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, an even more dangerous copycat vigilante is arrowing all over town, Ollie tries to get into the Christmas spirit and the Moira/Steele relationship goes to astonishingly weird places.
Previously: Steele found that boat that sank! And a notebook with names in it! Deathstroke and Eddie Fyers tortured Ollie, so Proto-Arrow trapped Ollie in a cave! And that's all that happened.
Since we were all so curious about what happened to that bald stick-in-the-mud Adam Hunt since we last saw him losing $40 million and most of his security force to arrow murder back in the pilot, things open on him in a crummy hotel room littered with magazines about his own downfall. He's really wallowing in it. He's talking to someone on a cell phone about "getting something going again" -- maybe he wants to put on a big show or something -- when a very dark, hooded figure slinks in and puts three big, black arrows right in Hunt's chest.
Those things could be pool cues, jeez.
If it wasn't immediately clear this particular arrow-murderer is not Ollie (Ollie's not all ostentatious with a high-riding belt or a collar like that), we immediately cut away to the Arrowcave, where Ollie and Dig are sparring with dull knives. That's got to be a metaphor for something. Dig mentions that Ollie "crossed three names off your father's list" in the time since the whole Huntress fiasco, just so we know there's a lot of crime-fighting action taking place that the audience doesn't get to see. That's encouraging.
The sparring comes to a sweaty end and Dig mentions he's got to take his nephew to see Santa at the mall. That jars Ollie into remembering that he didn't celebrate any holidays on the island; he had to focus on staying alive. You might think he would have that revelation a month ago when Thanksgiving was coming up, but this show is filmed in Canada, so who knows. Dig suggests that Ollie spend the holidays relaxing with his family after Ollie recalls Dad Queen's big annual Christmas parties. Dig also says he bets Ollie's in Santa's "nice column," because all those murders he committed were good murders.
And now, for the first time in three weeks, it's flashback time! Proto-Arrow strolls right into the cave where he left Ollie a few episodes ago despite closing it off with a cave-in, and since he doesn't have a bulldozer I can see anywhere, I just have to assume he has super strength. He's got a dead rabbit and some water for Ollie, which Ollie chides him for not bringing sooner. Looks like Proto-Arrow brought another gift, too: Fyers, who Ollie tries immediately to punch out. Proto-Arrow stops the fight and tells Ollie that Fyers has a plane he can use to get off the island. I have no idea why this is interesting or suspenseful since we know that Ollie got rescued by fishermen five years later, but OK.
Present-day Ollie arrives at the Queen house to discover Thea all fancied up for a business dinner party. Sad piano music accompanies Ollie's question, "Why aren't there any decorations up in the house?" Thea answers that they all became secret Muslims and don't celebrate Christmas anymore. Ha-ha, no, she just brushes it off and says everyone's been busy while I'm here making up a more interesting show.
Speaking of secret Muslims, the dinner party group is eating away while slagging off the Democrats (that is not a joke; that is really happening) and talking about how Robin Hood was actually a criminal. There's some discussion of whether "the vigilante" is actually reducing the city's crime rate and Boe asks Ollie what he thinks of the whole thing. Ollie acts as my mouthpiece and says the guy needs a code name that's better than "The Hood." Boe suggests Green Arrow and Ollie says that's lame. Yeah, John Barrowman, nobody puts colors in their name anymore. Jeez.
Steele leaves the table to take a call from whom he calls "Ms. Smoaks." She's on the Starship Enterprise's engineering deck and has discovered that seven of the names in the notebook Steele found in Moira's clock (not a euphemism) are people Arrow has targeted.
Turns out the head of Queen Consolidate's Applied Sciences division is on the list, too, so she's offering a heads-up.
The police commissioner, who said something earlier about stepping up enforcement despite the fact his entire department only has two detectives, is called away to investigate another attack by "the vigilante." Ollie leaves, too, to take a call from his "contractor." One of the two detectives, Lance, presents Hunt's arrowed body to the commissioner, as well as a theory that the black arrows plus the fact that Arrow already attacked Hunt recently means this was a copycat crime. Arrow listens in from the window. So, just to be clear: Lance cleared Ollie on the basis of second-hand reports of someone looking like Arrow showing up somewhere (it was Dig, who didn't shoot any arrows at all), but now copycats can exist? The Starling City Police Academy must teach plot-based investigative techniques.
Ollie and Dig are in the Arrowcave figuring out why someone would kill Hunt with arrows. Ollie concludes the killer is a real-deal archer, which means he/she would be particular about arrows. Ollie figures out a roundabout way to trace where those arrows came from: He sends a not-iPhone to Lance and somehow knows the second it's delivered, because he calls it instantaneously. Ollie and Lance strike a deal in which Lance will get Ollie one of the arrows the killer used. Lance for some reason doesn't immediately try to trace where the not-iPhone or the call came from.
Steele warns the Applied Sciences guy he might get Arrow'd in a quick and repetitive scene before we get back to Ollie and Thea having the same conversation about why the family isn't into Christmas anymore. This time Thea can't answer because her friend Shane, who looks like a member of America's answer to One Direction, rolls through to talk smack about the food at burger joints (them's fightin' words) and invite Thea to hang out, which she declines. She dodges some questions about how she knows that windswept fellow and says the annual Christmas party just hasn't happened since Ollie and Robert disappeared because everyone was bummed out.
Ollie calls a family meeting back at the house to demand permission to throw a Christmas party. Everyone agrees to it, which leads into another flashback. Ollie and Proto-Arrow are leading Fyers through the woods, and Fyers is trying to get into Ollie's head. Fyers reveals that Purgatory was a Chinese prison for especially dangerous criminals until eight years before, when the military shut it down and called Fyers and his mercenaries in to kill all the prisoners. Why the Chinese military, which is pretty well-staffed, would need to hire an English guy for that is not stated. Fyers' team killed all the prisoners but two: Deathstroke and Proto-Arrow, who is apparently a rough customer. Ollie seems conflicted.
Moira and Boe have one of their clandestine meetings back in the present. Boe threatens Steele for Knowing Too Much and Moira insists she'll handle it. Boe says maybe a shadowy "associate" should handle it instead. Knowing stares are exchanged to punctuate the vague discussion.
Mr. Applied Sciences, who looks a little bit like a shriveled David Tennant, charges through an alley talking loudly into a cell phone about returning $70 million he embezzled because he doesn't want to die from Immediate Arrow Syndrome. All the criminals on this show are real chatty (except for Boe). So, of course, that's when Dark Arrow kills him.
Dark Arrow, by the way, is this show's fifth Arrow variation. (For those counting, we have regular Arrow, Proto-Arrow, D'Arrow, She-Arrow and now Dark Arrow, or you could call him Deadeye, if you want to get all Earth-3 about it. Six if you stretch it and count Deadshot as Gun-Arrow.)
At the scene, the commissioner tells Detective Lance to try to pin this on Arrow so people don't think there are two guys doing archery murders all over the city. Lance says he won't do it, so the commissioner takes him off the case and demotes him on the spot. He's only got one detective now!
With nothing left to lose, now-Sgt. Lance grabs up the phone from Arrow and calls it. Ollie answers with "Don't bother trying to trace this back to me; you'll never make it through the encryption," which is an odd greeting. Maybe it's a Canada thing. Lance gives Ollie a location for a dead drop of the evidence and tells him he's got until Christmas to find Dark Arrow before Lance comes for him.
Ollie examines the Arrow in the Arrowcave and comes to the conclusion that it is a fancy custom job he can't trace. He and Dig also can't determine Dark Arrows motives or where he is. So this has all been useless. Great!
At the office, Smoak is starting up her Samsung TabletTM with Microsoft Windows 8TM and patented Picture Password TechnologyTM to study The List when Ollie enters to ask where the arrow came from and she notices, just by looking, that the composite the shaft is made of is patented, even though she can't pronounce "composite." She looks through Patent Office records to find a company called Sagittarius (which she explains the meaning of because she doesn't seem to know that the zodiac exists) owns the patent, and ends up with an address for where that shipment of arrows came from. Why is she an IT person and not the police department's one detective?
Sgt. Lance is having some cocoa at Laurel's apartment (not much for her to do this episode) when he sees the commissioner on TV offering a reward for Arrow's capture. Laurel overhears and deduces just like her dad that Arrow isn't responsible for the murders. He only does Moral Murders. She answers a knock at the door to find Merlyn. There's some uncomfortable chit-chat before Lance leaves the room and Laurel reminds Merlyn she wanted to spend the holidays with her dad, not him, because it's a tough time, what with her sister dying and all. Merlyn says that when you're dating someone, there aren't tough times, "There are just...times," which is such a line of douchey BS that she should probably dump him right there.
She doesn't. Instead she listens silently as he invites her to the Queen Christmas party and Merlyn gives her a wrapped gift he says he found in some old photos. Merlyn leaves and Lance comes back from the can or wherever he was to say he doesn't like Merlyn and his selfish ways. Laurel opens the gift to find a not-at-all-Photoshopped picture of her, her sister Sarah and their dad.
Instead of observing how weird the lighting is or the awkwardness of the poses, they both just get quiet and serious for a second. (They really couldn't get those three actors together in a room?)
Arrow heads to the address he got from Smoak and walks right into a trap. It's a mostly empty warehouse where he finds one black arrow and one huge bomb after the door closes behind him. He blankly looks at the quickly-arming bomb for a minute before he high tails it for the door, which he opens with a concussive arrow. (Trick arrows are back!) The place burns up and he's no closer to Dark Arrow.
Ollie returns to Casa Arrow (which is hilariously decorated with terrible effects because I doubt they could really decorate Hatley Castle) just in time for the Christmas party. Dig asks if Ollie's really up to hosting and Ollie insists his family needs it. Shane shows up to some disapproving looks from Ollie and with some flowers for Moira before he steals Thea away. Steele and Moira run off to do their weird threat-lust thing. Laurel and Merlyn arrive and everything is awkward. Great party!
In the hall, Moira and Steele accuse each other of lying a lot (which they've done) and Moira says he's made some people very angry with his investigating. He offers to help her fight them, but she says, "I can't fight them. I am them." That clears up a lot. Steele asks to know everything; Moira says he will after the party ends.
Laurel yet again asks Ollie for his blessing of her relationship with Merlyn and he snoozily gives it. He strolls over to Thea's room to find his sister and Shane in states of mild undress, so he semi-hilariously tells Shane to "hit the road." Thea says she never wanted Ollie's party to happen because it's just dredging up bad memories and reminding her that the family and Ollie won't ever be the same. What a relief! It had been a quite a few episodes since this exact conversation occurred.
Dig shows up at the door to tell Ollie that Dark Arrow has stepped things up. He's taken hostages and is making one read a message on TV.
Unless Arrow, who Dark Arrow says is a blight on the city, surrenders himself, Dark Arrow will kill someone every hour. What a relief! It had been quite a few episodes since this show did something straight out of The Dark Knight.
Ollie says he has to save the people, but Dig warns that Dark Arrow is hell of dangerous. Ollie says everything on the island was twice as perilous, which cues a flashback. Proto-Arrow tells Fyers to call for the plane, but Fyers says there's no need. It's another trap! Out pops Deathstroke who starts battling with Proto-Arrow, mercenaries start shooting and Ollie takes off running. Deathstroke knocks Proto-Arrow out and the gang leaves Ollie all alone in the woods.
A present-day news report informs us that the hostages are in a warehouse that's rigged with explosives if anyone tries to enter. The cops try sending in a bomb-squad robot to disarm one of the bombs, but before they can even start, Arrow ziplines in, crashes through a convenient rooftop window and starts freeing hostages.
