IT’S A DIGGLE-CENTRIC EPISODE.
Diggle remains close enough to being awesome that it excites me, but still doesn’t quite manage to make past “whatever Ollie tells me too.” But there is some insight into his character that might explain this, maybe, if I let go of what Diggle might be and start looking at the character as written? Maybe?
The good news is, I don’t have much to say in the “Ollie’s Got Issues” section, because he’s actually playing secondary character to all the more interesting plots. Which is good and how it should be, and actually makes this episode much better! In fact, the only part of that subplot is the Island of Low Saturation.
Theme of the Week: Seeing the best in people, naivete vs cynicism. Or: Why Laurel and Diggle are better than everyone.
Villain of the Week
We open on the robbery of an armored truck: a man in black clothes, military boots and a whole heck of a lot of weapons, steps out in front of a money truck, leveling a grenade launcher at them. Then a van pulls up behind the stopped vehicle and similarly clad bad guys pour out. The grenade launcher fires a pellet of gas into the truck, expelling the guards, and the money is acquired from the back.
Ollie catches news of the robbery (which is the latest in a series) on the news, and goes over to the Arrow Cave to investigate it and get in some one armed topless pushups. When Diggle finally rolls into work with coffee, he actually calls it “The Arrow Cave,” and I am vindicated.
Note to Non-Comics Readers: Yes, in comics it is actually called the Arrow Cave. And you thought I was riffing on the Batcave.
Anyway, the reason Ollie investigated the technique is that the CCTV footage on the news had looked familiar, and he was able to compare it to an identical MO employed by the Marines in Afghanistan in 2009, to take out a taliban transport vehicle. Diggle agrees the techniques are exactly the same and would like to know please, where Ollie found this Afghanistan footage?
Turns out Ollie’s been investigating someone: Ted Gaynor, currently working for private security firm Blackhawk Squad Protection Group.
BLACKHAWK BLACKHAWK BLACKHAWK
NNCR: The Blackhawk Squadron are a team of crack fighter pilots assembled in WWII from a range of different Allied countries, including some occupied territories. Later in DC history, Blackhawk Airways appears as a private aviation company. Ted Gaynor served briefly with the Blackhawks, but was kicked out for being too militaristic. Later he reappeared as an ally of the Blackhawk’s biggest nemesis, Killer Shark.
(Killer Shark is not actually a shark, and therefore isn’t to be confused with King Shark, who is a shark.)
In Arrow-universe, Ted Gaynor was Diggle’s commanding officer on his first tour. He is also on THE LIST.
Diggle ain’t buying it. Gaynor is not rich, and he saved Diggle’s life, and Diggle refuses to accept the Book or the tactical similarities and believe that he might be a highwayman. They’ve been in contact since returning – Diggle was even offered a job at Blackhawk six months ago. Ollie counters with further evidence – Gaynor’s training specialty was the exact sort of grenade launcher used in the heists.
Blah blah Diggle and Ollie fight about whether THE LIST is important now that they know it’s all the Squiggle Organization and the Other Archer and stuff, and I have to accept that even though Diggle has every reason to deny the evidence and stand by his senior officer, and that loyalty makes people change their minds, it’s perhaps time to accept that the general inconsistency that the writers exhibit in Diggle’s lines as turned the character into a textual hypocrite.
Not as big a hypocrite as Ollie, of course. But every episode Diggle takes whatever argument that counters Ollie, and Ollie is Always Right, so of course, Diggle has to be Always Wrong. And you know? Diggle’s loyalty to Gaynor is ENTIRELY UNDERSTANDABLE in the context of just this episode, but it’s meaningless, because last week he was all “the list is the best thing!” because the writers needed him to say it to Ollie.
…I got distracted there. didn’t I?
“I understand if you want to take the week off,” says Ollie.
“No thank you,” Diggle replies, and adds meaningfully, “sir,” and on that line I understand Diggle so much more, because he’s a soldier, not a bodyguard, and he has this super strong unwaivering loyalty and somehow he cast Ollie into the role of “commanding officer” rather than “partner” and THAT’S why he takes so much of Ollie’s crap and I do wish he wouldn’t.
But I am a crazy sucker for ridiculously loyal characters.
