Arrow, Season 1, Episode 11 ‘Trust But Verify’
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Gabrielle Stanton
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
Arrow‘s potential is evident in the first half of every episode – there’s a somewhat interesting conspiracy being intertwined with some light family drama, and the introduction of most bad guys are entertaining and stylish. But there’s a growing concern with the last half of episodes, where plots fizzle out, resolved in nonsensical ways quickly, with a lazy plot twist thrown on at the end to further complicate the overarching narrative. These problems are abundantly obvious in ‘Trust But Verify’, an episode that tries to juggle too many plots at once, leaving them all feeling under-cooked by the anticlimactic finish.
The problems with ‘Trust But Verify’ begin with Ted Gaynor – the bad guy of the week – is that the show never establishes a reason why he’s on the list except that he helps rob banks and kills people. The connection with him is never made the overall conspiracy, which is heavily alluded to throughout the rest of the episode.
(Note: For those unfamiliar with DC lore, Ted Gaynor was a good Marine gone bad, created in the 1980s and killed in a Batman storyline in 2010. A fun fact: He was born in 1912.)
From the beginning, everything about Ted Gaynor involves some serious leaps and bounds in logic. The amount they pile on top of each other becomes bothersome quickly: Oliver and Diggle only get on their trail because Oliver was randomly researching some bodyguard who happened to be involved in a military robbery that someone had a tape of. Of course, Digg’s been in touch with him, and immediately takes a job with Ted’s Blackhawk company after stopping Arrow’s attempt to stop him.
An ignorant, simple-minded Digg is not a useful one – and combined with the obvious plot set-up that Digg is wrong about his old friend, it erases any ambiguity from Digg and Oliver’s fundamental disagreements on the issue. The audience knows Oliver is right from the start, even if it takes until the last five minutes to see Ted suited up with grenade launchers and assault rifles. And getting there was no fun to watch, either: trying to get viewers invested in Carly and Digg’s relationship is silly, considering they’ve shared about eight minutes of screen time together in eleven episodes.
It’s frustrating: the best part of their conflict in the episode is largely forgotten. The situation appeared to force Oliver to question the validity of a list he pulled from his dead father’s pocket… something mentioned, but completely thrown away when they make up. It’s a major cop out when Oliver says “you were wrong, and you were right”… in reality, that statement had nothing to do with the problem at hand, which was Oliver’s blind loyalties to a man who was obviously involved in some heinous shit (although the seed is planted by Thea that they were arguing about whatever the big “plan” is before his father did).
The Digg/Oliver dynamic – and even more importantly, Ted and his underling whose name I can’t remember – were also part of some racial issues with the episode, where the white guy’s mission comes first and the black guy either isn’t smart enough to see the obvious, or is dumb enough to get himself killed for reasons we’re not privy to. It also comes up in the “conspiracy” part of the episode, where The Glades are revealed to be a part of The Plan, a place that Malcolm nor Moira wants to be gentrified. It’s important because Thea – whose immaturity and melodramatic nature reached record levels through ‘Trust But Verify’ – is given a drug called Vertigo later, which Oliver attributes as “the drug people in The Glades are taking”. Is the show trying to say that getting an entire population of minorities addicted to some new drug is part of the plan?
What is most worrisome, however, is how the show continues to put more and more cards face down on the table throughout each episode, only turning up one or two at a time – and when they do, reveal things mostly tangential to the real plot. It started with the reveal of the boat in the pilot, and tonight, it’s when Yong Fei is revealed to be working with the prison owners he was supposedly running from. It’s only revealed in the last three seconds, and doesn’t appear to be related to anything going on with Malcolm, who remains the big baddie looming in the distance, at least for the time being.
I want to give the show credit for trying to humanize Malcolm in ‘Trust But Verify’ – but his attempts to manipulate his son, plus the seemingly empty revelation that he was off playing ninja assassin for two years after his mother was killed (presumably hunting their killer down… or was that part of The Plan? THE SUSPENSE), really make him more of a placeholder for “Ominus Evil Presence” – not to mention Tommy mad face.
‘Trust But Verify’ is an episode with pockets of opportunity – but it continues its growing trend of rushing through its mysteries and missions of the week, in order to try and get to more juicy dramatics and plot reveals that are only “twists” because they are given absolutely no context. The framework was there in tonight’s episode – the title pulled from Moira’s conversation with Malcolm parallels the other plot lines well – but it ultimately falls flat because it lacks any emotional nuance in its conflicts, and tops it off with lackluster resolutions.
– inconsistent characterizations continue to plague the female characters: Laurel goes from liking Malcolm, to arguing with him, to defending him in consecutive scenes.
– Thea’s scenes get worse and worse every week. She crashes her car high the day she gets it (18th birthday, party time!) because she’s mad at her mom, because she thinks she’s sleeping around? What is this, Gossip Girl?
– “Different day, same slop.” Working on a secluded island prison is the pits.
– Felicity really doesn’t ask the right questions. “So, no wine?”
– DEV-32 multiple grenade launchers… military grade cryptographic security protocol…
– Tommy wanted a puppy, and Ninja Daddy said no when Mommy died. Fifteen years later, Daddy cuts Tommy off… Tommy mad.
– Ted’s justification for murder and robbery? He “was a conqueror in the military, and was mad because he was disrespected by job offers to work security for rich brats. That is a poster for post-duty psychological treatment if I’ve ever seen one.
– Malcolm’s wife was killed… which he apologizes for talking aboutarr. It just makes Malcolm maudlin.
– Randy Dankievitch