Comics Alliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 1.21: The Undertaking
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 (even if it’s very late) to see how he fares.
In this episode: A daring rescue! A casino infiltrated! Flashbacks to straightened hair! Weird optical illusion buildings!
Previously: Walter Steele asked Felicity Smoak to investigate a book because what’s the worst that could happen, Diggle got suspicious of Ollie’s mom, The Face of Boe threatened Steele, and poor Merlyn broke up with poor Laurel.
So. You guys miss me? We got cut off due to circumstances when last season was wrapping up, so I’ll be recapping the last three episodes here in advance of the start of season 2 October 9. I’d say it’s nice to be back, but, you know.
We open on a mob accountant doing a bad job of being inconspicuous while talking on the phone with his secretary about a “special” deposit in the Caymans. We all know “special” means “criminal,” fella. The elevator doors in the hallway ding, even though it’s supposed to be locked down, so he sends his thugs out to check.
Then, in what I must admit is a pretty doggone baller misdirection, Arrow comes crashing through the ceiling and beats the hound of them.
One of the thugs apparently brought the briefcase full of money with him and apparently briefcases and/or money are bulletproof, because Arrow uses it as a bullet shield and doesn’t die. Money goes everywhere.
Arrow handles the thugs and heads back to give the cowering accountant the old “you have failed this city” spiel, followed by an after-school-special speech about drugs and stuff being bad. The accountant says he’s more afraid of his bosses than he is Arrow (which means he must not be all that aware of Arrow’s actual MO, which is murders), so Arrow knocks him out, takes his computer and leaves him for his bosses to
Ollie brings the laptop back to Smoak at the Arrowcave and tells her to funnel the money back to the people it was stolen from. Smoak asks when Ollie’s gonna kiss and make up with Diggle, and Arrow plays the childish “he’s the one who left” card. For a guy who supposedly found himself on an island, Ollie sure does act like a kindergartner sometimes.
At Casa Queen, Moira’s on the phone telling the life insurance company she’s “very well aware of the statistics” of the possibility of Steele being alive. Thea walks in and piano music plays and there are disingenuous hugs.
Then: Flashback! But not to Flashback Island. No sir! This one goes back to a time when colors were more washed-out and Moira had a straightener.
Boe (a.k.a. Daddy Merlyn) comes to the door at Casa Queen to join the still-alive Papa Queen and the other members of The Undertaking for a meeting that’s super boring until Boe gets up and says they should destroy The Glades to save it, like Bến Tre in Vietnam. Because the Vietnam War is such a great model for how to carry out plans. He wants to make it look like a natural disaster, and he knows of “an idea that will serve our purposes.” Spoiler: It’s an earthquake machine. Just say it’s an earthquake machine, Boe.
Back in the present, Laurel is sitting at the bar at Club Shining Time Station, drinking coffee. Ollie walks in. Laurel tells him Merlyn broke up with her. Ollie’s sad he broke up with him, too, but he offers some sage advice: “Hey, talk to each other.” Hey, did they replace Stephen Amell with Dr. Phil over here or what?
Smoak comes up and interrupts to tell Ollie she has some important news. There’s an awkward meeting between Smoak and Laurel because that’s how both those ladies roll, and Ollie follows Smoak down to the Arrowcave. She’s figured when most of the money Bad Accountant had was deposited, and $2 million was deposited the day Steele was kidnapped. They deduce it was a payoff and start trying to trace it.
Then the cold open ends 10 minutes into the show. It’s ridiculous.
Ollie and Smoak follow the money back to Dominic Alonzo, the fellow who runs the biggest underground casino in Starling City. “He looks like the kind of lowlife someone would hire to kidnap Walter,” Smoak says. Man, judgmental much, Felicity?
Smoak volunteers to infiltrate the casino and hack Alonzo’s computer. At first, Ollie’s all like, no way, but then he sees a convenient news story about Steele being kidnapped on a nearby computer monitor. Do they just leave that story up all the time? Did he forget?
Flashback Casa Queen again. Robert Queen objects to destroying The Glades. Boe gets maudlin about his dead wife. There’s a lot of weird stuff about phones and messages. I think he was married to a phone.
Smoak goes to visit Dig and immediately complains about his building not having an elevator. The writers really didn’t do her any favors in this one. She asks him to come back to Team Arrow. Dig says Ollie’s got to come ask himself, and does that hard-guy thing where he tries to not look sad. David Ramsey’s still pretty good, just FYI.
Cut to the totally CGI and semi-transparent headquarters of Merlyn Global Group. No, really, look at this establishing shot:
What in the ever-loving heck is going on there?
