Episode Title: "Betrayal"
Writers: Lana Cho & Beth Schwartz
Director: Guy Bee
I was losing hope of saying this anytime soon, but this was a really good episode of “Arrow.”
A lot of this series’ weaknesses are still all too visible, but the plot progression reached an important milestone a lot sooner than anticipated and a new character on the island has suddenly made the flashback sequences much more engaging.
Needless to say, there are full spoilers ahead for “Betrayal.” So skip this review if you’re not up to date or else Detective Lance will take away your phone for a week.
So far, the flashbacks to Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) on the island have largely felt tacked on to the episodes without answering one of the series’ biggest questions: who trained Oliver to be the badass he is today?
Enter Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke.
Manu Bennett from STARZ’s “Spartacus” series makes his debut in the role; which means that the character whom we thought was Deathstroke is actually Slade’s former partner. If Slade does go on to become Oliver’s mentor, it will be a very clever way to connect the future Deathstroke to Arrow, especially if he shows up in the present.
Not that Slade is here to make things easier for Oliver. His only agenda is to escape from the island and not get killed in the process. It takes Oliver’s willingness to sacrifice his body to impress Slade enough to give Oliver a chance to learn how to fight by his side. But Slade was all too willing to kill Oliver if he proved to be a liability.
The one really annoying thing about Slade’s appearance here is that he’s re-envisioned as a member of Australia’s special forces to account for Bennett’s accent. Would it have been so hard to simply cast an American to play that part? Bennett is a decent actor, but he hasn’t yet demonstrated why only he could play Slade on this series.
Back in the present, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) finally executed his plan to entrap Arrow by using his daughter, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) to draw him into a trap. It works out as well as you could expect, although Arrow gets away far too easily after all of that build up.
It turns out that Laurel is a bit of a hypocrite herself. She lashes out at her father for lying to her and using her to her boyfriend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell); who is understandably upset that Laurel has been lying to him and shutting him out about her dealings with “The Hood.”
At the same time, newly released villain, Cyrus Vanch (David Anders) decides to make a name for himself by targeting Arrow. And one of Cyrus’ police connections informs him about Laurel’s ties to Arrow. The setup sounds more intriguing than it actually played in the episode, as Cyrus was disappointingly one note. At no point did Anders display any charisma in the role, nor did the script do him any favors. For all of Cyrus’ supposed genius and planning, he is taken down with surprising ease by the alliance of Arrow and Detective Lance.
Paul Blackthorne is a very capable actor, but the writers still seem stuck on portraying Detective Lance as an almost single minded idiot. The one really great moment Detective Lance has is when he realizes that someone inside the police tipped off Cyrus and he has to go to Arrow for help getting his daughter back. But if this doesn’t at least mitigate some of the Detective’s hatred for Arrow then it’s a wasted opportunity for some badly needed character development.
On a much more promising note, Oliver is now aware that his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) has ties to the conspiracy that sabotaged his father’s yacht, courtesy of John Diggle (David Ramsey). The sense of betrayal on Amell’s face as he heard Diggle’s recording was his strongest acting moment on the series to date.
And the cliffhanger ending was terrific, as Arrow finally confronted his mom in costume after taking out several of her men. For the first time in a long time, I’m really looking forward to the next episode of “Arrow.”