The CW's new superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance's Matt Wilson will be following along all season to see how he fares.

This week, Dig investigates Moira's shady dealings, Sgt. Lance's quest to catch Arrow kicks into high gear and Flashback Ollie meets a...familiar character!Previously: Sgt. Lance bugged the ArrowPhone he gave Laurel so he can track "The Vigilante" down! Smoak gave Ollie the book that got Steele kidnapped because apparently she wants Ollie kidnapped too!

This episode's 10-minute-long(!) cold open kicks off at a familiar spot: Iron Heights Prison, where an apparent member of an Adam and the Ants cover band walks out to freedom in the night air, finally finishing out that copyright infringement charge, I'd suspect. Or maybe he's hardened criminal and non-comics character Cyrus Vanch (David Anders). Yeah, it's that one.

After spending an entire night driving around in circles, I suppose, Vanch and a young Ireenie (if you don't get that reference, go watch Pootie Tang, which is on Netflix Instant, so you have no excuse) arrive at the home of Vanch's sniveling attorney, George.

George had a bit of trouble springing Vanch from prison as quickly as Vanch would have liked, what with that Bertinelli/Triad war that was more of a house call gone bad and the appearance of "this archer." Vanch says all is forgiven and offers George a hug while asking if he can stay at his lawyer's house. George doesn't answer because he's being stabbed to death. I'd reply with more screaming, but George is a man of discretion.

I would like to know how Vanch seems to only have a vague notion of who Arrow is. They've got TV in prison, Starling City only has one channel, and they talk about Arrow all the time on there. Plus, Arrow was actually at Iron Heights in a terrible disguise earlier this season. Everybody there should have more than a passing familiarity.

At the Arrowcave, Dig and Ollie are trying to figure out how Moira got the copy of The List that ended up in Steele, then Smoak's hands. Dig's convinced Moira had Steele kidnapped; Ollie won't believe it. Dig's right, but he's weirdly didactic about the whole thing, saying the person who disappeared is usually the victim. Who was blaming Steele, man?

Dig's straw-man argument sparks a flashback for Ollie of that time he visited the set of Lost.

Ollie fails to find a smoke monster inside the plane's wreckage, but he does find a threatening Australian man who asks whether Ollie's with anyone while holding a sword to his neck. Ollie says Proto-Arrow sent him, which probably sets off a flashback for the mystery man about a lost bicycle or something, but thankfully we don't see it.

In the present, Sgt. Lance is complaining to his never-before-seen commanding officer about being assigned to another case while he's closing in on Arrow. The boss says the police brass may not actually want Lance to nail the guy, given that he's taken down drug rings, arsonists and armored car robbers recently. Lance has some difficulty accepting murders and vigilantism, though, like he's supposed to uphold the law or something. The lieutenant tells Lance to bring him something "real," which I guess means "even more than eyewitness accounts of multiple arrow-based murders." Tough hill to climb.

Over at Casa Queen, Ollie is taking the least-subtle approach possible and directly asking his mom about The List Smoak had and what happened to Steele. Moira, of course, feigns ignorance and tosses the book into a convenient fire. The Queens modeled their house after The Simpsons', it seems. You always need a fireplace to throw books into. Moira asks Ollie to stop asking questions, for "his" "safety."

Thea's doing community service at CNRI with Laurel when a character whose name is Anastasia but I swear sounded like Anesthesia the first time I heard it mentions that Vanch has been released from prison. Laurel flips out, first trying to call Manhunter, DA, before pointing out all the various crimes Vanch has committed, including "52 homicides." He must work for DC.

In the Arrowcave, Dig thinks it's a tad suspicious that Moira threw The List in the fire. Ollie says, "Nuh-uh! Don't talk about my mom like that!" for a while until his ArrowPhone starts buzzing. It's Laurel, who says Vanch is out of jail and living at his now-missing (and also dead) attorney's house. "There's no evidence of foul play," Laurel says. So a guy just squatting in his attorney's house just as that attorney disappears doesn't count as foul play. That's...good to know.

