Arrow: 112 “Vertigo” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a pair of disappointing outings in the past two weeks, Arrow regained its form this week with an engaging episode in which there were no real subplots: every story in the episode tied together into the main plot in a satisfying and interesting way, albeit with a few handy miracles to help push things along. All that, and we got the pleasure of watching Seth Gabel playing an insane elfin drug pusher, so all in all a solid episode.
Last week we saw Thea getting arrested for driving under the influence of a new drug called ‘Vertigo’, and that court case forms the centre of this episode: around it, Oliver attempts to find the supplier to get the heat off his little sister; Thea acts like a colossal brat throughout; and Laurel enlists her father’s reluctant assistance to help out the Queen family. As we see from the beginning of the episode, a media frenzy has whipped up around Thea’s arrest, and the judge wants to make an example out of her, throwing her appeal out and demanding that the whole thing goes to trial. Oliver asks Laurel to help out by talking to her dad, which she does, and as grudging as it is, he agrees to talk to the judge to try and reduce her sentence.
Miraculously, he manages it, and Thea’s sentence is brought down from a prison sentence to 2 years of probation and 500 hours of community service: however, when Laurel tells her this, Thea throws the most ridiculous fit about it, claiming that she is willing to go to prison to torture her mother, whom she hates for betraying their father. Oliver explains how this is crazy (a slight understatement – I would have gone for ‘sociopathic’) and that Robert, not Moira, was the one who was unfaithful. Naturally, Thea doesn’t believe this until Moira confirms it, and they share a tearful reconciliation, followed closely by Thea accepting her reduced sentence.
But the meat of the episode is taken up with Oliver’s hunt for ‘The Count’, Starling City’s Vertigo supplier. We meet the Count a few scenes before Oliver does, and Seth Gabel’s performance as a kind of punk-rock leprechaun is gloriously camp and over the top. He injects ‘Vertigo in its purest form’ into a drug dealer Oliver interrogated at the beginning of the episode, stating that it stimulates the parts of the brain that cause pain, then gives the man a pistol with a single bullet in it, telling him he can either shoot himself to end the pain, or he can shoot the Count to get his revenge. For the sake of the episode running slightly longer, he shoots himself and the Count bounds off into the shadows.
He gets hold of a police file about the guy from McKenna Hall, an old flame who now happens to be a vice cop and, I assume, a new love interest for Oliver, and then arranges a meeting through the branch of the Russian mob that he is the head of (remember when that happened months ago? No, neither did I). But he has to kill a man to prove his dedication, so he chokes the guy out much to Diggle’s consternation: however, as they take the body out to the car, Oliver performs a literal miracle and brings the guy back to life by pinching his neck. Then he knocks him unconscious and tells Diggle to arrange a new identity and passage out of the city, thus ending the most confusing day in that man’s life.
So Oliver meets with the Count, who gives him a case of Vertigo literally seconds before the police show up in full force, causing everyone to flee. Oliver chases after the Count, but gets half a dose of pure Vertigo straight in the chest for his troubles: Diggle rescues him, takes him back to the Arrowcave and waits with him while he recovers. Oliver then gets Felicity, the IT wizard, to perform the third miracle of the episode and run bio-chemical tests that she hasn’t mentioned any kind of aptitude for: but lo and behold, she manages it and gives them a location for the water used to create the Vertigo left in the syringe.
Oliver heads to the Count’s hideout without his trusty bow, which he can’t aim due to the residual effects of his drug overdose, and fights his way to the Count. The combat in this sequence is pretty well-choreographed, but it does seem that Oliver has more difficulty with a flight of stairs than he does with a bunch of guys physically attacking him, so Vertigo must have some profoundly strange effects. Anyway, he finds the Count and injects him with a double syringe of Vertigo, then leaves him to the police and runs off. At the episode’s close, the Count is strapped to a gurney being wheeled away to a mental institution, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this flamboyant creature.
The final part of the episode takes place on the island, and shows Oliver being forced into single combat to the death with the Yao Fei, at Fyers’ command. Naturally, the crazy martial artist wins, and chokes Oliver out with a very familiar-looking move. Later, he dumps Oliver’s body over a waterfall while slipping the map back into his pocket and pinching his neck to revive him. This was the first time I’ve had a real problem with the island sequences, as they are supposed to take place in Oliver’s memory, and he was unconscious during this scene: however, it’s a minor quibble and a forgivable one.
While far from perfect, “Vertigo” is a lot more fun than some of the previous episodes of Arrow, buoyed by a lack of flabby subplots and a fun, if slightly ridiculous villain: the first, other than the Dark Archer, who has felt like a ‘supervillain’ in the traditional sense. For me, Arrow is best when it feels more comic book-y, and this episode fulfilled that requirement in a satisfying manner.