'Arrow' Review: "State V. Queen"

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The CW

Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its seventh episode of the year with “State V. Queen,” as Count Vertigo ('Fringe''s Seth Gabel) complicates Oliver's attendance at his mother's trial, while Moira struggles to keep a dark secret from emerging.

Last week’s ‘Arrow’ episode “Keep Your Enemies Closer” saw Oliver joining Diggle on a mission to Russia to recover his ex-wife from captivity, while Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau) insisted on tagging along, and Thea faced a difficult choice with Roy, so what does the seventh episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring?  Will Oliver finally become the hooded hero we know from DC comics?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2′s twisty-turny episode 7, “State V. Queen!”

Six months earlier, Moira delivered her public warning about the Glades, leading the guards of Iron Heights Prison to abandon their post. Once the quake begins, a recovered Count Vertigo hides from the debris, finding his cell door forced open by the quake. Vertigo picks the keys from a dead guard, stopping to free the Dollmaker before exiting the prison through a hole in its walls.

Back in the present, Oliver and Thea arrive to Moira’s trial, while DA Donner (Dylan Bruce) shares with Laurel that he has a trump card in place. Before the trial begins, Oliver remembers how Dr. Ivo (Dylan Neal) and his men led Oliver to the airplane hideaway, throwing an explosive inside to flush out his friends, though a hiding Shado and Slade manage to disarm it.

When the trial begins, Donner insists that Moira’s regret from the taped confession proved too little too late, while Jean Loring counters that Moira did Malcolm Merlyn’s bidding for fear of her family’s safety. Diggle gets sent home for his flu-like symptoms after an inoculation, but passes out in front of Felicity at the office. Donner puts Thea on the stand, pointing out that she blamed her mother for the earthquake, as should a jury, before Donner too passes out in the courtroom. Back in the lair, Felicity reveals that Diggle seems to have been poisoned by Vertigo, leading Oliver to question his no-killing rule once more.

While Vertigo himself covertly hijacks the ambulance carrying Donner, Oliver remembers being led to the island’s caves, wherein Ivo demanded the location of the hosen affixed to one of the bodies. Ivo commands to be taken to Shado and Slade, believing one of them to have the artifact, before the pair emerge at arrowpoint and threaten Ivo’s group. Back in the present, Oliver watches as Vertigo hijacks TV news stations with a captive Adam Donner, claiming to have infected the city in order to ransom a cure.

While Roy urges Thea to vent some of her frustration by hitting him with boxing gloves, Oliver infiltrates Vertigo’s new lair at the city municipal building thanks to Felicity, who deduced the location from a reflection in the video. Vertigo grimaces at the Arrow’s apparent no-killing rule, though Oliver still manages to bust Donner out of the facility in the fray. Elsewhere, Laurel pays a visit to Moira in prison and urges her not to testify, having found Donner’s apparent trump card.

The next day before court, Thea and Oliver insist on their mother testifying, regardless of what Laurel might use, until Moira reveals that she had had a brief affair with Malcolm Merlyn years earlier that would strongly hurt her case. During the actual trial, Laurel points out that Moira was able to convince Malcolm not to kill her second husband, Walter Steele, meaning she likely could have protected her children as well. After the hearing, Laurel finds herself unable to speak to Oliver, or forgive herself for the damning argument.

Back in the past, Oliver manages to free himself from the standoff, dragging Sara with him as the four flee into the forest, dropping the explosive to cover their escape. In the present, Felicity realizes from the victims' locations that people were likely infected with Vertigo from a roving flu truck, among them Diggle. With John barely able to stand, Felicity opts to check out the truck for herself, but predictably winds up captured by Vertigo. Afterward, Oliver learns that a verdict in Moira’s case might soon arrive, just before Vertigo calls to reveal he has Felicity, and deduced Oliver’s true identity in the process.

Oliver arrives to the office unmasked, wherein Vertigo reveals that he was hired to draw out the Arrow in order to kill him. Oliver manages to dodge the gunfire, but when Vertigo threatens Felicity with an overdose of his drug, Oliver instinctively shoots him square in the chest, knocking Vertigo out the window to his death. Afterward, Oliver returns to the courthouse to find the jury ready to render a verdict: a stunning not-guilty on all counts.

Later, Oliver admits that the verdict doesn’t make very much sense in context, while Felicity apologizes to him for having to break his rule about killing. Back in the past, Oliver sees that Slade continues to degrade from his injuries, while Shado deduces that the numbers on the back of the hosen represent coordinates, which Sara confirms as the location of a submarine, whose contents can “save the human race.” Meanwhile Ivo shoots the Captain dead for his failure with Oliver and the others.

In the present, Sebastian Blood is alerted to Vertigo’s failure, as well that his test subject Cyrus seems to have survived the serum that killed all of his previous men. Moira gets in a car outside the courthouse, though the driver insists on taking her to abandoned location, wherein Malcolm Merlyn reveals himself to have faked his death, having picked up a few tricks in Nanda Parbat. Merlyn admits to fixing the jury’s verdict, having realized from Moira’s testimony that she might have lied to him over the years. As it turns out, a DNA test confirmed his suspicions, that Thea was his child, not Robert Queen’s.

OUR REVIEW:

We'll be direct, we've rarely enjoyed any of the Vertigo episodes. Though with 'Arrow''s inception we were prepared to accept a number of plausibly modern updates of outlandish comic characters, Seth Gabel's portrayal of The Count never quite evolved past the premise of a riff on Heath Ledger’s Joker, suffering all the more by paling in comparison. It’s not that Vertigo itself fails to provide a palpable menace or plot device, but the excessively hammy portrayal often overexceeds ‘Arrow’’s reach as a grounded drama, especially in light of a season that had, up to now, improved so steadily on its foundations.

So, wouldn’t you know it? They killed him off, thus solving the problem. For argument’s sake, we’ll admit that his discovery of Oliver’s true identity (come on, Quentin!) notably raised the stakes, so much so that Oliver was forced to “break his one rule” to defend Felicity’s life. Admittedly, an effective means to raise the stakes and provide yet another moment of shipper’s delight between the pair, though not without a lingering bad taste from the acts that came before. We’d even go so far as to suggest that “State V. Queen” drags notably throughout its first two-thirds, either by laughable boxing matches between Roy and Thea, overreliance on soundtrack to set the mood, asides of that darn daffy Count, and whatever sorrows Laurel finds herself drowning in this week.

Fortunately, “State V. Queen” packs a surprising amount of content into its strained runtime, among them Oliver’s further island adventures, Brother Blood’s treatments, Moira’s trial, and oh yeah, the survival of one Malcolm Merlyn! We knew that John Barrowman would eventually return to reprise the role, though we admittedly expected it either in flashback, or hallucination. The reveal of Thea being his biological daughter didn’t add very much beyond shock value for the moment, though should Malcolm decide to make his survival known, we can envision how divided family loyalties could become later in the season. In the meantime, we’ll try not to think about how Thea crushed on, and made a pass at her half-brother Tommy last year.

All in all, an exceptionally uneven hour that was mostly righted by its final act, which saw the threat of Vertigo abated for good, with plenty of stirred and shocking developments for the future. We’re not sure what to make of the upcoming ‘Flash’-centric hour, now that we know the character will receive his own pilot rather than return later in the season, but for the moment, ‘Arrow’ should feel entitled to its minor stumbles tonight. Literally out with the old, right?

Well, what say you?  Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second season’s latest offering? Were you surprised by the shocking revelations of “State V. Queen”? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us December 4 for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 8, Flash-inducing “The Scientist” on The CW!

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