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ARROW Undertakes to ‘Splain the Plan…



Episode 121 “The Undertaking”

[photos: Jack Rowand/CW]

In this episode: Easter eggs! And what a fun batch they are.

It’s flashback time. Time to scare up the back-story on everything going on in the Glades, that rundown cesspool of a blighted neighborhood where dogs run away from rats and the pavement is always wet and windows are broken and the very air stinks of vomit and sweat and tears…

A bit melodramatic? Yeah. But so’s this episode. Especially John Barrowman’s performance. It’s not nuanced in any way, and I think that diminishes what he’s trying to do. The idea that Malcolm Merlyn plans to destroy an entire neighborhood because it’s where his wife was killed… a bit over the top, sure, but this is a comic book show, so I’ll go with it. I mean, look at Bruce Wayne. Oh, wait. He’s not in this show.

But props to the writers for putting Blüdhaven in. I know we’ve seen it before, but only as the name on a building. This is now an official city in the show, where Walter is being kept prisoner by Malcolm. Oliver finally puts pieces together, figures out his mother’s involved, and his whole world pretty much comes crashing in on him.

The only other part of the present-day story that we get: John Diggle is still off on his own pouting, and Tommy tells Laurel how Oliver feels. Thus, giving up his own relationship with her because he knows he won’t be able to compete. This leaves Laurel with a big case of the weepies, because Oliver won’t deny it and let her go so she can have a relationship with pouty Tommy.

The bulk of this episode gives us the whole history of “The Undertaking” — really, writers, you need a Thesaurus for some of this — as a project originally designed to reduce crime in the Glades, which is apparently Starling City’s answer to Crime Alley. But the death of Malcolm’s wife sends him over the edge, and his plan is now to wipe the neighborhood off the map, killing thousands. This is something Robert Queen wants no part of, so he arranges to quietly take a little cruise on the Queen’s Gambit with the goal of heading to China to meet with money people, hoping to buy up enough of the Glades to foil Malcolm’s plan.

An interesting side note: apparently, Malcolm was buying property in the Glades for a while, so is his wife’s death a convenient excuse to accelerate his timetable? Or was her death just part of the elaborate plan to take over the Glades and have his own little fiefdom?

Now, waaaayy back when I put fingers to keyboard and opined about the pilot episode, I put forth the notion that Moira was going to be an interesting character if the writers handled her correctly. I’m not sure this does that. Seen here, Moira was an innocent bystander in all this until the bomb went off under the boat. So how involved was she, actually? Or did she feel the need to step into Robert Queen’s place and become ruthless and conniving just to spite Malcolm? Her betrayal of Frank Chen makes a little more sense, now that we know he’s the one who put the bomb on the Queen’s Gambit.

But I’m not sure I like Moira as the victim. She was much more interesting in the first episode, when it seemed she was the one running the whole conspiracy, when she was the Luthor type. As we’ve gone through the season, she’s developed into a much more reactive character, twisting around to adapt to circumstances as they befall her instead of being the one in control. That hard, tough woman in the first episode disappeared pretty quickly, and I think the show suffers for it.

At least she gets to be the one that mentions Ted Kord. And it’s not in passing. The dialogue would seem to indicate that Ted Kord actually exists in this universe, and at some point Robert Queen would have reason to interact with him. Thus, giving us the possibility (however remote) that Green Arrow could meet the Blue Beetle at some point. Maybe. Remember, Kord doesn’t have powers, and the mystical scarab was ret-conned into the BB story.

And we get to see Oliver and Laurel when they’re not being angsty and pouty and puffed up with “Oh, I can’t stand to look at you because I love you and I don’t want to love you because it would be too complicated and why do you have to be so hot and make me love you when I don’t want to love you but I do?” crap. Not to mention, the mention of Ray & Jean.

Yes, the Palmers. Opening the door to another possible character from the DC Universe making an appearance in the future, as Ray Palmer’s power comes from science! and not alien whatsis or some mutant gene or whatever. Especially since Ant Man is just around the corner, wouldn’t it make sense for the Atom to show up ahead of that and steal a little of Marvel’s thunder?

Nah. DC’s not that smart.

[Official Show Site at CW]     [Previous Recap: “Home Invasion”]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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