Laurel says the police can't go after Vanch without evidence of new criminal activity. Ollie hops to it. Dig says it seems like Ollie is running away from this stuff with his mom, as if he didn't run off to fight some bad guy of the know, every week. Also, Dig, didn't you have an old pal you trusted and wouldn't believe was a bad guy without seeing it yourself like two weeks ago? How soon we forget.

The police IT guy comes to Sgt. Lance to tell him Laurel used the ArrowPhone. Lance says he's going to get a task force set up to be there when Arrow and Laurel meet up. And only now, a quarter of the way into its running time, does the title card pop up. How many seasons before this show is just entirely cold open?

Arrow sets to work at Vanch's new HQ, shooting his numerous guards with aplomb as Vanch openly talks about how he wants to take over the crime in Starling City now that Bertinelli's crew and the Triads are effectively leaderless. Arrow further proves he is just not one for subtlety by loudly shooting an audio-recording arrow at a beam next to where Vanch and Ireenie Jr. are eating. They notice, because how couldn't you, and Vanch pulls the arrow out of the beam.

Vanch says this means he ought to take Arrow down "permanent," just like they do in prison. David Anders says this in such a way that makes me wonder if he'd heard of prison before he read this script.

Laurel and Merlyn are preparing for a night of auditioning chefs for Ollie's new club, like the blandest of all possible Top Chefs, when Laurel's ArrowPhone rings. "It's me," Arrow says as if it would be anyone but him. He asks Laurel to meet on a rooftop. Meanwhile, Sgt. Lance and his task force have been listening in. Lance tells them to use rubber bullets to protect Laurel, but do whatever it takes to bring Arrow down. Detective Hilton, who I honestly thought had gotten another show, says maybe the using-your-own-daughter-as-bait tactic isn't the best way to go about capturing the guy, but Lance is charging ahead. Laurel tells Merlyn she's got a work thing and will meet him for Boring Chopped soon.

Elsewhere, Dig is driving Moira around because her usual driver "got sick" for the first time ever. Dig's not big on killing, so I'll assume he just tied him up in a closet. They engage in some strained banter before arriving at their destination. Moira goes in, saying Dig doesn't need to come in with her. Dig does anyway, like he's the limo driver from the demonstrably best episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. He says he needs the bathroom, but he's actually checking to make sure Moira's at a birthday party for middle-aged rich ladies (she is) and not doing nefarious stuff.

Laurel and Arrow meet up. Arrow passes along the little snippet of Vanch's plan he was able to record before the cops raid the rooftop. Arrow uses Laurel as a human shield while Sgt. Lance yells a lot.

Arrow manages to roll off the rooftop and Lance gives chase while the score unappealingly beeps and boops in the background. Lance eventually reaches the parking deck, where Arrow clocks him.

At police HQ, Sgt. Lance rubs his achy head while Laurel makes it clear she was not pleased to have a dozen cops aiming guns at her. The sergeant says she never should have been around Arrow, but she does some amateur psychoanalysis and concludes Arrow is just her dad's anger-target for his wife leaving and his other daughter dying. Sgt. Lance says that's enough and Laurel walks away, but he stops her to ask for the ArrowPhone back. She slams it down. This was a pretty good parent/child argument scene! Maybe Paul Blackthorn and Katie Cassidy should train the Queen family actors how to do this better.

Laurel meets up with Merlyn to complain about what her dad did, but Merlyn's more upset that Laruel's been meeting up with Arrow and hasn't told him. He actually says she lied to him, but I don't recall her ever saying "I sure have never met with that hood guy," so it's more like equivocation. I'm just saying, Merlyn, be mad about the right thing.

Vanch is at his heavily guarded HQ, watching the Only News Channel and learning about "the vigilante," which the reporter says about 500 times. Young Ireenie has a way to get to him: Laurel.

