Episode 303 “Corto Maltese”
[photos: Diyah Pera/The CW]
This week, with his emotions still reeling over the the death of Sara Lance, Oliver has finally had enough of the anonymous texting and decides to find Thea and bring her home. Diggle gets to do a little favor for Lyla along the way, and Felicity gets a few surprises. Plus, Laurel starts making moves like Jagger.
Plenty of intersections between threads this episode, so let’s start with the one that revolves around Felicity as she settles into her new position at Queen Consolidated — only she doesn’t really understand what the job entails. Certainly not fetching coffee. Ray Palmer realizes that she’s under the impression she’s going to be working as his assistant. Uhm, no. Actually, she gets her assistant (name check: Gerry Conway, who co-created Firestorm, Power Girl, Vixen and some Marvel characters…) and her own office — which happens to be Oliver’s old office.
Felicity is going to head up the newly reactivated R&D division. You know, that part of Queen Consolidated that Team Arrow blew up last season. Ray gives Felicity a drive to hack, and in the midst of finding out she’s a top-level corporate executive with a key to the special ladies room, she gets calls from all of Team Arrow’s members, looking for her to work her Hacker Magic.
So, she’s still Oracle. Just in a bigger office.
Felicity’s pinged Thea’s cell phone and found that she’s in Corto Maltese, an island off the coast of South America. So it’s time to retrieve the wayward one with Roy’s help. The back-and-forth about the bow not going on the plane… a nice little comedic bit. And Diggle finds that his days off aren’t exactly going to go as planned, because Lyla asks him to go down there and check on a contact that’s gone dark — Mark Shaw. Lyla doesn’t want to report him yet because of what Waller would do to him (our first Waller Warning of the night), and Diggle goes down with Team Abs (a sub-unit of Team Arrow) to track down Shaw and find out what’s what.
[Nitpicky detail: If Roy has never traveled before, there’s no way he’d be able to go to out of the country on such short notice. It takes somewhere around six weeks for the U.S. State Department to issue a passport. Just sayin’…]
Turns out, Shaw is angling to disappear from Waller’s radar. He’s ready to exit A.R.G.U.S. but he knows Waller will do Very Bad Things to him if he does (Waller Warning #2). So he’s stealing data on operatives and their families (“soft targets”) and selling the information to Mr. Armitage. This is the same Armitage who was trying to buy the earthquake machine last season (played by James Kidnie). More on Shaw and Armitage in a bit.
With Armitage showing up again, it’s clear he’s after high tech weaponry for some nefarious plot yet to be seen. Could it have something to do with Shaw’s motivation to get out from under Waller’s thumb? Could Armitage be tied in with some anti-A.R.G.U.S. organization… say, something like HIVE? Mentioned last season, never picked up. Chekhov’s Gun, people.
Thea’s story starts six months prior, when she gets into Malcolm’s limo. He takes her to Corto Maltese, where he begins her training. It’s a little Miyagi-san of him, but he starts with the hot wax to introduce Thea to the concept of pain being a part of everything life has to offer. Naturally, Thea’s not too keen on the idea, and Malcolm figures he has to start treating her like a student and not his daughter. That’s when the smackdowns begin, throwing Thea into the deep end and getting her started on a very angry track that leads to some pretty self-controlled moments when the boys show up.
Malcolm, of course, would be perfectly fine if Thea never went back to Starling City, but it’s clear that he’s ready to take it as an opportunity for something — maybe to get rid of Oliver once and for all? Maybe to get a certain someone off his back by giving him a new target? He tells Thea, “If someone knew where I was, it would be unfortunate for both of us.” He obviously means Ra’s Al Ghul.
Back home, Laurel gets her first taste of vigilantism, as she takes it upon herself to track down the dirtbag boyfriend of a fellow AA attendee. Since there are “no badges” inside the room because of the confidentiality, Captain Lance can’t do anything about it. Laurel, having all of her rage and anger issues, dons Sara’s black jacket and goes after the guy with a baseball bat, only to have the whole thing go south because she’s got no tactical sense, no experience, and no focus. It’s very much like Bruce Wayne’s first foray into Crime Alley in Batman: Year One, when he manages to get stabbed in the leg.
This is the crux of the episode: the introduction of Ted Grant. When we first meet him (blink and you miss him at the prize fight targeted by Vertigo two weeks ago), he’s at the Wild Cat Gym, and he gives an alibi for one of his students when Laurel comes in looking to bust some heads in her official capacity as Assistant District Attorney. But after some verbal sparring, Grant recognizes that Laurel’s got some rage issues to work off, and he offers to help her. It’s an offer she takes only after getting her clock cleaned and ending up in the hospital, where Dad Lance reminds her (inadvertently) that Sara’s dead, thus fueling the rage that Laurel knows is going to eat her up. When Oliver refuses to train her, in a scene that very much foreshadows their comic book future as a couple, she goes back to Grant to start her Black Canary arc.
Now, some may complain about Laurel’s failure to take on the Brutal Boyfriend in the alley, especially since she went at him with a baseball bat. Her beat down of two thugs at Gus Sabatoni’s strip club back in season one, has some Laurel-haters calling out the inconsistency. But consider: between now and then, her boyfriend died, the city’s been in flames twice, she’s gone through at least two addictions (that we know of), her sister dies, her father almost died, and she found out her ex-boyfriend is a vigilante. She’s not quite in the same emotional state as she was. I think the show has taken its time tearing Laurel apart in order to get us to this point, where she starts rebuilding from the ground up and creates a new life around her nights as the Black Canary.
The show appears to be hewing to the traditional post-Crisis New Earth history that has Dinah Laurel Lance (the second BC) training with Ted Grant, but this Ted Grant is obviously a product of the CW Network Standard Casting Manifesto — make ’em young and hot. I’m hoping that the picture of the boxer in the background is that of Ted Grant, Senior. I’m hoping that Ted Grant, Senior will take over Laurel’s training because he feels a little vigilante kinship with her. I’m hoping, but I also think it’s not going to happen, and that we’re stuck with Young Ted Grant, which just doesn’t work for me as well. I’d rather see someone like Kevin Bacon or Viggo Mortensen play an older boxer not quite past his prime. There’s too much potential for a romantic “will they or won’t they?” subplot.
The end of the episode has Felicity winging her way out to Central City, where she’s going to visit a friend who just woke up from a coma after being hit by lightning. And Oliver gets a surprise visit from Nyssa, setting up next week’s episode as we get more fallout from Sara’s death, all of which is leading up to the appearance of Ra’s Al Ghul in Starling City.
Plus, blink and you miss it: Ray Palmer looking over tech specs for weapons (including the rocket launcher Fryers had on the island), and in the bottom corner of the prints: OMAC.
Lots of them this week, and more that make me suspect the production team would really like to be making a Batman show instead of Green Arrow.
- Corto Maltese — first introduced by Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns, the island is named for a character created by Hugo Pratt in 1967. Miller first mentions the island in newscasts chronicling a revolution, an idea that was picked up in Tim Burton’s Batman. In that film, Vicky Vale had just returned from Corto Maltese with photos that ended up in Time.
- Mark Shaw — otherwise known as “Manhunter” for his time affiliated with the ancient androids created by the Guardians of Oa. After realizing the Manhunters were more vicious than just, he turned on them and adopted the identity “The Privateer”. In this guise, he served time as part of the Suicide Squad.
- Mia — Thea Queen’s alias hearkens back to Mia Dearden, who trained with Oliver to become the second sidekick to take on the Speedy name.
- Milo Armitage — already seen in the episode “Tremors”, Armitage eventually became the step-father to Connor Hawke, Oliver’s son.
- Ted Grant/Wildcat — member of the Justice Society along with Jay Garrick (Flash), Alan Todd (Green Lantern), and others. Grant was a boxer who taught Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary II) to fight after she took over the identity following her mother’s death. The revised back story for Grant is that he’s been the fight trainer for many DC heroes, including Batman.
- OMAC – a system designed by the Department of Defense to monitor and pacify metahuman activity. Using nanotechnology, the Checkmate organization created cyborg robots controlled through a satellite designed by Batman, always planning for the worst. When the system went haywire after Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord, the Brother Eye satellite took control of the OMAC cyborgs in order to combat out-of-control metahumans. This led to the Infinite Crisis event. OMAC has also been featured in animated projects.
Overall, a steady buildup to what’s at least going to be a blowout mid-season finale that (I’m predicting) will deliver Ra’s Al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn in a duel over the city just as Ray Palmer unveils the new Star City, complete with high-tech security systems. And that will likely lead to the back half, where we get OMAC, HIVE, A.R.G.U.S., and Amanda Waller all gunning for each other.
Gonna be a bumpy ride…