Arrow recap: 'Corto Maltese'
Team Arrow travels to Corto Maltese to bring Thea home.
Arrow had quite a few balls in the air tonight. In addition to Oliver, Roy, and Diggle’s trip to Corto Maltese to bring Thea back and track down a missing a A.R.G.U.S. agent, there was also movement forward with Laurel’s storyline and Felicity and Ray’s new working relationship. With so much going on in tonight’s episode, it’s should come as no surprise that some things didn’t work as well as others. But that’s okay because while the A.R.G.U.S. plotline felt rushed and rather underwhelming, the episode took its time developing Laurel’s subplot, which was both compelling and poignant.
FLASHBACK — Thea and Malcolm
Last season was tough on Thea. Not only did her mother die, but she found out that her brother, Oliver, and her boyfriend, Roy, were constantly lying to her and keeping secrets from her. This is where her mind’s at in the opening scene, a flashback to her getting into Malcolm Merlyn’s limo the day after Slade’s siege on Starling City. Thea tells Merlyn that she wants to go away with him because she believes he’s the one who can teach her how to never feel this kind of pain again—the pain that comes with betrayal and loss.
Later, we are shown Thea’s first day of training under Malcolm’s tutelage. Her first lesson: learning that while pain may be inevitable, suffering from it is optional. Malcolm demonstrates this truth by pouring boiling water on his hand without flinching. To Thea’s horror, he then takes her hand and proceeds to pour hot water on it.
Thea and Malcolm have their first real father-daughter moment when Malcolm takes her in his arms after Thea becomes discouraged from not being able to handle the boiling water. Unfortunately, the moment is ruined when Malcolm says it isn’t her fault, but his. All this time he’s been trying to train her as his daughter, but for her to actually learn, he needs to treat her like his student. He then starts attacking her. Thea pulls out a nearby sword and commands the son of a bitch—her words—to stay away. Like when she pulled a gun on him in the second seasons finale, Malcolm’s proud of his little girl.
After several leads relating to Sara’s murder don’t pan out, Oliver decides to take a break, and to instead focus his efforts on bringing Thea home. Felicity tracked her phone to Corto Maltese. Initially, Roy thinks it might not be a good idea to go after Thea because of the letter, but Oliver says that letter was addressed to Roy and not him. Watching Laurel grieve for her sister has made Oliver want to see his sister even more. Feeling responsible for Thea running away in the first place, Roy says he’s going to go with him and moves to pick up his gear, but Oliver’s like, “What are you doing? You can’t travel with that.”
Oliver’s decision to go to Corto Maltese is good news for Diggle because it means he now has a few days off from Team Arrow to play with his baby girl. Unfortunately, Lyla asks Diggle to accompany Oliver to Corto Maltese to check up on Mark Shaw, an A.R.G.U.S. agent who’s stationed there, but hasn’t checked in for days. Before sounding the alarm, Lyla wants to make sure Shaw isn’t just drunk in a villa somewhere.
NEXT: Family reunion
As soon as they arrive in Corto Maltese, Oliver heads off in search of Thea. Felicity tracked her phone to a huge house. When he gets to the house, he starts knocking on the door and yelling Thea’s name. A gardener comes up behind him and figures out he’s Mia’s—the name Thea is using on the island—brother from their resemblance and tells him she’s working at the café. It’s lucky the gardener arrived when he did because Malcolm Merlyn was waiting on the other side of the door with bow and arrow at the ready.
Oliver does indeed find Thea working at the local café, and the two share a rather understated reunion. Sitting down to talk, Thea apologizes for lying about her whereabouts, but says she just needed some space. From Oliver’s demeanor, she deduces that this isn’t just a visit and that he’s there to take her home. Oliver pulls out two plane tickets and implores her to come home because he misses her. Thea, however, does not intend to return to Starling City. It seems as though Malcolm chose not to tell Thea about Oliver’s night-job, which is surprising.
Following his meeting with Thea, Oliver decides to help Diggle out with his mission to find Mark Shaw because, as he says, he has no idea how to vacation like a normal person; the real reason is probably that he needs a distraction from his reunion with Thea because it didn’t go as planned. They eventually find Mark Shaw, who’s been on the DL since someone hacked into A.R.G.U.S. and stole the A.R.G.U.S. actuals—an encrypted and complete record of every A.R.G.U.S operative as well as affiliated “soft targets,” meaning family members—and is trying to sell it.
Unfortunately, Shaw’s not being very truthful. See, he’s the one who stole the files and went silent in order to lure an A.R.G.U.S. agent, or in this case an agent by association, with a security transcoder to Corto Maltese because he needs it to decrypt the stolen files. Diggle figures out Shaw’s plan too late, and Shaw tasers him and steals the security transcoder.
Meanwhile, Roy pays Thea a visit to try to convince her to come home, but, like Ollie, he fails. As it stands now, Thea and Roy have a long journey ahead of them if they ever hope to get back together. It’s clear Thea still cares about him, but she can’t trust him.
