Things are good in Starling City. A little too good.
In Diggle’s words, there’ll soon be “only two kinds of criminals in this city: those we lock up and those running scared.” Slade is safely locked up in a secure prison on a remote island, Officer Lance has been promoted to Captain, and the city has even formally exonerated the Arrow. Roy is in control of himself, and the two of them are making an excellent team. The only thing that’s left is for Oliver to get the company back, which Felicity is helping him with (she also just happens to be his new love interest because, you know, it’s the CW).
But things can never stay nice and simple in Oliver Queen’s world for very long. A new criminal arises who has a penchant for psychotropic drugs and a death wish for the Arrow. With little introduction or plot development, the new villain is thrown into the mix, and the audience is expected to fear at his presence. The problem is he’s not really that intimidating.
A new Count Vertigo, this guy comes off like a bad version of Scarecrow, firing a psychotropic drug that causes people to see their worst fears. When Oliver has a run-in with him, he sees himself. That launches an what could have been, and should have been, an interesting episode of introspection for the Green Arrow, where he contemplates what he could have been if he never changed. It’s the perfect opportunity to incorporate the concept from Ephesians 4:
“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Oliver does say, in reference to this conflict, that he’s afraid of what would have happened if he hadn’t changed. But then he meets the guy a second time, dries it up, and beats him in a span of less than two minutes.
I’m exaggerating. But the conflict itself is so short, that it almost leaves us with the impression that facing our fears is a quick and painless process, which is not the case. Even worse, the conflict was so short because the writers had to make room for the most wretched part of this show—the soap opera-ness.
I’m an Arrow fan. That much is true. But the worst part about Days of Our L—err, I mean Arrow, is that it’s more preoccupied with which girl Oliver is obsessing over and why he can’t be with her and who’s popping pills and who’s in the hospital than it is with the actual war on crime. Somehow the writers have got it in their heads that we care more about John Diggle’s pregnant ex-wife, Felicity’s feelings for Oliver, and even Queen Consolidated politics than we care about the Arrow’s battles. It feels like Oliver got less than ten minutes’ time in the suit throughout the entire episode, and we only see the Red Arrow in suit twice, despite the phenomenal build-up with Roy’s backstory and journey to self-control.
The only thing that really even comes close to redeeming this episode is the ending. It’s still a colossal missed opportunity on the part of the writers, but the episode ends with a shocking twist that I didn’t see coming, which could unleash a fantastic season-long plot. Still, that’s hardly redeems this mess of an episode.