Wednesday, November 20, 2013

REVIEW: 'Arrow' Brings Back the Two Best Villains of Season 1 in 'State v. Queen' to Much Success

The CW's Arrow - State v. Queen

Oliver discovers Vertigo in Diggle's blood and realizes The Count has broken out of prison; Moria goes on trial but ADA Donner collapses in court and Laurel must step in to try the case; Oliver is torn between standing by his family during the trial and catching The Count; and things change when Felicity follows a lead and walks straight into The Count's trap.

If I had to compile a list of the best villains from the first season of Arrow, then Malcolm Merlyn and The Count would definitely top it. And surprisingly, both made return appearances in "State v. Queen" and both continued to be stellar. They pushed several characters into big emotional moments and it was very exciting.

I love The Count so much because of Seth Gabel's performance. He is fully committed to the role and seems to be having a lot of fun with it. His first episode was one of the stronger entries of the first season because of its climax where Oliver has the chance to kill him but instead shoots him up with his own product. His second outing wasn't as great because it required the character to be less crucial. But he makes a fine return to form in "State v. Queen."

The Count brings with him an impending sense of danger and tension. The details of his grand scheme are a little overlooked and underplayed. But the conflict he sets for Oliver is a very powerful one. Moira's trial is in full steam and Oliver needs to be there for his family. But he also has all of this with The Count to deal with. Diggle is sidelined and Felicity is trying to create an alternate cure. But Oliver can't handle this all in a swift manner. That forces Felicity to do her own digging and gets captured by The Count. And The Count continues to prove himself as a very smart bad guy. He figures out the Arrow is Oliver and forces him into a confrontation at Queen Consolidated. Oliver's only choice to save Felicity is to kill The Count. And he does! Breaking his newfound no kill rule. Making that decision is a strong moment for the character because he doesn't want to willingly kill anyone anymore. Because the Arrow isn't shooting arrows into everyone with no regrets each episode, that moment really stands out as a pivotal sequence. As does Felicity's apology that she forced Oliver to make that choice.

Moira being found not guilty makes no sense at all. The hour doesn't even really present a case about why she is innocent at all. All we hear is the evidence that should convict her. It's all pretty damning stuff - especially once her affair with Malcolm comes to light. I'm glad that the show pointed that out as well and then swiftly gave an explanation.

However, while I'm glad Moira is now free to roam about this world and not just be stuck in a prison for the rest of the season, I'm uncertain about the return of a fully alive Malcolm Merlyn. That character was vital to the first season and a great villain. But he also already had a great moment of closure. Now, the show is reopening that plot up again just to have John Barrowman on again. I don't know what he or the show could do with that character that wouldn't feel like a retread of the first season. This season already had a strong big bad in Kevin Alejandro's Sebastian Blood. So I don't see the importance of bringing Malcolm back. Even though it was a very well executed and shocking twist - but I could do without the overly soapy twist of Thea being his daughter.

Some more thoughts:
  • Yeah, more flashback stuff I simply don't care about and thusly won't spend time talking about.
  • With the return of Malcolm Merlyn, I now do think the show has added one too many villains in its second year. Going bigger doesn't always equate going better - even though the ambitious storytelling this year has largely been exciting and a welcome turning point for the show.