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Arrow 1.11 Review: "Trust But Verify"

         This week’s Arrow, “Trust But Verify,” was yet another wonderfully crafted episode. This week’s episode was written by newcomer Gabrielle Stanton. Once again, even in the midst of amazing stunts, great performances and one armed push-ups, it was the writing that really blew me away. I’m curious about the writers’ room for this show – do Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg have the whole season mapped out? Do they wield an iron fist and lean over the shoulder of the writers as they put “pen to paper”? Whatever the secret is? It works, and I like it! Once again, we had several threads run through the episode along the same theme – Trust. Who do you trust and why? If you do trust, does it come back to bite you? And as viewers, we’re still following that path too.
          This week’s episode was directed by Nick Copus, and it was his first episode on Arrow. I hope we’ll see him again – he also directed a terrific episode of Supernatural this season – “Citizen Fang.” The performance of the week has to go to Colin Donnell for the last scene when Tommy tells Laurel about how he became estranged from his father after his mother’s death. This episode really added some layers to Tommy, and Donnell really delivered a terrific performance.
           Another treat this week was seeing Ben Browder guest star as Diggle’s (David Ramsey) old commanding officer, Gaynor. I’m sure many will remember him from either Farscape or Stargate. It was great to see him deliver such a different character as the disillusioned war vet.
          Diggle’s loyalty to Oliver (Stephen Amell) is tested as he wants to trust his former friend, Gaynor saved his life after all. Gaynor also doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who should be in the book, and yet he is. It seems he’s motivated by being disillusioned after returning from the war. He tells Diggle that over there “We were conquerors.” Now as a bodyguard to the rich, he’s been reduced to a nanny with a taser. It seems curious to me that he’s in the book, however. While he is clearly a threat now, was he really a threat to the city over five years ago when the list was made? I’m increasingly curious about how the list was compiled...
          In one of several big reveals from last night, we learn that Oliver received a message from his father explaining the list. While Oliver doesn’t give any specifics, we’re left to wonder if he actually spent the entire five years he was gone on the Island – it seems he may not have. We already know that he wasn’t all alone for the five years.
          Diggle vows to prove Gaynor innocent. Ramsey gets the best line of the episode for “I’m not gonna let you William Tell an innocent man!” In the end, Oliver is able to come to Diggle’s rescue because he plants a bug on him. Diggle knew it was there and left it, but he’s still disappointed that Oliver didn’t trust him. Oliver tells him that he did, he just didn’t trust the bad guys. Diggle shows his trust in Oliver, when he tells him he’s fine with going after the other names in the book, but he never wants to see the list again. While Oliver is still guarded and doesn’t give Diggle details – yet! – he does open up enough to reveal that what happened on the Island has made it very difficult for him to trust anyone. 
           The flashbacks from this week show us why Oliver has trust issues. He is eventually recaptured by Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn). He asks Oliver if he knows why all his men wear balaclavas. He explains it’s because you can still see their eyes and “It’s in a man’s eyes you can always see the truth.”  Then Fyers reveals that the man who helped him capture Oliver is none other than Yao-Fei (Byron Mann), the very guy he’d gone back to try to rescue! I’m sure I saw a look of shame pass over Yao’s face, so I’m hoping that Fyers has some kind of leverage he was holding over him to force him to betray Oliver, but it doesn’t look good.
           The second narrative thread involving trust centres around Moira (Susanna Thompson). In fact, it’s Moira that gets the tag line of trust but verify when she insists that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) prove that Walter is still alive. Anyone else missing Walter Steele? And I am really impressed with just how creepy Barrowman is as Merlyn. Knowing him as the very campy Captain Jack from Torchwood, I’m really impressed with how much I dislike his character here.      Thea (Willa Holland) is suspicious of Moira and has pointed out her erratic behavior to Oliver, going from moping to running the company. I begin to wonder if maybe her moping was just an act. Thea’s biggest problem with her mother is that she thinks she’s having an affair with Merlyn. Oliver interrogates her and she says she never cheated and in fact she’s been trying to protect both Oliver and Thea from learning that it was Robert who had cheated. Oliver couldn’t hold eye contact with her – something he does with everyone else. It made me wonder if he knew she was lying to him about his father.
          In a nice set up for next week’s episode, Thea takes the drug Vertigo at her birthday party after seeing Moira with Merlyn again. Her taking drugs again is no doubt going to set up for her to have trust issues going forward with Oliver. Another interesting intersection is that Oliver says Vertigo is being distributed in the Glades and Merlyn had charged Moira with talking to Carl Ballard, her friend, about stopping whatever he’s doing in the Glades. It will be interesting to see if the two are connected next week.
          Finally, the last narrative thread on the theme of trust, concerns Tommy and his father. Malcolm asks Tommy to dinner on the pretense of mending the rift between them and getting to know Laurel. I love that Tommy wanted to have a puppy so that he could call it Arthur – King Arthur to Tommy’s Merlyn... It turns out that all he wanted was for Tommy to sign a document allowing him to close the free clinic Tommy’s mother had started. It was really satisfying to get to see Tommy put Malcolm down the way Malcolm crushed Tommy when he cut him off. Donnell was fantastic in this scene as well. 
           We also see Malcolm in his armory as Tommy tells Laurel that Malcolm left for a year or two after Tommy’s mother was killed. I wonder if that’s when he went off and became the Dark Archer. More importantly though, I was suddenly struck with the possibility that he’d gone off to train with Yao-Fei. That would certainly make him the perfect foil for Oliver.
          Another nice parallel in the episode, sees Tommy tell Laurel that he values that she sees the positive in everyone. Later in the episode, Oliver tells Diggle the same thing. A quick shout out to Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. She does a wonderful job with a character who could so easily turn into a caricature, instead, she’s one of the characters I’d most like to go out to lunch with. And I have to also shout out to the stunt crew. My favorite from tonight has to be Oliver jumping off the semi, taking out the bad guy mid air.
          Finally, a quick word about the fact that Stephen Amell wins the plays well with others award this week. His chemistry with Ramsey, Holland, and Rickards just grows each week. Also? If you aren’t following him on Facebook, you should as he live blogs answers to questions. You can also find comics for upcoming episodes on the Arrow Facebook page. Always assuming you’ve become as hooked on the show as I have!
          What did you think of the big reveals this week?

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