THE ONE WHERE: Oliver races to save the life of Malcolm, targeted for assassination by the Chinese Mafia…
THE VERDICT:Arrow’s mid-season upswing continues. DC Comics main man Geoff Johns returns with a script that’s frequently droll – “Is Fall Out Boy still cool?” asks Oliver, clearly still struggling with his return to the real world – but also convinces with its quieter emotional beats: Tommy and Oliver’s bromantic discussion of their respective fathers has a real truth to it and is convincingly played by Stephen Amell in particular. There’s a generous portion of action, too – it’s an episode that begins very much on the run, as Oliver and the cops race to intercept an assassin arriving by helicopter, and finds time to throw in a cool knockdown fight between Oliver and China White – as well as a compellingly tense blood transfusion scene – without ever becoming breathless. As director, Smallville veteran Glen Winter impresses. There’s an early seamless dissolve between Oliver in the present and an island flashback and some especially fluid camerawork as Oliver takes down the machine gun-wielding goons in the corridor. And, once again, the show proves it’s not afraid to shake up its character dynamics – Oliver reveals his identity to Tommy, just a couple of weeks after he let Felicity in on the Great Secret. It’s a choice that should have intriguing repercussions. And yes, that’s Alex Kingston at the end, playing Laurel’s mum, complete with a revelation that’s just begging for the legendary EastEnders doof-doof to kick in…
TRIVIA: Guillermo Barrera proves to be one of the show’s more throwaway nods to the DC Universe (pity, as this lethal bladesman makes a perfectly callibrated opponent for Oliver and his archery skills). In the comics he’s a former torture specialist from the Latin American nation of Hasaragua and goes by the name Brutale. His murderous way with a knife may possibly be traced to the fact that everyone assumes he took his supervillain name from a particularly naff aftershave.
TRIVIA 2: Malcolm mentions Nanda Parbat, a hidden Tibetan city that plays a long-established role in the DCU – and whose mystical secrets would seem to be at odds with the staunchly grounded reality of Arrow. First seen in Strange Adventures 205 in 1967, this Shangri-la-a-like kingdom is watched over by the supernatural being Rama Kushna, a key player in the origin of Deadman. Grant Morrison and Paul Dini’s tale “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” reveals that it can be reached by a 7-piece “invisible map”.
DID YOU SPOT: “I don’t know why my father bought that canary,” says Laurel, a cheeky wink to her comic book alter ego Black Canary (unless, of course, this seemingly offhand line is seeding a future storyline where she finally embraces her destiny in crime-fighting fishnets…)
Oliver: “My father was a pilot and used to do his own maintenance.”
Slade: “So you’re hoping aircraft maintenance is genetic?”