**This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Arrow, “State vs. Queen.”**
I hope you’re buckled in for a wild ride, because there is no shortage of revelations, emotions, and developments in this episode of Arrow. And I know we do our spoiler disclaimers at the top of each post, but this bears repeating: don’t spoil yourself if you haven’t seen it yet! It’s worth waiting and watching without knowing what happens! Okay. You’ve been warned.
Previously: Winky face! Russia! Diggle got to shine and save the day for his ladylove! Oliver got to sit on the sidelines for the first time ever! Felicity and Isabel got to wear awesome hats! And Isabel got to wear Oliver, literally. Is that too graphic? Possibly, but it’s worth pointing out because it reverberates in this episode.
We never saw the hookup, not even a kiss; we only saw the aftermath and the lack of cuddling. I have a very compelling theory sitting in my inbox from a friend about Oliver’s motivations, and Becca talked about Isabel’s possible motivations in last week’s review, but the important thing is that Oliver and Felicity appear to be unchanged by the events, despite Felicity’s obvious pain and confusion. Oliver pretty much admitted to having close-to-love-like feelings for Felicity, and Felicity, in turn, didn’t really let him off the hook when she said that he deserves better than his self-imposed rule of maintaining distance.
We could’ve worried in the intervening seven days that Felicity and Oliver wouldn’t be able to overcome the emotions of that scene, that they’d be awkward, or worse, that Felicity would be angry. But this show is rewriting the book on slow burns, healthy friendships, and mutual understanding. It helps, too, that Diggle falls ill early on, forcing Felicity and Oliver to work together to suss out the situation. Things get downright magical by the end of the episode, indicating that the duo have actually grown closer thanks to Russia, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The episode opens with a flashback, not to the island, but to the Starling City earthquake that freed exactly two prisoners: The Dollmaker, of episode 2.03 fame, and The Count, of Vertigo fame. In a neat little twist, The Count actually freed The Dollmaker because he saw his potential for being a terrible human being, but I guess he didn’t see The Dollmaker’s potential for getting caught by Beat Cop Lance. You win some, you lose… everything.
Today, though, is the day Moira Queen stands trial for her crimes against humanity (but not against fashion or being fabulous because boy, does she rock a prison jumpsuit!) and her children arrive at the courthouse to a waiting swarm of papa, paparazzi. Laurel and
Paul from Orphan Black Assistant District Attorney Adam Donner are standing at the top of the steps, Laurel snipping about how unfair it is that Oliver and Thea are so popular when Laurel’s the one with the big hair and the secrets and that’s not what court is about, we should totally just stab Caesar, and Adam gives Laurel his creepy smile and hints that he has a “trump card” on Moira. That’s when Laurel gets persnickety about Adam sharing his case information, which… is totally fair, actually. Why would you not make sure your entire team is prepared, just in case you’re poisoned by some lunatic who wants everyone to get high? Seems like Adam should’ve planned for such an eventuality.
Diggle is so sick, he doesn’t even make it into the courtroom. In fact, he barely makes it up the stairs before Oliver sends him home. Let’s be completely honest here: Digg had to be sick, otherwise this episode would’ve been over a lot faster. That leaves Oliver, Thea, and Roy there to support Moira on her big day, and Laurel’s still sitting across the aisle like this isn’t the worst thing she’s ever done. You know, besides the boozing and the pill-popping.
The opening statements are hammy and, for plot purposes, unnecessary. We know the story already, we lived the story, and we don’t get any new insight as to where each side stands. Obviously the prosecution is going to make Moira seem like a she-devil who hates poor people, and the defense is going to insist that Moira was blackmailed and coerced into killing all those people.
Thank goodness the opening statements end just in time for Diggle to collapse on Felicity, almost taking her to the floor with him. It gives Oliver time to duck out and run to the lair, where he finds out that Diggle has trace amounts of Vertigo in his system. Vertigo! I know! I didn’t see this coming at all, especially not since Oliver spared the Count and let him live last season! Who could’ve possibly predicted this?
Good thing Oliver’s on his Tommy Merlyn Thought I Was a Murderer feely-good tour of not killing bad people, right?
It’s also a good thing that Oliver became a chemist at some point, because he whips out an antidote to Vertigo, which he instructs Felicity to administer to Diggle (who is insisting he’s not a drug addict, hilariously, because we were all so concerned, Digg) right after he promises not to break his no-kill streak. I wonder if that’s an achievement one can unlock in the new Call of Duty game?
Back at court, Thea is on the stand. You read that right: The prosecution’s first witness is Thea Dearden Queen, daughter of the accused, because there’s no one else more incriminating for Moira. I don’t know anything about law, or order, or about Law & Order, but I do know that there has to be someone better out there for Adam to question. It goes about as well as anything Thea does: poorly. She’s saved by Adam’s collapse, because he’s sick with the same illness that’s taken Diggle, and it gives the defense time to regroup and do the next logical thing: Put Moira on the stand! That sassy lawyer is chock full of really bad ideas.
Meanwhile, Adam is abducted by The Count, who drives the ambulance to his hidey-hole and then hacks into all of the city’s news feeds to inform everyone that they need Vertigo to make themselves feel better. Turns out he’s infected everyone with a virus for which Vertigo is the only cure, but unfortunately, Vertigo is addictive. He’s creating a city of addicts, which is elegant in theory, when you’re picturing power, right? They’d have to keep coming to you for their hits.
Back at the District Attorney’s office, Laurel’s poring over Adam’s case file while Alderman Blood and District Attorney Spencer have a conversation about how much they can’t bring themselves to care about Adam’s captivity. We already know Blood is a super villain, and we also know part of the police department is corrupt, so are we to assume Laurel has become an unwitting part of the corruption just by being there? The D.A.’s blase attitude regarding her assistant D.A. is alarming enough, but then she turns around and makes the decision that Laurel should be the new prosecutor in this high-profile case. Laurel, with all of her years of courtroom experience. Don’t try to tell me that woman’s not up to something.
But lo! Laurel finds Adam’s so-called Trump Card, and what does she do in this tense, high-stakes, life-or-death situation? She runs to Moira with it, effectively breaking the law and putting the entire case in danger of being thrown out. The ensuing scene basically goes like this:
Laurel: “Please don’t make me be an adult, even though that’s what I’ve been screaming about for the last six or so episodes! Please make my life easier and just skip the stand, so that I don’t have to do tough things like my job!”
I say this every time I write an Arrow review, but: Seriously, Laurel? Either do your job or get out, you have options here. Now you’re in danger of coming off as weak and traitorous if anyone finds out, and oh yeah, you broke the law. Or the order. Possibly both!
Roy gifts Thea some boxing gloves and tells her to whale on him, so that she can let out some of her pent-up aggression. I thought that’s what the Bose Noise-Cancelling Earbuds were for, so she could listen to emo music and brood away her sorrows. Brooding runs in the family, probably. It’s nice to see someone teaching Thea Queen how to throw a punch, which is a terrible failing on Ollie’s part, and maybe Robert’s, too. It’s a sweet scene for a couple that somehow manages to stay relevant even when they don’t have any drama going on, so I give their relationship an A+.
Back at Arrow HQ, Felicity figures out where the Count is hiding out, which sends Oliver out to save the man who was vowing to put his mother on death row. (See, Laurel, you don’t know the first thing about making tough decisions with far-reaching consequences.) The Count is beside himself with glee when Hooded Oliver appears, whispering, “Be still, my heart!” This whole Count vs. Arrow thing could’ve been a lot more compelling if The Count were actually harboring a crush on Arrow. His brand of crazy mixed with a desire just to be near Arrow would be a lot more fun to watch than those three agonizing Helena episodes from last season, don’t you think?
Oliver rescues Adam but lets The Count live, which disappoints The Count immensely. It disappointed me a little bit, too.
The next day, Moira reveals that she had a fling with Malcolm Merlyn back in the day, probably around, oh, say… nineteen years ago, give or take a few months. Thea is horrified, because she was disgusted by Malcolm, and then we cut to Moira on the stand while Laurel grills her about Robert, Walter, and Malcolm. How strange, to watch Laurel reference the boat crash that killed Robert and her sister… to see her talk about her dead boyfriend’s father with little to no inflection.
The whole thing is so strange to me, from a writing standpoint and from an acting one. The understanding is that they wanted Laurel to be on the case to add an extra layer of complexity to the entire thing, but it seems to only hamper this storyline. Laurel’s presence only brings questions, not compelling scenes of nuance and complexity between herself and Moira, herself and Oliver, even herself and Adam, who knows of her friendship with the Queen family. Laurel (or Katie Cassidy, or the writing team) approaches everything robotically, like they’re all strangers, and her lack of chemistry with Stephen Amell is more obvious in this batch of episodes than it ever has been before. The only way out of this weird and frankly sloppy storyline is to reveal that Laurel’s there as a puppet for the D.A. or for the Alderman for some twisted reasons that will become apparent at a later date. I don’t know. I just have so many questions about Laurel’s arc.
Outside the courtroom, Laurel goes running away from Oliver, who just circles around that big atrium and meets her on the other side. She starts rambling about how she’s already way harder on herself than he could ever be, and Oliver’s just magnanimous and understanding of Laurel’s tough spot. She’s shocked, but still wholly self-involved: “I don’t understand how you could forgive me after what I just did in there. I don’t understand how anyone could.” He totally gets it because he makes those decisions on a daily basis, but Laurel’s too wrapped up in her self-pity to notice the look on his face when she says that.
At Arrow HQ that night, Felicity and Diggle figure out that the virus is being spread through flu shot vans around the city. Diggle’s in no shape to investigate, and Oliver’s busy with his family, so Felicity opts to investigate. She’s victorious, of course: there’s Vertigo on the van she checks, but there’s also a surprise guest.