Ollie tells Diggle that he’s planned to have a “pointed conversation” with Mr. Gaynor that night. See what he did there? Point? Arrowhead? Geddit? Ollie’s a funny man, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, off he goes to Blackhawk HQ, where he interrupts Gaynor in the middle of downloading some files onto a flash drive. But then that “pointed conversation,” (haha I’m still laughing) is interrupted by the arrival of Diggle, who turns out to be actually a competent bodyguard when he’s not working for Ollie. Maninnahood contents himself with shooting an arrow into a computer monitor and making off with the flash drive (that was convenient.)
Diggle stays behind and asks Gaynor why he might be a target for Maninnahood. Gaynor is evasive and asks Diggle what he thinks, which is a pretty good non-answer. The upshot is, Diggle is offered a job.
In the ArrowCave, Ollie and Diggle have their tiff of the week about why Ollie trusts Diggle less than the List, or rather, than his father, because “a few years ago I found a message [Robert] left me, explaining the List.” Turns out, Ollie didn’t exactly spend the entire five years on the island. DUN DUN DUN. Anyway, fight aside, Diggle is now working for Blackhawk, so he can find out either way.
Diggle takes Gaynor out to Big Belly Burger to catch up and gossip. Carly delivers food to Gaynor, but not Diggle, because she’s policing Diggle’s food intake and he’s okay with that. Gaynor decides that this is flirting, sister-in-law or not.
Eeeeeeeeeeeh show how come you like people moving in on their best friend/brother’s widows so much? Can’t Diggs and Carly have platonic awesomeness? NO, apparently.
They are interrupted by the arrival of another member of Blackhawk, Paul Knox. He was also in Afghanistan, and Diggle doesn’t like him one bit, for reasons Gaynor understands. “People change, John. And everyone deserves the chance to prove it.” Knox gives him a line about keeping him off the street, and if Knox hadn’t got a job here, he’d be out being an armed criminal.
Ollie is unable to crack the encryption on the flash drive, so he goes to Felicity Smoak, telling her it’s for a scavenger hunt being run by a friend of his, where the prize is a case of Lafite Rothschilde, and if she can crack the key, he’ll give her a bottle. Felicity’s all “this is military grade security, the rich are weird” and starts looking at Ollie barfingly longingly. Then she cracks the key and discovered all the schematics and plans for hitting all the armored car carriers in the city. She phones Ollie and suggests going to the police, but he asks her to send them to him instead, so he can go to the police and she keeps her nose clean.
Ugh, Felicity, why are you so ridiculously gullible?
Heist time! Another armored car is being held up, but they are interrupted by Maninnahood, who takes on machine guns with a bow and arrows because of previously established bow > guns set up. He shoots the grenade launcher guy’s mask off, then hits him in the collar, before being forced to retreat to a pile of trash. The robbers stop to haul their wounded into their truck (Labelled “Inter Globe Cable”), and drive off.
NNCR: The injured man is called “Blake” – a nod to Zinda Blake, Lady Blackhawk, who feel through a time portal from the 1940s to the ‘modern day,’ and became personal pilot and transport specialist for the Birds of Prey – Black Canary’s team.
At the Party of the Week, Ollie confers with Diggle. Grenade launcher guy wasn’t Gaynor, and Gaynor was with Diggle the whole time. Diggs tells Ollie about Knox, and Ollie tells Diggs about shooting the guy, so Diggs goes off to investigate the trucks for blood they can trace for Knox.
If they’d stopped to trade physical descriptions, this wouldn’t be necessary, as Blake and Knox are visibly different races.
Before Diggs leaves, Ollie VERY UNSUBTLY plants a bug on him. Diggs even watches him. It’s kind of adorable.
Diggle goes to the Blackhawk garage and starts investigating vans. Finding blood in one, he checks the side and discovers that the Blackhawk logo peels off to reveal a “Inter Globe Cable” one underneath. This discovery turns up just as Knox arrives with gun. He knew Diggs was trouble because of Felicity successfully hacking just as Diggle signed up. Knox takes Diggle prisoner just as DUN DUN DUN Gaynor walks in!
