It’s the weekend, which means more of me rambling about Arrow episodes! I know that June is Pride Month and the show at this point has little to no queer representation, but I’d already started this project before June and I’m reviewing queer movies on weekdays, so lemme have this little break. Last we saw, Oliver Queen got absolutely trounced by an assassin revealed (to us, not Oliver) to be Malcolm Merlyn, the first season’s big bad. Where does this main plot go in these episodes? Not really anywhere super noteworthy, but that’s the nature of long-running shows: not every episode can further the metaplot in a meaningful way.
The first episode after the mid-season break is “Burned,” taking place six weeks after the last episode. Oliver is still shaken after getting his ass beat and hasn’t gone out as the Hood since. His reluctance is put to the test when a number of local firefighters die under strange circumstances, including the brother of Laurel Lance’s friend, Joanna de la Vega. Nice to see her finally getting a moment! Too bad she leaves after this episode and doesn’t return until the season finale. Laurel steals the phone the Hood gave her father, Detective Quentin Lance, and together they discover that the culprit is Garfield Lynns (Mr. Andrew Dunbar), a firefighter presumed dead in a deadly blaze that left him burned and resentful towards his fellow firemen. A confrontation happens at Oliver’s still-under-construction nightclub as it’s hosting a gala for the deceased firefighters, which forces Oliver to don the Hood and save the day (except for Lynns, who lets himself die in a fire for real this time). Quentin insists Laurel keep the phone, though he doesn’t tell her that he bugged it so he can listen in on the next call she makes to the Hood. Meanwhile, Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, is still mourning the disappearance of her husband, Walter Steele, which she secretly was involved in. Turns out the CEO of Queen Consolidated being presumed dead twice in 5 years is a bad look, and after some prodding by her daughter and Oliver’s sister, Thea Queen, Moira steps up and takes over the company. Her sudden turnaround raises Thea’s eyebrow, though, and is the theme for these three episodes.
Episode 11 focuses on Oliver’s bodyguard and crime fighting partner, John Diggle. “Trust But Verify” has armored cars getting robbed, and signs point to a security company called Blackhawk run by Ted Gaynor (Ben Browder, AKA John Crichton from Farscape). Yes, that does sound a little like real life private military group Blackwater, but the name “Blackhawk” comes straight from the comics (I’ll get to that later). Dig doesn’t want to believe that his former war buddy could be behind this, but he absolutely is. When Dig resists participating in a heist, Ted has John’s sister-in-law, Carly Diggle, kidnapped. But Ted is killed by the Hood, Carly is safe, and Oliver and Diggle gain +1 to their relationship. Meanwhile, Malcolm Merlyn’s vague yet sinister plans don’t involve a man named Carl Ballard trying to gentrify the Glades–the poor areas of Starling City–so he gives Moira proof of Walter being alive in exchange for her taking care of this. But Malcolm is a little too friendly with Moira, convincing Thea that her mom is fucking Merlyn again. Moira says she never cheated on Thea’s dad, Robert Queen–sure, Jan–but Thea refuses to believe it. The girl takes a street drug named Vertigo and while under the influence, gets into a car accident. She survives, but is arrested. Also, Tommy Merlyn has a confrontation with his father and we find out that Tommy’s mom was murdered when he was 8, and that Malcolm’s combat training apparently came soon after that.
Up next is “Vertigo,” following up on Thea’s arrest. While a plea deal is reached, the judge wants to make an example of her because Vertigo is a danger to the city. Ollie throws himself into finding whoever created the drug and comes away with a name: the Count (Seth Gabel). Along the way he runs into Detective McKenna Hall (Janina Gavankar) who he had partied with years before. Utilizing Bratva contacts and showing off some kind of Vulcan nerve pinch to make a man appear dead (more on that in the flashback), Oliver meets with the Count, but gets injected against his will with the drug. One OD later and he’s fine! Mostly. Actually, mostly not, but he insists on continuing on, even if he can’t use his bow. Getting help from Felicity and offering up another amazingly bad cover story, Oliver goes out as the Hood and catches the Count, injecting him with his own drug. Meanwhile, Thea is seemingly ready to go to jail to spite her mom for cheating on her dad, but Oliver tells his sister that it was actually their dad that cheated. Yup, Moira never cheated on Thea’s father, Robert Queen! This in no way will become an awkward statement later! With the Count incarcerated/incapacitated, Thea’s plea deal is back on the table and her community service involves working with Laurel. The episode ends with Felicity meeting with Oliver and giving him “the List” that Walter had given to her before his disappearance, suggesting that Moira is involved with his disappearance (which, again, she is).
