Arrow: 207 “State vs Queen” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After last week’s jaunt to Moscow, this week’s Arrow remains firmly grounded in Starling City and the story stays firmly grounded in utter nonsense, just the way I like it. ‘State vs Queen’ also brings back an old favourite villain in the form of bonkers drug-pixie the Count and another familiar face with a shocking, if slightly ‘soapy’ revelation for the Queen family. So all in all, pretty much business as usual for the Insane Superhero Hour!
The main thrust of the episode is that the Count, who recovered from his Vertigo overdose and escaped from Iron Heights prison during the earthquake, is spiking people with a modified version of Vertigo which makes them sick, and attempting to convince people that the only cure is to take more Vertigo, thus creating a city of addicts ready to buy his product. It’s a pleasingly camp and corny scheme straight out of a Joel Schumacher Batman movie, and Seth Gabel pulls off the insane and flamboyant Count with panache, and apparently a faux-British accent: I don’t remember exactly, but I don’t think the Count was British before. Correct me if I’m wrong, though!
So among the people affected by the Count’s master plan are Diggle and the Assistant District Attorney, who conveniently collapses in the middle of Moira’s trial, keeping him from revealing some damaging personal information about her and passing that particular job on to Laurel, who continues her trend of being incredibly annoying and causing problems for anyone.
Moira’s trial is the other major plot of the episode, and reveals the fact that, at some point in the past while Robert Queen was engaging in his extramarital activities, Moira did a bad thing and slept with Malcolm Merlyn. This is an allegation which is not only true, but also very bad for her defence of being coerced into going along with Merlyn’s grand plan, and it looks like she’s going to get that death sentence after all.
However, the trial wraps up and the jury finds her not guilty, letting her go free. Moira gets into a car to go home, but the driver takes her to the middle of an empty car park and is subsequently shot with arrows. The shooter reveals himself as none other than the Evil Bastard himself, Malcolm Merlyn, still mysteriously alive after being stabbed through the heart, and he then goes on to reveal that he has discovered Thea is actually his daughter.
It seems an odd choice to bring Merlyn back so early in the season, particularly when they seem to be introducing newer and scarier villains left, right and centre; but his revelation about Thea could take Moira’s season arc in an interesting direction, and Merlyn’s connection to Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins is bound to go somewhere pleasingly crazy.
Elsewhere, the Count is leaping around being an elfin maniac, kidnapping the Assistant District Attourney and making a broadcast telling the affected people to buy more Vertigo, and Team Arrow works out that he is spiking the city’s flu vaccinations with Vertigo. Oliver manages to track him down and saves the Assistant DA at the cost of letting the Count escape, and when Felicity goes to investigate the flu vaccinations she is, of course, kidnapped by the Count and taken back to the Queen Consolidated building. In order to protect Felicity, Oliver has to shoot and kill the Count, who falls out of a window to his death after taking a few arrows to the chest.
It’s an intriguing move, and by making Oliver kill someone so soon after he made the promise not to, the show’s writers are teasing their ability to take Oliver to a dark place as and when they need to. And, as disappointing as it is to lose a villain as crazy as the Count, it seems like the writers have done everything they could have done with him, and by making Oliver face his decision to break the ‘no-killing’ rule with someone he’s faced before, the Count’s last act was one which will undoubtedly resonate throughout the second season.
Finally, in the present, Brother Blood (the alderman wearing the creepy Halloween mask) is faced with the first successful product of his weird experiments, a beefy dude who says the injection made him better, and we may have just found the show’s first genuine superhuman. We’ll be on the lookout for this fella in later weeks, he’s bound to cause some problems for Oliver in the future.
And on the island, Slade and Shado save Oliver from Ivo and his pirates, and Oliver insists on taking Sarah along with them. Ivo reveals that he is searching for the stone arrowhead-like thing that Shado found in the cave earlier in the season, and Shado reveals that she is wearing it around her neck, thus making her something of a target for Ivo and the Pirates (which is a great band name).
Overall, ‘State vs Queen’ is a fun episode, and the return of the Count was a nice touch. There are more villains crawling out of the woodwork every week, and Starling City is starting to feel like a real comic book city, populated with colourful characters and about to get a whole lot more super…
Villain Count: Just two new villains this week, the Count and the return of Malcolm Merlyn. I’m not counting the possibly super-strong dude working for Brother Blood yet because he doesn’t have a solid identity, but he will undoubtedly be adding to the roster of bad guys in the coming weeks.