In addition to being a fairly competent superhero program, Arrow has also developed an innate ability to have some of the most literal episode titles around. The show's writers have displayed a knack for choosing a theme and running with it, usually by making sure every character can somehow relate to the subject and then really sending the message home by titling the episode something like 'Trust But Verify,' or in this case, 'Betrayal.'
While all the various members of the Arrow television family have to contend with situations regarding the titular sense of betrayal, it is, of course the inevitable confrontation between Oliver (Stephen Amell) and his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) that makes the biggest splash. At the end of last week's 'Vertigo,' Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) delivered an identical copy of book of names the Hood's been using as his primary directive, and informed Ollie that it was given to her by his stepfather, who lifted it from Moira.
Naturally, considering the implications this second book of names presents, Oliver's position has suddenly become a bit confused. And, surprisingly, it doesn't take long for Ollie to have a conversation with his mother regarding the book's contents and her relationship to those names. Moira remains cagey about it and tosses the book on the fire, telling her son that its contents can only bring trouble to the Queen family and that it would be better "for everyone in it to stop asking questions."
Diggle (David Ramsey), not being of any familial relation to the Queens, takes it upon himself to investigate further, partially due to Oliver's refusal to see his mother is somehow connected to the element that has "failed" Starling City. His snooping not only catches Moira on tape with a strangely low-voiced Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), but it also reveals that Merlyn's plan for Starling City is being called "the undertaking."
Initially, it looked like the show was ready to shelve the notion of Moira's involvement, leaving one to expect this revelation would be tossed around each episode, leading to a confrontation between son/vigilante and mother sometime nearer to the season finale. But in a surprising turn of events, 'Betrayal' ends with Oliver in his mother's office, by way of a shattered window, dousing the lights and giving her the statement that typically precedes an individual being ventilated by one or more of his arrows.
This is could conceivably be a turning point in the series' narrative, giving away to the more serialized nature of the storyline that executive producer Andrew Kreisberg mentioned just before the show came back from winter hiatus. An even though we have to see how it all pans out – which, admittedly, could amount to nothing – Arrow's writers (Lana Cho and Beth Schwartz, in particular) should be given some credit for not holding onto the promise of such a confrontation for very long, and for attempting to do what television shows should: stoke the proverbial fire and keep a sense of forward momentum going at all times.
But there's still plenty of Arrow's soap opera-y goodness on display in 'Betrayal,' too – in fact, it would be something of a surprise to find out a soap opera titled Betrayal wasn't pitched at one point or another. Still, however melodramatic, the events of the episode (thematically speaking), could prove to have lasting ramifications for more than just Oliver and Moira.
Diggle's betrayal is relatively minor; he's there as Oliver's partner and when Oliver can't or won't see the truth that's in front of him, the responsibility of seeking evidence falls on his shoulders. To his credit, not only does he manage to get enough evidence that Oliver can no longer question his mother's involvement, but Diggle also does so without alerting anyone to his presence or damaging his relationship with Ollie.
Sadly, the same can't be said for Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and her father, Det. Lance (Paul Blackthorne). After tracking his daughter's use of the Arrow phone, Lance sets up a task force to bring the vigilante down, which not only fails, but compromises his already shaky relationship with Laurel, who had enlisted the Hood's help in sending a notorious criminal, Cyrus Vanch (David Anders, Once Upon a Time), back to prison. There's an interesting conundrum between father and daughter regarding their individual betrayals of one another. Lance uses his daughter as bait to catch the vigilante he's become obsessed with, while feeling that his daughter betrayed him by disobeying his order to steer clear of the Hood.
After Vanch uses Laurel as a means to coax the vigilante into a confrontation, Det. Lance comes to the bitter realization that someone in the police department has betrayed him, and the only person he can now trust is his hated adversary. Although the storming of Vanch's temporary headquarters isn't as action packed as it could be, there is a decent moment where Oliver prevents Lance from murdering Vanch and becoming like him. One of the Detective's stronger attributes is seeing the world in terms black and white, and while they don't exactly get along, Oliver doesn't want him to have to navigate the moral gray area like the vigilante does.
Which leads to the massive gray area that is the introduction of Slade Wilson, played by none other than Crixus himself, Manu Bennett. Soft, pre-Arrow Ollie happens upon Slade, thanks to the map Yao Fei (Byron Mann) slipped into this pocket last episode, and after a cursory examination, Slade decides it would just be better for everyone involved if he kills Oliver and ends his suffering before it can really begin. Of course, Oliver manages to convince him otherwise, and after a short discussion in which we find out that Slade is Australian Secret Intelligence Service and has the character's requisite penchant for swords, Ollie's training is set to begin.
- So, apparently there are two guys running around on the island with the Deathstroke mask. Either that or Slade isn't being as forthcoming as he seems to be. All this second-guessing in the flashbacks is making it impossible to believe anyone is who they say they are.
- While it makes sense that Oliver and Diggle don't yet suspect Malcolm Merlyn in "the undertaking," the way his voice was somehow altered on the recording, and yet Moira's wasn't just felt like too much of a cheat. Still, maybe the show can make up for it by revealing Malcolm to Arrow sooner, rather than later.
- Speaking of Diggle, although his initial lie to Moira when caught spying felt reminiscent of Oliver's inability to tell a convincing fib, the smoke break routine he used on Malcolm's security guy was much better.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'The Odyssey' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview for the episode below: