‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 4: ‘The Magician’
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 is back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: Nyssa al-Ghul rolls back into town with an agenda, Malcolm Merlyn stands around in public with no one noticing, and Thea sets back toward opening Club Shining Time Station.
This week's episode is almost entirely action, and that turns out to be a very good thing. While there's still plenty of stuff that makes no sense at all, it's couched in a blazing forward momentum that makes it a lot easier to ignore, especially since there is some actual suspense and intrigue at play for the first time in a while.
Of course, I'm still going to point that stuff out.
Things open where they left off last week, with Nyssa in the Arrowcave asking Ollie what happened to Sara. Ollie doesn't even answer any of Nyssa's questions before she figures out the Sara has been killed by an archer. She's quite the listener.
More on the investigation of Sara's death in a bit, but here's the short version: Nyssa suspects Malcolm Merlyn. Ollie discovers this when he tracks Nyssa to a League of Assassins safe house (that looks a lot like the basement in my parents' house with its old furniture and messed-up blinds). He asks her who did it after observing that Sara was a big fan of canned peaches, and Nyssa says not only does she think it was Malcolm, but Sara was in Starling to verify that Malcolm is alive.
The League's got reasons to want Malcolm taken down. Apparently his "undertaking" from back in season one violated the League's bylaws because... he killed people wrong? I don't know. Genocidal maniacs make their own rules, I guess.
Team Arrow examines what appears to be a blank piece of paper that was in Sara's boot when she died. Nyssa says it'll show Sara's notes from her investigation of Malcolm if Team Arrow holds it up to a flame, which it does. Ollie had a whole book of stuff written in this "ghost ink," so why has he not thought of this until now? Chalk it up to grief.
Anyway, the note names a fellow by the name of Jansen and that Sara went to her dad, Captain Lance, to ask about him. There's quick scene involving Laurel going to her dad to lie to him about Sara being dead and ask about Jansen, who it turns out is a sensei by the name of Ken Zhi (which I initially heard as Kinzie, getting my hopes up for a Saints Row nod).
Also, Nyssa is just standing around in Police HQ in a cardigan (no stylish hat, alas). Lance knows who she is. Instead of arresting her, he just fumes about her being there. It's weird. He even asks Nyssa if she plans on killing anybody, and she simply answers that her "only objective is justice." Uh, that's not a no, Captain.
Team Arrow goes to Jansen's Zen garden/monastery to see what he knows about Malcolm. Jansen seems to be a tribute to Master Jansen, Connor Hawke's traveling companion for a few years. It doesn't really matter, though. He's dead. Has been for a while, apparently. You'd think people would know that.
The guy Team Arrow thinks is Jansen turns out to be Malcolm himself, who escapes, but not before Arrow nicks him in the arm with an arrow. At the Arrowcave, Laurel chews Ollie out for not killing Malcolm, but Ollie reveals his arrow was laced with nanotechnology that goes into the blood and serves as a tracker. It's comic booky as hell and I love it.
Ollie and Dig (who's serving as surrogate Smoak this week because she's visiting another show) trace Malcolm to a stone-empty air conditioner factory. It's of course, a ruse. There aren't even any air conditioners in there.
Nyssa eventually decides she's had enough of Malcolm not being dead, so she kidnaps Thea. Roy tries to save her by flipping around for no reason, and he gets a tranq dart in the neck for his trouble. Poor, dumb, flippy Roy.
Nyssa sets up a smoke signal for him in the middle of town, because that's how the League communicates. Instead of summoning the fire department, it instead brings Malcolm and Arrow to what I think is a power plant to fight for a while as Thea escapes into the night.
As they fight in low light and close quarters, we find out why the episode is titled what it is: It's Malcolm's League nickname.
The fight ends with Nyssa and Malcolm both incapacitated, and Arrow pondering whether to take the shot at Malcolm. Malcolm says, "Hey, look, I admit to killing hundreds of people in that earthquake, but I didn't kill that one person you like, so don't let me go." Nyssa says Malcolm has to die.
Then Malcolm turns the tables and says, "OK, kill me, then." He says Arrow knows that no prison will hold him; so it's either kill him--he's Thea's father, by the way--or let him go. Ollie lets him go.
In the Arrowcave, Nyssa decks Ollie. She waited the whole car ride back to do that. Ollie says Malcolm is under his protection and she tells him, "You made an enemy tonight."
Though Nyssa clearly still believes that Malcolm is the killer by the end of the episode, Ollie is sure he didn't do it.
After the air conditioner factory scene, Ollie and Malcolm meet in a public square in the middle of the city and Malcolm makes a pretty convincing case. He says it would be "IL-logic-AL!" to kill Sara, considering that he's already on the League's bad side, and killing the lover of Ra's al-Ghul's daughter would only put a bigger target on his back. He says he only came back to Starling for Thea, and that's it. He then swears on Thea's life he didn't kill Sara.
