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Arrow Episode 16 - Dead to Rights (2013): TV Recap
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Oliver intercepts Guillermo Barrera, an assassin arriving in Starling City by helicopter. He kills the man before he could ask who his target is, so he brings his phone back to the arrowcave, where Diggle is training Felicity in some hand-to-hand combat. Everyone on the arrow squad needs to be able to handle themselves in a physical confrontation, right? (This reminds me a little of the time Smallville’s Lana Lang decided to take self-defense classes so there would be an excuse for her to be able to fight off bad guys when Clark wasn’t around. I guarantee Felicity is going to unrealistically take down a well-muscled dude at some point this season.) Unfortunately, the phone is encrypted, so it’s Felicity’s job to hack it and figure out who in Starling City is in danger.
Oliver and McKenna head over to Laurel’s apartment for Tommy’s birthday party. McKenna picks up a photo of Detective Lance and Sarah as a little girl. “I don’t know why my father bought her that canary,” Laurel says. Of course, that canary is black, a not-so-subtle reference to Laurel’s destiny to become the fishnetted Black Canary. The group assumes the knock at the door is dinner delivery (apparently, Laurel is a terrible cook), but it’s actually Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy’s estranged father. He has brought what appears to be a Tiffany’s box as a birthday gift for his son (apparently, Tommy loves jewelry!), and a request that Tommy attend a gala where Malcolm will be receiving a humanitarian award. Malcolm even offers to turn back on the flow of cash if he’s willing to come. Tommy doesn’t want or need his dad’s money, and declines on the spot. “You know what, Dad? Sometimes the people you want there the most aren’t. You taught me that.”
With Guillermo Barrera out of the way, China White needs to find another assassin, so she finds Deadshot, who was presumed dead back in episode 3. Deadshot declines, as his vision is impaired, thanks to one of Oliver’s arrows. China White has a solution for that problem, though: a cybernetic upgrade. Without even checking to see what the new eye does, Deadshot accepts the job.
Felicity is able to get the last number dialed off Barrera’s phone, which leads to Jade Dragon, a restaurant that serves as a front for the Chinese mafia. Oliver takes Tommy there for a birthday dinner under the pretense of cheering him up after his dad ruined the vibe of the party at Laurel’s place, but he really wants to get more info about the assassination that’s about to take place. Tommy tells Oliver that his dad left town for two years after his mom was murdered, and came back cold. This is obviously the time Malcolm spent learning to shoot a bow, but Tommy doesn’t realize that. The distance this created between Tommy and his father caused Tommy to spend so much time at Oliver’s house. That made Robert Queen more of a dad to Tommy than his own father. Oliver hates to burst Tommy’s bubble, but he tells him that his dad wasn’t perfect and that he still harbors a lot of anger towards him. Still he’d give anything to have him back. This conversation helps Tommy reconsider attending his father’s award ceremony. Oliver excuses himself to go to the restroom, but instead sneaks into the back where all the illicit dealings go down, and where they leave bottles of hot sauce next to the money-counting machines. He turns the light out, and squirts hot sauce in the eyes of one of the guys, interrogating him in Chinese. Oliver doesn’t learn the name of the assassin, but he does learn that the target is going to be hit the following night. Oliver slips back to his table unsuspected, because his perfect Chinese accent made the bad guys think it was another Chinese person who had broken into the back.
Despite knowing that an assassination will be taking place that night, Oliver plans a bare-bones picnic with McKenna at his unfinished nightclub, right above the arrowcave. Felicity is finally able to crack the encryption on Guillermo’s phone, and discovers that his target was supposed to be Malcolm Merlyn. Of course, that means Deadshot’s target must also be Malcolm Merlyn, so Oliver shuttles McKenna off and heads to the awards ceremony in his leather togs instead of a tuxedo. McKenna handles the broken date extremely well, but as time goes on, she is going to be more and more likely to become upset when Oliver leaves.