Speaking of the young Ms. Lance, Merlyn swings by the Queen house to tell Ollie about her meeting up with Arrow. Ollie doth protest too much, calling himself "that crazy person." Merlyn says this reminds him of himself in every other relationship, which means he's worried Laurel's got a wandering eye. Ollie advises Merlyn to talk it out with her.

Flashback time again: The Australian mystery man says he and Proto-Arrow were planning to take over an airstrip on the island before PA got "compromised." Not-Sawyer tosses Ollie a sword and decides to test whether Ollie is capable of helping take over the airstrip. He isn't. He embarrasses himself in some mild sparring. "To say you fight like a girl would be a compliment," says the sexist mystery man who is, apparently, secretly six years old.

"Where is Yao Fei?" asks the mystery man. "He told me to run," Ollie says. The mystery man punches Ollie because that doesn't even kind of answer his question.

Laurel calls up Merlyn and leaves a message that they should talk, because that's a comforting thing to tell your boyfriend, when a buzz comes at the door. Laurel answers without even looking and two big burly guys burst in. Laurel holds her own with them for a while, Jackie Channing them with stuff around the house, but then Vanch walks in and hits her with a stun gun (which he calls a Taser, further proving he's not actually a real criminal) and that's pretty much that.

Dig and Moira arrive at a meeting with her "accountant." Moira quickly says Dig doesn't need to accompany her inside, and when Dig says that's his job, she says "Take the night off." Nothing suspicious about that!

She walks into an office and Dig finds a convenient supply closet where he can listen in. Moira and Boe talk pretty openly about their Secret Conspiracy, including sabotaging the Queen's Gambit. Well, that sure was easy, wasn't it, Dig? But hold on, here's a security guy coming into the security closet, asking questions, pretty clearly seeing Dig hold a listening device up to the wall. The guy asks Dig what he just put in his pocket. "What are you, man, the police?" Dig asks, continuing to be this show's ace. He finally pulls a lighter and some cigarettes out with a grin.

Merlyn comes home to find the apartment ransacked and Laurel missing. He soon notices that recording arrow Vanch took earlier, and it looks for a second like Vanch is going to frame Arrow for the kidnapping. But that would be something a genuinely clever bad guy would do, so instead it just has a recording of Vanch threatening to kill Laurel unless Arrow comes to him.

Merlyn takes the recording to Sgt. Lance, who doesn't understand how Vanch could know Laurel had any connection to Arrow. Then he remembers the dozen or so cops he had run after them both with guns on a rooftop.

Knowing he can't actually turn to his fellow officers now, Sgt. Lance grabs the ArrowPhone and scoots away.

In the Arrowcave, Dig gives Ollie the incriminating recording of Moira, in which Moira's voice is crystal clear but Boe's is all distorted for some reason. Ollie doesn't have much time to take it all in, though, because Sgt. Lance is on the phone, begging for help.

Flashback Ollie finds himself tied to a chair while the mystery man threatens him with a sword. Nothing personal, the guy says, it's just that if Ollie gets captured, he'll lead Fyers and his people to his super-secret location in the wreckage of a huge plane. There's no other way they'd find him! Ollie begs for the guy not to kill him before finally managing his way out of the ropes by breaking his own wrist. He punches the mystery guy, which seems to please him. He sticks out a hand for a handshake.

"Slade Wilson," he says. Well, that's unexpected.

Arrow and Sgt. Lance meet on the rooftop from before to repeat a bunch of stuff we already know and decide to team up to save Laurel.

At Vanch's lair, he's holding a knife to Laurel's neck while she lists off criminal charges to him. If I was seeing this out of context, I might think it was a weird sex thing.

Outside Arrow is, for the second time in the episode, shooting a bunch of Vanch's guards. He's not murdering all of them, but he's murdering quite a few. And there's a real sense he's enjoying it.