Anyway, Laurel comes in to an office full of terra cotta soldiers to find a besuited and five-o’-clock-shadowed Merlyn being uncommunicative. He tells her Ollie still loves her and that’s why they broke up. She acts like this is a surprise somehow.
Ollie and Smoak with a She’s All That makeover go to the casino to start up their plan. Genuine question: Do people really get dolled up to go to an underground casino? That seems to defeat the purpose of it being underground, doesn’t it? Walking into a building disguised as an iron works in a ballgown?
More evidence this underground casino is badly run: Ollie discovers the password to get in is “Snapdragon” by reading one guy’s lips as he walks in. Nobody’s got any discretion anymore, I’ll tell you. Smoak enters and grins like a fool while describing the security to Ollie and making silly double entendres. She puts down a fat stack and starts gambling.
Moira meets Boe in the Merlyn HQ building. His earthquake machine works, but he still won’t call it that. It’s like he’s embarrassed or something. There’s a disingenuous toast. Then there’s another flashback that’s only notable for a mention of Ted Kord and Papa Queen admitting to a murder (Ollie gets it honest).
At the casino, Smoak immediately gets caught counting cards and is taken to Alonzo’s office. He bans her from the casino and punishes her with a boring story about where the term “eighty-six” comes from. He also grabs the earpiece out of her ear and crushes it, observing she has a partner. Side note: Alonzo is apparently about 14 years old, because his office has a dart board and what looks like a wrestling trophy in it.
Arrow comes bursting in, hilariously punching a big chunk out of the front door and beating up/murdering dealers and people who probably don’t deserve it alongside the thugs. He makes his way back to Alonzo’s office, where the little scamp is holding Smoak at gunpoint. Then the whole dartboard thing makes sense. It’s a way to shoehorn in an arrow gag:
The arrow explodes with some kind of concussive blast and Arrow starts interrogatin’ in his sort-of-Batman voice. Alonzo says Steele’s dead. Arrow punches him out.
Moira and Thea are at home doing some online shopping on their amazing tablet with Windows 8 Technology when Ollie sidles in and squelches up his face all crazy so he can break the fake news to them about Steele being dead. Moira storms out because she kidnapped him and all and she should know this, but Ollie and Thea don’t know that yet.
In the past, we find out Robert’s trip on the Queen’s Gambit was all about stopping Boe’s plan to destroy the Glades while Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy fail valiantly in their attempts to look college age.
Moira charges into Boe’s office to yell at him for Steele dying. Boe proves Steele ain’t dead with a security camera feed. Arrow listens in with his spy arrow.
Ollie goes back to the Arrowcave to be sad and growl at Smoak to look up Boe’s phone records. She discovers Steele’s being held at some tenements in Blüdhaven. And, just like magic, Arrow is there, parachuting into the place.
Where exactly is he parachuting from, considering Smoak said there are no other big buildings around there and he doesn’t have an Arrowplane we’re aware of? Heck if I know. (Upon further inspection, he seems to have hired a temp Arrowplane.) But there’s not time for that now, Arrow’s got murderin’ to do! He kills and/or maims a bunch of guards who are dressed like Final Fight thugs and finds Steele in a locked cell.
Moira, Ollie, Thea and Smoak come to see Steele in the hospital (I missed these hospital scenes; I really did). More disingenuous hugs.
In the past, Moira halfheartedly tries to get Ollie not to go on his dad’s yacht trip to China because she knows he’ll most likely die if he does. She really does not try very hard. Ollie disingenuously kisses Laurel.
In the hallway, Boe asks Ollie if Steele said anything about his captors. Ollie says no. The whole thing is disingenuous as all get out. Then Laurel comes through and tells Ollie to tell Merlyn he doesn’t love her. Ollie says he can’t say that because it’s not true. The live studio audience is all like, “Ooooooh!”
Ollie goes to Dig’s apartment and doesn’t complain about the stairs, but he does apologize, just like Dig wanted. He says Dig was right about Moira being in on The Undertaking while the earthquake machine rolls into town. Unfortunately, it’s labeled “Unidac Industries,” not “Earthquake Machine.”
The show gets a lot more ridiculous in these last few episodes (the ridiculousness really ramps up in the finale, like, amazingly so), and thereby gets a lot better, actually. Again: John Barrowman has an earthquake machine. This one isn’t quite as crazy as the last two, but the insane parachuting entrance and the dartboard gag are pretty fun “Who cares if this doesn’t make sense?” moments that make this show dadgum near worth watching.