When you’re entertained by a show, odds are that you’re willing to overlook some of the more ridiculous moments and weaker episodes over time. So when I digress a bit to discuss another series, be assured that it will be relevant to “Betrayal”, the latest installment of Arrow.
In the fall of 2006, I recall phoning an old friend and telling him that he had to watch the upcoming season of 24. He mentioned that he had never watched the show and was afraid he’d be lost. I assured him that he would be fine and I filled him in on some of the basic details of the series (though I had only been privy to season 1 and the latter half of season 4). We ended up chatting after each episode and both of us were excited about season 5 overall—except for the minor issues that pulled the viewer (namely us) out of the moment.
As in nearly every season, Jack Bauer was considered a rogue agent and authorities ranging from the local police to his own organization, CTU, were hell bent on bringing him down. His face was plastered all over the news and he realized he could be spotted at any time. My friend and I then marveled at the fact he could board a major airplane unnoticed just by zipping up a hoodie (what we thereafter referred to as the “magic hoodie”) and covering his face.
Season 5 of 24 was mostly solid throughout and highly enjoyable. Then season 6 rolled around and it went downhill quickly, so much so that my friend abandoned it almost halfway through. I stuck it out to the bitter end and wished I would have followed his lead. I never watched it again.
The “magic hoodie” moment in “Betrayal” occurred when Oliver listened to the recording Diggle obtained while spying on Oliver’s mother, Moira. For some reason (and perhaps I did miss something), the male voice that was, in actuality, Malcolm Merlyn, was distorted and no one seemed to notice. Later, as Oliver listened to it again, the voice came through relatively clear and I wondered why: 1) it was distorted the first time and 2) Oliver didn’t mention that the voice sounded the least bit familiar. After all, Oliver and Tommy Merlyn are longtime friends so why wouldn’t his father’s voice trigger some sort of recognition (though, to be fair, Oliver was shipwrecked for years and I don’t believe he’s seen Malcolm since his return)?
At any rate, I can overlook minor inconsistencies but I don’t want it to go the route of 24’s season 6 in the long run.
This wasn’t one of Arrow’s stronger outings. Perhaps they’re building something for the future to which the viewer isn’t privy, but the past two weeks have had relatively weak villains. Cyrus Vanch (David Anders of Once Upon A Time and Heroes) was promoted as a major force who had a rather large number of henchmen at his disposal but Arrow pretty much defeated him with little problem.
Thankfully, the acting and focus on the relationships between the major characters was well done or “Betrayal” would have gotten a much lower rating. At least with “Vertigo” the battle against the villain somewhat tied in to the other stories. “Betrayal” seemed to treat Vanch as a bad guy of the week with no real relationship to what was going on overall.
What I most enjoyed most, however, about “Betrayal” was the inclusion of not one, but two, references to the DC Universe.
When the episode begins, it’s noted that Cyrus Vanch was just released from Iron Heights. While not as prominent or well known as Arkham Asylum (except for comic book aficionados), Iron Heights is a prison that contains some of the most formidable villains known to our heroes (most notably Flash’s Rogues) but in this case is one that simply holds some of the bigger criminal masterminds.
The second DC reference was quick and I had to rewind to make sure I saw it correctly. While Oliver is researching a missing lawyer, it’s stated that he hails from the firm Wolfman and Perez. At first, I thought it read Wolfram and Hart (the fictional evil law firm in Angel) but a further glance showed that it made a nod to Marv Wolfman and George Perez, one of the most beloved creative teams in comic book history and known best for their seminal work on such titles as New Teen Titans (in which they created the character of Deathstroke) and Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Interesting side note: Immediately after watching “Betrayal”, I happened upon an old episode of the Teen Titans cartoon series which prominently featured Deathstroke as the main villain but also included Terra, another of the Titans’ nemeses. I tried to explain to my wife who the Teen Titans were, their character names, real names, etc. and noted that one of the best stories of all time was “The Judas Contract” (New Teen Titans issues #42-44 and Annual #1) where they were betrayed by one of their own. Although she’s read comics in the past (and I still have her reading certain titles), she remarked that comics “sound like one big soap opera”.
I can’t agree more and that’s what makes them so much fun (albeit more so when they were 35 cents instead of $3.99)!
I hope Arrow continues to be fun.