Episode Title: “Broken Dolls”
Writers: Marc Guggenheim & Keto Shimizu
Director: Glen Winter
Previously on “Arrow”:
Last night’s episode of “Arrow” was already a noticeable improvement on the first two episodes of the new season when it dropped one jaw-dropping sentence. Full spoilers ahead!
“Ra’s Al Ghul has ordered your return.”
Okay, “Arrow.” You’ve got my attention.
The identity of the new Black Canary (Caity Lotz) was spoiled by the CW last summer, so the only mystery to me was how she gained her fighting skills and who trained her. Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins is a great answer. And I doubt it’s a coincidence that the messenger who approached Black Canary wore an outfit similar to Malcolm Merlyn’s Dark Archer costume. Malcolm mentioned his time at Nanda Parbat last season on “Arrow.” That hidden city does have some ties to Ra’s Al Ghul in the DC Universe.
For those of you who may not be comic book fans, Ra’s Al Ghul is the James Bond villain of Batman adversaries. In Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Ra’s Al Ghul and his League of Shadows trained Bruce Wayne before he became Batman. That was an invention of Nolan’s films, but it was effective.
Since the Nolan movies have wrapped up, it’s open season on Batman characters on television. Fox recently picked up “Gotham” for next season; which will focus on Jim Gordon. Meanwhile, “Arrow” has been bringing in non-powered supervillains from all over the DCU, including Deadshot (Michael Rowe).
There’s been no casting announcement for Ra’s Al Ghul, so there’s every chance that he won’t be showing up on “Arrow” any time soon. But that name is out there. Fans are going to expect Ra’s Al Ghul to eventually make an appearance. I don’t think the “Arrow” creative team would have gone there if Ra’s Al Ghul was still off limits.
Getting back to Black Canary, she’s everything I’ve wanted Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) to be on this series. Someone who can kick ass and be a heroine outside of Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) shadow. If you haven’t worked out who Black Canary is on the show, she literally drops a big hint in this episode.
It’s Black Canary herself who gets Oliver out of the trap that Laurel set in the previous episode. Since “Arrow” doesn’t feature superpowers (yet), the sonic scream device was a nice way to appropriate Black Canary’s power into the show without actually using it.
Surprisingly, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) is starting to be tolerable in small doses. His parkour chase with Sin (Bex Tayor-Klaus) was fun and Roy actually seems to serve a purpose as Arrow’s spy in the Glades. Aside from Oliver himself, Roy is the only character to have seen Black Canary twice.
“Broken Dolls” adds another new member of Team Arrow, Officer Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), Laurel’s dad and the former police detective who doggedly pursued Arrow last season. Since the department demoted him and failed to tell the public about the escaped serial killer Barton Mathis (Michael Eklund) aka The Dollmaker, Lance turns to the Arrow for help. And along the way, Lance becomes the first character to actively use that name on the show.
Rather than using Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) as bait for the killer (again), I was surprised that Team Arrow never tried a more obvious approach. The Starling City PD wanted to keep Mathis’ escape quiet, but the best way to thwart that would have been to tell everyone that Mathis was back on the streets. Some people may have panicked, but it would have forced everyone to be on the lookout for a killer. At least one additional victim died because she wasn’t warned. Not smart, Team Arrow.
I did find the line “because he’s got another shoulder!” to be oddly hilarious and the uncomfortable partnership between Lance and Arrow was enjoyable. After being saved by Arrow yet again, Laurel eventually realizes that she endangered Tommy by ignoring the warnings of Oliver and her father; which indirectly led to Tommy’s death while trying to save her. It’s survivors guilt and that’s why she’s been helping the police hunt down Oliver’s costumed alter ego.
That’s great, but “Arrow” has a history of rolling back its character development. So let’s see if this is an actual step forward for Laurel or if she’ll be back on the Arrow hunt in the weeks ahead. We’ve been through this before with Lance. He worked with Arrow a few times in season 1 and he was still rabidly against him until the season finale.
Black Canary played a role in the conclusion of the Dollmaker’s story, but it was pretty silly to have her briefly lose the advantage when some metal rods fell on her. Until that moment, Black Canary was pretty bad ass while she was confronting the Dollmaker. She’s also willing to kill, as shown by the way she dispatched the Dollmaker and the messenger from Ra’s Al Ghul. That seems to be the reason that Oliver is so wary of Black Canary. She’s just like he was in the first season.
On the homefront, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) is facing the death penalty for her role in Malcolm Merlyn’s Reckoning plan… but I don’t care. I’ve never liked that character, or Thea (Willa Holland). And the only reason that Moira doesn’t want her secrets to come out at trial is that she’s complicit in the death of her first husband. Her children may forgive her for a few hundred deaths in the Glades, but killing their father and shipwrecking Oliver probably won’t go over well when it eventually comes out.
Back on the island, the flashbacks were a little pointless for the first half of the episode as Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) chided Oliver for getting so close to Shado (Celina Jade). The mortar attack on the island was a great way to shake things up. And I think that Slade was seriously burned in that scene. Perhaps he’ll soon be wearing a familiar costume to cover some of those burns.
Placing Oliver on the ship as a prisoner may add some life to the flashbacks, but it’s too soon to call. This season has been a reversal from last year. The present day stories are now more interesting than the island flashbacks.
On the whole, this was one of “Arrow’s” best episodes. It’s far from perfect, but I’ll happily accept “Arrow” when it’s this entertaining.