Episode 16: Dead to Rights
By: Carlos Uribe
Arrow is a show about the Green Arrow, a vigilante who seeks justice. It is based on the DC comic superhero Green Arrow.
The Undertaking is an attempt to clean up the Glades that might lead to the death of thousands. The people behind it are not good. There is Moira but she's trying to get out of it. Her plan is to kill the man in charge, Malcolm. She hires the Chinese triad to get this done. Malcolm isn't trying to kill people for no reason but because of what happened to his wife. It's been hinted that his family has been his primary motivator in his dark deeds when the show revealed he was the Dark Archer. He wants justice for what happened to his wife and he wants his son to live in a safe city. This is an episode that concentrates a lot of time on developing Malcolm and Tommy along with their father-son relationship. They really come out as more fully-formed and interesting characters as a consequence. Tommy has always had his fatherly issues but sharing his concerns with Oliver really helped to flesh them out. His development as well the world-shattering revelations he gets at the end basically help him become more than just a romantic obstacle between Laurel and Oliver. Malcolm is able to become more of a human being rather than just the super villain he's largely been presented as. Do we know that he cares about his son and misses his wife from the time he looked at their family portrait? Yes but having his first concern be Tommy's safety when he loses control of his world speaks so much volume about that love. In this action, Malcolm was able to prove that he really did love his son through his actions that made him human. Dead to Rights is an episode that really moves the plot forward but it's one that excels because of the significant character development towards Malcolm and Tommy. The episode did more than just develop them but show us how their relationship has been impacted by the other. Malcolm's thirst for revenge made him cold and negatively impacted his relationship with his son. Tommy has always felt that Oliver's dad was more like a father figure to him than Malcolm. He's held a lot of resentment towards his dad for that reason.
This character and relationship building is crucial for two reasons. The first is that it allows the big bad to be more than just a villain. It makes him more sympathetic which blurs the line between good and bad by a bit. He's become a more compelling villain as a consequence. We'll still root against him but at least we'll understand where he's coming from. The second is that Tommy is about to play a larger role in the narrative. He learns two shocking facts at the end of the episode. When the Chinese Triad attack, Malcolm is forced to reveal his fighting abilities to keep them safe. What's more significant is that he coldly kills one of them. Finding out that his father knows how to fight is one thing but having him kill another human being without hesitation? That's quite another. What's more is that Malcolm got pretty close to revealing himself as the Dark Archer before they get interrupted by Deadshot. Malcolm is getting close to trusting his son with who he really is. That's a huge shift in their relationship that only works because of the work this episode accomplished. Having Tommy getting involved in the undertaking would have been pretty significant but this episode goes farther than that. There's a point where Deadshot is able to shoot Malcolm with his curae-laced bullets. The only way to save Malcolm is for Oliver to perform a blood transfusion. Only he's dressed up as the Hood and Tommy doesn't think he can trust the vigilante. Oliver realizes that the only way to save the life of his best friend's father is to reveal his identity to Tommy. This is a huge risk that could potentially backfire on him later. Making matters more complicated is that he's forced to admit he never had the intention of telling Tommy the truth. Having Tommy know about his father is one thing but having him know about Oliver is a different one. That they happened in the same episode is a significant development and it's one that will for sure determine whether his loyalty is to his best friend or the father he just reconnected with. The conflict this will create should be good.
Dead to Rights had significant character developments and the narrative moved forward with revealing the truth to Tommy but it was also an exciting episode. It was basically a lot of build-up towards an awards ceremony where Malcolm was planning to accept a humanitarian of the year trophy. This ceremony was a way for him to try and reconnect with his son so it had personal stakes. It was also where the Chinese triad attack planned to take place. Making matters more complicated is that McKenna and Quentin decide to use the Hood's involvement in the case as a trap to try and catch him. This event happened to interrupt a date between McKenna and Oliver that simply added to the complexity of the plot. It also featured the return of Deadshot. He had survived his encounter with Oliver but lost an eye in the process. He now wears a red eye-patch thing that helps him aim. The build-up to the ceremony was pretty intense but the actual attack was a work of beauty. There were many elements at play and the show managed to juggle them all perfectly. The episode ended with Malcolm trusting his son but wanting revenge on the traitor. He doesn't know it's Moira yet which makes it likely she's going to pin the blame on that friend of hers. Diggle finds out that Deadshot is alive and he's not happy with this information. He's going to want justice for his brother. This makes sense as it provides his character with a motivation beyond just helping Oliver. It gives him a personal mission of his own. The final revelation is Laurel's mom coming back with the bombshell revelation that Sarah might still be alive. The flashbacks also gave Oliver and Slade a cliff-hanger when they learn about a significant anti-air missile launcher that the enemies on the island have. Add to that and Tommy's knowledge about his dad and Oliver and you get quite a doozy of an ending. Which is frustrating since the next episode is a few weeks away.
Without a doubt, Dead to Rights is the best episode Arrow has done to date. The complicated plot manages to remain accessible even as so many elements are now at play. The characters are getting fleshed out. The action is intense and there's never a dull moment in the episode. This was an episode that made me want to see what's going to happen next immediately with those multiple ending cliff-hangers. March 20th can't come soon enough.