Ollie’s enforced absence from Starling City has given Brick (Vinnie Jones) a month-long opportunity to build his gang and start to take over the Glades, with the police unable to stop him, despite the efforts of Team Arrow to assist. Given that the field Team Arrow is basically Roy at the moment – Laurel tries hard, but she still looks like she basically just hits people with a stick as hard as she can; Diggle must have babysitting duties; and despite last week’s pep talk about carrying on the Arrow’s work, Felicity seems to be slipping backwards again – it’s impressive that they are achieving some measure of respect from the locals. It also highlights how important the Arrow is as a symbol to the people of the city, and to the Glades in particular.
This week, the focus of the flashbacks shifts from Ollie’s time working for Amanda Waller in Hong Kong to a younger Malcolm Merlyn around two decades ago. The death of his wife, and Merlyn’s killing of the murderer was the first step on the journey that led to the Undertaking in season 1 (possibly not helped by Merlyn’s 90s hairstyle – still, at least it wasn’t a mullet). However, Merlyn’s present-day bugging of the Arrow cave reveals that Brick was the real killer. As a consequence, Merlyn offers to pool resources to deal with the situation.
It’s perhaps little surprise that Roy considers a team up worthwhile this one time – he’s out there doing the best he can, but it’s him and a minimally-trained Laurel against all of Brick’s resources. Although Laurel feels similarly, Diggle is not so keen, and Felicity is fervently against it because it’s not what Ollie would have done.
After rejecting Merlyn’s assistance, they recruit Ted Grant and Sin, along with a load of Glade residents. Although it’s somewhat heart-warming to see how the Glades have taken to the vigilante element in the city, it doesn’t feel like throwing a load of untrained civilians into pitched battle with a violent armed gang is going to be an effective solution.
Of course, all this is to lead up to Brick finding himself cornered by Merlyn who is ready to kill him for the murder of his wife. At this opportune moment, Ollie makes his return to Starling, and talks Merlyn down. Although it doesn’t redeem Merlyn’s character, it does allow for that small area of grey morals that all the best villains have.
Ollie then gets to give one of those speeches actors and fans love to see, even if they sit uneasily with the character as previously written. Fans of genre TV and films will recognise the themes, if not the words, as reminiscent of Bale’s Batman or Tennant and Smith’s Doctor.
Last week, I wrote about Laurel’s questionable decision to speak to Captain Lance and pretend to be Sara. As expected, there are repercussions – Sin recognises that the Canary isn’t Sara and, decides to tell Quentin. This isn’t going to end well.
After identifying that Merlyn has a sliver of good left in him, Ollie asks him to train him ready to fight Ra’s again. Felicity *really* doesn’t like this idea – the last several episodes have positioned her so strongly into the position of moral compass for the show that I can’t help but think we’re going to see her make a bad judgement call some time soon.
Overall, perhaps not the greatest episode – it did what it needed to by closing off the Brick arc for now and set some things up that are likely for the finale. It briefly addressed the notion that the Arrow is seen as a symbol above and beyond any actual vigilante work he does – moving him along even further from the “urban legend” he was often seen as in season 1. However, some of the choices and actions felt out of character, and seemed to be included to move the plot to where it needed to be, rather than as a natural consequence of the character interactions.