Gaynor’s the man in charge! “My men, my mission.” His motivation, as he monologues to Diggle, is… um, that the army made him power mad? I’m not sure on this one. Anyway, after Blake being shot, he’s down a grenade launcher dude – even though Gaynor himself wasn’t at the last one, so really that means they have JUST ENOUGH people, not down a man. But then he wouldn’t have an excuse to TAKE CARLY HOSTAGE to blackmail Diggle into helping them.
But at the party, Ollie is hearing all this, so off he goes!
Heist time! The bad guys and Carly sit in the truck, and Diggle steps out into the road with his grenade launcher. The armored car approaches… and Diggle stands down, letting him pass. Obviously, this makes a lot of people very angry, but what the Blackhawks have forgotten, is that DIGGLE IS HOLDING A GRENADE LAUNCHER, BITCHES.
Grenade in the ground produces enough shock and smoke for Carly to escape, and Diggle picks up a dropped gun and pursues the fleeing Gaynor. Knox gets up, and picks up a sniper rifle to shoot Diggle down, but he is interrupted by Maninnahood. Fight fight fight!
Carly runs, Gaynor chases her, and Diggle chases him. He catches up, and threatens Gaynor with a gun, but Gaynor calls his bluff. Diggle still can’t shoot his ex-commanding officer.
Fortunately, Ollie has just finished with Knox and comes around the corner in time to shoot Gaynor in the chest with an arrow.
I had – rather thought that Ollie’s character development over the last few episodes had been away from “Punisher with a bow.” GUESS NOT. I don’t suppose Ollie’s never going to give a ‘killing is wrong’ speech again? No? Thought not.
“You’re late,” Diggle says to Ollie. Because he knew about the bug, dude. That was ridiculously unsubtle. “I wish you trusted me, though.”
“I trusted you,” says Ollie. “But them? Never.”
COMMUNICATION, GENTLEMEN. I can’t imagine “so go investigate inside but I’ma give you a bug to wear so I can cavalry in, okay?” would have been met with a negative. Unless the writers were being tools.
Ollie flees, Carly comes back, and Diggle checks she’s okay before the police come onto the scene. They are happy with the first round of questioning, apparently, because Diggle returns to the Arrow Cave to debrief with Ollie (and not to check on Carly and her son, who I guess are fine dealing with it on their own?)
“I screwed up,” says Diggle. I don’t know what version of events he’s thinking of, but he didn’t do anything wrong. He went undercover, he discovered proof of their activities, and he got to the bad guys in a way Ollie couldn’t. But no, Diggle isn’t the White Hero, so he has to be in the wrong. Blegh.
OTOH, Ollie also admits he was wrong to trust the List over Diggle. Because he chose Diggle to be his partner for a reason.
Because Diggle had more or less figured it out and it was getting to be a pain hiding from him
Because Diggle “sees the best in people.”
Ollie lets Diggle cross out Gaynor’s name, and for some reason that isn’t obvious to me, Diggle says that he doesn’t want to know about the rest of the names until Ollie chooses to tell him.
Eeeeeh I don’t know.
The Island of Low Saturation
Dressed in the dead man’s gear, carrying the dead man’s gun and using the dead man’s map, Ollie finds Fyers’ base camp. Pulling his balaclava over his face, he walks in and joins the line for foods. Everyone has their balaclava down, so he fits right in. He is joined by another man, who instantly pegs Ollie as new. All we can tell about the guy is that he has an accent and eyes that suggest he is East Asian, and I’m going to go with Chinese.
Playing up the ‘new guy’ role, Ollie explains he’s supposed to be transporting a prisoner, “a Chinese guy who wears a green hood,” and the Unidentified Chinese Mercenary says that sounds like the guy who was taken to the East Camp, and he’s going over there now, so maybe Ollie can hitch a ride? Just as they’re getting into the jeep, however, they are joined by Fyers. DRAMA.
In the jeep, Fyers quizzes MYSTERIOUS NEW RECRUIT, with the usual kind of questions bad guys who suspect good guy infiltration use. “Anything to report on the perimeter?” “Did a new submarine arrive with new recruits?” To which Ollie replies, “I thought every one arrives by plane.” “Indeed they do.” It LOOKS like Ollie passes, but he does a shitpoor job of lying, does Island!Ollie.
