In which everyone learns something new about everyone else

By Adam Carlson
May 02, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT
Diyah Pera/The CW
S1 E21
  • TV Show

This week’s Arrow was all about lessons: Moira learned that she couldn’t trust Malcolm. Oliver learned that he needed Dig. Felicity learned that she can hold her own in an underground casino but still needs Arrow to save her. And everyone learned a little bit more about acting! (Watching Katie Cassidy’s dance toward greatness is its own special reward: one step forward, two steps back.)

“The Undertaking,” written by Jake Coburn and Lana Cho, begins to pay off on some of the season’s longest arcs: Walter re-enters. Moira is revealed to her son. Oliver comes clean to Laurel. It’s narrative-by-numbers from several weeks off — the season finale is in a few weeks, if the whir of increased momentum didn’t give you any indication — that does nothing to downplay the narrative’s appeal. Dig and Ollie scowl at one another! Then make up!

From the top:

An accountant named Harold is making a call about a “special deposit” for a “special client” — something something Cayman Fidelity. The unexpected movement of an elevator cuts the conversation short. Who’s there? It’s Arrow! He dispatches the guards with a few punches and a nifty twirl of a suitcase and then does his usual menacing act with the exhorting scoundrel…who is unfazed. “You think you scare me more than the people I work for?” he asks. What people? What work? Questions for another recap. Arrow knocks the accountant out cold, grabs his laptop and slips back to the lair.

Felicity is on-hand at HQ to de-encrypt the files, since Oliver wants all of the money returned to its rightful owners. She snarks, as she does, but she also notices that Oliver is testier than usual and reminds him that he needs to patch things up with Dig, who split once he realized he would get no help tracking down Floyd Lawton. Oliver should just apologize but he can’t(/won’t) because of his strong sense of vigilante pride. He exits, leaving her to huff, “I wish someone would send me off to the Caymans.”

At Queen Manor, Moira argues with an insurance company: They’ve decided to pay out Walter’s life insurance, since he’s been missing for six months. She’s not having it and Thea overhears her distress. (Did Thea get dirtier?) She’s all, “I know we haven’t talked about Walter in a while” — it’s been at least eight episodes, right? — “but I miss him and I’m here for you.” It’s touching but also too touching. Did Thea get sensitive?

Flashback! Malcolm and Moira are gabbing like old friends. Robert, the deceased Queen patriarch, enters the gabbing. They’re all so friendly. And then Moira is shushed out of a smoky afternoon meeting between plutarchs. Not to worry: Someone is at the door, and that someone is Walter, with papers in hand for Robert to sign and calling Moira “Mrs. Queen.” Back in the meeting room, Malcolm is holding court about how sick he is of trying to “force the city’s worst to do what is best.” It’s getting none of them anywhere. The Glades is still rotting from the inside and it’s infecting the rest of the city. But what if? What if there was a way to level it and start fresh? Madness! But ah: Malcolm-the-God-complex has heard word of a new project from Unidac Industries. And it’s only five years away from a prototype…

NEXT: Laurel and Dig mourn their broken relationships

We’re back at the club where Laurel is still recovering from Tommy’s noble but cruel decision to break up with her. She’s nursing a cup of terrible coffee (“That’s what you get for ordering coffee at a bar,” Oliver reminds her because the sass apparently comes free) and trying to get Oliver to talk to Tommy. He says they haven’t really been speaking. He says it’s probably just Tommy getting cold feet. He seems, as Stephen Amell typically does in these scenes, more emotionally responsive — not just like Amell is more expressive, but that Oliver is more expressive with Laurel when he otherwise can’t be bothered. Felicity cameos and bumbles all over herself before ushering Oliver back to the lair.

It turns out she managed to get the list of deposits that Mr. Accountant made last year — which leads her to a $2 million deposit on December 12, the night Walter was kidnapped. What if one of his clients kidnapped Walter? What if Walter is still alive? What if they can find him? Commercial break!

Felicity traces the money to Dominic Alonzo, the head of an underground casino and a notorious kidnapper. It’s too bad the casino employs a private army, and it’s doubly bad because Oliver won’t be able to walk right in without setting off warning signs. (Dilettante playboys don’t go into underground casinos? Mmhmmm.) Felicity has two contributions: She can count cards really well and she is totally going instead. Oliver tries to put his foot down but then gets cold feet. (Callback!)

