Episode 21: The Undertaking
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.
What is the Undertaking? This is an episode that seeks to provide light on what it is without actually revealing the specifics of the plan. The writers decided instead to concentrate on why the characters have decided to pursue it. We know that it began when Malcolm had lost his wife. His grief has led him into pretty dark places to the point where he formed a group of wealthy individuals who have lost something due to the crime in the Glades. He lost his wife, Frank Chen's daughter was raped, and Robert Queen lost his innocence. When Robert had tried to open a factory in the Glades, a local politician attempted to solicit a bribe from him. That's just how things worked in that part of the city. Robert had integrity so he refused him but this led into a fight where he accidentally killed the politician. It's his guilt that has led him to join the group because he was seeking penance. The group was formed with good intentions. They wanted to stop the crime in the Glades. They had formed the list so that they could use all of the dirty money into being used for good. An example is how they would find a criminal to donate money to the police force to upgrade their communications system. The idea was that crime would fall as the money made from it would go towards justice. It's a bold and pretty liberal plan but it ended up failing. The crime in the Glades wasn't going down but up. It was actually becoming more dangerous. Malcolm realized this and decided that he would have to take on Vietnam War tactics to accomplish their goal. In order to save the Glades, he felt they needed to destroy it. Obviously they couldn't just destroy it on their own because they would get caught and people would see them as monsters. Malcolm already thought of that: they're going to pin the destruction on a natural disaster. When Robert points out that Malcolm might have a god-complex doesn't actually mean he's a god, Malcom replies that there's a device that will be ready in five years that will allow them to do just that. So we know their motivation and we know what they plan to do. We just don't know what the natural disaster is going to be or what's supposed to happen after this device kills the residents of the Glades. We know the broad plan but not the specifics.
Once we know what the undertaking is done, we find out why Robert was killed off. He's been going along with this new undertaking but he has his concerns. Malcolm is seeking revenge but Robert is only trying to redeem himself. The two motivations are different which brings them into direct conflict. When Frank reveals that Malcolm has been buying up buildings in the Glades, Robert decides to buy the rest in order to delay the plan. I'm not entirely sure I follow this logic. If Robert owns the buildings, wouldn't Malcolm go forward with exploding the Glades since Robert is supposed to be on his side? It would make more sense for Robert to get someone else to buy up the buildings. This flawed plan requires a lot of money that he doesn't have. He might be wealthy but there are limits to his capitol. He needs to get investors so he goes to China to find some. He dies because he betrayed Malcolm without taking him seriously as a threat. It does make sense that he would give Oliver the list to try and fix the problems with the city. It doesn't make sense that he commits suicide without bothering to warn Oliver about the undertaking. He didn't even give him a vague warning that it was going to happen! I guess he figured there was nothing his son could do? It is confusing why he would set his son off on a quest for justice without telling him who the real bad guy is. I understand that they wrote this pilot before they probably figured out what the undertaking was but an explanation of some kind would have been nice. We now know the story behind the sinking of the Queen's Gambit and why they went on the path of the Undertaking. It's interesting how the show managed to break form and keep it at the same time. On one hand, there was a flashback but it went back before Oliver was shipwrecked on the island. The flashbacks up to this point have been going in chronological order so this was different. It used the flashback technique to develop the plot in the present. While Oliver's time on the island might have thematic connections to what's going on in the present, it's always been a seperate plot with little relevance to the modern-day plot developments.
The modern-day plot moved fast. It begun with Oliver getting the laptop of the accountant chosen by all the criminals in the city to control their money. It's a bit silly that there's only one accountant in the underworld industry but I guess he bumped his competition off. They manage to learn that this accountant had to process a payment of two million on the day that Walter disappeared. This set off alarm bells in the characters as they quickly connected the dots. They figure out that an owner of a casino had been hired to kidnap Walter. Oliver goes in as the Hood only to get some surprising information: Walter is dead! This turns out to be a lie but it's one that makes Oliver suspicious of his mother when she doesn't react in a way that makes sense. He follows her to Malcolm where he not only discovers her role in Walter's kidnapping but in the undertaking as well. He had decided she was innocent because she had used her family to protest her innocence but now he can't be in denial. He has to accept that his mother not only lied to him but is involved. His family loyalty and his mission as a vigilante are going to have to be at odds. The good news? The revelation that his mother can't be trusted leads him to realize that he needs friends. He needs Diggle to be on his back so he goes over to his apartment to apologize. The confrontation that we've been waiting for all season is building up but we're going to have to wait until next week to really see the fall-out. After all, he just rescued Walter. He's going to allow his family to have a happy reunion.
The Undertaking is a pretty great episode of Arrow. It uses the flashbacks in order to reveal what's going in the present. The threat of the Undertaking itself remains somewhat vague but we understand why it's happening and the general idea behind it. The flashbacks was also a nifty way to show the catalyst that begun Oliver's transformation from cheating party boy to cold-hearted vigilante. As for the modern plot, it was a pretty exciting episode to help free Walter while finally putting Oliver on the track of the Undertaking. Just in time too because the season only has two episodes left...and I can't wait to see how this conflict turns out. The momentum for the series is really starting to kick into gear as the Markov device enters the city.
In Laurel-Tommy-Oliver love triangle news, Laurel finds out Oliver is still in love with her. Yeah, with the undertaking, family feud, and Oliver having to repair his partnership with Diggle...I could care less at this point.