‘Arrow’ Season Three Recap, Episode 3: ‘Corto Maltese’
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: Team Arrow goes on a trip, Laurel deals with her seething rage and two different women get beaten up by men on screen. Oh, also, Ollie shoots a bunch of guys. Let's get started.
This week's A story involves Ollie, Dig and Roy going to the fictional island nation of Corto Maltese (which first appeared in The Dark Knight Returns and was named in honor of the Hugo Pratt character). The team's main goal is to go find Thea and bring her back to Starling City, which we'll get to later, because there's also a spy/action plot.
Before he leaves for Corto Maltese, Dig's ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, Lyla Michaels, a.k.a. Harbinger, tells him that an A.R.G.U.S. agent has gone dark within the country. Dig has announced his intentions not to go to Corto Maltese, but Harbinger talks him into it so he can find the agent, one Mark Shaw (a.k.a. the third Manhunter). I don't know why she couldn't ask Ollie to do it so Dig could stay at home not risking his life and caring for his daughter, but it gives him a plot, so whatever.
In Corto Maltese, Dig has basically no trouble locating Shaw, which should probably be a sign of something, but Dig lets it slide. After some weak tough-guy stuff, Dig satisfactorily proves he was sent by A.R.G.U.S. using an encrypted message on his phone.
What follows is a pretty rote retelling of the plot of the first Mission: Impossible movie. Shaw tells Dig an arms dealer is going to try to buy a list of undercover A.R.G.U.S. agents' names, along with information about their families. He calls it the "actual" list, but I'm just going to call it the NOC list like Mission: Impossible did.
Shaw recruits Dig to help him recover the NOC list, and then quickly double-crosses him. Somehow that thing in Dig's phone helped Shaw decrypt the NOC list, which he's going to sell to the arms dealer the next day.
After getting some help from Smoak to find out where the sale is happening (basically the same place the double-cross did; I can't see any real difference in the shooting locations), Team Arrow is confronted by some mercenaries Shaw hired while Shaw shows off the NOC list to some guys who work for arms dealer Milo Armitage (the guy who tried to buy the earthquake machine last season).
This scene with the mercenaries is important for a couple reasons:
1. Ollie reveals he made a bow out of the furniture in Team Arrow's hotel room, which is patently hilarious.
2. Ollie tries shooting mercs with a bow for a while, but then he gives up on that and just starts shooting them with a gun. I suspect he's going for non-lethal shots, but still. He's just firing a gun at dudes.
By the end of it, Team Arrow has taken down the mercenaries and Shaw is begging Dig to let him fake his death so he can get out of A.R.G.U.S. He hates working for Amanda Waller because...she asks him to to do things? That's what I got from it.
Dig punches him out and hands him over to A.R.G.U.S., because the list being out would have put his family in danger, much like going on this trip put him in danger.
Back in Starling City, Laurel is working through some serious anger over Sara's death. We know that because in her first scene, Laurel goes to see Ted Grant, a.k.a. Wildcat (J.R. Ramirez), a young, sexy boxing instructor in this incarnation, about some case that will never come up again and doesn't matter. What does matter is that he says he can tell she's angry and that he'll train her to fight. She says no thanks.
Then, at an AA meeting, Laurel hears a young woman named Erica talk about being abused by her boyfriend. After the meeting, Captain Lance rightly points out that he can't go after the boyfriend; everything at AA is anonymous, after all. But Laurel's like eff that anonymity junk and decides to take the law into her own hands.
It's here that she puts on some Daredevil: The Man Without Fear cosplay and tries to go beat up that abusive boyfriend with a pipe. No, really! Unfortunately, the boyfriend is immune to pipes and beats her up instead. It is...an ugly scene.
At the hospital (take a drink), Captain Lance tells Laurel that she's not a superhero and that she shouldn't ever do that kind of thing again. Laurel says she won't, but then she looks over at Sara's Canary jacket.
