jedi_of_urth: (jaime)
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Arrow 1x16: Dead to Rights

This is actually one of my favorite episodes of the season; as difficult as I sometimes find it to separate episodes, this one has a lot of big things the set it apart. It’s sort of a culmination of all plotlines that got us here; with Deadshot, the Triad, Malcolm, Moira, the cops, and Oliver all colliding in shifting alliances and understanding. And it more or less all works.

Moving pieces
I have a somewhat odd sense in this episode that the writers had started making decisions about where the overall story was going to go down the road. I mainly mean that on two fronts. Malcolm and Moira’s interactions seem to much more heavily hint at them at them having been involved at some point; a few episodes ago the potential of a past was there but some of it seemed just to be to give Thea something to be judgey about; here it’s not serving any other story point to have the hints dropped, Tommy doesn’t even react to their suspicious interactions.

The other portion of that is the setup of Sara the Canary. We see the picture of Lance and a young Lance girl with a pet canary and McKenna assumes it’s Laurel but it’s Sara; much as the audience has assumed Laurel is supposed to be the Canary but it will actually be Sara. And we’re given that piece to chew on in the same episode where Dinah Lance shows up saying she thinks Sara could be alive. Now really, at the time even in her brief appearance here and I think largely throughout this round, Dinah does not come off as a reasonable source for this speculation, but we’ll mostly talk about that next time.

On the other hand, if there had been more pre-planning, the original contracted assassin could have been from the League of Assassins to set that all up. It actually would have raised some interesting questions since they would have been wearing the same outfit we’ve seen Malcolm wear, and yet they took a contract to kill him. I guess that wouldn’t have actually worked for just that reason, because Malcolm is still reasonably good standing with the League at this point. On the other hand we get so little establishment of the League actually doing any assassinating rather than just a Ra’s club for (potentially just hypothetical) killers.

Kill Malcolm
I just love the irony in this plot, that Moira is trying to take down Malcolm while Oliver is saving him, having no idea of the larger stakes he’s putting himself in the middle of. As far as he knows the Triad is trying to kill his friend’s dad and the city’s humanitarian of the year; even if Oliver knows that Malcolm’s a kind of crappy dad he doesn’t see it as anything worse.

Actually, let’s talk about that; Oliver doesn’t seem to realize how much Tommy doesn’t like his dad, and I think it’s one of the larger condemnations of Robert we’ve seen. Oliver thinks Tommy’s issues with his dad are just the ones Oliver might have had with Robert before the Gambit, typical rich family distance and conflicts. Maybe he gets that it’s a little worse for Tommy since he lost his mom and only had Malcolm so there was no other presence; but it seems especially clear to me on this watch that Tommy and Malcolm had a straight up terrible relationship even without Tommy realizing that his father is a supervillain. Maybe it’s all we’ve seen of Malcolm’s parenting skills with Thea (all the drugging for example) that make me pretty sure Tommy and Malcolm’s differences went past “cold and distant.” Laurel seems clued into that idea, she’s quite sensitive to how Tommy reacts to being around Malcolm; but Oliver pushes for Tommy to give it another shot.

As I noted with Helena, Oliver’s attitude will be import when dealing with Malcolm and Thea, and is probably there when dealing with Felicity and Noah; Oliver is a bit set in his own perspective when it comes to people’s relationships with their parents. I know Robert’s death messed him up a lot, but I do wish at some point he would have to learn that it doesn’t always give him a great perspective to offer on other’s people’s parents (especially the terrible ones). I will allow that from Oliver’s perspective his advice to Tommy must seem reasonable, and I must admit that Tommy clearly responds to it as if it was solid advice, so my perspective is clearly colored a lot by where I perceive it from.

This is sort of the first episode that for my mind plays heavily on the idea that Tommy is Harry Osborn of the story; I’m not saying it hadn’t been there before but it sticks out more when the Tommy-Malcolm relationship is highlighted as it is here. And that sense that we’re in a specific familiar story will ramp up over the rest of the season until being proved false in the end. It is sort of a weirdly grafted on vibe since so much of this series borrows from Batman (especially the Nolan movies, where Malcolm clearly got his plot from Ra’s al-Gul...then later became Ra’s al-Gul of this universe) that having this side plot that recreates the relationships of the Rami Spiderman movies is a bit of a rough juxtaposition in places.

I feel like I should have a lot more to say about this plot, because I really do love this plot, but I guess it’s largely a ‘just go watch it, it’s great’ situation.

Changing Team Dynamics
I continue to be reminded why I started off shipping Felicity/Diggle at this stage. I know by the end of the season I was at least seeing Oliver/Felicity, but I definitely see why that wasn’t my first instinct. On the other hand, Oliver has very quickly adapted to having Felicity around, he just brings back any bits of tech he picks up for her to look into. He’s like a cat bringing home its kills.

I noted that weirdly the lair seems suddenly more homey, I didn’t make much note of how or why I felt that way, but the space feels less confined and dark. It’s entirely possible a couple things just got moved around and that could even be justified in universe since they now have a dedicated tech space for Felicity rather than just a corner of Ollie’s setup.

McKenna
This is probably the high point of the Oliver/McKenna relationship. Their date seemed to be going pretty well before duty called and they seem to be dealing with any difficulties between them reasonably. Since she’s known them for a while she must know about Oliver and Laurel’s past, but she doesn’t seem to have any issues with them all being friends. He’s trying to be less gruff and at least give the appearance of opening up about what he’s been though (though mostly just reminding her how much he missed out on); while she’s evidently decided to roll with things like his regular disappearing acts.

It’s also the episode that most clearly shows why this relationship seemed like a good idea to the writers, and why it didn’t have a ton of staying power, they wanted to explore the idea of Oliver dating a cop. Where Lance has a ‘professional’ relationship with the Hood, and has definite strong opinions about the vigilante, McKenna doesn’t and so acts towards him as an average SCPD officer might, that even when they’re on the same side they aren’t really working together. While it was an interesting concept that could have been explored a little further, it was never going to sustain a long plot and they burned through a lot of material really quickly.

Lian Yu
Kind of the most interesting thing about this bit to me is that the plot n Lian Yu seems almost to be trying to justify Oliver’s tech skills up to now in the present, while in the present he is about to abandon what tech skills he had at the beginning and turn it over to Felicity.

Not actually in the flashbacks here, but when does Ollie learn to speak Chinese (I think we’re eventually told it’s supposed to be Mandarin but I’m still sticking with Chinese since I don’t actually know that) like a native? It was something that bugged me in the Hong Kong season, that Oliver consistently seemed to not learn the language when he’s supposed to know it so well he passes for a native. From a production point I got it, they didn’t want to just subtitle the whole flashback plot for most of the season, but it was one of those things that highlighted that things were probably never going to entirely connect up once we looped around.


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