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TV REVIEW: ‘Arrow’ S3E3 – “Corto Maltese”

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Corto Maltese, the titular island for this week’s adventurer, is entirely made up. Like a lot of locations in the DC Universe. It was introduced in The Dark Knight Returns as a Cuba surrogate, your basic South American hellhole. In Tim Burton‘s Batman, Corto Maltese was Vicki Vale’s last stop before Gotham City where she was taking pictures of a massacre stemming from the uprising of some local rebels. On Arrow, one gets the sense that Corto Maltese isn’t so bad, at least no worse than the average banana republic/tax shelter for rich guys that want to disappear in luxury. Sound like anyone we know?

After two weeks of bashing the flashbacks, I’m going to give them  a compliment. This week’s flashback was Thea-centric, showing what she and Malcolm were up to in their six month sequester from Starling City, and it actually provided some insight. Not much, but some. Mostly, it seems that Malcolm was being Daddy Dearest, teaching Thea the way of the samurai League of Assassins complete with pouring hot wax on hands, learning to live by the sword, and drinking meditative tea. (Is there really such a thing as meditative tea, because that sounds wicked made up.) If anything, I thought that the flashbacks might go beyond showing just how much a masochist Malcolm is, or at least reinforcing it. But I guess the episode was just too packed.

Lyla has a side mission for Team Arrow on their trip to Corto Maltese, an operative named Mark Shaw (played by Medium star David Cubbitt) hasn’t checked in for a while and Lyla asks Diggle to make sure he’s okay before going to Waller and sending in the cavalry. Shaw is better than okay, in fact he has a plan to sell out A.R.G.U.S.’ secrets to the highest bidder and cash out as Waller’s pushed him too far for too long. Unfortunately for Shaw, he learns too late that you never threaten a man’s family, and if that A.R.G.U.S. intel gets out, then Lyla and Baby Sara’s lives are at stake. The five man beating that Diggle gives Shaw is well-deserved and well-earned.

Alone and far from home, Oliver, Diggle and Roy found themselves in unusual form. The Three Amigos, as I’m going to call them for this outing, definitely had a lot of humor going for them in their tropical trip and in spite of the seriousness of both their primary and secondary missions. First of all, making impromptu bows and arrows out of stuff lying around the hotel room: Awesome! But Oliver can probably say goodbye to that security deposit, and he ain’t as rich as he used to be. Speaking of rich, Oliver’s laissez-faire “I never said I didn’t know how to use a gun” line, was only topped by Roy’s reaction to his mentor’s bizarre, internal double standard. Is it just me, or was Stephen Amell more loose in this one? Having seen the man in person this past summer at the National Fan Expo, I know he’s capable of tremendous warmth and humor, so maybe the show’s starting to let him show a little bit more of that and a little less of the Dark Knight” Oliver Queen.

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Aside from the A.R.G.U.S. intrigue, the episode was really about Arrow’s leading ladies and how they’re growing and changing with new revelations and new tests to their own sense of who they are, and what they thought they knew. Thea wants to dull the pain of the people she loves lying to her, and she tells Malcolm that she doesn’t want to hurt or get hurt anymore. But in order to get to the point where she doesn’t feel pain anymore, does Thea truly appreciate the cost of learning to do things the Merlyn way? She’s not sure, as we see in the flashback, but obviously something made her think that her birth father hitting her and burning her, after so many proclamations of love and family, was better than what she came from. For Thea, the lies or her family, whose love made them betray their trust, is better than the occasional brutality of someone who’s been straight with her. So far.

Oliver’s bold gesture to convince Thea to come home is to be straight with her. A bold move, especially for a character like Oliver in a show like this because normally the path of least resistance is to keep all secrets, even if it’s well past the point that the keeping of the secret is an impediment to all other considerations. Oliver didn’t come all the way out to Thea as the Arrow, but he gave her enough, like Robert’s survival of the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit and his sacrifice to save his son, to prove that he’s serious about coming clean. Whether it’s enough to keep Thea from going all the way to the dark side is another story.

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Speaking of dark, Laurel toys with vigilantism this week as she begins her path to become the new Black Canary. She tries to intervene for a woman in her AA group who has an abusive boyfriend, but a ski mask and lead pipe is no substitute for fight training. And that’s why J.R. Ramirez (Emily Owens, M.D.) is here as Ted Grant, AKA: the Justice Society of America’s Wildcat and this week’s big DC Comics guest star. (True, Snow, in the comics is a version of Manhunter, but so far as I can tell, him being Manhunter had no barring on what was going on in Wednesday’s Arrow, so never mind.)

Laurel’s lack of success crime busting forces her to ask Oliver for help in learning the ways of the vigilante, but Oliver refuses because if something were to happen to Laurel it would – perhaps literally – kill her father. Is it just me or is Laurel getting interesting? Her explanation that fighting crime puts out the fire that’s burned since the death of Sara was compelling, and it was nice to see one of the heroes in the group forced to learn the hard way and not be perfect, if not be downright terrible, in their first attempt at heroism. One does get the sense though that Laurel’s assertion is coming at the expense of her father’s own storyline, it seems like the only time we see Quentin now is if there’s a scene in the hospital.

But we’re forgetting something, or rather someone. Felicity was busy with her first days on the job for Ray Palmer, where she gets a sweet office and latte-fetching executive assistant. Palmer’s first task is to recover data from the toasted computers of Queen Consolidated’s  applied science division, which some maniac torched for maybe a very good reason. It turns out Palmer is interested in weapons, and not sadly, shrinking rays. There’s no sign about what Palmer’s game plan is, but it was somewhat disturbing to see the square-jawed former Superman get all shifty-eyed.

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The adventures of Felicity will pick up next week on The Flash as Arrow’s Girl Friday checks up on her Fastest Man Alive former flame. Meanwhile in Starling City, Nyssa al Ghul is back in town and looking for answers. Be back her next week, same Arrow time, same Arrow station.

Category: Comics, reviews, TV

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