After she gets out of the hospital, Laurel apparently goes and sits around in Verdant until Ollie gets back from Corto Maltese (she comments about how he took a vacation). There, she asks Ollie to train her to be the new Canary, and Ollie says no. Sara had years of training and wouldn't want Laurel to do this, he says. (Our hero: Putting words in a dead woman's mouth.)
So, of course, Laurel goes back to Wildcat, in her Canary jacket, and asks him to train her. How convenient!
Last week, I complained that the writers didn't seem to be doing much with the Ollie-in-Hong-Kong flashback stuff despite it being last year's season cliffhanger. Here, they don't even bother with them, instead focusing on Thea.
The episode starts with Thea where we last saw her in season two, in the limo with Malcolm Merlyn. After some what-are-we-doing-for-dinner-style debate over where they're going to go to get away from Starling, we next see them in Corto Maltese, where Malcolm promises to train Thea. He first says he's going to do this with hot tea, but then he pulls a switcheroo on her and decides to pour hot wax on her hand instead. You know how they put lye on their hands in Fight Club? That. Erik Oleson and Beth Schwartz, the writers of this episode, just love films, what can they say?
When Thea says she can't handle the pain of the boiling wax, Malcolm says he'll just have to train her the way he was trained, and elbows her right in the face. She picks up a sword to defend herself, and he says they're ready to begin. We can assume she gets pretty good at fighting after that.
A lot of this episode is about how Thea can't trust Ollie because he lied to her about who her real dad is. She, I should note, responds to this by lying to Roy about her ad being in Corto Maltese. This happens in a scene in which Roy talks to her while she's taking out some trash at a cafe. Just like old times.
By the way, Thea seems to live at that cafe. She is always there. Maybe she works there? I really don't know.
Ollie finally convinces Thea to come back to Starling by telling her the truth about Papa Queen and his suicide to save Ollie. He says their parents both sacrificed themselves to save them, and they'd want them to be together.
Ollie just speaking for dead folks all over the place.
Before that, Ollie talked like he was going to drop all the Team Arrow secrets on Thea, but that didn't happen.
Thea goes to meet Team Arrow at the airport. A guy there spills some hot coffee on her hand and she doesn't flinch. It's a pretty good gag.
I can knock the entirety of this part out in two sentences: Ray Palmer can't get some info he needs off a hard drive, so Smoak does it for him. It turns out to be schematics for weapons, which makes him look concerned.
That's literally all that happens, but I'll add a few more details:
- Smoak sets up an appearance on The Flash next week by asking if she can go see Barry, which Palmer allows. I wonder if they'll keep up that continuity.
- A scene near the beginning involves a Palmer who seems very coked up talking about all the espresso he had. Yeah, "espresso." Hey, is this version of Ray Palmer an '80s guy?
- Palmer gives Smoak the CEO's office.
- He also has hired her a new executive assistant. His name is Gerry Conway. Is that a nod or a slight? It could go either way.
Things wrap up with a very upset Nyssa al-Ghul, sans Alicia Keys hat, showing up in the Arrowcave to demand where Sara is. On the one hand, it's weird that she just noticed Sara was gone. On the other, it's pretty doggone great cliffhanger.
A few stray items that didn't fit anywhere else:
- That shard of glass Ollie found on the rooftop last weeks turns out to be a false lead. How do we know that? Arrow tracks down the guy who dropped it there and catches him with a trick arrow that puts a rope around the guy's neck. Between that and the shooting, is he sure he doesn't kill anymore?
- Corto Maltese is shot with an orange filter very similar to the gold filter they use for Hong Kong. Other countries are just on the hot end of the spectrum in DC TV world.
- Smoak just casually drops that Thea is in Corto Maltese in conversation after some talk about that glass shard. Don't you think that'd be a higher priority?
- The fake name that Thea is using in Corto Maltese? Mia. Throwin' 'em off the scent!
- Ollie says he likes Thea's new haircut. It does look nice.
Nothing of any huge significance happened this episode, but it was a massive step up from last week's painful outing, so I'm hopeful.
Until next week.