Flashback time: Robert and Walter are talking after the earlier meeting. Walter thinks Robert seems not well and offers to lend a friendly ear. Unfortunately, Malcolm is still about the estate and launches into a monologue about the importance of this new, crazy-seeming plan because of the trauma he suffered listening to his wife die and knowing he couldn’t do anything to save her. By the end, the speech does get in a few good punches, and Barrowman is quite good in it. Could Robert even imagine what kind of pain that must be, to lose your wife to the scum of The Glades? He has to try.

Back to the now: Felicity pays Dig a house call, though he puts on a stone face and pretends to be not-so-happy to see her. That cracks immediately. They are so friends outside of the lair. She wants him to talk to Oliver. He wants her to know that “we don’t need a relationship counselor.” (Lies.) Felicity needs his help, and so does Oliver. And if Dig were really in trouble, Oliver would still come to his aid. But Dig doesn’t want those kinds of qualifications, and he needs to hear Oliver admit he was wrong from Oliver.

NEXT: Felicity goes undercover underground

Over in the world of high finance, Laurel is taking Oliver’s advice and trying to talk to Tommy, who’s now suit-deep in his father’s work. As she says, “You really look like your father.” Also: “You still love me!” Also: Can’t he let their relationship end, if it must, with honesty? Fine: Honestly, Oliver is still in love with Laurel. Aaand, Tommy has a meeting.

Under the cover of darkness, and zipped up in a nice red dress, Felicity heads to the casino with Oliver watching nearby. The plan is to count cards only well enough to get caught and then slip a bug onto Alonzo’s computer when he pulls her into his office to warn her off from cheating. What if he gives her a bullet instead of a warning? Oh, Felicity. Inside, she spots six guards, two pit bosses, and no slot machines. Oliver reminds her to stay focused. She reminds him that “it feels really good having you inside me.” She bumbles some more and he snaps at her, which seems a little ungenerous.

Malcolm and Moira are having a drink to celebrate the news that the Markhov device passed its final test that morning and is at that moment on its way into the city. She’s only sad that Robert isn’t there to celebrate as well. Malcolm apologizes for “taking him away” and they toast to their departed spouses.

In the next flashback, we see Robert confess Malcolm’s scheme to Moira. He’s been acting weirdly lately and she assumes that it’s a mistress. But actually it’s the fact that Malcolm is planning to destroy several whole city blocks. Why would Robert ever get involved in something like that? Oh, if only Moira knew about that one time Robert got into a fight with a city councilman and he fell and died. What? She’s horrified but sympathetic: Stopping Malcolm now would be true atonement for all of that.

At Alonzo’s Underground Casino Emporium, Felicity is on the verge of winning big. She goes all in with her mounds of chips and does win big, before a burly man in a suit pulls her into Alonzo’s office. She cleverly narrates her location to herself(/Oliver) and there’s some talk about the origin of the phrase “86ed.” Felicity has been “86ed” from the casino, which means banned and not killed. It also means that Alonzo has spotted the device in her ear with which she was talking to Oliver. But she manages to slip the bug onto his computer. Yay, Felicity! Boo, Felicity!

Alonzo makes a crack about her partner, to which she responds, “You’re going to be very upset when you meet my partner.” Glass shatters! Arrow arrives, knocking out a whole bunch of goons and then blowing Alonzo sideways after he holds Felicity at gunpoint. Where is Walter Steele? Dead, Alonzo says. “I heard the gun shot.”

NEXT: The Return of Walter

At Queen Manor, Thea and Moira are laughing(/bonding) over electronic clothes shopping. They’re using a tablet. It’s rectangular. Can you tell which brand? That’s for the best. Oliver walks in, eyes red, and tells them that he has some news: an FBI friend of Dig’s got word that Walter is dead. Thea is mortified. Moira is angry: Who did Dig talk to? Did they find the body? All good questions, Moira, but it’s preventing you from storming off to yell at Malcolm.

Anyway, before she can do that we see Robert and Mr. Chen in flashback, discussing how to thwart Malcolm’s plan for The Glades. They decide that a direct war would be folly. Why is it that Malcolm is so much more powerful and wealthy than all these other wealthy, powerful people? Instead, Robert has a better idea: They will quietly buy up the rest of the property in The Glades so that Malcolm will be unable to personally rebuild it after it’s destroyed — which will stop him from going through it in the first place. Pleased with this development, Robert also tells Mr. Chen that he’s sailing out on the Queen’s Gambit. Ollie sighting! He has bad hair and can’t break $100. Laurel sighting! She has better hair and a LSATs prep book. They talk about maybe moving into together. He says “let’s do it” but means “no way.”

