Recap: Arrow 03×03 – Corto Maltese

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“Corto Maltese”
Written by Erik Oleson & Beth Schwartz
Directed by Stephen Surjik 

Malcolm Merlyn arrowThe episode opens with a replay of Thea Queen’s (Willa Holland) and Malcolm Merlyn’s (John Barrowman) exit from Starling City at the end of Season 2. Malcolm is pleased that his daughter has decided to join him, but equally curious as to why. He offers her the chance to pick anywhere in the world to go. She balks and Malcolm shoots back that he’s been everywhere, so he doesn’t care. Malcolm presses the issue of why she chose to join him now. Thea’s response is the cold, “I don’t want to hurt or get hurt again. And you seem like someone who could teach me how to do it.” Malcolm smiles an eerie, cheshire grin.

We come back to the present, where the Arrow (Stephen Amell) is still tracking down leads in Sara’s murder. The trail is quickly growing cold, and leads that had taken Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) weeks to refine are being easily defeated. Felicity, meanwhile, has also been on the hunt for Thea. Considering that Thea had been gone for months, it seems off that she could be found in such short order, and so easily – pinging a cell phone. Oliver declares that it is time for Thea to come home. Roy (Colton Haynes) declares that he wants to join Oliver on the journey to Corto Maltese, mainly on the merit that his lying drove Thea off. Diggle (John Ramsey) is happy to finally have some time off with his newborn daughter, skipping out on the Corto Maltese vacation. Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) convinces Diggle to take the trip with Team Arrow (Yay! An official name!) so that he can look into a loose end for Lyla before ARGUS gets wind of the situation. It seems a bit odd for Lyla to be asking for this favor, but Diggle accepts and rejoins the mission to find Thea.

Ted Grant ArrowLaurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is tracking down some leads of her own and finds her way to the Wildcat Gym – whose members were previously seen participating in the heavyweight match in the first episode of the season. She interrogates boxer Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) about the whereabouts of one of his boxers. He points out that he’s not likely to give up one of his own if it means he’ll just end up back in jail. Laurel calls him out on perjury, and Ted responds by saying that he senses the broken ones, the ones with anger that needs to be redirected. While this Ted Grant is pretty distant from the grizzled old boxer of the comics, he has the same street-wise spirit and ability to read people.

In almost no time at all, Oliver finds his way to Malcolm’s villa in Corto Maltese. He knocks on a door, but gets no response. Unbeknownst to Ollie, Malcolm is on the other side of the door with his bow drawn. Oliver is saved from Merlyn’s machinations by a trusty gardner who informs that Thea – known locally as Mia – is working at a cafe. Oliver heads off and Malcolm lowers his bow. We flashback to a few months before, where Malcolm begins to train Thea. He takes out the bucket of water, which has been the go-to tool for archery training on Arrow. However, instead of slapping the bucket, Malcolm shows Thea that he feels no pain when pouring scalding water over his hand. Thea protests about this form of training and actively resists. Malcolm grabs her hand, holds it out and begins to pour as we cut to the stinger!

Oliver tracks down Thea at the cafe, rather conspicuous by her fashion sense, and the two talk. Thea swears she won’t return to Starling, being lied to once to often by basically everyone. She makes a pretty compelling argument. We flashback to just after the burnt hand, and Thea is upset giving in to the pain. Malcolm hugs her, becoming an active father figure to Thea, something she’s been missing for the past years. I’d wager a Diggle/Oliver vs. Malcolm/Thea surrogate father arc is being built here, especially after some of the later revelations in this episode.

Felicity arrives for her first day of work at Queen Consolidated. It appears that she hasn’t been totally honest with Team Arrow about where she’s working. She also doesn’t know what exactly Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) has hired her for. Felicity rails about not wanting to just be an executive assistant and making for everyone coffee. Ray is both flustered and enamored by Felicity. He then introduces her to his executive assistant, Gerry Conway – a cool nod to a DC creator – and then gives Felicity her new assignment: Salvage one of Queen Consolidated’s Research and Development hard drives. As Ray leaves, he tells Felicity that she’s already in her office – what used to be Oliver’s old office.

oliver arrow grasslandsOliver is out giving Diggle a hand on his ARGUS side mission. After a brief misunderstanding, Diggle sits down to discuss the plot of Mission: Impossible sale of ARGUS employee identities with Mark Shaw (David Cubitt), the missing operative. Diggle even uses a handy decoder to prove his identity. Back in Starling, Laurel is attending an AA meeting. She begins to tell the group about the loss of her sister in very vague terms. She’s interrupted by her father entering the meeting. I’m glad to see them revisiting the addiction story with Laurel. I hope seeing Laurel in AA meetings and talking out her problems becomes a minor plot point during the season and not a one off. Laurel is bothered by the story one of her fellow attendees shares of being beaten by her drunk boyfriend. She mentions to her father that the guy has warrants and a conviction in Starling and Coast City. (Hmmm. Another Green Lantern reference this season!)

