[This is a review of Arrow season 2, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
As Oliver Queen states in the updated voiceover before every episode, he has to "become something different." Of course, if you've been following along with Arrow that line is now in reference to Oliver's recently adopted no-kill policy, which came about after Tommy Merlyn died thinking of his best friend as nothing more than a murderer. So far this season, the new guidelines for Starling City's number one vigilante have yielded positive results beyond the series' protagonist simply not killing all his adversaries anymore; it has also helped Arrow form a bond with those who had once relentlessly tried to hunt him down, namely, Officer Lance.
With all of the focus the series has placed on Oliver's decision to start leaving his enemies breathing (perforated, but breathing) it comes as no surprise that this rule would wind up being tested. What 'State v. Queen' asks, then, is: Under what circumstance is it okay for Oliver to go against this new course of action? Will he refuse to take a life no matter what, or is there a breaking point? Well, now, after The Count (Seth Gabel) threatened to kill Felicity in front of Oliver, we know the answer to those questions. What the fallout from Arrow killing The Count will be, however, brings about a whole new set of questions that will hopefully play out as the season continues.
There is a great deal going on in 'State v. Queen,' and the episode does some heavy lifting to try and split the narrative and the drama between Starling City's Trial of the Century, and the not-so-quiet return of The Count – who seems to have recovered from the unpleasant state he was left in last season. While Moira's trial finally manages to give Laurel something to do by placing the entire case in her hands, after ADA Adam Donner (Dylan Bruce) falls ill with the same Vertigo-related symptoms plaguing Diggle, the trial itself went by in a flash (sorry, that's next episode), and, as a result, the whole storyline never felt as though Moira's freedom or her life were ever really on the line.
But rather than use the outcome of Moira's affair with Malcolm Merlyn to generate real trial-related dramatic tension, the ADA's magic bullet was primarily used as a tease, building up to the multi-level reveal that not only is Malcolm Merlyn still alive, and that Moira owes her newfound freedom to him, but he also knows himself to be Thea's biological father (putting her brief flirtation with Tommy last season on a whole new level of icky). As far as how the writers played their cards, in terms of when and where to create drama, it would seem the one-two punch of Moira's verdict and Malcolm's appearance trumps Trial of the Century quite well.
Overall, 'State v. Queen' was perhaps too busy for its own good, packing in multiple storylines that might have been better served had they been handled separately. Despite being a bumpy, table-setting entry in what has otherwise been a fantastic second season of Arrow, the episode was bolstered by the shocking events of its final act, and even managed to successfully integrate elements of the island flashbacks into the present day storyline.
Arrow returns Wednesday, December 4 with the highly anticipated episode 'The Scientist' on The CW. Check out a preview for the episode below: