I’ve always appreciated Arrow for being a show that doesn’t stall on big reveals and actually delivering on shocking twists and keeping a story moving while also respecting the characters and the audience by allowing the characters to have decent motivation for their actions.
Unfortunately, none of that was evident in this episode where Oliver learns that Malcolm Merlyn is alive and in Starling and rather than put an arrow where the sun don’t shine, he allows him to walk off into the night with all body parts intact.
To quickly summarize, we pick up where we left off, Nyssa in the Arrow lair with an arrow at Oliver’s head demanding to know Sara’s whereabouts. Oliver delivers the bad news, Nyssa stonily weeps, makes a visit at Sara’s grave where she spars with an also visiting Laurel (managing to deliver a nice diss to Laurel about not being fit to wear Sara’s jacket) before regrouping with Oliver at Sara’s safe house and learning she was in town on League business to find Malcolm Merlyn. Oliver and Nyssa then follow up on a lead to find Malcolm’s whereabouts and with an assist from Roy and a yet to be suited up Diggle, they find a hidden Malcolm and when Oliver has the shot to take him down, only nicks him with a tracker arrow. This infuriates Nyssa who lands a nice and well deserved punch to Oliver’s jaw who then leaves to take care of Malcolm on her own with Laurel’s urging. Nyssa (having learned from Oliver in a moment of dumb secret sharing) decides to use Thea as bait to lure Malcolm out. Of course Oliver ain’t happy about his baby sis being kidnapped and he moves in to rescue her –as well as Malcolm- and we get a one on one on one fight between the three resulting in Malcolm neutralizing Nyssa and Oliver pulling an arrow on Malcolm’s head.
And THIS was the moment. The moment where one of my biggest pet peeves about comic books (or soaps) is the contrived plotting needed to stretch out a story either due to a need for padding or because you want to keep a character around. In this case, John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn is a hoot to watch tread the line of insane villainy with a dimpled twinkling smile, and so rather than allow the character to come to his natural end (as in S1 with his death), he’s been resurrected for an extension of his story and rivalry with Oliver through their shared connection with Thea.
I love me some John Barrowman, but C’mon!?
You have a mass murderer in your crosshairs. A man who was responsible for the death of his other kid- your best friend by the way- and hundreds of people and you allow him to talk his way out of being killed or incarcerated by-
- Daring you to break your no kill code (which interestingly was made to honor Malcolm’s son and Oliver’s BFF, Tommy Merlyn, which oddly NEITHER of the men mention in their interactions) and caving to the challenge when you have broken your no kill rule when needed. Sure, it was when Felicity was in immediate grave danger, but you have broken it. The only reason why I can believe Oliver didn’t kill Malcolm in cold blood is because he would consider it a loss of his humanity when he’s still in the journey to regain it.
- Malcolm sneering that you can’t put him in any prison that he isn’t trained to break out of. To which you should’ve replied: Fine, so you want to break out? I’ll throw you back in. Again and again until one of us gets tired. And let me tell you now- it won’t be me.
- Playing the ‘You wouldn’t kill your sister’s father’ card when really? As big a bastard as he could be, Thea’s father was Robert Queen. Since Thea’s cover is that she doesn’t know you’re alive, then as far as Oliver knows she doesn’t know you from Adam and doesn’t care and since as far as Oliver knows you haven’t made contact with her he could easily drop Malcolm and tell Thea ‘Yeah, it’s weird, Malcolm has contacted you. Guess he knows to stay away’ and leave it at that.
NONE of Oliver’s reasons for letting Malcolm go made any sense. Except if you’re a writer who wants to keep John Barrowman as a regular because he’s your go to guy for nefarious dealings and he’s a villain you love to love and hate.
But when it comes at the expense of your story and the integrity of your main character? You may be pushing things a bit too far. Oliver is supposed to be a force to be reckoned with – not all powerful and prepared like Batman, but pretty close to it. If he’s still unprepared to deal with Malcolm after their confrontation in S1 and all that he endured with Slade in S2 then what does that say about him as the city’s protector?
In the end, Oliver sends Nyssa on her way home with the warning that Merlyn is protected as long as he’s in Starling City (I see your loophole there, Ollie). Nyssa, expectedly, told Oliver that his interference has made him a new enemy that has a long memory. And with Nyssa I believe she’ll get him back one day and Oliver will regret chop-blocking Nyssa in dispatching Merlyn.
The final beat on the A story was Nyssa running home to tell Daddy of her escapades and confirm that Malcolm Merlyn is still alive. At which point we get a good look at the man himself Ra’s Al Ghul who looks an appropriately craggy immortal complete with flowing robes and issues an ominous edict that basically says he’s coming to Starling to get Merlyn and ain’t gonna let no Hooded playboy get in his way.
To Be Continued Later in the Season…
Meanwhile with Felicity MIA for a visit in Central City, the B story fell to Laurel who is still angry and in mourning and lying to her father about Sara’s death, the slight compounded when she pulled Nyssa into her lie as well. While Laurel’s inane reasoning for lying to Quentin still bugs, I buy her continual frustration and anger over Sara’s death and why she feels the need to find who did it and punish them; with Tommy, his murderer was identified and dead: Malcolm Merlyn and even then she was still hunting for the Hood an blaming herself. With Sara, she was stone cold killed right in front of her and her killer unknown and still on the loose. So she has a very good reason to be upset, angry, and sick of losing the people she loves and being a victim. Very much like Thea, Laurel is done reacting and ready to be proactive to protect others the way she wasn’t protected and mete out justice for the unjust death of her sister.
Hence the nudging Nyssa to take out Merlyn by any means necessary, except, you know, not by using Thea. Which was a point glossed over by both Oliver and Laurel in that Nyssa pulled an ‘innocent’ into the line of fire to complete her vendetta which…really, Oliver? You should’ve kicked Nyssa’s butt just for that instead of politely telling her to stay off his turf. Laurel, as a friend of Thea and Oliver, you’d think would also tell Nyssa that her stunt wasn’t cool, but all she did was smile in pride when Nyssa bestows a parting shot of encouragement to Laurel as she pummels a sand bag at the gym in her Black Canary 2.0 warm ups.
Speaking of Nyssa as is the tradition on Arrow, a guest star’s subsequent visit to Starling is always better written than their first. Katrina Law brought it in this episode and made Nyssa a lot more three dimensional in her interactions with Oliver and Laurel and allowed her to show a wide range of emotion including the grieving and vengeful lover, daughter of The Dragon, and skilled fighter. Interestingly, she felt like the dark mirror to Sara’s Black Canary; every bit as deadly and skilled but not interested in embracing the light. This time when Nyssa departed, she left you wanting more of not only as a steely counter to Oliver but another believable female badass on the scene.
As for the other story threads for this episode:
-We had Thea and Roy who obviously still have feelings for each other but are trying to at least be friends even if Roy is also keeping Thea under observation for ‘The Arrow’. Best moment with these two was Roy’s parkour flip move to stand protectively in front of Thea to protect her from Nyssa was the only for Nyssa to calmly blow-dart tranquilizer him without missing a step.
-An interesting seed planted was Diggle and Roy both agreeing with Nyssa that Merlyn should be taken out as in D-E-A-D taken out which should’ve gotten a lot more discussion by the team but was just glossed over. Diggle normally isn’t this bloodthirsty and I can’t help but think it’s a seed that’s been planted to sprout later in the season.
-Oliver premiering a new flashback wig for his Hong Kong scenes was just delightful in its ugliness and more entertaining a story than why Waller, with all her resources, mercenaries, and soldiers at her disposal, seems hell bent breaking a lost billionaire playboy into her personal assassin. It makes no sense unless Oliver’s HK training is part of another bigger picture plan that Waller has going on…which I do have a theory on….
-Why is no one thinking that Sara’s death may be at the hands of someone she wronged when she was an assassin for the League? A child or loved one who trained to avenge. Just because Sara was now trying to live more on the up and up doesn’t mean that her victims had no reason to address their beef with her.
-Shallow note: How in the world can anyone be as stealthy as suited up Red Arrow Roy or League of Assassins Nyssa with all those buckles and metal clinging on their uniforms? Even if they tread lightly, the movement is always going to make them jingle. That is so not ninja-y
Next episode up: Felicity is back in full front burner story with an episode all about her, her mommy, her bad choices in men, and her all around general awesomeness. Already a more promising sounding episode that will help one forget the head scratching plot holes of ‘The Magician’.