Oliver gets the phone call right after the lawyer with the fabulous hair tells them, “I think you two should prepare for the worst.” Oliver answers his phone distractedly, but he snaps to attention when The Counts voice is at the other end of the phone that rings in as Felicity’s number. It’s a fantastic scene from both actors, with The Count dramatically recalling the way he figured out Oliver’s secret identity as he threatens Felicity’s life, and with Oliver growing more enraged. He doesn’t even have a good excuse for Thea when he leaves.
He hoods up but leaves off the eye makeup (pity!) and shows up as The Count is sinisterly stroking Felicity’s ponytail. During his monologue about hating Arrow, The Count hints that someone powerful has funded his Vertigo operation, “So I could draw you out.” Why? Well to kill him, of course! So that’s why he’s here.
He fails, though. He hauls Felicity up by the ponytail, using her as a human shield as he threatens to stab her with the double-syringe of Vertigo (sidenote: is it like epoxy or something?), but as Oliver draws the arrow back, Felicity says, “Oliver, don’t! Not for me!” Oliver eventually lowers the bow, but when The Count makes to stab Felicity anyway, he whips out three arrows right to The Count’s black, black heart.
He falls back through the window, because it’s just not a good week if the Queen Consolidated windows aren’t smashed, and instead of following the body to watch the fall, Oliver darts for Felicity, who is crouched on the floor, crying.
It’s a sweet and straightforward scene. She was more important in that moment than honoring his friend, because Tommy wouldn’t have wanted Felicity to die for his sake. Oliver walks to the window and we see the Count’s lifeless, arrow-riddled body on top of a cab many floors below. The only cab on the side of the street, of course.
The good news is, Oliver gets back just in time for a quick and touching scene with Thea before the jury hands down their verdicts. I’ll cut to the chase: NOT GUILTY! Time to throw the confetti and cue up “Get on Your Feet,” right? But all three of the Queens are confused, so confused that they don’t know how to be relieved. Oliver spots Laurel looking at them guiltily, but he can’t move toward her and then she’s gone. Laurel! You did your job! If you can’t take pride in that, despite the personal costs, then why are you even there?
Later in the world’s longest day, Oliver goes to check on his team. Diggle’s recovering nicely, and Felicity reports that there’s a non-addictive treatment in the works as they speak. Oliver dismisses them, telling them both to go home and sleep, but the night’s not over yet; Felicity stops Oliver and apologizes for the position she put him in tonight. “You killed again, and I’m sorry that I was the one that put you in a position where you had to make that kind of choice.” But it wasn’t a choice to Oliver, not even for a second.
The hand squeeze and the smiles are enough indication of the closeness they share in the wake of Russia. It might’ve hurt them both at the time to go through it, but now they’re both on a level that surpasses typical romance and sexual chemistry. It’s good enough for now.
Elsewhere, Blood’s army is conscious despite the bleeding eyes. Does this mean we haven’t seen the last of The Mayor?
Lest you think that’s the episode-ending “twist,” Moira’s getting a ride home from a non-Diggle chauffeur, which only spells trouble. He takes her to some abandoned parking lot, where he is then shot and killed. Moira spins around to see–
Malcolm’s like, “Uh, you’re welcome for getting you off that murder charge, Moira,” when he should be like “Hey, your son is The Arrow, bye!” before disappearing into the night. That’s not his way, and for whatever reason, he wants to keep Oliver’s secret as much as he wants to keep Moira alive and under his thumb. He says he has an informant in the D.A.’s office, and the obvious answer is Adam, who had the information about Moira’s affair with Malcolm. It could be Laurel in a particularly dark twist, considering Tommy’s death and all. Or like I suspected from the start, the D.A. herself is the informant, just as crooked as the rest of the city, and she, Blood, and Merlyn are all on the same team… of Assassins!
Malcolm’s not done dropping truth-bombs yet. Marveling at Moira’s ability to lie so convincingly, he took it upon himself to get a DNA test. “Imagine my joy at learning that Thea is my daughter.”
The flashbacks were also packed with twisty goodness. Ivo ambushed Team Island’s old airplane camp, but Shado and Slade managed to avoid serious injuries and Shado even manages to disarm a bomb. Ivo is desperate to find the hosen, which is supposed to be in the cave, but is actually now in Team Island’s possession. Slade and Shado head off the group at the cave, where a hooded Shado points an arrow and Slade points a shotgun. In the resulting battle, Oliver grabs Sara and the four of them take off into the woods, detonating the device behind them.
The hosen itself has no magical properties, much to my disappointment. (I still want it to mean something, that Oliver gave it to Thea for safekeeping as soon as he got home. Hopefully it does.) It has coordinates, which according to Sara, lead to a Japanese submarine that had run aground during World War II. According to her, the submarine holds something that will “save the human race.” Flashback Oliver hasn’t gotten to the point of caring about long games; all he sees is his injured friend with half of his face burned off, struggling for breath as they stand in the middle of the woods. He asks Sara, “Will it save him?” Sweet kid. I wonder when he loses that. I’m glad the team is back together, now with bonus Sara!
Next week: *zoom* Oh you missed it. That was The Flash. Next time, don’t blink.