Diggle meets with Mark Shaw to oversee the sale of the list of operatives; Oliver is tailing him. As predicted, Shaw was really trying to get his hands on Diggle’s decoder, so that he could use it to decode the list himself. Oliver provides a distraction, but Shaw escapes with the decoder.

Team Arrow PeepingRoy makes his way to meet Thea, to try and persuade her to return. Roy makes an impassioned plea for forgiveness, and Thea almost gives in. It’s a really nice moment, and the first real thing Roy has done this season. As Roy leaves, Malcolm slips out of the shadows, clearly having overheard the exchange. In a flashback, we see Malcolm announce that if Thea wants to be trained, he’s going to train her as he was trained. And then he elbows Thea in the face.

Back in Starling, Felicity is finally getting some forward momentum on the hard drive. Ray goes to check on her status just as Diggle calls for a favor. Felicity tries to multitask but under Ray’s watchful gaze, she can’t. And then Laurel calls for a favor, which prompts Felicity to ask the immortal question: “Are we favor buddies?” She finally sorts it all out, but Ray appears to have overheard a little bit about mercenaries.

Laurel has taken the first steps to become a vigilante, tracking down the abusing boyfriend in Starling City. She challenges the abuser, but is quickly taken down. She leaves the fight bloodied but unbowed. However, she makes the rookie mistake of checking into the hospital and Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne) comes along to admonish her. He’s rightfully suspicious of his daughter’s motives, reminding her that “You’re not the Arrow or your sister.” She promises not to be a vigilante again, but considering she continues to lie to her father about Sara’s death, I find it unlikely.

Oliver sets out to talk to Thea one more time before they leave. He promises to tell the truth about the truth. While he talks around some of the larger issues of his life, he homes in one of the biggest lies he’s told: how his father died. He tells Thea about how Robert Queen had survived the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit and how Robert had then killed himself to save Oliver’s life. This revelation packed with Oliver’s speech about how Mia and Robert Queen had sacrificed themselves so that their children could live, deeply moves Thea and she begins to question staying in Corto Maltese. Diggle inspires Oliver to have this meeting with Thea, to start treating Thea as an adult. In many ways, Diggle has become the the conscience of the show, a position well suited to the character.

Diggle, Roy and Oliver set out to shut down Mark Shaw’s deal. It quickly goes awry and Oliver breaks out the weapons: hand guns and bows that Oliver MacGuyver-ed out of various parts of their hotel room. (Apparently mostly lamps and bed springs.) Team Arrow  are able to take down a paramilitary unit hired by Shaw by themselves with arrows, bullets, and punches. Diggle corners Shaw and is able to retrieve the file, but Shaw begs him to let Waller thinks he’s dead. All he wanted the information for was to get out of ARGUS clean. The counter intelligence business is not a high paying one, nor one where you’re likely to see retirement. Diggle lets him go.

Thea tells Malcolm she’s going back to Starling, and he at first resists, challenging her to a sword fight. If she can best him, she can leave. A well choreographed sword fight ensues, where Thea quickly gets the upper hand. Badass Thea is pretty impressive, and it’s interesting to see the character so far from her Season 1 roots. As she leaves, she asks Malcolm if he let her win. He doesn’t answer. He just smiles and tosses his sword. Thea arrives at the airport just in time, and Roy and Oliver are both relieved. However, Oliver becomes concerned when hot coffee is spilt on Thea’s hand and she doesn’t react.

Laurel Lance ArrowOliver comes home to find a bruised – emotionally and physically – Laurel waiting in Verdant. They talk briefly about her actions the night before. Oliver is not pleased about her actions. “When I wear [Sara’s Jacket] it makes me want to help people like she did,” Laurel says as she asks Oliver to train her to be like Sara. Oliver says no. She leaves, upset. We get a brief glimpse of Diggle returning to Lyla. They talk about the nature of their current lives, and Diggle seems bothered about how close they came to Lyla being outted as an agent of ARGUS.

Laurel returns to Wildcat Gym to see Ted Grant. She admits that she needs something other than booze or pills to help her with her anger, and she wants to learn how to fight. Ted agrees to train her. I have to admit, as leery as I am about the Laurel becomes Black Canary arc, I am super excited that they’ve brought in the concept of Wildcat training Black Canary to fight. It’s a simple thing, and a nice nod to the comics.

Felicity is reveling in her skills at resurrecting the hard drive that everyone had given up on. Ray is pining after Felicity, clearly attracted by her superior intellect and ability to speak her mind. Ray pages through the information that was at Queen Consolidated R&D before Team Arrow blew it up last season. But he pauses, and looks worried, when he comes across a set of weapons blueprints. Blueprints that bear the name OMAC.  Finally, Roy and Oliver have a heart to heart about Thea, talking about the need to be more honest when they’re interrupted … by Nyssa al-Ghul, who demands to know where Sara is.

How do we feel about this week’s episode? Do you think we’ll get some parallels in the Thea and Laurel arcs as we see two young women reforge themselves from tragedy? What exactly does ARGUS have planned and why did Lyla send Diggle on that mission? What will Nyssa do when she finds out Sara’s dead?

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