jedi_of_urth: (jaime)
[personal profile] jedi_of_urth posting in [community profile] tori_reviews
I feel like I spent an age and half on this one, and I’m still not sure I expressed the ideas very well. So sorry for that.

Arrow 1x19: Unfinished Business

Somehow, most of the way through the season, I’m starting to question my adherence to the review format I’ve fallen into. I’m not going to change it probably, but I’m not sure I should be so stuck on it.

Lian Yu
As I’ve confessed many times about myself, I responded well to Oliver/anyone-but-Laurel (except, weirdly, Felicity for a pretty long time) and Oliver/Shado have really good chemistry that I quite liked. Looking at it now, the island love triangle is pretty clearly already set up (although they would have made more sense as a castaway OT3), as Slade is crushing hard on Shado who is much more interested in Oliver who responds like the former (and kind of still) playboy he is to a pretty girl showing him attention. He is, to all appearances, much more willing to learn from her than has been with Yao Fei and even Slade; and tolerate weird teaching techniques possibly because it’s a pretty girl.

I’m hesitant to treat Shado’s “My father wanted a boy” explanation of her skills as reality rather than a flippant answer. We don’t really see enough of her and Yao Fei’s relationship to say much either way, but it’s a tired reason to give kickass women that I want to think doesn’t have to be in play here.

I’m going to tackle the actual plot of the episode for a bit before delving into a couple of characters that actually merit discussion. And there’s a couple things about the plot that I quite like, and others I have questions about.

Firstly, why does this propose that no one could reengineer vertigo? It’s not like someone couldn’t have gotten ahold of the pills and managed to set up their own Breaking Bad operation (which is basically what happened) except they felt the need to say they got the unrefined vertigo formula out of the Count rather than just saying that since the cops/doctors can test if a person is on it they probably know enough to get a good start on how it’s made. Second, seems like the Count should have had some reason to be involved (whether willingly or not) because otherwise he just feels like a spare part in the story; using him a smoke screen is fine, but why do they actually need him around?

But, I actually do like Oliver in this one, or at least this element of the story (we’ll get to other elements in a bit). His attitude that vertigo victims are victims rather than criminals is good for him to show (one might question if he’d have that view without what happened with Thea, but that I’m not willing to say no to that straight off is good too). And at the end having mercy for the Count is, again, character growth. The doctor had to plot-convenience die once he found out who Oliver was and I don’t get the impression Oliver really considered any other end, so he’s definitely not abandoned his s1 ways yet, but he’s growing as a person...a little.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to expect it was pre-planned, this episode is pretty effective setup for where we find Digg in season 2. His relationship with Carly is already strained by the Deadshot factor, in a way we’re never lead to think the other secrets he’s carrying got between them (I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense that this is a particularly big one that is hard to keep from her). And we meet Lyla in the same episode. And I’m about 90% certain I figured out he and Lyla had some kind of past from their first on-screen meeting even if it was only a missed opportunity where they now hide behind being old army buddies; I didn’t call that they had been married, but they were definitely playing it like old more-than-friends.

It’s also, I believe, our first mention of ARGUS, though it meant nothing to me at the time. The fact that Oliver is also well aware of ARGUS (and quite possibly, as I’ve speculated, working with ARGUS intel) makes Digg sneaking around to work with them kind of amusing.

I also wonder, and this is somewhat relevant to our final point, what would have happened if Digg had just gone to Oliver first. Oliver definitely doesn’t show himself to be a great friend or ally when he does find out because Ollie doesn’t really get that other people have lives outside of him, but I have to kind of think that if it had come up at a better moment he could have gotten to where he is at the end of the episode without needing to have his freak-out first.

Okay, so most of the observations I’ve been making about Tommy’s arc on this viewing are things that are clearly there in the text I just hadn’t really put a lot of thought or words to it before, and this episode is the culmination of the characterization we’ve had. And it’s the twist of the story that things never really come back from before the end of the season happens and they never can.

Up until now Tommy and Oliver have been acting like they haven’t changed that much in the five years they were apart, and the people they are now are not that good of friends. The love is still there, they’re still family and probably always would be but they don’t actually get along that well when they aren’t pretending to still be the people they used to be.

Tommy doesn’t know how to deal with Oliver being the Hood; he can’t reconcile the killer with version of Oliver he knows how to deal with (part the frat boy of five – almost six now – years ago and part the moody damaged guy he occasionally lets people see), and the people he would normally choose to run to for advice working out his issues (Oliver or Laurel) are people he can’t turn to. If Digg or Felicity had offered to talk or just let him vent about it for a while it might have helped, but that’s definitely not on them to sort out.

And yet, when Oliver needs him, Tommy still comes through. Why he doesn’t tell Oliver about needing to pay off the inspector and let Oliver funnel the funds through whatever account he’s using for Arrow business I don’t know, but Tommy was willing to take care of it. Then he stands up Laurel so that he can pack away the Arrow-cave on his own in a few hours, which yes covers his own ass from being implicated in Oliver’s vigilante activities, but was mostly about covering for Oliver.

Oliver, much as with Digg, doesn’t always consider that other people have lives and concerns outside of him, especially at this stage – he does actually get better eventually. And unlike with Digg that spills into forgetting that just as much time passed for the people he left behind as he went through while he was away; Tommy may have been closer to the person he used to be than Oliver was, especially before Malcolm cut him off, but he wasn’t actually that guy anymore and Oliver was never really willing to see that.

Remember that time Tommy went to Hong Kong on a narrow hope Oliver might be alive and that he nearly got killed by Chinese gangsters (as far he knows) for his trouble? Then remember how Oliver *knows* that? That part, sure, wasn’t in the text to judge at the time, but we get to judge it now.

I do think Tommy is quite right that Oliver for at least a few moments suspected Tommy could be guilty; which would be a little dickish on its own but combined with all the other elements is justifiably the thing that breaks them apart. Because Malcolm of all people is (from Tommy’s presently hopeful view) willing to start seeing Tommy for the person he’s become rather than what he used to be, and Oliver is the one who won’t. Because Tommy has no choice but to see the person Oliver has become, a person he can’t be sure wouldn’t Hood up if more evidence had pointed at him for the drugs; and that suspicion makes Oliver angry because if he thinks about it he knows where it comes from. Because while Oliver may not see himself as a hero, he likes the version of what he does that Digg and Felicity see and without realizing or meaning to he’s changed because of it; but he wasn’t going to tell Tommy or anyone who knew him before because he can’t combine the two sides of him yet.

Lastly, I do think Oliver should have more reaction to the very real possibility that he’s about to be outed to Lance for something much bigger than drugs; he had no idea that Tommy had covered anything up. The Lance drama in the episode is good too, I just don’t have a lot to say on it, but it is kind of also the last healthy family moment for a while and it’s still kind of messed up.

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