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'Arrow' Review: 'State Vs. Queen' Was An Explosive Hour Of TV

November 21st, 2013 9:06am EST | Christopher Monigle By: Christopher Monigle favorite Add to My News

Arrow

The CW is enjoying a resurgence of sorts. The three new dramas were picked up for full seasons. Arrow hit its ratings-high with last week’s Deadshot episode. Many, many people stream CW shows online through Netflix and Hulu. Soon, Arrow’s going to become the consensus best superhero show on TV. “State v. Queen” is an explosive hour worthy of the sweeps periods: the Count returns, along with Malcolm Merlyn; Moira faces death for her role in the Glades destruction; Oliver kills again; on the island, Sara joins Oliver, Shado and Slade in their island adventures of intrigue; and, yeah, basically, stuff hits the fan.

The Vampire Diaries has been The CW’s biggest success for a few years, but Arrow’s probably the second most successful series. “State v. Queen” shows off some of the best things about the series. Unfortunately, the episode lacks a dynamic, breathtaking fight. Oh well. The writers brought back The Count. I understand the draw of the character. He’s charismatic, lively, insane, as well as the network version of Chris Nolan’s rendering of The Scarecrow. The Count likes to make people crazy. Last season’s episode with The Count attempted to affect the viewer the way The Count affects his victims. The visual styles of Count episodes are distinct: epileptic inducing lighting, quick cuts, manic close-ups. The Cou is in your face, staring up or down into the lens, sometimes even through. The visual esthetic captures one’s attention effectively.  The motive for the character is pretty shrug-worthy: he wants revenge for getting thrown into jail last season, hopped up on his own drug, Vertigo.

The Count set up shop during the five months after the Glades opened a hole in his cell and in the structure of the building, allowing him freedom. Diggle falls ill with the flu, but Felicity ran his blood through a lab and found traces of Vertigo. The Count aims for citywide withdrawal for a drug no one is addicted to. The widespread effects get shown in a graphic. The Count used flu shot trucks to inject civilians with vertigo. Oliver catches on to him quickly, which is what The Count wants.

Their initial showdown, when Oliver saves the assistant District Attorney, tests Oliver’s resolve to not kill. Oliver lets The Count live, opting to set a fire to his laboratory instead. The final showdown between hero and temporary villain involves Felicity’s safety. Felicity becomes the unfortunate damsel-in-distress. Oliver will kill for the people he cares about. The Count’s even more arrogant because he thinks he’s got a free pass and that Oliver will stand idly and watch him mess Felicity up with an overdose of Vertigo. Oliver shoots three arrows into The Count’s chest faster than you can say ‘John Barrowman’s back’. Oliver’s willingness to kill for those he loves showed him he could take drastic measures without losing himself.

The fatal solution to The Count problem makes more sense once the curtain lifted on the man who pulled the strings to free Moira from life in prison or a death sentence. The trial was overwhelmingly about Malcolm Merlyn. The prosecution’s trump card was Moira’s affair with Malcolm. The writing hints Thea’s the daughter of Malcolm Merlyn. Finally, Malcolm reveals he never died but only played dead, which is a reveal I should’ve, but didn’t, see coming. Arrow is very much a soap opera. It succeeds with males because it doesn’t seem like a soap opera, but the last two acts underlined the soap opera aspect of the series. Greg Berlanti’s not shy about potentially terrible soap opera storylines. The worst parts of his series, Everwood, were the embarrassing soap opera storylines, such as Andy’s affair with a patient’s wife in season three. Berlanti’s also responsible for a good chunk of the Brothers & Sisters nonsense. Malcolm’s return didn’t provoke excitement and anticipation. I immediately felt dread.

Moira’s day in court explored family and friendly relationships, specifically what makes one a family. Shado and Slade came to rescue Oliver because he’s theirs. They’ll kill and die for him. Lines blur and change. Thea’s a Queen, but she’s not; it’s the same for Oliver. He is and he is not. What matters more is what changes about someone when something changes about another someone. I know that’s a confusing sentence, and I apologize. Anyway, the significant drama comes from Laurel’s rise to prominence in the case after the assistant district attorney is kidnapped. Laurel’s dramatically uninteresting downward spiral continues because of her examination of Moira on the stand. Laurel blows Oliver’s concern for her off, convinced he’s disconsolate over the ruination of his family. I expect Laurel’s next source of agony to come from her inevitable disbarment for meeting with Moira the night before she gave her testimony.

I think the episode soared when Oliver saved Felicity’s life and also when Shado and Slade rescued him. I feel less for the actual Queen family than for Oliver’s other families, past and present. I’m not crazy about The Count. I fear the worst regarding Malcom’s return. I missed the stunning fight choreography. Overall, though, the series is very strong. In two weeks, the midseason finale two parter kicks off, and Barry Allen’s coming to Starling City.

Other Thoughts:

-I didn’t write about last week’s Deadshot episode. I liked the episode quite a bit. Any Diggle spotlight episode’s cool with me. I didn’t get the chance to rave about Summer Glau’s most extended appearance since her introduction.

-Marc Guggenheim and Drew Z. Greenberg wrote the episode. Bethany Rooney directed it. She directed the first part of “Foreverwood.”

Photo Credits: © The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved


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