Deathstroke starts Arrow's most functional relationship

One complaint that viewers have about Arrow is it's more of a soap opera than an action series. We're going to embrace the soap in this episode, and rate Arrow's many relationships from most to least functional. Surprisingly, Deathstroke has just fostered the most functional relationship of the show by far.

"Betrayal" is the kind of transitional episode that every show needs when it has to make a difficult emotional turn. It's light on villainy and heavy on talk. That makes it tough to recap, since it's a lot of short scenes with people slowly adjusting to a new emotional reality. So instead of following the plot, we'll go with the many relationships and why most of them are a jar of mixed nuts shaken out over a fruitcake factory by a mad hatter during a full moon. To build drama, we will take the relationships from the least nutty on up.

Deathstroke and Ollie

Deathstroke starts Arrow's most functional relationshipS

Flashback Ollie gets to a site on the map that the Archer — who from now on I'm going to refer to as Yao Fei — marked. He's immediately attacked and subdued by a guy with an Australian accent, who, it seems, Yao Fei also sent to that site. Australian dude needs a second person to escape the island via airplane but determines quickly that Ollie can't fight. Frustrated, the guy yells, "To say that you fight like a girl would be a compliment." Look. Guy. Mel Gibson already did enough damage to the accent. Don't start that shit. He knocks Ollie out, ties his wrists, and when Ollie wakes says that he can't take the risk that Ollie will be captured and talk about him, so he'll kill Ollie. He brandishes a giant sword, and assures Ollie that it won't hurt. Given that he could have killed Ollie in his sleep, I think this is needlessly sadistic, until Ollie breaks his wrist to free himself and lands a punch. Apparently it was a test, as the guy laughs and says he'll train Ollie, but will still kill Ollie if he needs to. He introduces himself as Slade Wilson — the actual DC Comics Deathstroke. I have to say, good one, Arrow. You got me. When Ollie points out that Slade needs him as much as he needs Slade I realize that this is, by far, Arrow's most functional relationship. It's not a happy relationship, but both sides are honest, have a mutual goal, and behave in ways that make sense both to us and to them. Now let's wade into some crazy.

Thea, Anastasia, and Reality

Deathstroke starts Arrow's most functional relationshipS

Thea is beginning to work at Laurel's law firm as an intern, and apparently strategically making sure she won't get asked back after her court-ordered time is over. She complains about how many hours she has to work for getting high and driving. She whines that she's not an intern, she's a "court-ordered slave." Thea, you glorious brat, I have been your champion since the beginning, but that thing on top of your neck is not a hair transport system. Use your braincase. A new lawyer hears her. Surprisingly, this does not lead to a frozen moment of awkwardness only ended by a merciful uppercut to Thea's jaw. Laurel explains that the lawyer, Anastasia, is on a pro-bono sabbatical from her law firm. Anastasia, who it appears volunteered to work there, complains about her lack of salary and then tells Laurel that this drug-running, human-trafficking gang leader, Cyrus Vanch, got out on a technicality with such a perky attitude that it seems like the news actually brightened her day. As you can see, Thea and Anastasia have the kind of relationship with reality that a hit-and-run driver has to the victim they left bleeding by the side of the road. They'd prefer they never had any contact at all, and now choose not to think about it.

Quentin and Laurel

When last we saw Quentin, he had bugged Laurel's Hoodphone and was waiting for her to call the Hood again. When she does, seeking some evidence against Vanch which could put him back in prison, Quentin meets them both at the rendezvous site with a cadre of police officers. This leads to no arrests, but to a lot of fighting between Laurel and Quentin. More importantly it leads to Vanch finding out through police contacts that Laurel is important to the Hood and kidnapping her. There's a good moment when Quentin protests that no one but him and the guy who planted the bug know about Laurel and the Hood — and then realizes that now the entire precinct knows. Later, after he and Ollie have teamed up and rescued Laurel — and after Ollie has actively prevented Quentin from killing Vanch — there is more fighting. There's a lot of "you lied," "you betrayed me," and "you manipulated me" coming from both sides, but neither one of them actually talks about the actual problems, one being that Laurel is only too happy to use her dad — sometimes in ways that compromise his job — but refuses to respect that he does his job. The other being that Quentin did something dumb because he was mad and put Laurel in terrible danger. But no, lying is more important.

Ollie, Laurel, and Tommy

I don't even know what's going on here. For one, when Ollie and Laurel are ambushed by the police at the rendezvous site, he takes her as a hostage/human shield, and at no point do either of them act like that was a problem. In fact, they're both mad at Quentin for "putting Laurel in danger." Looking at that logic is like watching Wile E. Coyote run out over a cliff and not drop as long as he doesn't look down — only he never looks down and makes it to the other side. It not only breaks reality, it breaks the established conventions of unreality as well.

Deathstroke starts Arrow's most functional relationshipS

Meanwhile when Tommy hears about the police ambush, his primary concern is that Laurel didn't tell him about meeting with the vigilante. I wanted for her to launch into a Michael Corleone "never ask me about my business" rant, or at least take him to task for not being worried about her life, but no. Lying is still the worst thing. When Tommy, distraught, mentions that he thinks Laurel might have a crush on the hood to Ollie, I think the show actually begins eating itself. Fortunately, the fact that Laurel was nearly killed by a mobster seems to reset the relationships, with Ollie stepping back and Tommy and Laurel back together.

Digg and Ollie

This relationship should not be this crazy, and to be fair, Digg keeps it on an even keel. When he hears that Moira also had a Book Of Evil, he suggests she's a suspect, discretely monitors her, and comes up with a taped conversation in which she reveals that she's involved with threatening people to get them involved with a "plan" and that she knows that Ollie's boat was sabotaged.

Ollie is the nutty one, and he dishes it out with a soup ladle. At every point during their multiple conversations, he denies that Moira is anything but an innocent flower, and he does it with the kind of shaking, twitching intensity that makes his face look like a decapitated bull's head being electrocuted as part of 18th century demonstration of galvanization. Seriously, his expression is threatening in a purely animal way, and with an eerie, undead menace. This alone wouldn't be enough to make the relationship that batty, but Ollie's relationship with Moira has been slaloming between Hamlet and two different Greek myths ever since the show started. When he warns Digg away from his mother he looks every bit as deranged as he did at the start of the series.

Deathstroke starts Arrow's most functional relationshipS

Moira and Ollie

And here we are at the top of the heap. Everything about this relationship has always been as crazy as a March hare with bat wings springing out of a cuckoo clock. The fact that Moira had him tortured to protect him in the first episode. The fact that they both seem to be forced to learn about each other's real or imagined sex lives. The fact that they're arch-enemies who pose for Christmas cards together. It all adds to a mountain of madness. But who knew a little suspicion would make it crazier?

When Ollie presents Moira with the book, she does a good job covering, by pretending that it was her first husband's list of people who owed him favors. She seems more nostalgic than worried, which is a nice touch. Following it up by throwing the book in the fire right in front of Ollie, and warning Ollie that, "The only way to keep this family safe is for everyone in it to stop asking questions," is not as smart, but by that time Ollie's eyes are too filled with filial devotion to notice. Even when he hears the incriminating recording, Ollie refuses to believe for a good few minutes before you can see his brainquake. When it happens, he puts on his battle eye-shadow, and goes to threaten his own mother. And are the weapons he threatens her with phallic? Well of course they are. Oh, I cannot wait for next week.