When Arrow returned from its hiatus the episodes were weaker than where we left off. “The Huntress Returns” was fun only due to another appearance of Jessica de Gouw, and “Salvation” was such a bloated episode with much going on that I cared so little about. Last night’s episode, “Unfinished Business” was a return to the more cohesive, solid storytelling of Geoff John’s “Dead to Rights.” And, huh?, what do you know, Bryan Q. Miller wrote this episode, along with Lindsey Allen, and I wonder if there’s any correlation between a strong episode and whether or not there’s a comic book writer behind it? I don’t know, maybe, but here’s our evidence.
There’s a new, stronger version of Vertigo on the streets of Starling City and Tommy (Colin Donnell) and Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) club, Verdant – which I’ll add just looks like a club you’d only be at if you were on high-end, expensive, party drugs – is connected to the case of young woman’s death at the hands of the drug. Of course, Vertigo’s involvement leads Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) and The Hood to suspect The Count’s (Seth Gabel) behind the drug’s reappearance. Only problem is, he’s completely mad and locked away in Starling City’s very own Arkham-lite. But The Count isn’t Lance’s only suspect; with little, but compelling evidence Lance suspects Tommy of dealing Vertigo out of the club and begins an investigation. And, if you thought having your dad accuse your boyfriend of being a drug dealer is bad, think how much it sucks for Laurel (Katie Cassidy) when your dad’s a cop and your boyfriend’s a nightclub owner.
Where previous episodes had too many plot lines running through a single episode and never really connecting, in “Unfinished Business” every extraneous plot ties back to the main story by the episode’s end. There are no extra plots for extra characters existing in separate bubbles from one another, and it allows this episode to be more engaging. The suspicion of Tommy is tied to him keeping Ollie’s secret vigilante lifestyle a secret. The connection to the club as well as The Count allows everyone to be involved in the search for the source of the new Vertigo. Even Diggle’s (David Ramsey) seeming disappearance from the case to pass on vital information about Deadshot to an old government contact comes back when in the end he saves Ollie’s ass; backing him up when Oliver thought he was totally alone.
There’s even an interesting twist on the whole ‘villain of the week’ trope Arrow constantly suffers from. With The Count back everyone’s assuming he’s behind the resurgence of Vertigo, but he’s a total madman, driven insane from the lethal Vertigo dose Oliver gave him last time. But when has being a total nutcase ever stopped a comic book villain? The Count was supposed to be an updated version of Count Vertigo, but Gabel’s performance reeks of Joker. Those Joker undertones mixed with the madness, his eventual escape from Arkham-lite, and Ollie’s deduction The Count’s secretly operating out of the asylum had me rolling my eyes. Just how far were they going to take this Joker analogy? Not very far at all, it seems, and now I find myself being less critical of Gabel’s totally over the top performance.
It was all a ruse; on us as well as Ollie. See, The Count was too mad to hatch such a plot, he was the decoy. The culprit was in fact, the butler! Wait, no, I mean the doctor, The Count’s doctor from the asylum. He needed money and took Vertigo, mixed it with another drug used to treat patients at the asylum, and started distributing the stronger formula. The twist completely caught me off guard, and I’m grateful this show can still find ways to genuinely surprise me, this time spinning my own assumptions back on me.
The other, slightly less surprising twist came from Tommy helping to keep Ollie’s Arrow Cave a secret. With Lance investigating every inch of club, Tommy puts all the cave’s gear in storage and throws the club’s storage into the basement as a disguise. What a good dude, helping out a bro while the cops are breathing down his neck, too bad Ollie can’t seem to return the favor. He doesn’t trust that Tommy wouldn’t be interested in scoring a drug deal like Vertigo for the club, citing how hard they used to party in the past. Tommy’s pissed Ollie wouldn’t believe he’s changed since Tommy can recognize how much Ollie’s changed, and he doesn’t like how. After their row, Tommy quits and immediately goes running back to daddy, Malcom Merlyn (John Barrowman), for a job. Somehow, I think Ollie’s going to regret reuniting those two.
– In our island flashback we get to see Slade (Manu Bennet) and Shado (Celina Jade) spar, plus there’s more of cocky but useless island Ollie, which I love seeing Amell play rather than the stern Ollie of the present.
– This line from Diggle after planting a tracker on one of Vertigo’s dealers, “The person of color has successfully purchased their drugs.”
– There’s also nice resolution for both Laurel and her rather, and Oliver and Diggle in the end. Which is good, ’cause with Tommy back in father’s good graces, well, nothing good is going to come from that.
– In what world does a security guard at an aquarium carry a loaded gun?
– Also, in what world does slapping a bowl of water train you to properly draw a bow?
– And what a dumbass doctor this week’s villain was. Assuming that a Vertigo-dosed The Hood wouldn’t be able to shoot and kill him, he proceeds to walk towards Ollie giving him a much larger target to shoot for. Dumbass deserved that arrow in the chest.
Arrow returns next week with “Home Invasion” which sees the return of Deadshot as Ollie gets to save everyone and anyone from the deadly sniper.
Arrow airs Wednesdays on the CW at 8pm EST.