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Arrow: 111 “Trust But Verify” Review

arrow-111-barrowman

Reviewed by Phil Boothman.

This week’s offering from the seedy underbelly of Starling City is a mixed bag, with some interesting new tidbits of the larger storyline scattered through a rather flat central storyline and some choppy, largely unengaging subplots.

The main plot of the episode concerns the next target on Oliver’s list, a man named Ted Gaynor, who has supposedly been robbing armoured trucks: Oliver has Gaynor in his sights, but a problem is introduced in the fact that Gaynor was Diggle’s commanding officer in Afghanistan, and Diggle refuses to believe he was involved in the robberies. Oliver tells Diggle that every name is on the list for a reason, and goes after Gaynor only to be stopped by Diggle, who decides to infiltrate Gaynor’s private security firm to confirm his innocence.

Oliver, however, manages to steal an encrypted flash drive from Gaynor, and hands it off to Felicity with the single most contrived excuse he’s ever come up with: that a friend has set a scavenger hunt, the prize for which is a case of wine, and if Felicity helps him through the encryption then she can have one of the bottles. For a second, it looks as though Felicity is about to call Oliver on his obvious lies, but she ultimately relents and goes along with it. I get the feeling that Felicity is soon to discover Oliver’s secret identity, for the sole reason that the writers will undoubtedly find it difficult to come up with any more pathetic excuses for Oliver to use.

Obviously, Felicity cracks the flash drive and tells Oliver she’s going to call the police as there are schematics and routes of the armoured trucks which are being robbed, which confirms that someone from Gaynor’s security firm was present at the robbery. Diggle states that Gaynor was with him at the time, and goes to investigate, only to find out that Gaynor was indeed the mastermind all along. Diggle is forced to go along with the next heist, but backs out at the last second and helps Oliver in taking down the crew, Gaynor included.

One of my main problems with this storyline was that Ben Browder, best known for his role as John Crichton on the cult sci-fi series Farscape, was woefully underused in his role as Gaynor. In his previous roles, Browder has displayed an ability to portray genuine emotional depth as well as being a snarky smart-ass: here, however, he was reduced to playing a money-hungry opportunist who never really showed enough charm in his scenes with Diggle.

The island flashbacks are one of the more interesting, if also the briefest, parts of the episode, as Oliver launches an ill-judged attempt to rescue Yao Fei from Fyers’ camp. Naturally, he gets caught almost immediately and Fyers reveals that Yao Fei appears to be working for him: just one of the many examples throughout the episode of characters abiding by the titular mantra ‘trust, but verify’.

Another such example is the subplot concerning Thea, Moira and Malcolm: during the planning of Thea’s birthday party, she sees Moira and Malcolm sharing a moment in Moira’s office. She immediately assumes that they are sleeping together, when in fact Malcolm was ordering Moira to deal with a problem with the ‘Plan’ and Moira was requesting proof that Walter is still alive: a second example of how, in this world, it is necessary to ‘trust, but verify’.

Thea tries to follow up on her suspicions, telling Oliver that shortly before their dad died, Moira was spending a lot of time with Malcolm, and she believes that now Walter is missing she is falling back into old routines. Oliver confronts Moira about this, but Moira denies everything: however, at her party, Thea spots Moira and Malcolm talking again, and throws something of a strop before taking a new drug called ‘Vertigo’, hopping into her brand new convertible and crashing it. She ends up in hospital, where the doctors are required to perform a toxicology screen: they find the drug and Thea is arrested, much to Oliver’s anger and frustration.

Meanwhile, in the turgid tale of Tommy and Laurel, Malcolm calls Tommy, seemingly repentant for being a horrible bastard back in episode 7, and invites the world’s dullest couple to dinner, where he proceeds to be a similarly horrible bastard. A personal highlight of dinner conversation went like this:

Laurel: It must have been difficult after your wife passed away…
Malcolm: She was killed, Laurel, there’s no need to be polite about it.

At a formal dinner, it seems like there is some need to be polite, or at the very least slightly tactful about the whole thing…

Anyway, the real reason Malcolm invited Tommy to dinner was to get him to sign off on the free clinic set up by his mother being closed down. Tommy and Malcolm then storm out in turn, apparently leaving Laurel to pay for dinner: later on, Tommy tells Laurel that after his mother was killed, his father became cold and distant, then disappeared ‘somewhere’ for a couple of years, and when he came back he was a different person. As this is happening, we are shown a secret hideout full of weaponry, and Malcolm standing in the middle of it all, in front of his Dark Archer outfit. So, it would appear that Malcolm is basically Batman.

Verdict: 5/10

A slight improvement on last week’s episode, however “Trust But Verify” could have done with a lot more focus and a lot less flab: the tension between Oliver and Diggle was the most interesting part of the episode, but it felt rushed, and the subplots were largely uninteresting and, in some cases, just baffling.

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