Eventually, Arrow reaches the house, just as Vanch is saying he watched a bunch of news footage and made a count of the number of arrows Arrow carries around: 24. So he just hired 25 guys! If that wasn't so stupid, it'd be genius. Vanch orders his last guy to "ventilate" Arrow, the second time he's used that term I'd never heard before.

But then down goes the last guy, and there's Sgt. Lance, teeth gritted hard, aiming his gun at Vanch. Arrow knocks the gun out of Lance's hand. "I'm the vigilante. You're the cop," Arrow says, perhaps suggesting the name of the Arrow tie-in rap album I'm sure they'll make someday. Sgt. Lance opts to just beat the crap out of Vanch instead while he asks Laurel if she's OK.

Laurel sits at the police station sipping coffee when her dad comes in and offers to take her home. She says she'll take a cab; he needs Sgt. Lance to keep his distance for a while. Sgt. Lance is hurt, but seems to understand. These actors are doing a pretty good job this week. Go actors!

Arrow meets Laurel outside the station and asks if she's all right. He tells her they can't be vigilante and whatever you call a person who calls a vigilante on the phone anymore, because it's too dangerous for her. Arrow disappears just as Merlyn arrives for hug time.

Slade tells Flashback-Ollie he's still going to need some training to help take the airfield, and commands him to grab a weapon from a crate. Inside that crate, Ollie finds a Deathstroke mask and also a tuba, if the score is any indication. Ollie is understandably upset, given that it was Deathstroke that tortured him a while back.

"That was another guy," Slade offers. He may be a great soldier, but he is bad at excuses. Turns out he and that other Deathstroke were actually partners in the Australian intelligence agency, sent to the island to save Proto-Arrow. So there's two Deathstrokes now. Maybe they'll just keep adding Deathstrokes. Too Many Deathstrokes! That'll be the spinoff.

In the Arrowcave, Ollie's coming to terms with his mom being part of a Secret Conspiracy, though he's not sure what the conspiracy is. He tells Dig it's time to have a chat with his mom.

And so he does. Arrow comes crashing through the window of Moira's office at Queen Consolidated, knocks a few of his own family's innocent employees out and gives his mom the "you have failed this city" spiel. You could have done this at home and saved your company some worker's comp and a window repair, you dummy.

Even with that, and I haven't said this since the second episode, so it feels good to say it again: This was a great cliffhanger.

Final Thoughts

Was this a perfect hour of television? No. Not even close. But it was probably the closest Arrow's come to one all season. Katie Cassidy and Paul Blackthorne both got to do a little more than they're normally asked to, and they stepped up. Sgt. Lance's arc in this episode, in which he makes a mistake and then has to deal with the intended and unintended consequences, is probably the best single-episode character plot of the show's run. David Ramsey got good stuff to do as Dig. The Moira Secret Conspiracy plot is finally going somewhere. Even the two Deathstrokes revelation, while kind of silly, at least adds some intrigue back to the island stuff. It felt like the first time in a while the show is moving forward rather than hammering away at the same basic story points over and over.

The big dud of the episode was Cyrus Vanch, though. The only thing worse than a dumb villain is a dumb villain who is supposed to be smart. Everything Vanch does in this episode is played as exceptionally clever, but it's pretty easily overcome by Arrow and Sgt. Lance. The big coup, finding out Laurel and Arrow know each other, is something Ireenie Jr. does, not Vanch. And his big master plan is just counting. That should have been The Count's thing, anyway.

Get better with bad guys, Arrow. Please.

Previous Episodes

1.1: Pilot

1.2: Honor Thy Father

1.3: Lone Gunmen

1.4: An Innocent Man

1.5: Damaged

1.6: Legacies

1.7: Muse of Fire

1.8: Vendetta

1.9: Year's End

1.10: Burned

1.11: Trust But Verify

1.12: Vertigo