When they get to the East Camp, Fyers shows Ollie all the prisoners being kept there, and then punches Ollie to the ground and unmasks him. When Ollie comes to, he is in one of the cages, chained to the rails. Fyers wakes him up, standing by Unidentified Chinese Mercenary. He monologues at Ollie for a bit, about balaclavas revealing only the eyes and how you can tell everything by looking into a person’s eyes. He goes on to talk about trust, and then UCM unmasks..
…DUN DUN DUN it was Sao Fei.
Like I’ve said before: Worst. Mentor. Ever.
The Grown Ups’ Plot which is really the Thea Plot
Thea’s 18th birthday is coming up, and she wants a car! Ollie got a car when he was 18, she points out, but Ollie tells her he could back it out of the driveway without hitting a tree. Also, the parenting of Oliver didn’t produce the kind of visibly responsible young man that Moira presumably wants Thea to grow up into. Me, I’d use the “Walter would get me a car!” line, but not even Thea Queen would stoop that low. Anyway, Moira and Thea are taking a couple of days to meet party planners and go shopping and generally pass Bechdel all over the place.
Meanwhile Tommy asks Ollie about Moira, and he says she seems okay, except “Thea thinks she’s actually been a little bit ‘too okay.’” What with the being cheerful, running the company, erratic behavior &c. Tommy and Ollie are willing to dismiss this as stress behavior, because of course what they don’t know is that Moira’s under a very different kind of stress than they know. She knows where Walter is, after all!
In the car after some successful shopping, Moira and Thea reminisce about Robert and how he was not looking forward to Thea turning 18, and how she now misses him. They are interrupted by John Barrowmerlyn calling Moira and she has to cut her Thea time short, to the other’s disappointment and anger. Moira also lies about who was on the phone.
Moira and Merlyn meet at Queen Consolidated, where he informs her that they have a problem with a guy called Carl Ballard, a friend of Moira’s, who is ‘trying to gentrify the Glades” through unspecified means. This is bad because of Squiggle related reasons, so could Moira tell him not to? Thanks.
NNCR: Carl Ballard is a minor villain who apparently turned up in The Atom. Googling things sydht – all part of the service.
Moira insists that in return she gets proof of life for Walter. Doesn’t she trust Barrowmerlyn. No, she quotes the epsiode’s title “Trust but Verify.” Fine. BUT WAIT, who is that outside the glass fronted office that this secret meeting is taking place in? IT’S THEA. And she’s not happy. She goes straight to Ollie to tell him that Moira and Barrowmerlyn are having an affair.
Ollie’s reaction is along the lines of WTF.
Thea tells him that in the months preceding the boat crash, Robert and Moira had been fighting a lot, and Thea noticed a lot of ‘lunch meetings’ with Barrowmerlyn. She’s seeing similar things after Walter’s disappearance, and putting two and two together, she’s made 4.1. (Having an affair/evil conspiracy. I’ll call them close enough.)
Ollie refuses to believe this of his Mom. Thea points out that he has her on a pedestal rather, and that she (Thea) knows their mother better. Ollie’s response is to go straight to Moira with this information and ask her what was going on.
Moira’s answer is… not an answer. She tells Ollie that Robert “was unfaithful to me repeatedly.” This could mean sleeping around, but it could also mean he was repeatedly unfaithful to Squiggle. But this is really just an excuse for someone to say further things along the lines of finding out someone you thought was perfect is in fact not perfect. Moira also explains that the reason she’s been hanging out with Merlyn is so he can give her “being CEO” advice.
The Party of the Week is Thea’s birthday party and she got a car, yay! She’s also wearing a fabulous dress and I wish L was here to see it. Her bad influence best friends show up with a new drug for her: called Vertigo. Thea, terrified of one of her adult figures finding her with it, goes upstairs to hide.
NNCR: Count Vertigo is probably the second most significant member of Green Arrow’s rogue’s gallery after Merlyn. He has the power to make people incredibly dizzy – which is way more effective than it sounds I swear.
