Synopsis of 3×12: Still without Oliver, the team is forced to consider Malcolm’s offer; more details of Malcolm’s life are revealed.
The Arrow is back in town, and although he’s a little worse for wear, he’s definitely back in the saddle. As far as episodes go, I enjoyed the introspective look we got into Malcolm’s past, as it not only aids in the development of Malcolm as foil to Oliver but also in developing him into more than just a cryptic assassin. The show does well in bringing us flashbacks that parallel or support the current storyline, and this episode wasn’t any different.
It pushed the story of Brick taking over the Glades to the side, and used him as device to carry out Merlyn’s story. We learn in the episode that Brick was the one who murdered Rebecca Merlyn all those years ago. Of all the things Merlyn has done, it can all be traced back to the murder of his wife, and the revelation of Rebecca’s murderer throws us right into the story of Merlyn’s past and how his own streak of vengeance lead to his first murder and his path to the League.
Indeed it seems like even Oliver’s return is low-key, his first major scene in Starling being his scene with Malcolm, talking him down from murder number 504. Despite basically painting a target on his last remaining family member’s back (not to mention murdering his best friend), Oliver seems determined to salvage what is left of Malcolm’s soul and persuades him not to murder Brick. He persuades him to start doing better by showing the world that he is capable of it.
Through Malcolm’s story, we can reason why he became the man he is today. He’s shown as a man who lacks the confidence in confrontation, but doesn’t hesitate to murder in cold blood. A man who is a loving father, but doesn’t give a second thought to abandon his young, grieving son on a quest of vengeance. A man who craves the satisfaction of a confession for over a decade, but has never gotten it until now. A man who will kill thousands, even his own son, but believes he’s done it for the right reasons. Arrow does a great job of weaving a character, who makes horrific and unforgivable choices, into one that could deserve our sympathy.
In his attempt to work with the Team, we see the team deal with the question from different angles, especially without the guidance of Oliver. Felicity refuses to work with Malcolm because she can’t imagine a world where Oliver, a man she has grown to know and love, would work alongside a mass murderer. Roy and Laurel are at their wits end in The Glades and need help to protect the people of the city, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal to them, getting in bed with The Magician. Diggle also rejects Malcolm’s help, but not because of what Oliver would have wanted, rather as a personal moral decision.
Out of all of them, Felicity feels the strongest, and is therefore the most hurt when Oliver reveals that he’s forged an alliance with Malcolm. It not only puts into perspective, for Felicity, how well she knows Oliver, but who Oliver has changed into during his absence. It’s made clear to her that not only can Oliver not protect the ones he loves, but actively courts the kind of danger that perpetually puts those he loves in peril. As sad as the scene was (as an Olicity shipper), I can understand why Felicity wouldn’t want to be a woman that Oliver loves.
Given the way the episode opened last week, with Oliver’s dream about Felicity, this seems to be another dagger into Oliver. Tatsu warned him, as he left her before returning back to Starling, that there are many forms of death with a man like Ra’s al Ghul. To fight him, completely, you must be willing to die and know what you have to sacrifice in order to beat him. It seems for Oliver, Malcolm, and Maseo, this means sacrificing the connection to the things they care about the most. This could be an indication for a future in which the three become unlikely allies against Ra’s, especially since they continue to reference the fact that Oliver can only defeat Ra’s with the help of a student who can defeat the master.
This alliance, at least between Oliver and Malcolm, is bound to unearth some secrets, specifically where Thea is concerned. While lying to people has always been in a vigilante’s repertoire, no one does it quite as well as Arrow does. From Laurel tricking Quentin to Oliver promising never to lie to Thea, their world balances on a carefully crafted tower of deception. It seems like the secret could be coming out soon, but will Thea’s capacity for forgiveness with her father extend to her brother?
And speaking of Quentin and Laurel, Quentin makes it very clear that he can see past Roy and his costume. Given the fact that it’s been made clear Quentin is a competent detective, it’s clear that he should be very close to finding out the truth about Sara. With Sin (god damn it’s good to have her back) telling him that the blonde vigilante isn’t Sara, and his own suspicions, it’s hard to tell if he already knows and is living in denial, or if he’s really going to have a heart attack by the end of this season.
Although it certainly had its flaws, the best moment for me was Oliver’s return and his proclamation to the people of his city. It’s not Starling City without the Arrow, and his return prompts him to promise that he will not fail them again. Promises, promises, Oliver. Also just a question for the ether, is Ted Grant dead now? Because I will not accept that Wildcat just got killed by Vinnie Jones.