Moira is finally able to storm into Malcolm’s office and confront him with her knowledge of his role in Walter’s death. He promised he wouldn’t kill Walter! Oh, but he hasn’t. He calls someone to “turn on the camera” showing that Walter is, in fact, alive. But if Revenge has taught us anything, it’s taught us that electronics are evil. Oliver, with a fancy electronic arrow of his own, listens in on Malcolm’s revelation — and from it, also realizes that his mother has been complicit all along.

Back in the lair, Felicity comes in still sad and finds Oliver there, all night presumably, still sad. She tries to share her grief, not knowing that he’s grieving something else entirely. Walter is alive, Felicity, and Oliver needs Malcolm’s phone records to find out where he’s being held. Felicity wants to know why they are digging into Malcolm Merlyn. Did she not know he was evil? Because we learned that, like, months ago. But that’s the thing about Arrow: The audience knows most everything about everyone but most everyone knows very little about anyone else.

Some quick high-tech sleuthing shows that Walter is being held in a tenement building in Blüdhaven, and instead of calling Nightwing, Oliver decides to parachute onto the roof and take out all the guards himself, a hooded specter of righteousness and betrayal. It’s pretty snazzy. Finally he finds Walter holed up in a cell, and with a quick click of his vigilante voice tells him, “You’re going home.”

NEXT: You get a reconciliation and you get a reconciliation!

In the hospital the next day, the Queen family piles onto Walter, just happy that he is alive. Walter even calls Oliver “son.” Felicity brings flowers! Who is Felicity again? “This is Felicity. She’s my friend.” (Oliver really should start hosting meet-and-greets.)

For our final flashback, we see Robert preparing to cast off with the ship. Moira has a bad feeling about it but Robert tells her that he loves her and Oliver comes up and spoils everything with his annoying hair(/face). He wants to go with his dad but he’s in school. Psych! Robert wants to bond with his son. Moira relents. Ollie spots Laurel pulling up by the dock, makes an excuse about needing to call Tommy, and then actually calls Laurel’s sister to make sure she doesn’t also pull up and so expose their affair. And then he tells Laurel a whole lot of lies about being glad that she came by to tell him goodbye, about not being freaked out by the apartment talk, and about being totally, completely fine. They kiss and then she’s gone.

One ominous phone call later and we learn that Mr. Chen has double-crossed Robert, planting a bomb on-board the ship. It’s been timed that so that they’ll also run into an approaching storm. Malcolm notes with relish that the whole thing will look like “an act of God.” (Callback!)

At the hospital in the present, Malcolm runs into Oliver and offers his relief that Walter was rescued and is recovering. The vigilante was involved? Oliver nods and fakes a traumatic indifference to mask his rage. It’s a neat cover-up. Laurel shows up next, having just heard the news on the news. Oliver sees her and is so sad. She says that Tommy told her about Oliver’s real feelings? Oliver doesn’t have the energy to keep up any more lies. Yes, he still loves her, yes. She’s shocked, and it’s a reaction sharp with feeling.

Finally, Oliver turns up at Dig’s apartment. Dig is hella annoyed but Oliver whisper-apologizes to him and then comes clean: “You were right and I was wrong” — about everything: Moira, Malcolm, that whole wild Undertaking. What’s coming next? The camera cuts to and zooms in on a truck, speeding toward the city. “They’re planning something terrible,” Oliver says. He doesn’t know what, but he does know one thing: “I need your help to stop them.”

And with that, we now head into Arrow’s final two episodes of the season. As a push to get several balls rolling, “The Undertaking” was fairly successful, I thought. And it was nice to see some larger developments have meaty emotional responses amongst our Starling City elite. Nuzhat will be back from the red carpet next week. Until then, be sure to maintain a healthy diet of scowling and betrayal. It makes you a better actor!

Follow Adam on Twitter

Episode Recaps

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
  • TV Show
  • 8
  • TV-14
  • 10/10/12
Complete Coverage
Available For Streaming On