In the flashback to Oliver’s time on the island, he managed to escape Edward Fyers’ trap that caught Yao Fei. Oliver ran into one of Fyers’ men, but managed to kill him in a scuffle. Manslaughter, perhaps, but it’s still Oliver’s first human kill! Hooray? Oliver disguised himself as a soldier and tried to find Yao Fei, but got caught by Fyers, who revealed that Yao Fei is now working for him. Ollie and Yao Fei spar in a pseudo-fight club, but Oliver is killed. Just kidding! Yao Fei did that nerve pinch thingy, and now Oliver is back on his own, but believed by Fyers to be dead.
Let’s get to those references! Garfield Lynns is an old character, going by the name Firefly in the comics; in the show he and his fire team had firefly tattoos, so there’s that. Although without mechanical wings his modus operandi is more like Firebug, but that’s a completely different villain who is on an even lower villain tier. Anyway, Firefly first appeared in Detective Comics #184 (1952), and he, uh… Well, for every Joker or Riddler, there’s a dozen people like Firefly or Firebug–both of whom are titles that have been used by multiple people, because… I guess someone wanted to become Lady Firefly, for some reason. Wait, she showed up in Gotham?! Absolute madness.
“Trust But Verify” is all about the Blackhawks, who in the comics were aviators fighting against the Axis in WWII. They first appeared in Blackhawk #108 (1957) if you trust the DC Database wiki, but that’s only because that was the issue when DC Comics started publishing the title. Previously it was published by Quality Comics, who would later sell several characters–including Plastic Man and the Blackhawk Squadron–to National Comics Publications, Inc., which was a combination of two companies, one of which was Detective Comics Inc. Yup, DC Comics is the “ATM machine” or “PIN number” of the comic industry! Anyway, Ted Gaynor first appeared in Blackhawk #266 (1984). He was a member of the team during WWII, but was kicked out after doing some war crimes. His supposed final issue says he died sometime after, but he came back in Batman Confidential #36 (2010) due to… cloning and Nazis, or something? I’m dropping this thread right here before I go down a stupid sounding rabbit hole. Oh, and while never seen on this show, Carl Ballard was a minor enemy the Atom (Ray Palmer) fought twice in the early 60’s.
Detective McKenna Hall might be a sort of reference to minor character Detective Melody McKenna of the Gotham City PD, but the Count is the meat of the episode. First off, I love Seth Gabel. Lincoln Lee was one of my favorite characters in Fringe, so seeing him as a manic goblin nightmare drug dealer was a treat. He comes back a few more times, but will eventually be replaced by Peter Stormare, who I also really like (but not as much). Anyway, the Count who sells Vertigo is a not-so-subtle reference to Count Vertigo, a villain who first appeared in World’s Finest #251 (1978) where he fought the Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance. In Arrow the Count is a drug dealer, but in the comics he has actual powers that induce a state of vertigo in people, debilitating them. Count Vertigo would become a member of the Suicide Squad–really, what villain didn’t get forced into joining–and later Checkmate, a secret government agency also run by Amanda Waller. While we eventually learn that the Count’s name in Arrow is Cecil Adams–a name not associated with anyone in the comics that I can find–Peter Stormare will be Werner Zytle, which is Count Vertigo’s real name.
You may have noticed me cringing every time the show hammers home the point that Moira didn’t cheat on Robert. I won’t go into the spoiler specifics, but that’s revealed to be absolutely not true later on. The easy explanation is that Moira is lying to her children, but an equally possible option is that at this point in the series, she was telling the truth and that later writers added the twist. I see this more in comic books due to writers coming and going from a title, but this is a prime example of a retcon: a retroactive change to the continuity. Moira not cheating on her kids is–at this moment–quite possibly the truth as far as the writers know. But then a new idea comes along–usually with a new writer–and suddenly we find out that Moira slept with… You know what, I’ll sit on that for the people who don’t know. It’ll come up around the middle of season 2, so expect that sometime before the heat death of the universe.
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