“Dead to Rights” was written by Geoff Johns, who also contributed “Muse of Fire” this season, and it proves to be another of Arrow‘s stronger episodes. No disposable villain of the week here, folks! Nothing but some pretty big and surprising revelations, and almost revelations, topped off with some great action. Really what makes this episode such a strong one is its willingness to move the plot forward. Often the over-arching storyline of Arrow gets pushed into the background while we watch The Hood tackle a lame, weekly villain, or things get overly soap opera-y with excessive family and relationship drama. Not the case this week.
The crux of the episode is the plot to assassinate Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) by the Triad as called on by Moira (Susanna Thompson). China White (Kelly Hu) seeks the help of Deadshot (Michael Rowe) who, obviously, didn’t die at the end of “Lone Gunmen” like we all thought. He’s hiding out at The Bludhaven Apts., the first of many little DC winks and nods Johns litters throughout the episode. It’s nice Deadshot’s not dead, having introduced such a fan favorite only to kill him off the same episode was a bit of a letdown. ‘Course, his role this episode is limited, but Deadshot does what Deadshot does well and that’s all I’d expect. China give him a fancy new eyepiece, and since he escapes capture I’m going to assume he’ll back to wreak havoc for Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Starling City in the future.
With Malcolm at the center of things this episode, “Dead to Rights” gives us the development those Merlyn’s have been desperately needing. As the season’s gone on Tommy (Colin Donnell) has become increasingly useless and is only ever brought out when we need him to react to a decision of Oliver’s or Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy). This week, he gets to make his own decisions. Like a big boy. The relationship between Tommy and his father is given a good amount of focus, allowing us to see it’s not just a squabble over money and trust funds, but a more deeply rooted resentment stemming from when Malcolm went M.I.A. after Tommy’s mother’s murder. AND, we learn just where Malcolm went on his two-year sojourn: Nanda Parbat. Another place that should ring a bell to comic book readers as many DC characters have visited the hidden, Shangri-La inspired land seeking enlightenment and training. Which I guess is where Malcolm learned to be the Dark Archer and what inspired him to spearhead “the undertaking.”
Whether Tommy learns he’s the Dark Archer by episode’s end isn’t completely clear. He sees his father handily take out a couple of the Triad’s thugs, he’s got a panic room in his office, plus he’s wearing a Kevlar vest thwarting Deadshot’s assassination. Though, not entirely since he was using his patented poisonous bullets. There’s even a moment where Malcolm opens the secret door to where he stores all his Dark Archer equipment and you think he’s going to reveal it all to his son, but they’re attacked and it’s closed before Tommy sees anything.
What Tommy does learn this episode is that Oliver is the vigilante. Malcolm doesn’t get off completely scot-free from Deadshot’s bullets and in order to save his life Oliver must earn Tommy’s trust by revealing who he is so they can perform an emergency blood transfusion to slow down the poison. As twists go on Arrow, I really didn’t see this one coming. Having Tommy know Oliver’s secret is an interesting choice and one that will directly impact the outcome of this season. He doesn’t reveal anything to his father or the police, but for how long he’ll keep his mouth shut, I’m not sure.
– We get some damn good action sequences this episode like Oliver facing off against China White, and Malcom battling members of the Triad. Really helps the pace.
– The island flashbacks are limited but not entirely unnecessary. We’re given a few scenes which hint a quite the broship forming between Slade (Manu Bennet) and Ollie. One I fear won’t end well.
– And another troubled parent/child relationship is introduced, Laurel and her mother, Dinah (Alex Kingston). Yep, River Song appears and confides in Laurel she thinks her sister, Sarah, is still alive! Hmm, I know a lot of people are thinking we’ll see Kingston become Black Canary, and that’d be totally rad, but with another of Johns’ little DC Comics winks being a picture of Sarah and her pet canary I’m starting to wonder if it’ll be her. Or maybe still Laurel. I don’t know, make ’em all Black Canary, I say!
– McKenna Hall (Janina Gavankar), I don’t know if I’m supposed to really give a damn about her, and honestly, if there’s to be a death this season to cause further turmoil for Oliver, my money’s on her.
Next week, The Huntress (Jessica de Gouw) returns! Which will surely cause trouble between Ollie and McKenna since they’ve decided to take a real stab a relationship. As if it didn’t have enough problems with her being a cop and he being the vigilante. Plus, this makes next week episode a crowded one full of folks who know Oliver’s secret identity.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights as 8pm on the CW.