This week’s episode of Arrow, “Betrayal,” was written by Lana Cho and Beth Schwartz, and directed by Guy Bee. This week’s theme revolved around the issues of trust and betrayal. The episode also featured a number of excellent guest stars. Once again, the show demonstrated why it’s one of the season’s hottest, by delivering an excellent story that was tightly directed and compellingly acted.
Cho and Schwartz have both co-written previous scripts, but this is the first they’ve written together. I have to comment yet again on how seamlessly the show is written; characters are written consistently over episodes and the pacing is also consistent. I also want to take a moment to point out that the writing staff includes a number of women who demonstrate that there are no gender boundaries in this writing room. Emotional scenes and action are both written equally well, regardless of who is credited – and have been throughout the season. I think this balance in the writer’s room is paying off in the show too. We have plenty of kick ass females, and it was great to see Katie Cassidy back in action when she (Laurel) is kidnapped. While she may have ended up as the hostage, that scene was paralleled by Oliver’s capture on the Island in flashback.
It was great to have Bee behind the camera again. It’s always a benefit to a show to develop a stable of solid, talented, and experienced directors. Bee’s touch is clearly seen in the action sequences, but he’s also had time to develop a rapport with the actors, which is always helpful when filming more emotional sequences. A quick shout out to some great Canadian talent in this episode. While it was terrific to see Ona Grauer as Vanch’s girlfriend, I was disappointed we didn’t get to see her do more. Some may remember her from playing Dean’s Crossroads Demon in Supernatural’s “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” and others may remember her from Intelligence or Stargate Universe. We may be seeing a lot more of Agam Darshi who plays Anastasia, the pro bono lawyer in Laurel’s office. You may recognize her from Sanctuary or the Supernatural episode “Hell House.”
The main cast all gave terrific performances as their characters navigated what seemed to be a sea of lies. Oliver (Stephen Amell), Laurel, and even Tommy (Colin Donnell) must try to sort out what the truth is and to accept that their closest loved ones may have been the ones to betray and lie to them.
Diggle (David Ramsey) is once again the voice of reason for Oliver. He has to gently push Oliver to really examine what Moira (Susanna Thompson) is saying and doing. He tells Oliver that someone needs to take an objective look at Moira. Diggs also tells Oliver that Oliver doesn’t have to take Moira at her word when she does deny involvement in what’s going on or knowledge of the list. When Oliver refuses to consider that his mother may be lying, Diggle takes matters into his own hands and shadows her by offering to be her driver. Even when Diggle plays the recording for Oliver, he still doesn’t want to believe his mother is involved, but Diggle points out that she kept the secret, so she must have something to hide. Another nice parallel in the episode is the two scenes in which Oliver interrogates Moira – the first in her bedroom and the second in her office as the Hood when he tells her that “She has failed this city.”
Ramsey also has the two lightest moments in the episode when he walks into a birthday party for Moira’s friend and when he has to think quickly when he’s caught in the closet by Merlyn’s security guard. We get very little of John Barrowman as Merlyn in this episode and only see him seated behind a desk. I heard he was injured in a Pantomime during the Christmas season, and I wonder if they may have had to adjust his storyline somewhat to accommodate his recovery. One of my quibbles about this episode is that Merlyn’s voice is the only one distorted on the recording Diggle plays for Oliver, and that seems a little too convenient.
The episode is very much about perception and what prevents one from seeing or speaking the truth. Oliver is blinded by love from seeing what his mother is really doing. He is also blinded by love in the case of Laurel. He thinks he is helping her by being there for her when in fact, he is putting her in danger. Quentin, Tommy, and Oliver all agree that it is too dangerous for Laurel to be associated with the Hood.
Laurel tells Quentin that he is so blinded by hate that he can’t see the truth about the Hood – that he is, in fact, a force for good. She tells him that his hate has blinded him to the point that he can’t see the damage it is doing to his own family. Even after he has worked with the Hood to save her, Laurel can’t forgive him for lying to her and using her. Quentin himself must also deal with betrayal from within his own department as he realizes it was a mole within the department who tipped Vanch off to the fact that Laurel was working with the Hood.
I wonder if hate isn’t the motivating force behind Moira’s actions as well. Once again in this episode, she reminds Oliver that his father wasn’t the man they all thought he was, he betrayed her and associated with the bad men on the list. Is it possible that in her quest to punish Robert, her own children have become collateral damage?
David Anders guest stars as Cyrus Vanch, the villain this week. He was understated and creepily so. I particularly liked him killing the lawyer and immediately looking for something to eat... like a shark. In fact, I felt really bad for Anders who was eating in almost every scene – not fun if you are forced to do multiple takes! My one quibble about Arrow is that we get so many great guest villains, yet they often have very little to do and we only see them for a fraction of one episode.
We did also get to finally meet Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson. This opened up yet another thread in the who do you trust theme this week. Oliver works hard in the flashbacks to prove himself worthy to Slade so Slade doesn’t kill him. He is then thrown for a loop when Slade tells him to pick a weapon from a chest and Oliver finds the two sided mask worn by the man who tortured him on Fyers’ orders. Slade explains that the mask is part of the uniform worn by himself and his partner who are members of the ASIS – Australian Intelligence – and who came to the Island to rescue Yao Fei. Slade tells Oliver that it was his partner who tortured Oliver and that Fyers lied to Oliver. Oliver must chose whether to believe Fyers or the evidence in front of him. Slade Wilson is supposed to be Deathstroke the Terminator according to the comic, and the promotion for this episode doesn’t dispute this, so it will be interesting to see if there really is a partner. It’s possible that Wilson will turn out to be a mentor to Oliver at least in the short term.
One final shout out about Stephen Amell in this episode. He has many nuances to bring to Oliver over the course of the hour, but the most striking is how different he is able to make the characterizations of Oliver on the Island and in the present. He does a fantastic job with both his body language – the alert, on guard, shoulders back and muscles at the ready stance of Oliver as Arrow versus the jumpy, somewhat clumsy and defeated posture of the Oliver that was. Today’s Oliver would never be caught so by surprise that he would start/jump the way past Oliver does when Slade ambushes him, for example. On a purely shallow note, I’m really happy that the hair/wig worn by past Oliver seems to have been upgraded – it looked much more believable in this episode.
Next week looks very intense, but I think I’m most excited about one scene from next week’s promo... Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is IN the “Bat Cave”!!! Which means she must be let into the secret, and which I hope means we will soon be seeing even more of her. What did you think of the episode? Who should Oliver put his trust in? Are you excited for more Smoak? Do you think Moira is guilty? Let me know in the comments below.