Comics Alliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 2.3: ‘Broken Dolls’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along to see how he fares.
This week, it’s a spooooooky Halloween episode with a serial killer, people running out into live shellings and at least one hilarious text message.
The episode jumps into things straight out of last week’s episode, with Arrow in the DA’s office facing down 20-plus cops with laser sights trained on him. The cops don’t really need the sights to aim at a guy that’s about eight feet away from them, but it’s a cool visual.
Arrow’s just about to surrender when Black Canary comes crashing into the room and incapacitates everyone with a Canary Cry. But, Arrow being all no-powers until The Flash shows up sometime later this season, it’s a mechanical device that unleashes the sonics, not her. Windows crash. People cover their ears. Arrow and Canary escape.
As they make their exit through an alley, Arrow compliments her mask, probably because he’s never seen a domino mask before or he’d wear one, and she gets a chance to demonstrate just how cleavagey her costume is before bounding away. (If you were wondering, it’s very cleavagey.)
Arrow heads back to the Arrowcave to debrief Dig and Smoak. They lay out the big questions about Black Canary, the major ones being: Why’d she help Arrow, and how did she know he needed help at that place and time? I hope the answer isn’t “plot contrivance,” but we’ll see.
Flashback Island. Shado’s examining that World War II corpse Flashback Team Arrow found in the cave last episode, explaining that she knows what she’s doing because she was pre-med. I don’t know what being pre-med has to do with examining 70-year-old skeletons — that seems closer to archaeology — but I’ll just assume she likes skeletons.
Ollie and Slade leave her to it and take off for the very thin reason of finding “higher ground” and “establish the enemy’s position” which is really just an excuse to leave Shado all alone in the crashed airplane. They could have gone and done this at any other time, but they’re doing this now, while Shado’s busy. This does not give me hope about the whole “plot contrivance” thing.
In the present, Officer Lance is insisting on paying for a hot dog from a vendor. “A dahg this delichish, I’d havta book myself fa rab’ry,” he says in an accent that no one has. A call comes in on Lance’s car radio, and he throws away the hot dog he just insisted on paying for to answer it.
I can’t completely explain it, but that moment made me absolutely furious. He made this big fuss about paying for the hot dog because it was soooo good. Then he just threw it away at the first sign of a call. He doesn’t even know if he needs to respond to it yet! Worse still, the vendor is right there! Actions speak, Officer Lance. Actions speak.
It turns out dispatch doesn’t even want him responding to the call anyway. The lieutenant has waved him off. He goes anyway and finds a murdered young woman all stood up like a porcelain doll in a parking garage.
Lance knows exactly who did this: Barton Mathis, a.k.a. the Dollmaker, a.k.a. the guy who cut The Joker’s face off in Detective Comics. He’s actively terrible in the comics, but here he’s just kind of a creepy, Saw-like bad guy for the Halloween episode. I do appreciate the nod to the holiday. That’s one way to get me, show.
One weird detail: Mathis, who Lance originally collared, was able to escape Iron Heights because the earthquake split open a section of the prison and some people got out. First of all, this show is playing pretty fast and loose with what was affected by the earthquake. Verdant is in the Glades and wasn’t damaged at all. Iron Heights isn’t even in Starling City — it’s closer to Keystone — and it was messed up enough for prisoners to get out? What? Second, why in the world is Iron Heights still open and accepting new prisoners like Moira Queen if it’s got a big honking hole in it? No state would let that place keep running! Not even one with the terrible legal system Starling City has.
Arrowcave. Smoak has dug up some stuff about Black Canary: She’s been targeting rapists and putting them in the hospital. Before Team Arrow can hit the trail, though, Officer Lance calls Smoak and asks for a meeting atop police HQ. He and Arrow have a sort of Gordon-and-Batman meeting up there about the Dollmaker (or, as Lance puts it, “Dullmaker”). They forge a shaky alliance.
The next scene is horror 101: A girl walks to her car and acts all jumpy but doesn’t see anything in the alley, then she gets in the car, and the Dollmaker’s in the back seat. It’s a decent effort.
Team Arrow reconvenes in the Arrowcave and concocts a plan to interrogate the Dollmaker’s attorney. Then Arrow goes to the alley outside Verdant and meets up with Roy to discuss Black Canary. Arrow tells him to find her but not engage, which means he definitely will engage.
Thea goes to visit Moira at Iron Heights, which looks pretty sturdy if you ask me. Moira’s getting ready for a bail hearing and Thea’s got some clothes to show her that she could wear in court. Moira gets all zen about being ready to accept her punishment. Maybe she just loves having that ponytail.
