Arrow: 113 “Betrayal” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
“Betrayal” felt very much like a turning point in a few different aspects of the Arrow saga, but it was because of this that it also felt fairly transitory: specifically, it felt as though the writers were working so hard setting things up for future episodes that they had little or no time to focus on a strong plot for the episode itself.
The villain of the week is one Cyrus Vanch, a people-trafficker, murderer and general ne’er-do-well just released from prison. He plans to take over the criminal underworld of Starling City, recently made vacant by the losses of significant members of both the Triad and the Bertinelli crime family (remember them?), and to do this he plans to take down the ‘biggest guy’, the Hood. With the help of a mole in the police force, he discovers that the Hood has a connection to Laurel, and kidnaps her in an attempt to draw the Hood out: he succeeds, but the somewhat unexpected team of Oliver and Detective Lance arrives just in time and takes him down.
While Vanch’s role is slight in the episode, credit should go to David Anders of Heroes, Alias and Once Upon A Time fame, who plays him with an understated menace which only rarely shifts into smugness. Vanch is a nice change of pace after the bonkers Count last week, and he’s just fine as a villain: although, as with the Count, he remains alive at the end of the episode so I expect to see him again at some point in the future.
The rest of the episode is taken up by two major subplots: the first involving Moira. After discovering her potential involvement in the secret cabal of rich guys, Oliver confronts her directly about the list: she says the notebook belonged to Robert, that she had nothing to do with it, and throws it in the fire. Oliver is somehow convinced by this, but Diggle needs more proof, so he transfers himself from Oliver’s security to Moira’s in order to follow her around. After a slightly embarrassing incident involving Diggle crashing a birthday party, he manages to record a conversation between Moira and Malcolm which is fairly incriminating. After passing the recording on to Oliver, the latter decides he needs to pay his mother a visit, and the episode ends with the Hood smashing through Moira’s office window and the words “Moira Queen, you have failed this city”.
This was the second biggest surprise of the episode for me (the first is coming up shortly), as I was expecting Oliver to go easy on Moira until the end of the season. It makes me intrigued as to what the writers have planned for the remainder of the season, and the scene was snappy enough to make me genuinely excited for next week’s episode.
The second major subplot takes the form of the island flashback. After covertly being given directions by Yao Fei last week, a tired and injured Oliver stumbles upon the wreckage of a plane occupied by an Australian man who attacks him with a sword. It turns out that this guy was also sent there by Yao Fei, whom he was working with to fight their way through an airstrip in an effort to get off the island. He decides that, needing a second person to take the airstrip, Oliver is his new partner, even though he clearly can’t fight. He knocks Oliver out and ties him to a chair, then waits until he wakes up to kill him: Oliver escapes this needlessly sadistic exercise by breaking one of his own wrists, slipping out of his bonds and punching the guy in the face. The guy laughs this off, tells Oliver it was a test, and introduces himself (cue the most exciting part of the episode for me) as Slade Wilson.
This may not seem overly exciting to the casual viewer, but anyone with a working knowledge of DC Comics will be aware that this is the real name of Deathstroke, the mercenary supposedly introduced back in episode 5. I have to admit, this was an excellent twist designed to play with the expectations of comic book fans, and it definitely surprised me.
However, there is a further twist in the tale, as Slade tells Oliver to pick a weapon to be trained with. As Oliver searches the weapons chest, he finds a half-black, half-orange mask identical to the one worn by the mercenary who tortured him. Slade reveals that the other man used to be his partner in the Australian Secret Service, and they had come to the island to rescue Yao Fei. He threatens to leave Oliver behind, to which Oliver states that Slade needs him as much as he needs Slade, and we are given an opportunity to see the beginnings of the more assertive Oliver who arrived back in Starling City.
There are some other tidbits throughout the episode, with very brief focus given to Thea on her ‘court-mandated slavery’ at Laurel’s law firm; and some tension between Laurel and Tommy as he finds out that she has been in contact with the Hood for some months. Naturally, all the tension is removed when Tommy tells Laurel to forget about it once she’s been rescued from Vanch, and the world’s blandest couple lives on.
As much as I’d like to give “Betrayal” a higher score for the intriguing and exciting revelations, I can’t in all good conscience: while certain individual parts of the episode were outstanding, the episode as a whole didn’t quite hang together properly, and the main plot involving Vanch and his hastily-developed master plan felt too brief to really be engaging.