Wow. Stephen Amell has been lovingly calling tonight’s episode of Arrow “Holy S**tballs” for some time now, but that was an understatement. I know I’ve been saying this mostly every week, but "Dead to Rights" was seriously the best episode yet – no exaggeration. This hour had enough cliffhangers, gasp-inducing reveals, and epic action sequences to be a season finale. But we still have so many episodes left before that happens, thank The CW gods!
I was already excited to get into the hour thanks to the "previously on Arrow" segment. You can always tell what the focus of the episode is going to be based on what they choose remind you about. Finally, we were going to focus on Malcolm and the reveal that he's the Dark Archer! After he took down Arrow – mentally and physically – in the midseason finale, we haven’t really gotten a chance to dive into Malcolm’s history. How did he become the Dark Archer?
Before we got into that, we met this week’s inconsequential villain of the week: Guillermo Barrera, an assassin for hire. Ooh, finally, a villain with tricks of his own to match Arrow’s. Nice knives, Guillermo Barrera! Oh wait, Arrow took him down in less than a minute. Just kidding. Nice knowing you, Guillermo Barrera!
Quick cut to the reason why we should now possibly ‘ship Diggle and Felicity: Diggle was trying to teach Felicity some self-defense moves so she doesn’t end up with a bomb collar wrapped around her neck again. Diggle’s arms, where have you been hiding? Okay, back to the show: Oliver had no patience for Diggle and Felicity’s banter, since he had a date to get to:
Oliver: I have to meet McKenna.
Diggle: Good thing she didn’t meet you at the heliport. It may not be a good idea to fall for the cop that’s hunting you down.
Oliver: Well it’s slim pickings for us vigilantes.
Now, is it just me or was Oliver not so psyched to go on his date with McKenna? Trouble in paradise already? I hope so… I still haven’t forgiven her for prying too much into Oliver’s island life. Which brings us to:
The island flashback of the week! We got a nice juxtaposition of Oliver who could barely do a pull up to the perfect human specimen we now see working that salmon ladder before the show each week. And of course, Slade Wilson gave the best reason for why so much working out is featured on the show:
Oliver: Why the sudden desire to work out?
Slade: What else is there to do?
That explains how Oliver got so buff in his five years being marooned on the island… there really wasn’t anything else to do! But Oliver of course didn’t want to just sit around and wait to die; he still thought they could figure out another way off the island. (Side note: I am absolutely loving the sarcastic quips Slade always seems to have at his disposal: “We could build ourselves a boat! Like they did on Gilligan’s Island!”) Ollie noticed a broken radio in the plane debris and thought he could fix it. Color me surprised that party boy pre-Arrow Oliver actually had some productive skills (outside of the bedroom, obviously). More hilarious Slade one-liners came when Oliver said his father used to do his own aircraft maintenance: “So you’re hoping aircraft maintenance is genetic?” This guy needs his own stand up routine!
Slade was annoyed that Oliver would rather tinker with the radio than train “for the inevitable fight that’s looming” (he really has a way with words, doesn’t he?), but Oliver knew his fighting skills were severely lacking. His hard work soon paid off: he got a signal on the radio!
Unfortunately, the radio only let Oliver and Slade listen in on others’ broadcasts. But they were able to get important information via eavesdropping: the man who hired Fires went by codename Scylla, a.k.a. one of the monsters in Homer’s Odyssey (Yay, more Odyssey references!). Slade had a new mission: find out who Scylla was and take him down. To his surprise, Oliver was ready to join him. Oliver was finally making the conscious choice to go out and fight “monsters” like Scylla! His body might not have been at Arrow’s standard yet but his mind and motivation sure were.
Interesting thing to note: Scylla is Russian. Could this be Oliver’s connection to the Bratva finally explained?
Back in civilization and the present, it was time for a party because it was Tommy’s birthday! Laurel decided to celebrate by wearing the most HORRENDOUS BODY SUIT EVER. Girl, what were you thinking? To be fair, she kind of made up for her terrible fashion choice when she gave us our first Easter egg at her maybe-future as the Black Canary. When showing a picture of her dead sister, she was asked about the black canary in the background. Apparently her father bought it as a pet but it drove them nuts with its nonstop chirping.
The party seemed like it was going great despite the awkwardness of Oliver and McKenna double dating with Tommy and Laurel (Tommy and Oliver even got in some bromantic jokes about Laurel’s awful cooking) until Malcolm party crashed. He wanted to repair his relationship with his son, and invited him to an event where Malcolm was being honored. Tommy is totally done with his dad, though, and made it clear he wouldn’t be attending. Something tells me that won’t sit well with Malcolm.
After Moira contracted China White to kill Malcolm, China White decided to employ a third party. She asked for Deadshot’s help, but he’d lost his edge ever since Arrow took out his eye. He was drinking and smoking, calling himself retired. Not a good look. But when China White offered him a new contraption, a glowing red eye, he was more than happy to get back in the killing game. Ladies and gentlemen, we have Deadshot in all his glory!
We learned from Moira that the undertaking is only months from fruition… will we finally find out what, exactly, that entails? It’s interesting that coming from Malcolm, the undertaking will be good for Starling City. He actually twisted Arrow’s words, saying, “We won’t fail this city.” But Moira was throwing serious shade toward him and the plan. We know the undertaking will kill innocent people, but how? Also, major props to her, lying right to his face about being with him while simultaneously planning his assassination. That is cold, girl.
Back in the Arrow lair, Felicity was trying to crack the code in Guillermo Barrera’s phone to figure out who the hit was on. This gave us the opportunity for more banter between her and Oliver:
Felicity: Codebreaker is my middle name. Actually it’s Megan but –
Oliver was not having Felicity’s snark. But sparks were flying, right? This is totally going to be a thing, right? (RIGHT?!)
After Tommy’s dad ruined his celebration, Oliver decided to take Tommy out for some bro-bonding while simultaneously checking out a restaurant that doubled as a front for the Triad. Oliver made a quick Arrow appearance to figure out who the target of the assassination was, and to protect his identity he squeezed hot sauce in the poor lackey’s eyes. Ouch! “Check please!”
Before Oliver’s side mission, we really got a nice glimpse into just how far back Tommy and Oliver go. This is one friendship that will take more than just a girl to tear apart. We also got some interesting information about Malcolm via Tommy’s childhood. After Tommy’s mother’s murder, Malcolm left for two years and when he returned, he was “so fricking cold.” This story sounds an awful lot like Oliver’s! Could this be his version of being marooned on an island, but instead he was just training to become the Dark Archer? My totally unverified hypothesis is that Malcolm disappeared for two years training with Yao Fei. No idea how that would fit into the story, but that’s my guess and I’m sticking with it! There are no coincidences on TV dramas.
When Oliver found out that Malcolm was the target of the assassination, he called up Det. Lance. The partnership grows! You can’t stop it, Lance, so just let it happen. Honestly, he should probably stop trying to capture Arrow altogether since they’re doing so much good together, but whatever. This is a guy who can’t let go of a grudge, so there’s pretty much no shot in hell that they’re going to become friends. Oh well.
The night of the big event loomed. Moira showed some anxiety, but was it over planning Malcolm’s murder or worry for her own safety should the order not be carried out perfectly? Tommy took Oliver’s advice and was going to give his dad a shot. He was going to the event, too! And for some reason I can’t figure out other than foreshadowing, Laurel’s mom was calling and she ignored it. What’s going on with that?
Meanwhile, Oliver and McKenna were on a date in his under-construction nightclub. How romantic? Oliver made a joke about how he wouldn't be the one choosing the bands and DJs to play since he doesn’t know who’s cool right now. In an unfortunately timed joke, Oliver asked if Fall Out Boy was still cool, and McKenna told him they broke up and were never cool. There are many things wrong with that statement, honey. First of all, Fall Out Boy never officially broke up. They went on a hiatus for a couple years. But they just announced their new album and tour a couple weeks ago, after this episode was filmed. Oops! (Also, they were definitely cool and still are. So there!)
The funniest thing about tonight’s episode? The fact that Malcolm Merlyn was being honored as Starling City’s humanitarian of the year. Biggest joke ever! So incredibly ironic, but hey, that’s corruption at its finest, right? Too bad for Malcolm — his big celebration wasn’t going to end well. China White was incognito, which basically means switching the colors of her hair and clothing. Black on top, white on bottom! Now she’s just Pearl from The Vampire Diaries again. Where's Anna? Sorry, wrong CW show.