Upstairs, however, Thea runs into Moira and Barrowmerlyn, exchanging a camera photo of Walter for a promise that she’ll “take care of it.” Seeing Barrowmerlyn touch Moira in a smarmy way as he leaves, Thea confronts her. Angry and teenage, she tells Moira she wishes it had been her on the boat, and storms off out of the party and ther house, holding both drugs and the keys to her new car. The next time we see her, she’s clearly doped out of her head, driving, crying, and drowning her sorrows in loud music. (She’s driving along Princess Road, guys. Princess Road!)
But then she takes a corner poorly and almost ploughs straight another car, swerves and ends up in a ditch, unconscious. Oh no!
Cur straight to the hospital, and Ollie and Moira arriving to check on her. It takes no time at all for her to kick Moira out of her room. Ollie says that Moira says she isn’t having an affair, and Thea says she’s not going to trust her.
An unspecified time later, Thea is discharged and leaving, when a policeman (not anyone we already know) turns up, and says that her doctor called them after blood tests. And in front of Ollie, she is arrested for driving under the influence of narcotics. (And guess what? She’s 18 now…)
Tommy and Laurel Need Their Own Show
Tommy isn’t just managing a club, he’s acting as foreman to the construction of the club! It’s adorable, really, how competent he seems. A rich kid with a real building crew instead of LEGO. Of course, he’s not wearing a helmet on the building site, but he’s not that competent. Anyway, his dad (John Barrowmerlyn, remember?) calls to take credit for Tommy getting a job, and to invite himself to Tommy and Laurel’s dinner date tomorrow night.
“I’ve said some pretty hurtful things and I regret them” – NOT AN APOLOGY. “But I still want what I’ve always wanted, for us to be close.” - Guys, I really need to tell you about this super melodramatic KDrama I’m watching and why it’s both the same and better than Arrow in many ways. Becca knows what I’m talking about!
Tommy tells Laurel about this, and how apprehensive he is about Daddy’s motivations. Laurel suggests that maybe Barrowmerlyn does want to build bridges, and Tommy remarks on how she likes to see the best in people.
NNCR: Again, the writers on this show might be inconsistent with the other characters, but they have Dinah Laurel Lance’s optimism down perfectly.
At dinner, John Barrowmerlyn has his pants charmed off by Laurel, and we learn that Tommy’s mother was killed when Tommy was eight – before he knew Laurel. At the end of dinner, casual as anything, Barrowmerlyn hands Tommy a bunch of papers and asks him to sign. On a contract authorizing the closure of his Mom’s free clinic. (Mrs. Merlyn was Thomas Wayne, apparently.) Tommy refuses, seethes at his Dad for not having changed, and storms out. Laurel stays to give Barrowmerlyn a piece of her mind.
“His mother taught him a lesson I’ve been trying to. That the world is a harsh and unforgiving place.”
“When did she teach him that?”
“When she was LYING DEAD IN THE STREET WITH A BULLET IN HER HEAD.” (Emphasis mine.) Yep. Definitely Thomas Wayne.
The next day, Tommy is lounging on Laurel’s couch, and Laurel – who looks DAMN FINE in her lacey boy shorts, says that Barrowmerlyn’s started calling her phone to get in touch with his son. Tommy sulks at it. Laurel agrees that Barrowmerlyn is a joke “But he’s still your father.”
One of those lines that no adults actually say in real life. If parents are jerks they get to be treated like jerks. Are my adult friends the only adults who actually treat their parents like real human beings? Anyway, Laurel says she gets the impression Barrowmerlyn thinks he’s somehow protecting Tommy. Tommy says that his dad completely shut eight-year old Tommy out after his wife’s death, and disappeared for two years -
The cut at this point to Barrowmerlyn’s Evil Arrow Cave and all his swords and bows suggests he disappeared to get Batman training. Also, Barrowmerlyn is creepily stroking a picture of him, his wife and baby Tommy. So there’s more story there and I guess Laurel was right about the protecting? Anyway, I expect someone will try and recruit Tommy into the Squiggle Organization before season 2 is out.
Anyway, that’s the plot! It was full of Diggle. And my favorite version of Diggle, too: the unerringly loyal, intelligent soldier who isn’t afraid to call Ollie out on his shit. If only the show would let him be right occasionally, this would be a perfect episode. As it is: remember that the best Arrow episodes are those where Ollie is a supporting character.