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Arrow 1.19 "Unfinished Business" Review: Nothing Is As It Once Was

     This week’s episode of Arrow, “Unfinished Business” was written by Bryan Q Miller and Lindsey Allen and directed by Michael Offer. All three are new to Arrow. Miller is not new to the genre, having written for the CW’s Smallville as well as comics for DC, including Teen Titans. Allen worked with Mark Guggenheim on Green Lantern. Offer has a number of action credits on his resume, including Last Resort and The Unit. All this experience may help explain why even a brand new team to Arrow was able to deliver a satisfying episode that once again wove a single theme through multiple story arcs. This week’s theme was summed up by the Count (Seth Gable): “Nothing is what it once was.”
      The Count is not who he once was and neither is his drug, Vertigo. However, another theme that runs through the episode is misconceptions built on preconceptions, so Oliver (Stephen Amell) believes that the Count is still a threat and not really crazy and therefore buys into the Count escaping. This results in Oliver being captured by the doctor who is actually behind the new version of the drug and Diggle (David Ramsey) having to kill to save both of them. On the other hand, Oliver is not able to kill the Count in the end because he realizes that it would be a cold blooded killing. The Count is no longer a threat to anyone, and Oliver is not simply a cold blooded killer.
    Another facet of the theme this week is that people can and do change, but sometimes they get stuck in the past. Diggle is obsessed with finding Deadshot. He keeps this a secret from Oliver even though he’s enlisted Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) help. He is so consumed with finding him that he fails to come when Oliver needs him at the Aquarium. Just as a side note, the scenes in the actual aquarium were filmed in the Vancouver Aquarium, which I’ve visited. Diggle tells Oliver that he can’t get on with his life until he avenges his brother’s death. He doesn’t tell Oliver about his meeting with Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson), however, and this may be a problem in the future if both the military and Oliver and Diggle are both hunting Deadshot. Anderson, who is a very good actor, worked with director Offer on The Unit. She provides another layer to Diggle's backstory, so I hope we'll see more of her. It’s a great scene between Amell and Ramsey when Oliver tells Diggle that he’s making Deadshot a priority because it’s a priority to Diggle. I really like the way their partnership is growing. It’s also a nice way that Oliver is changing, letting people back into his life.
    Paul Blackthorne (Quentin) is great in this episode as he tries to walk the line between good cop and good father. His final scene with Katie Cassidy (Laurel) is particularly noteworthy. Laurel finds her father drinking in a bar, but he’s only having a soda – no scotch. She remarks that people can change. For his part, Quentin admits that he can be obsessive, but he has to follow the evidence. But he is trying to be a better father, and his concern over maintaining his relationship with Laurel shows his desire to put her first.
    Unfortunately, the evidence lead Quentin and everyone else, except Laurel, to draw the wrong conclusions about Tommy (Colin Donnell). Because of his former run-ins over drugs and his playboy past, Quentin and Hilton (Roger Cross) suspect him of dealing Vertigo out of Verdant. Tommy is most hurt by Oliver’s apparently considering that Tommy might be involved. Both Tommy and Oliver are basing the present on what they know of each other from the past. Oliver remembers Tommy as undependable and irresponsible as “playing hard.” Tommy can’t seem to accept Oliver as the Hood. It’s telling that at the beginning of the episode, Tommy actually refers to him as the Vigilante. I did find the tension between Oliver and Tommy to be slightly contrived and not exceptionally well plotted – it really seemed to come out of nowhere, particularly in light of the end of the last episode when it seemed that Tommy had accepted Oliver’s new role. It also doesn’t seem to follow that Tommy would quit after he’d gone to the lengths of bribing the building inspector to protect Oliver. I can, however, accept Tommy’s frustration in light of everyone believing that he couldn’t change. The success of the club due to all of Tommy's hard work and dedication should have been proof that he had changed. I was really disappointed when he went back to his father (John Barrowman) and asked for a job. I hope that he will be back on team Oliver sooner rather than later even if he has to find out that his father is much more of a killer than Oliver is.
    This week’s flashbacks feature Shado (Celina Jade) taking over Oliver’s training from Slade (Manu Bennett). The sparring scene between Jade and Bennett is very impressive as is her cross-legged handstand and her slow back walkover out of it. Jade is in terrific shape, and it’s going to be fun watching her keeping up with the boys going forward. She brings an interesting dynamic, one that Oliver has recreated to some extent with Felicity and Diggle. Her training for Oliver centers around Oliver having to slap a bowl of water repeatedly. She tells him stories as he performs the exercise. She completely earns his respect, however, when because of that exercise, he is finally able to draw the bow. She has, hopefully, taught him the value of patience and gained his respect. He’s ready to continue his training with her. Oliver has changed in many ways, not least of which, is that I suspect he will be less “whiney” about his training going forward. Oliver was a womanizer who was cheating on his girlfriend with her sister when he came to the Island. He’s obviously learned to respect women since then, and I get the feeling that Shado will have had a great deal to do with that.
    Shado also expresses her fear that the Island and its brutality will have changed her father. Oliver is able to comfort her that it has not, that Yao Fei (Byron Mann)  is a good man and that he saved his own life. I’m still getting the feeling that there is more to Shado than meets the eye. Shado is a nice play on “shadow”, and it seems that that may be what we are getting of her so far. Shado has an interesting history in the comic The Longbow Hunters. This Arrow has updated her story in interesting ways and I can’t wait to see how the rest of it plays out.
    Another well written episode with some great action. I would have liked to have seen more of Seth Gable, who was terrific as the mad Count, a potential Joker, if you will, for Oliver. The strongest aspect of the episode is that it examined how the past can be problematic when people want or need to change. “Nothing is as it once was” resonates through the episode. Change is not always a bad thing; sometimes it is better that things aren’t what they once were. Oliver is better for his changes, but at the same time, he’s relying on people not seeing those changes, he’s relying on those preconceived notions of him hiding the truth of who he is now. For Tommy, everyone’s preconceived notions of him were finally too much for him. What did you think of the episode? Do you think that Tommy will simply revert back to his old ways? Is there hope for Tommy and Oliver’s friendship? Let me know in the comments below.


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