VOD TV recap: Arrow Season 3, Episode 3 (Corto Maltese)
Thea's character development7
Continued commitment to comic books8
Bow and arrow fashioned from hotel room junk7.5
Matthew Turner | On 14, Nov 2014
This week’s episode title takes its name from a fictional island off the coast of South America that will be familiar to fans of the DC Universe – it was first mentioned in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and has been referenced in a variety of sources since, including Smallville and the 1989 Batman movie. After a couple of mentions in Arrow, it finally appeared at the end of last week’s episode as the location where Thea Queen (Willa Holland) was being trained by her father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), after disappearing with him at the end of Season 2.
So, naturally, this week, after learning her location (“What’s up with your family and islands?”), Oliver, Diggle and Roy head off to Corto Maltese to try and bring Thea home, unaware of what she’s been up to and, indeed, what she’s now capable of, punch-up-wise. More importantly, Thea opts to keep Malcolm’s presence on the island a secret from Oliver for the moment, which sets up a potentially intriguing development for her inevitable return to Starling City.
Thea’s development as a character this season is a vast improvement on the spoiled brat she had to play in Season 1 and it’s going to be exciting to see where the writers take her this season. The writers even throw in another delightful reference to her comic book incarnation – she takes the alias Mia, which is the name of Green Arrow’s female Speedy sidekick in the comics (Speedy being Oliver’s established nickname for Thea on the show).
The other focus of this episode is the continuing evolution of Laurel, who, in the wake of Sara’s death, is hurtling headlong towards her ordained trajectory of becoming The Black Canary. This sets up an interesting parallel with Thea: both are characters that have been badly under-used by the show in the past, both have experienced loss and pain and both are seeking to channel that anger and frustration into physical fighting skills. For Laurel, this is about avenging Sara’s death, but what Thea plans to do with her newly developed ass-kicking ability is a mystery for now.
To that end, then, Laurel’s story takes another leap forward this week, as she initially asks Oliver to train her how to fight and then, when he refuses, heads out to do a little low-level vigilantism of her own, only to get badly beaten up and end up in hospital. (The show conveniently forgets that Laurel has already showcased some more than decent fighting ability in the past, so let’s brush over that.) This sets up the introduction of J. R. Ramirez as Ted Grant, a gym-owning ex-boxer who agrees to give Laurel some fight training. The name of his gym is also a nod to his comics identity, Wildcat, who did indeed train Black Canary and also, famously, out-boxed Batman.
Back on Corto Maltese, the show shoe-horns in a subsidiary plot to provide the requisite action sequences, with Diggle tasked with tracking down rogue ARGUS agent Mark Shaw (we don’t see his alter-ego Manhunter, but this is another nice shout-out to the DC universe). This leads to a couple of great moments, including Oliver fashioning makeshift bows and arrows out of hotel room junk for himself and Roy (Roy’s expression is priceless) and then Oliver resorting to more traditional weaponry, shooting several mercenaries and delivering the line (also to an incredulous Roy), “I never said I didn’t know how to handle a gun!”
While the action plot doesn’t appear to have much purpose on the surface, there’s an underlying edge to it, when Shaw delivers the line: “You don’t know the things Waller made me do!” It’s a fair bet that Oliver has a pretty good idea, since it’s clear that his time in Hong Kong had as much to do with turning Oliver into a killer as his time on Flashback Island in the previous two seasons. Either way, this essentially serves the same purpose as a visit to Flashback City this week, since the past sequences this week are handed over to Thea, giving us more insight into her training, including a very nasty bit involving boiling hot tea.
That only leaves Felicity, who isn’t given much to do this week, apart from tracking Thea’s location, leaving her free to flirt with Ray Palmer some more (the running gag of her not getting how big a job he’s given her, complete with huge office and assistant is a nice touch) and to sort of bond with Laurel when she calls her for a favour (“Are we favour friends now?”). Incidentally, Felicity’s assistant is named Gerry Conway, which is another nice DC nod, although this time to a creator rather than a character. We also get the tiniest advancement in the show’s eventual plans for Ray, when he gives a Mysterious Look after scrolling through some advanced weapons blueprints from the applied sciences division. Please let one of those weapons be a Shrink Ray!
In short, this is another solid episode, with a refreshing change of location, as well as a pleasing indication that the show isn’t married to its established formula – e.g. Oliver barely appears in the Arrow costume all episode and the Flashback City sequences are put on hold. All in all, it’s very much a moving-the-pieces-into-place episode, but those places are mighty promising.
Season 1, 2 and 3 of Arrow are available on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, for free next day UK delivery on Amazon items, as part of a £79 annual Prime membership.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.