When last we left Arrow, Thea Queen was in trouble with the law after taking the new designer drug Vertigo and crashing her brand-new car on the night of her big 18th-birthday celebration. This week’s episode, appropriately titled “Vertigo,” kicks off with big brother Oliver donning his garb as The Hood and kicking the butts of various dealers.
One of the pushers confesses that mastermind behind Starling City’s new drug epidemic is somebody called the Count (cue DC Comics reader chills). Fringe alum plays the drug lord (aka Count Vertigo), and according to a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, the actor went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole to bone up on the character, and drew on Heath Ledger’s Joker for inspiration.
But more on the Count later. More pressing is Thea’s court hearing, where a hard-nosed judge decides to disregard the plea agreement and send the whole mess to trial to make an example of the young heiress and send a message about Vertigo. Moira is, of course, upset but Thea couldn’t care less, as she’s convinced her mother is cheating on her stepfather (little does she know that Walter has actually been kidnapped by the shadowy cabal led by Malcolm Merlyn).
Because Oliver Queen apparently knew every woman in Starling City before being marooned on that island, it only makes sense that he’d bump into a female detective who would hand him the file on the Count without even telling Detective Lance.
We finally get to see our antagonist in all of his maniacal glory as he flips out on the low-level dealer we met in an alleyway at the beginning of the episode. It’s bad enough he had to take an arrow to the wrist; now his boss shoots him up with an overdose-level pure injection of Vertigo before handing him a gun and giving him the choice of waiting around to die or pulling the trigger (he chooses the latter).
Remember the Russian mob guys from a while back? Oliver and Diggle hit them up looking for info about Vertigo, pretending they want to become dealers. The Russians offer to introduce them to the Count but ask for a test of loyalty first: Kill this random henchman who’s done wrong. Oliver appears to do so, and it’s only later do we learn it was some ninja-style trick that only made the man appear to be dead. Diggle is impressed and wants to be taught the trick. But how did Oliver learn it?
The Russians set up the meeting with the Count, with Oliver and Diggle in tow, only for their drug deal to be interrupted by the police. The Count escapes, but not before shooting up Oliver with Vertigo quicker than you can say “the Joker’s laughing gas.” Diggle whips up some sort of herbs back at Arrow HQ, but the hangover is still serious.
Queen Consolidated’s Felicity Smoak doesn’t seem to mind doing errands for Oliver that sure would make someone suspect his secret identity. This week, she‘s more than happy to analyze the syringe the Count stuck Oliver with, which allows Diggle to figure out where the Count is hiding. He points out that Ollie is too messed up from the aftereffects to shoot properly, so The Hood heads off without his bow. Of course he’s not too drugged to beat up the Count’s henchmen, dispatching with them one by one while making his way to their leader. The police interrupt again, but Detective Lance is unable to stop Oliver from injecting the Count with a potentially lethal dose of Vertigo before making his escape. The one-time drug kingpin ends up strapped to a gurney, delirious, the victim of the substance he created.
The world’s hottest IT girl, Felicity, is no dummy, as it turns out (and as one would hope, given her scientific savvy). Over coffee with Oliver she makes it clear she knows he’s up to something, yet she can’t help but trust him. She confides in him about the notebook Walter discovered among Moira’s belongings that contains the list of Starling City businessmen identical to the one Oliver’s late father scribbled out for him after the shipwreck.
Speaking of the shipwreck, we’re treated to some more island flashbacks this week: Oliver is stuck in island jail courtesy of Eddie Fyers and (for some reason) his former protector Xao-Fei. Oliver is taken by Xao-Fei to what looks like the worst Fight Club ever, where they witness Deathstroke kill a guy for sport. Fyers asks the crowd if there are any more challengers, and Xao-Fei offers up Oliver! Eddie decides that Xao-Fei should fight Oliver, who naturally ends up “dead.” Xao-Fei then dumps Oliver’s “body,” with a map to safety helpfully tucked into its shirt, into a river. Yes, this is where Oliver learned the trick about faking someone’s death. In Chinese, Xao-Fei has written “survive” on the map. It turns out Xao-Fei is still a good guy.
Moira Queen, on the other hand, has some explaining to do.