When Moira saw Tommy at the event, you could just see the emotions erupt on her face. Susanna Thompson played that beautifully. She instantly realized Tommy was about to lose the only parent he had left. That was just crushing, and also a bit confusing. I honestly don’t know who to hate right now/anymore. Both Malcolm and Moira used to be the villains we hated. But we are learning that Malcolm clearly did love his wife, and all he cared about when the fire alarm went off at the event was making sure Tommy was safe. Plus, Moira was showing true heart. Things are getting more complex here!
Malcolm took Tommy up to his office where he has a panic room (of course), but they ran into some Triad goons on the way. Tommy started to freak out until Malcolm shot one of them in the head without hesitating... then Tommy was really freaked out. The guy just watched his dad kill someone by shooting them point blank in the head. Some questions have definitely arisen.
Once they got to Malcolm’s office, Malcolm explained that they’d be fine since the windows were bulletproof glass. Did that mean Deadshot was screwed? At least that meant the Merlyns had some quiet time to talk things out. Would Malcolm finally tell Tommy the truth about his past and how he was the Dark Archer? It seemed that way, until Deadshot fired his curare-laced bullets through the window. So much for bulletproof glass…
Malcolm was hit, though the worst of the shots hit his bulletproof vest, but since the bullets were poisoned, the one in his neck took him down. Oliver arrived on the scene as Arrow, but Tommy wouldn’t let him help heal Malcolm from the poison since obviously Tommy had no reason to trust the vigilante. Just when we started to think this was the end for Malcolm, OLIVER REVEALED HIMSELF TO TOMMY. Um, WHAT?!
Obviously, Tommy was in shock (along with the rest of us!), but he let Oliver perform an emergency blood transfusion to save his father. When Starling City police arrived on the scene, Det. Lance found it hard to believe that Tommy would let a stranger perform that medical procedure on both him and his father, and Lance asked him if the vigilante is his friend. Tommy told Lance the truth: “I don’t know who the hell he is.” He may now know that Oliver is the vigilante, but he has now seen side to his best friend that he never even knew existed. Later on, Tommy asked Oliver if he'd ever planned to tell him the truth about being the vigilante, and Oliver told him point blank that he hadn’t. I said earlier that it would take more than just a girl to come between these two friends, and I think we just found out what that was. This is a major turning point in both Tommy and Oliver’s friendship and Tommy's life in general.
Tommy just found out both his father and his best friend have been lying about who they are, and that they’re both killers. Will this spark a downward spiral? Will his feelings of betrayal motivate him to become the real Dark Archer? Was Malcolm just a red herring?
When Oliver returned to the Arrow lair, he had to break the news to Diggle that since Malcolm’s bullet was laced with curare, that meant Deadshot was actually still alive. Dig took it pretty hard, since that meant his brother’s killer was still up and walking around, not put into the ground like he previously believed. I hope Diggle gets the skip back in his step soon (a.k.a. Arrow kills Deadshot). I miss happy, joking Diggle!
And since this is Arrow, we couldn’t end the episode with just one game-changer, we had to have another in the last ten seconds! Remember that ignored call from Laurel’s mom? Turns out she really needed to talk with Laurel, so she showed up outside Laurel’s door for a surprise visit. Hi mom! You have terrible timing.
But this wasn’t just some ordinary visit: Laurel’s mom thought Sarah might still be alive! Seriously? I thought her fate was pretty much sealed after seeing her violently ripped out of Oliver’s arms during the shipwreck, but perhaps Laurel’s mom doesn’t know just how bad the shipwreck was. False hope? Who knows. ...Is it mean to say who cares?
I just wanted more of Tommy and Oliver after the big reveal! If Sarah truly is still alive, it could change the entire course of the show. Could she have been missing all this time, training to be Black Canary instead of Laurel? Arrow does like to fake us out. Slade Wilson wasn’t Deathstroke, Tommy isn’t the Dark Archer (yet), so this could potentially be huge. Or maybe Laurel’s mom is delusional. Either one, really.
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW]