment, it's too early in the series. It's not that the idea behind it was bad but rather the timing of it. Trust But Verify is an episode that could have worked in the second season or beyond but only after the characters feel like they're more than just partners. The ending of the two realizing what the two counteract the weakness of the other might makes sense from where the characters are but it doesn't completely work. This is because the characters might be at the point for the story to work but their partnership and how it works simply isn't. As for the actual weekly case? It's about as boilerplate vanilla as you can possibly get. Some veterans from the wars come back only to find it difficult to make money so they turn to a life of crime. This would have been a good thing if Diggle and Oliver were actually working against each other since a real villain would have distracted from that. It's just that since their fight didn't really work that it calls into attention how two-dimensional the weekly villains are.
In other news, we get a LOT of personal drama this week. Tommy is busy running the construction of the night club when he gets a call from his father. Malcolm sets up a date with his son and new girlfriend, Laurel. At this date, Malcolm uses this to try and conduct some business in an attempt to close down his dead wife's medical clinic. Tommy gets upset and there's a huge fight. Tommy leaves the night thinking his father doesn't love him and that he'll never change. This inter-cut of a scene of Malcolm showing he does love his son by using a picture of him when he was a little kid. This entire plot seems to serve two purposes. The first is to add some human into a character that has largely been a two-dimension villain up to this point. The second is that it allows Tommy to relay his daddy issues to the audience. The former feels more forced than anything and somehow serves to make him more of a cliché. It wouldn't surprise me if the reason the father is enacting his plan where a lot of people die is actually for his son. It might have worked better if the father's motivations were more clear and if the show spent some time developing him as an actual human being rather than trying to add a scene to try and establish that in one broad stroke. The idea of the villain who really loves a family member despite being a total bad guy has been done before. It really only works when the concentration is more on the humanity than the villainy. The latter works fine as it actually does allow Tommy to be defined by more than just his wallet-which is basically what he's been trying to do for the whole show so far. So that's a win.
In Queen family drama, Thea turns eighteen while harboring suspicions that her mother has been cheating on Walter. This leads to family drama where she lashes out against her mother before crashing the car she got for her birthday while high on drugs. She gets arrested at the end because the police run a blood test for when she was hospitalized. This is fine and all but I do have a few nitpicks. The first is that it had been a while since Thea's rebellious actions have been referenced. There have been so many family tragedies in the Queen family recently along with Oliver's reintegration into the fold that it was kind of swept under the rug. To have them pop up so conveniently seemed a bit odd and disruptive to the narrative momentum. The second is that it jumps up a bit. The episode highly suggests that Moira went back to work because Malcolm had kidnapped Walter and he forced her to take over. The viewer didn't see this happen which feels like a bit of an odd way to develop the narrative. It honestly does feel like there was a scene cut that sets up Moira's conversations with Malcolm. I know she knew he had been taken to protect the plan but why then was she bedridden or why did she take over if it was connected to his kidnapping? Or was there such a scene and I simply forgot about it? I doubt that because it would mean forgetting an important plot development.
Trust But Verify is not necessarily a bad episode of Arrow but it's one that has so many problems that it's not really a very good one. The weekly case seemed like the writers wanted to do the kind of story where two allies quickly become opponents because other shows had done it without actually waiting for the base to naturally develop. The personal drama had it's strengths but there were also times where it wasn't properly done. This was an episode of Arrow that was definably average that could have used a lot of work.