After Roy’s failed attempt at convincing Thea to come home, Oliver decides to come clean to Thea about everything. Ever the voice of reason, Diggle advises Oliver against doing that because rather than endearing himself to her, he’ll push her away because she won’t be able to get over the fact that this person she loves pathologically lied to her for two years. But seeing no other option since he lost her, Oliver decides to go through with his plan anyway.
In his ensuing conversation with Thea, Oliver doesn’t actually tell her “everything.” Instead, Oliver tells her about Robert Queen’s final act of love for his children: He tells her how Robert made it off the Queen’s Gambit and into the life boat, and, because there wasn’t enough food, took his own life to ensure Ollie’s survival. Oliver chose this story to tell Thea this story because he wanted to show how much their parents sacrificed for them to live, and not being together is like not being alive. Unaware of his double life, Thea might not realize how big of a deal it is for Oliver to admit that he needs her.
Unfortunately, the full impact of the moment is not felt because the episode then quickly, and jarringly, cuts to Roy, Diggle, and Oliver staking out the location where Shaw is set to meet his buyer. Lyla told them to wait for A.R.G.U.S. backup to arrive, but they ignored her out of fear they wouldn’t arrive in time, and they were right. Team Arrow is about to break-up the sale, but an army hired by Shaw to secure the perimeter shows up and tries to take them out. Luckily, before coming out there, Oliver embraced his inner DIY-er and made bows and arrows for himself and Roy out of materials found in their hotel room.
In another beautifully executed action sequence, Oliver uses a gun with John Reese-like precision to take out the army, allowing Diggle to go after Shaw. Diggle apprehends Shaw, who explains that he was selling the information to get out from Amanda Waller’s control. Diggle chooses to knock him out.
NEXT: Laurel has rage issues
Following Oliver’s confession, Thea tells Malcolm that she’s going home. Viewing this as a sign of weakness, Malcolm says he was wrong and that she hadn’t come as far as he thought because she’s willing to return with Oliver. To prove herself, Thea challenges Malcolm to a sword fight, and in the episode’s second well-executed fight sequences, shows him—and us—all she’s learned in the past few months. Thea wins, but only because Malcolm let her. As she’s leaving, he promises he’ll see her soon.
Later at the airport, Thea shows up right as Oliver’s starting to lose hope. As she sits down next to him in the terminal, a man spills hot coffee on her, but she doesn’t flinch. Happy to have his sister back, Oliver doesn’t give her lack of a reaction much thought, and they all head home.
Felicity and Ray Palmer get their flirting on: While the boys were having fun in Corto Maltese, Felicity was back in Starling City starting her new job at Queen Consolidated. Before starting, Felicity lays out some ground rules for Ray: no late-night emails, no personal errands, and no coffee fetching. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s not there as Ray’s assistant. In fact, she has her own executive assistant and her office is Oliver/Moira’s old office. As to be expected, Emily Betts Rickard’s scenes with Brandon Routh are incredibly enjoyable as she has chemistry with literally anyone she’s in a scene with.
Felicity’s first task is to recover files off of a Queen Consolidated Applied Sciences hard drive that was damaged when Team Arrow blew up the factory last season to stop Slade from using their tech. Because she’s Felicity and awesome at everything, she’s able to recover the files even though many techs said it was impossible. Following the completion of her task, Felicity asks to have a couple days off to visit her friend who just woke up from a coma after being struck by lightning and Ray says yes. After she leaves the office, Ray sits down to go through the recovered files and has a worried look on his face as he’s looking at specs for various kinds of weapons.
Laurel’s journey starts: This week saw Laurel step even closer to assuming the Black Canary mantle. Since Sara died, Laurel’s been having a hard dealing with her rage. Like Roy, the Huntress, Thea, and Malcolm Merlyn, Laurel is seeking a way to channel all of this pain and anger. And newcomer Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez), who she visits early on in the episode as part of a case she’s working, recognizes the rage she feels and suggests that he can help her channel it by teaching her how to fight, as he has done with the at risk youth in the area. She turns him down. (I could complain about how Ted Grant has been CW-ed—young and aesthetically pleasing—but that’s a small complaint in an otherwise strong storyline).
Later, Laurel attends an AA meeting, hears a fellow alcoholic talk about her abusive boyfriend, and decides to exact some justice. She has Felicity track the boyfriend down and confronts him with a baseball bat. Although it’s very similar to what the show did with Roy last season, it works better because it’s been a long time coming for Laurel and her reasoning for wanting to fight crime makes more sense than Roy’s. Not only is it a way to make up for when the world fails to hold bad people accountable, it’s also a way for her to stay close to her sister. Anyway, the encounter does not go well and the boyfriend puts Laurel in the hospital. When Quentin shows up, she explains how angry the world makes her because bad people escape punishment.
Ignoring her father’s wishes, she pays Ollie a visit when he returns to Starling and asks him to train her, but he refuses because not only would it kill Quentin if something were to happen to her, but also because Sara would never forgive him if she was alive. This leads Laurel back to Ted Grant’s gym, where she decide to take him up on his offer.
The episode ends with Roy and Oliver in the lair talking about how Thea’s changed in the past five months. Their conversation, however, is cut short by Nyssa ‘Al Ghul, who shows up demanding to know where Sara is.