He pretty easily leads the hostages to a stairway to the roof and the cops set to rescuing them. Then up pops Dark Arrow, whom Arrow asks, "What do you want with me?" Dark Arrow replies, "What any archer wants. To see who's better!" They start shooting at one another. You guys could have just done some target practice, you know. But it's OK, because what follows is one of the show's better action sequences. Arrow tries to get the drop on Dark Arrow, but he spots him in a mirror. Arrow takes two arrows in the back and ends up on the ground while Dark Arrow kicks him.
Dark Arrow says he's working for the person who wrote The List and that his employer wants Arrow dead. Dark Arrow prepares to un-hood Ollie, but Arrow stabs him in the leg and knocks him out before he can. Arrow gets up, breaks the arrows off in a doorway and escapes through an open window, one Dark Arrow forgot to rig up with explosives, I suppose. He radios Dig for help.
Ollie awakens in a hospital bed, where Dig tells him he got him out of the costume and everything's cool, even though he's got some fairly large holes in his thorax, three broken ribs and a concussion. Thea, Steele and Moira show up to say they're so sorry Ollie had that *wink* motorcycle accident *wink* and Thea brings up that he left his own party. That's when Ollie lays the biggest, most unfair guilt trip on her by essentially blaming her for him leaving. Yikes, Ollie.
Steele says all it took to bring the family together was Ollie nearly dying and exits with Moira. Thea and Ollie make a pact to start accepting each other for who they are, but you know Ollie's just going to keep judging the hell out of her.
Meanwhile, in some mirror-universe version of the Arrowcave, Dark Arrow/Deadeye takes off his hood to reveal that he's...Boe!
This is the second time in three weeks someone has taken off a mask on this show to reveal John Barrowman underneath. It is my genuine hope he is every mystery character on this show from now on. I hope beyond hope that he's Deathstroke. And somehow, Arrow himself.
1.2: Honor Thy Father
1.3: Lone Gunmen
1.4: An Innocent Man
1.7: Muse of Fire
At Queen Consolidated, Steele gets on an elevator with a shady-looking fellow who jams a syringe in his neck, which makes him pass out. Boe tells Moira that "it's done" and Steele will never know she was involved in whatever just happened. She won't have to kill him like they did Robert. They go back-and-forth about what bad people they are and Boe says that, in six months, his organization will reshape the city into its vision, which will result in a lot of dead people. It's going to become Delta City, I guess? When that happens, "I'll feel a sense of accomplishment and you'll have Walter back," Boe says.
At the hospital, Ollie is wallowing in what he considers his failure in apprehending Dark Arrow. Dig offers some words of encouragement -- he did save those hostages -- but Ollie's upset. Someone who wasn't his dad may have compiled The List. He swears to take this person down as the camera dramatically swoops out of the hospital upon snowy Starling City.
Lord help me, there were parts of this episode I actually liked. The show needed it after two episodes of complete slog. The Dark Arrow/Arrow fight was nicely done, and Arrow actually did something superheroic rescuing those hostages. The flashback scenes were not bad, either, even if we knew full well Ollie wasn't getting off the island on any plane. I even enjoyed the reveal of Dark Arrow, as nonsensical as it was that the ringleader of the Secret Group would also do the dirty work.
Of course, this wouldn't be Arrow if some things weren't awful. The one-dimensional, jerky police commissioner is a crappy character. The Christmas party scenes, which were supposed depict characters who were uncomfortable and awkward, made the audience feel uncomfortable and awkward. The Merlyn/Laurel conflict wasn't really a conflict at all. The Thea/Ollie stuff was more rehash.
And there's the worst part: What a downer of a Christmas episode, huh? At the end of this, we've got a beaten-up Ollie angry over his failures while Moira has sent her own husband away to a six-month captivity he'll never know the truth about.
So, uh...happy holidays, everyone!