At the awards ceremony, China White’s thugs have taken the place of the wait staff. They set of the fire alarm during Merlyn’s speech, and try to scare him outside where Deadshot can snipe him. Merlyn sees a waiter taking out an innocent rich person, and can tell something is up. He refuses to head outside without securing his son first, so he finds Tommy and guides him upstairs towards the panic room in his office. When Deadshot realizes he’s not taking the bait, he repositions himself so he can shoot into Merlyn’s office. As Merlyn and Tommy head to safety, Oliver arrives to give them some cover. Although Oliver has their backs, he can’t stop the thugs coming from the front. Tommy sees two waiters with guns and surely thinks they are dead, but Malcolm does some sweet kung fu moves to disarm the bad guys, and shoots one of them in the head. Once in the office, Tommy voices his obvious concerns. “How did you know how to do that? Fight? Kill?” Merlyn doesn’t answer, but does open up his panic room… which contains all of his “Black Arrow” gear. It certainly looks like Merlyn is ready to reveal a big secret to Tommy just to keep him safe, but Deadshot sends an explosive towards the bulletproof windows of the office, knocking Tommy and Merlyn down and causing the door to the panic room to close without anyone safely inside. Switching to his trademark curare-laced bullets, Deadshot uses the hole in the office to shoot Malcolm. Though he’s wearing a bulletproof vest, one bullet gets through, and the deadly poison takes effect.
Oliver enters the room planning to help, but Tommy pulls a gun on him. Oliver tells him he just wants to help, that his father needs a blood transfusion to dilute the poison, and that he has to do it quickly or his father will die before any other help can arrive. “Why should I trust you?” Tommy asks. It’s a good question, because Oliver’s plan is obviously stupid. The curare poison affected Malcolm immediately, causing him to pass out. How much could diluting the poison do when it has already taken effect? And how much could Tommy dilute his father’s blood anyway? Assuming they both have about six liters of blood in them, a little more than average, Tommy could give up two liters of his own blood and only dilute the poison by 33%, putting himself at risk of death from blood loss. Surely he didn’t give up that much blood the whole time they were hooked up, but almost immediately after blood starting reaching Merlyn’s veins, he woke up enough to speak. The writers clearly did not put a lot of thought into the solution to this problem.
Even worse, in response to Tommy’s question of why he should trust the vigilante, Oliver decides to say, “Because you always have,” and remove his hood. Instead of revealing his secret identity, he could have just told Tommy, “Fine, let your dad die, then,” and see if he took action. Or maybe do some sweet ninja moves and knock Tommy out. He doesn’t need to be conscious to donate blood! I was disappointed in this whole scenario for how ridiculous it was. Certainly, it was not as satisfying as the episode in which Pete Ross learns Clark’s secret on Smallville.
As the police get the Merlyns out of the building, Detective Lance wonders why the vigilante would be taking down all the other one-percenters, but saved Tommy and Oliver from kidnappers and now saved Tommy and his father. Could the vigilante be someone he knows? Tommy claims to have no idea, passing his first test of loyalty after learning Oliver’s secret. But Lance brings up a good point: if Malcolm Merlyn’s name is in his father’s book, wouldn’t he have been better off just letting him be poisoned? I think his chat with Tommy about their fathers might have caused him some bias here, just like when he told Diggle that his mother was off limits.
Oliver has the unpleasant task of telling Diggle that the man that murdered his brother is still alive, which visibly upsets him. This could cause a problem for the team if Diggle decides to make hunting down Deadshot a priority over hunting down other names in Oliver’s book.
From the hospital, Malcolm assigns Moira the task of hunting down the traitor in their group. This puts plenty of pressure on Moira, since she was the one who hired China White to take out Malcolm in the first place. My guess is she scapegoats Frank Chen, who put her in touch with the Triad, to save her own skin.
Outside the hospital room, Tommy thanks Oliver for saving his dad and realizes that he saw Oliver kill the men that kidnapped them in the first episode. This is something I wondered about, figuring that Tommy might turn out to be the Merlyn who becomes Oliver’s nemesis. It looked like a sly maneuver at the time, potentially giving Tommy the key to Oliver’s secret identity, but it turned out to be just a benign glance. Tommy wants to know if Oliver was ever going to tell him about this, and Oliver honestly answers, “No.” Of course he wasn’t going to tell Tommy! That would put Tommy in danger and potentially blow his cover! But Tommy doesn’t see it that way. To him it’s just a secret that friends should share, and it destroys his trust in Oliver. He’s taking the “C’mon, I’d tell you if I had a secret identity” position, and storms off.
Finally, Laurel is about to leave her apartment and finds her mother standing outside her door. This is the woman who abandoned her and her father after Sarah died, so Laurel wants to have nothing to do with her, but she has some surprising news. “It’s about Sarah. I think she may be alive.” And why shouldn’t she be? I mean, Oliver made it back after being gone for five years. All it took for him to return was to escape an army of evil soldiers and hone himself into a living weapon. Why not let Sarah, who was swallowed by the ocean, come back too? That would sure go a long way towards letting Oliver and Laurel eventually reconcile. Or maybe Oliver and Sarah could start hooking up again?
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm Eastern on CW. Dead to Rights originally aired 2/27/13.