Again: This all takes place in the middle of a busy, crowded, public area. Malcolm says he loves meeting in places like that because of the invisibility it grants. This is probably the most ludicrous thing in the whole episode. Going into a public place might make some regular person invisible, but this is a local tycoon who was outed in a press conference as the guy who set up the earthquake machines that killed hundreds of people. He's also supposed to be dead. Someone would notice him.
At least his reasons are pretty solid.
There's more this week with Thea and Malcolm's relationship. Clearly, they have some kind of master plan going on, but that's about all we get. They talk to each other cryptically on the phone several times.
Captain Lance's stuff is just sad. Laurel keeps lying to him about Sara, and at one point he calls Sara's cell phone and leaves her a dad message about how she doesn't have to call him back, but he wants her to know he loves her. Where are they going with this, exactly? Making our key cop character just the saddest guy?
Roy and Thea get a few moments, too. They talk things out. Roy offers her some calm dude advice. Thea offers Roy an assitant manager job at Verdant, which she's planning to reopen (more on that in a sec), but makes him promise that it's strictly business. There's some flirty grinning, though.
The big relationship that gets forged this episode is between Nyssa and Laurel, though. Their interactions are tense, but they agree on pretty much everything, particularly when it comes to whether Ollie should have killed Malcolm when he had the chance. (They're both big yeses.)
Nyssa comes by to see Laurel near the end of the episode as she trains at Wildcat's gym, indicating they're forging some sort of grudging alliance.
With Smoak away in Central City this week, the Queen Consolidated/Ray Palmer stuff takes a break and instead we get a business plot about Thea trying to reopen Verdant, the night club located directly over the Arrowcave and from which anybody could walk directly into Ollie's secret crime-fighting headquarters.
The Queen family is still broke (technically Team Arrow is trespassing in the Arrowcave), but she tells Ollie that an unnamed group of investors (I suspect Malcolm) is putting up the money to let her buy back the Verdant property so she can run it again.
It's apparently not enough money for her to hire a cleanup crew or a decorator, though, because throughout the rest of the episode, she's doing all the work herself, from wiping down the bar to painting what look like the ceiling tiles a weird shade of teal.
Don't worry. The big, kids-show-set gears are still in there.
For the first time this season, the flashbacks actually lead to something this episode.
After some grousing, Ollie kills a guy who looks a little bit like Robert Reich and steals his keys, upon which there is a flash drive. The guy sticks out like a sore thumb in the golden streets of Hong Kong, so Ollie has little trouble.
Back at the home of Ollie's ARGUS handler, Maseo, Ollie does the noble work of tricking a child into letting him use his computer. He puts the flash drive in the computer and tells Maseo he needs to see Amanda Waller immediately.
Waller comes and meets Olllie. Apparently there was something on that totally unencrypted flash drive about the Ferris Air flight Edward Fyers tried to shoot down back in season one. The guy Ollie killed was Fyers' handler; Fyers was working for ARGUS all along.
Ollie's not too happy about that, but Waller says there was a good reason to shoot down that flight. Though Fyers believed it was to disrupt the Chinese economy, it was really so that ARGUS could kill triad boss China White, who is now conveniently in Hong Kong.
I mean, look, we know full well China White lives on into the present, because she has appeared on the show before, so this plot is likely to go nowhere. But it's progress, so I won't complain too much. (Maybe a little.)
Nyssa goes to see dear old dad Ra's al-Ghul (Matt Nable) and tell him all about what happened to her in Starling City.
The scene is really all just meant to build up the big reveal of Ra's face. We see him being groomed and prepared by servants until finally he leans into a shot and says Ollie is now officially on the League's bad side.
Spoiler: He's a somewhat weathered white dude.
The CW has been building up this episode (it's the show's 50th, which means I've done 50 of these, which is causing my life to flash before my eyes) since before the season started. I see why. It's easily the best of the season so far, and it probably should have been the second episode. The past two episodes all but ground the momentum of the premiere to a halt; this one resuscitated it.
I'm actually interested in the "Who killed Sara?" plot. There's a moment in this episode where Malcolm implies that Ra's himself may be the killer, which was a thought I had, too. At the very least, I hope the mystery pays off with something satisfying instead of a "someone you've never seen before" solution or a "person who was already more or less off the hook" answer.
It also seems like Laurel's headed in an interesting direction after being the writers' punching bag last season, so that's nice.
I hope there's more Nyssa al-Ghul in the episodes to come. Katrina Law is really good in the role, and she brings an intensity to the show that takes it up a notch. She has vastly improved every episode she's been in, so I hope she recurs a bunch.
Here's the sure sign this was a good one: The one piano music scene this episode features two women talking about how a guy they know should have definitely killed a dude for revenge. No melodrama. Just action, much of it as comic booky as it can be. This was a really good one.
Of course, next week we get a schlock-fest about a hacker. So back to normal for episode 51, I guess.