Officer Lance goes to visit Dollmaker’s attorney, who is named… wait for it… Tony Daniel. It’s a nice nod to the Dollmaker’s creator. Daniel’s office looks like it’s from a noir film from the ’40s, by the way.
I love it. I wish the show was this atmospheric all the time and didn’t mostly take place in basements filled with plastic flaps.
Daniel’s a little hard to crack at first, but after Arrow shows up, he reveals he didn’t know Dollmaker had escaped from prison. Arrow asks where Dollmaker would go, and when Daniel quite believably says he doesn’t know, Arrow shoots him in the shoulder. That’s our Arrow!
Eventually Daniel gives up some silliness about a museum that reminded Dollmaker of Germany, “where porcelain dolls were invented.” That’s pretty nearly Batman ’66 bad-guy logic. It’s delightful.
Arrow and Lance search a hotel near the museum. Guess what room Dollmaker checked into. Just guess. I’ll tell you: It was 52, because no other numbers exist.
Inside the hotel room, Lance and Arrow find a doll and an old rotary phone. The phone rings. Lance answers while Arrow asks Smoak for a trace. The conversation and the setting are about as Saw-like as this episode gets. It does a pretty decent job of making Dollmaker seem creepy as he reveals his newest victim and kills her over the phone. It’s hard to take a guy with a bluetooth totally seriously, but it’s not bad.
It is undercut a bit by Dollmaker’s method of killing. He’s supposed to be using a polymer to make his victims’ throats seize up, but it kind of just looks like he’s making them drink a lot of milk. Like maybe he’s the final form of America’s Dairy Farmers.
He still makes more sense than the comic’s Dollmaker, though.
The police find the new victim’s body and Team Arrow concocts a plan to get the forensics info: Break into Granger Laboratories, the place where the data was sent (is that a Dove reference?) and grab it. Officer Lance, who tags along, notices that all of Dollmaker’s victims use the high-end same skin cream for women with delicate complexions. It isn’t Joker Brand Cosmetics (“Love that Joker!”), so I’ll just call it Brand X. Smoak volunteers to be bait and go buy a bunch of the stuff. Felicity, don’t you know blondes never survive slasher movies?
Roy goes to a sort of black-market swap-meet to ask the head honcho about Black Canary. The guy tells him Black Canary’s been hanging out with a girl named Sin (not, I would think, her adopted daughter or the Red Skull’s daughter) and he can find her on a street that is somehow not 52nd.
Flashback Island. After some weird business with Slade almost falling and dying (not a great way to present your hyper-capable spy/killer, show), Slade helpfully explains that there are only two ways to get off the island: “by sea and by air.” Well, yeah. Who is that line for? People who don’t know what islands are?
Anyway, Slade and Ollie get to their coveted higher ground only to see the mysterious visitors’ ship bombarding the island with shells.
They deduce that the shells are headed toward Shado and the crashed plane (which we have seen is not filled with holes, so it must turn out OK). Ollie takes off running and there’s a pretty neat scene transition where the sun fades into a light in a present-day store window.
Smoak’s leaving the store where she bought the skin cream. Arrow and Officer Lance are keeping an eye on her and having a heart-to-heart over their earpieces. Lance reveals he threw himself so deeply into the Dollmaker case because he caught him right after Sarah died. Arrow’s like, “Oh yeah, I know her. She died on my boat.” He doesn’t say it, but his highly made-up eyes do.
Smoak says she’s “seriously wigged out right now,” like she just realized she offered herself up as serial-killer bait. She literally bumps right into the Dollmaker, who does a pretty terrible job of subduing her until Arrow and Lance can swoop in and chase him through plastic flaps. Starling City’s like 40 percent plastic flaps. I think every building there used to be a car wash.
The cops show up, so Arrow and Dollmaker take off. Detective Hilton pops out of one of the police cars and arrests Officer Lance for obstruction of justice.
It’s really Smoak who’s obstructing commerce, though. She sends out a fake email to retailers stating Brand X skin cream is defective. Ollie’s OK with this even though it means the revenue stream for an entire company has been shut off, which means people will probably lose their jobs. Not to mention the reputation damage! You have killed Brand X, Team Arrow. And here I thought you’d stopped killing.
Ollie hangs up his phone and walks into the courtroom for his mom’s bail hearing. The judge is Hearing None of It, to the point of immense smugness. Then the DA stands up and says he might be seeking the death penalty. “Rhubarb rhubarb,” everyone in the courtroom says.
