Arrow Review: “Unfinished Business” (Season 1, Episode 19)

As we’re just on the verge of season one’s homestretch, it makes sense that an Arrow episode titled “Unfinished Business” would work to round up, and start wrapping a bow on some stray plot threads. I say stray, because the movements this week register fairly low on the show’s narrative Richter scale, providing warning tremors for the (hopefully) tectonic shifts just a few weeks out. The episode after next is titled “The Undertaking,” after all, so we’ve got precious little time before the season’s big secret is laid bare. There’s no Moira this week, no Thea and her boytoy Roy, and no new villain (permanently) added to the rogue’s gallery.

Cleaning things up so that the final festivities aren’t cluttered can take a deft hand and plenty of foresight, things Arrow is often in short supply of. One of this week’s subplots, and likely next week’s headliner, focuses on Digg’s suddenly unquenchable thirst for revenge against Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot. Sure, we found out fairly early on that Lawton killed Digg’s brother, but that just makes it so much more awkward for Digg to only now decide killing Deadshot is his top priority. Unless Digg noticed a resemblance between his brother and the Starling City senator Deadshot recently capped, it’s hard to imagine what triggered the revenge streak…

But forget about that because, whoa, a senator has been assassinated, and no one seems all that bothered by it. It’s a plot point treated with a bizarrely casual cool, but in the grand scheme of things, the assassination is a bonkers aperitif for what’s to come.  As it turn’s out, that’s the secret weapon Arrow has in its arsenal when taking on all the macro plot movement this week: pure, uncut, batshit craziness. “Unfinished Business” is a hearty sandwich of insanity, one slice American Horror Story: Asylum, one slice 90’s drug PSA, with a juicy hunk of Paul Blackthorne doing his 50’s seamus shtick right in the middle. And that’s just the broad strokes: when an episode features Oliver shoving an arrow into his heart and Digg defibrillating a dude’s face within twelve seconds of each other, I think we can add a tick to the win column.

The looseness in lucidity is rather apropos, as this week sees the return of The Count, a classic Green Arrow villain (insofar as any Green Arrow villain could be called “classic”) that made an unimpressive premiere in “Vertigo” a few months back. That episode was saved by uncharacteristically strong direction, a much rarer sight than a show cutting ties with logic for fun’s sake, which has been a more reliable driver behind strong episodes of Arrow. It’s a short-term vs. long-term balance, really: do you wait, hoping the show will develop dramatic heft and well-realized characters, or do you just want it to take whatever’s within arms reach, freebase it, and shoot it directly into your eyeballs? Do you expect Arrow to serve up cracked peppercorn steak, or just crack?

Opening with a random club-goer showing advanced stages of highness and druggery (which is equal parts dancing like Janis Joplin, and obsessively staring at your hands), “Unfinished Business” is all about the narcotics, while making little stink over drugs themselves. Oliver lamenting that a homeless user was failed by the city, and not vice versa, is surprisingly empathetic, and more in line with his progressive origins. Sure, it’s not The Wire, but at least we get to have Felicity and Digg cracking jokes about perceptions of drug culture, instead of an afterschool special.

The buzz de jour, a new strain of the Vertigo substance that got Thea in a mess of trouble, does more personal damage than physical, unearthing some nasty old history for Oliver, the Hood, and Tommy. The raver from the opening winds up pavement paint, which brings detective Lance, and all his cigar-chomping bravado down on the place the girl was last partying, Verdant. As is finally made explicit this week, that happens to be the name of Tommy and Ollie’s club, and since he’s worried over Tommy’s sketchy past, and still just generally hates Oliver, Quentin relishes having the chance to turn their place upside down, from top, to secret-lair-containing bottom.

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