Arrow 1×16 – Dead To Rights

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Bravo Arrow. If we ignore last week’s disappointing hour, this was a return to the top-notch storytelling standard the show peaked at with “The Odyssey” two weeks ago. Suffice to say, this was outstanding and probably my favorite hour so far.

Simply put, Malcolm Merlyn is an excellent Big Bad. The best villains are the ones who actually believe in their twisted causes, and Merlyn is the perfect embodiment of that in his quest to “help” Starling City. The guy is actually quite sympathetic – losing his wife and constantly trying to connect with his son to no avail. Josh Barrowman is a great constant presence to have on the show and the fact that he’s also the Dark Archer, an antagonist who quite capably kicked Oliver’s ass not long ago, makes things all the more exciting. I have a feeling the road to the finale is going to be an exhilarating one.

And now please excuse me while I pick my jaw off the floor; Tommy now knows about Oliver! Believe it or not I actually thought they’d drag out this reveal for seasons on end so this development was indeed a mindblowing surprise. Colin Donnell finally got some superb material to work with and for the first time, I actually understood the character. Stephen Amell was also splendid this week. He knocked two scenes in particular out of the park. The first was the heartwrenching father talk between Oliver and Tommy in the Chinese place, and the second was the final scene between the two as Tommy walked away from his best friend. The pain on Amell’s face was powerful, and probably the highlight of the actor’s performance on the show so far. Now I’m not totally convinced by Tommy walking away; he can’t possibly expect his friend to tell him he’s a superhero after all! But I’ll let it slide for drama’s sake.

I’m intrigued by Laurel’s subplot. Lord knows we’ve got enough parent-angst on this show, but having Laurel’s mom arrive with the notion that Sarah might still be alive is quite compelling (and bizarre). I have a feeling this storyline will finally set Laurel off on her assuming the Black Canary mantle (who else caught the canary reference when she was talking about Sarah’s picture?). Good things are going to come of this, I can feel it.

It seems like the writers finally realized that having one-off villains is not a successful approach on a show that thrives when it’s serialized. It was a welcome sight to see Deadshot and China White return. Arrow would really benefit from frequently bringing back these antagonists and building them up as they go along. I was so glad that the gorgeous and ruthless Kelly Hu returned as White. Not only did she supply Deadshot with that nifty red laser eye, but we finally we got a well-staged fight between her and Arrow. Too bad useless McKenna had to intervene.

Bits & Arrows

– Very slick opening fight on the heliport.

– Slade teaching Oliver to work out; Ha! He sure gets good at that.

– Doesn’t Ollie still find it awkward to double date with Laurel of all people?

– Merlyn saying “we won’t fail this city” had some nice symmetry do it.

– Hilariously epic scene with Ollie carrying out a swift interrogation at the Chinese restaurant only to return to the table and order the cheque.

– It’s funny how China White goes undercover with a BLACK wig.

– Really wonderful cinematography in this one – lots of sweeping transition shots particularly as we moved to island flashbacks.

– Tommy witnessing firsthand his dad’s inner asskicker was a great moment.

– Awesome sequence with Merlyn about to reveal his Dark Archer persona to Tommy just as Deadshot practically blows up the supposedly impenetrable penthouse.

– I laughed when Island-Ollie picked up the teeny tiny dagger as opposed to Slade and his huge twin blades.

– So what’s Fryers going to do with his “monster” of a weapon?

– I’m curious, how does Merlyn view Arrow now that his nemesis saved his life? It’s all getting marvelously layered.

– Moira was so sneaky this week. It’s captivating to see just how sinister the woman can be. And yet, she still retains your sympathy particularly with Merlyn now hot on her trail (although he doesn’t know it yet).

– Where was Thea this week? Didn’t they introduce a new subplot for her last week? Do I care?

Starling Quips

Diggle: Maybe not a good idea to fall for the cop who’s hunting you down.
Oliver: Well it’s slim pickings for us vigilantes.

Slade: (To Oliver) So you’re hoping aircraft maintenance is genetic?

Merlyn: I’m being honored with the Humanitarian award.
Tommy: What they ran out of actual humans to give it to?

Felicity: Codebreaker is my middle name. Actually it’s Megan.

Laurel: You look handsome.
Tommy: I try not to be; it just keeps happening.

Must Download Tune
Late Night by Foals

Conclusion
Tense and thoroughly thrilling, this was a standout hour of Arrow.

 Nad Rating
A+

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