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A frustrating Arrow attempts to fix a bad story by doubling down

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Why does Dinah crush the bug that Rene planted on Oliver? Those are reusable. It’s not like she plucked it off of herself or one of her teammates, and was destroying it to stick it to the old team. That’s Curtis’s, and I’m guessing their vigilante budget isn’t limitless. Was it just because it might look cool? If so, it didn’t work. This is perhaps the smallest issue in an episode of Arrow that’s full of them, but it’s a lot more fun to think about this one than the others.


It’s also representative of what might be the biggest issue with “Collision Course,” a deeply unsatisfying hour that doesn’t contain anything thrilling, fun, or just really good that can help to distract viewers from the overall mess. Dinah crushes that bug for one of four reasons. One, she didn’t think it through, and that one unnecessary action is representative of her state of mind. (It’s not that one.) Two, the writers or director didn’t think it through. Three, the writers or director did think it through, and just decided they didn’t care. And four, there’s a good reason for Dinah to step on that bug, and the show just isn’t bothering to tell us. None of those answers are satisfying, and none of but the first would bode well for the rest of the season. (And again, it’s not the first one.)

For my money, the issue is a lack of thought. This is the episode to which the whole Team Arrow/Team Not-Arrow arc has been building, a story that showed promise but which has been badly bungled. Reaching this crisis point, the writers of Arrow chose not to course correct, or to build to anything resembling a satisfying conclusion. They don’t even build to an unsatisfying one. Instead, they do what they’ve done all season. Team Not-Arrow gets righteously indignant, while displaying absolutely no self-awareness about some deep-rooted hypocrisy; Team Arrow talks a good game about accepting responsibility, then shrugs as though there’s nothing they can do about it.


There’s a moment that fairly neatly sums up this borderline incomprehensible feud, rife as it is with double-standards, short memories, and baffling choices. It’s when Rene states calmly that it seems like Oliver wants to fight deep down, that he’s waiting for one of them to throw a punch. Oliver walks away, so Rene shoves him. The fact that it’s a shove of secrets actually makes the foolishness that much more delicious. Team Not-Arrow loves to talk about how different it is from Team Arrow; in this episode, they actually tell Dinah she’s being too much like Oliver. But there’s not one thing that they’re doing that’s better or less dysfunctional, and what makes that so frustrating is that the show doesn’t even seem to recognize that fact.

My sincere hope is that I’m wrong about that. It’s possible that the Arrow writing staff knows exactly what they’re doing, and that this is all a part of some big deconstruction of the troubling elements of this show we’re mostly asked to ignore. But I doubt it, and there are two reasons. The first is that the moment that’s written like the emotional climax of Dinah’s arc, her decision to not kill Not-Laurel, doesn’t even hint at that level of commentary. Curtis’s appeal is an earnest one. The second is that the episode’s climax hinges entirely on Team Not-Arrow deciding to finally sever ties with Team Arrow, despite the fact that Rene’s injuries are the result of a fight that both teams entered into willingly. It’s a scene that screams “this is damage that can’t be undone!” but the teams could spend 20 minutes with a half-decent therapist and all manner of things could get sorted.

Actually, there’s one more reason that one’s hopes might not be high, and coincidentally, it’s another situation that’s just screaming for therapy. It’s the idea that all that Not-Laurel needs to make her “good” again, to redeem her, is a daddy. There are perhaps more eloquent ways to say this, but in short, that is gross. It’s possible that there’s a way to do a redemption arc for Laurel that centers on Quentin without descending into the nightmarescape of the poor sad bad girl who just needs a father figure to make her feel special and loved before she can rise like an angelic, kind-hearted but probably winningly damaged phoenix, but whether or not it’s possible no longer matters. This is what they’re doing, so this is what we get.


In an episode that actually asks us to buy “you’ve been looking for a daddy for a long time” as a reason that Not-Laurel murders people, it’s perhaps not wrong to consider whether other big plot-shaping moments are similarly empty. It’s an episode in which a character we’ve come to love holds a woman hostage because she looks just like his daughter, and an episode in which that former cop, and another current cop, and a bunch of highly-trained people do not even attempt to interrogate the person who apparently has control of $70 million. It’s an episode in which a brilliant woman hacks the records of an offshore bank, but in which that same brilliant woman does not attempt to find where all that money is being kept.

None of these decisions make sense. It might be nice to think that Arrow knows that, and that this is all a part of a bigger, more complicated story they’re telling, but this episode earns no such goodwill. I’m much more interested in why Dinah crushed that bug than in why Arrow took a couple bad things and thought, sure, why not, let’s have some more. At least the bug crushing is funny. 


Stray observations

  • After seeing the video of “Laurel” at the bank, I assumed the story would be that Quentin had to admit he’d taken her to prove she didn’t take it. But no, she took it. So, um, when exactly did she fly to the Caymans? She took the money before she got shot, when it was impossible to leave the city?
  • OK, so Felicity finds out who withdrew the money, but not where it went. Does that mean she can’t see to where the money was transferred? I don’t buy that. Does it mean that Not-Laurel took the money in cash? If so, why isn’t there footage of her leaving the bank with a giant bag of cash, and why isn’t Felicity attempting to track the bag of cash, starting with the cameras in the bank, and then the ones at the airport, and then any of the countless cameras she can access in Star City?
  • Come to think of it, why didn’t they just search every location Not-Laurel has ever been associated with? Perhaps Felicity’s time would be better spent behind a computer than standing in front of a gun despite the fact that the person she’s trying to shield is very far away, meaning all Rene would have to do is slightly adjust his arm.
  • And Team Arrow goes to the alley Not-Laurel was shot in some time ago and decides the evidence indicates that Dinah took her, when Dinah was in Oliver’s office in hopes of finding evidence of Not-Laurel hours before?
  • And wait, now the story is that Not-Laurel is going to pretend to be Laurel, who’s been kidnapped for a few years?
  • Other notable developments: the new police chief is very bad at hiding the fact that she’s in Diaz’s pocket, but Oliver is too preoccupied to notice; there’s a way to hack John’s arm device, which is gross.
  • Also gross: “I have failed this city.”
  • TAMVP: Aw, hell, who knows. Paul Blackthorne did the best he could with some bullshit, and while it may be me projecting, it seemed like he was playing Quentin with a little bit of an edge, as though he’s perilously close to coming unhinged. But let’s go with poor old Thea and Willa Holland. Thea, bless her, seems to be the only one involved who has any sense of how messed up all of this is; Holland expertly played her scene with Quentin in his cabin of fatherly love.
  • Not even the fights were good, and there was, once again, no salmon ladder.
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