It’s official: no one on Arrow is a good liar. We’ve already seen how very bad Oliver Queen is at keeping a secret, and he gets some great opportunities to display that skill in this week’s episode, but now it seems as if he’s merely Patient Zero in a vast plague of unconvincing deception that’s consumed the entirety of Starling City. And in an episode centering around trust, that’s going to be a problem.
“Trust But Verify” begins with the crime du jour: a gang of suspiciously well-armed thieves is ripping off the armored cars, and Oliver suspects that they’re the work of one Ted Graynor, Diggle’s former commanding officer and current employee of defense contractor Blackhawk. Arrow clearly loves its DC inside jokes, and updating the Blackhawks to be more like Blackwater is clever, if a touch bewildering. They don’t even have airplanes!
More to the point, Diggle resents the suggestion that his old comrade has taken to robbing trucks, especially when Oliver reveals that Graynor is named on the list. He goes so far as to save Graynor from Oliver’s assault/interrogation (assaulterrogation?) and join up with Blackhawk himself. He quickly fixes his suspicions on fellow vet Knox, who practically has “BAD GUY’ tattooed on his forehead.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Merlyn is back to his conspiratorial shenanigans, messing with Tommy’s head and using Walter as leverage to get Moira to do his dirty work. As luck would have it, Thea sees them meeting and jumps to the conclusion that they’re having an affair. Were this literally any other show on the CW, she’d be right, but in this case it’s just a clean, wholesome criminal conspiracy. So now it’s Moira’s turn to make up flimsy lies, as she tries to tell a clearly unconvinced Oliver that Daddy Queen regularly cheated on her and that she’s only met Merlyn occasionally to get his advice. Swing and a miss.
Even the island flashbacks keep to the lies-and-trust theme, as Oliver attempts to infiltrate the paramilitary group to rescue his mentor. Being Oliver Queen, of course, he barely makes an effort to disguise himself and is recaptured quickly. But then, a twist: his mentor is in the paramilitary group too! What’s going on? Well, we’ll find out next week, probably.
In the present, Oliver’s swiped a data drive from Blackhawk, and he hands it over to Felicity Smoak for decryption with some hokum about a scavenger hunt. Is there any chance in the world that she isn’t onto his habit of giving her highly illegal, Arrow-related work to do? Presumably she just enjoys the challenge and likes having plausible deniability, because otherwise she’d be displaying an alarmingly low level of intelligence for an IT expert.
Soon, everyone comes to the same conclusion, Oliver via Felicity and Diggle via snooping around: Blackhawk is running the armored-car jobs, and what’s more, everyone is in on it. The guy Diggle though wasn’t guilty, the guy he thought was guilty, everybody. What’s more, after losing a man to Oliver’s intervention earlier, they want a new recruit: Diggle himself. And they’re prepared to keep his sister-in-law hostage to get him. Graynor’s motive is pretty weak: he’s pissed that he doesn’t get as much respect as a civilian, and also his clients are assholes. That’s pretty weak tea, and credit the writers for having Diggle immediately call him on his ludicrous line of reasoning. But crazy will out, and off they go a-robbing.
But wait, what of the CW-necessary soap opera elements, you ask? Well, Thea is still mad at Mom for her perceived affair, and when she confronts her dear mother at her birthday party, all she gets in response is some stammered denials. What a perfect time to try out this new drug her friends slipped her and take her new car out for a spin! Hey, it’s network TV. Were you expecting someone to take drugs and not immediately get in a car crash?
Oliver, having slipped a bug into Diggle’s coat, knows exactly what’s up, and makes a much more sensible exit from the party to bust up the robbery. Incidentally, I don’t know much about the armored-car business, but I was under the impression that they don’t generally transfer vast amounts of money in the middle of the night on deserted streets. Rather, they seem to mostly operate during the day, surrounded by people, to prevent exactly this kind of thing from happening. But in Starling City, they’re night owls, and they’re sitting ducks for a grenade launcher-armed Diggle. But hey, you know which other people are sitting ducks for a grenade launcher-armed Diggle? The guys forcing him to rob trucks. Yeah, they really didn’t think this plan through. He and Oliver take them out right quick, and it’s time for mutual apologies and manly bonding. At least they don’t lie to each other, unlike every other person they know.
So we end with everyone lying to everyone else, and trust being either constantly misplaced or broken. And Thea saddled with a DUI. Not the most uplifting episode, but on point. And it may be thematically relevant, but the plot depends to a distressing degree of ostensibly smart people making very foolish decisions. Like, say, dressing up in green leather and shooting people with arrows. You know what, maybe this isn’t the best line of inquiry right now.
Next week: That drug Thea was on? It’s called Vertigo, and apparently its main supplier is completely bugnuts. If any comics fans were waiting for Count Vertigo to show up, prepare to be confused.