Back in the past, Ollie is running through a field that’s being bombed to kingdom come. Man, he’s dumb. Slade chases after him, which means he’s even dumber. It isn’t long before Slade’s on fire and Ollie’s laying in the field, shell shocked. How’d they think this was going to turn out?
Police HQ. Laurel has managed to talk her boss out of throwing the book at her dad. They have a Piano Music Scene about how Laurel must feel guilty about Merlyn dying, which is why she’s going after “The Arrow” so hard. That’s what Lance is calling him now. Am I wrong, or wasn’t Ollie supposed to come up with a name for himself by now? Whatever. At least it’s not “The Hood.”
Out at some nondescript street corner under a bridge, Sin is enjoying an adult beverage in a paper bag. Roy approaches and asks her about Black Canary. Sin takes off running and there’s a chase scene that lasts… 40 minutes? Three hours? I lost track of time. Eventually, they get to a clocktower (which, you might know, is decorated with plastic flaps) and Roy takes a knock on the head. No Oracles or Huntresses up there, by the way. (Thank goodness for the latter.)
Officer Lance is wandering around the parking garage at police HQ when he decides to just walk up to a raving weirdo. Well, wouldn’t you know it, that raving weirdo turned out to be a dangerous guy, the Dollmaker! DM hits Lance with a stun gun and puts him in the back of a van with Laurel, who he has also kidnapped.
Ollie catches a news report about the abductions on Starling City’s Brand New Only News Channel. Team Arrow convenes to figure out what’s happening. Dollmaker, it seems, is a terrible criminal. He gave himself away by shooting a guard on the way out, which had to be totally unnecessary, right? What’s the purpose of an inconspicuous van from defunct firm Metamorpho Chemical (yup, that’s all the Metamorpho there is, folks) if you’re just going to give yourself away?
Clocktower. Black Canary asks Roy a bunch of cryptic questions (“Did they send you?”) until Roy gets the most hilarious text message ever sent:
“Roy, there’s a KIDNAPPING and YOU AREN’T EVEN HERE?!?!”
Dollmaker’s got Laurel all rigged up in his death machine and Officer Lance tied up so he has to watch. Dollmaker explains that killing Lance’s daughter will destroy his soul, etc., so that’s why he’s killing her instead of him.
Dollmaker pours the milk stuff into the machine and it is just getting to Laurel’s mouth when Arrow busts in and knocks the machine over. Dollmaker runs.
Before Arrow can catch up to him, Black Canary comes bounding in and tussles with Dollmaker for a while. He knocks some pipes on her and tells her she has lovely skin because that’s the only thing he can say. Arrow shoots a couple arrows into Dollmaker’s shoulders and pins him against a pipe. He tells Dollmaker he’s going back to prison, but Black Canary says “nah” and just kills him.
They’re really taking the “birds of prey” title seriously on this show. The two that have shown up are the murderiest people on it!
More father-daughter Piano Talk. Laurel breaks down while coming to the conclusion that Merlyn dying was her fault. So good job on making your daughter feel the immense guilt of ending a human life, officer.
Arrow and Lance have another Batman/Gordon moment in Laurel’s apartment, though there’s sadly no disappearing hero thing at the end.
Moira meets with her attorney in Iron Heights. They talk like they’re the oldest of friends, even though the family definitely had two different attorneys last season. Moira says she doesn’t want to fight the charges because “there are some things that must never be spoken of.” Why didn’t she just plead guilty then?
Clocktower. Black Canary enters on her weird scarf-rope thing only to come face-to-face with a guy who looks a whole lot like Dark Arrow.
He tells her Ra’s al-Ghul (!) has ordered her return. She says she won’t go and then kills the dude.
Flashback. Ollie wakes up in the brig of the heavily-guarded boat, which we see is called the Amazo. So basically we can be assured all these characters that were teased to show up are just going to be names painted on vehicles.
There was quite a bit to like about this episode. I liked how it was Halloween-themed without being a full-out Halloween episode. They did an OK job with the Dollmaker (he makes a lot more sense here than he ever did in the comics), even though he goes out like a straight punk in the end and the actor who plays him, Michael Eklund, doesn’t do a ton to make him a standout creepy guy. He’s a pretty by-the-numbers serial killer. Arrow and Lance’s Batman/Gordon thing could be fertile ground for something. And I have to say that the mention of Ra’s al-Ghul has got me excited, though I’m trying to keep my expectations low.
But, boy, those flashback scenes were the pits, weren’t they? Everybody just being dumb as bricks and things are happening strictly for plot reasons. Moira’s plot doesn’t make a ton of sense, either, and all the stuff about Iron Heights prison is just flat-out garbage.
And I’m still mad about that hot dog.