There’s a cool Mission: Impossible vibe about this one. Operating as a plainclothes team in an exotic locale, Oliver, Roy and Diggle find themselves embroiled in the espionage business. There are data hacks, double-crosses, shoot-outs and a liberal sprinkling of intelligence jargon, accentuating the latent Jason Bourne side of Arrow’s DNA (though Oliver concocting a bow from hotel furniture is pure MacGyver). The colour and sunlight of Corto Maltese manage to shake up the show’s palette and make a welcome respite from the grim environs of Starling. Roy’s reveal that he’s never been on a plane before is a nice character note, too.
Elsewhere it’s Vigilantism 101 for Laurel. Still not entirely sold on the idea of her inheriting Black Canary’s mantle but there’s decent dramatic mileage in showing her stumbles along the path to superhero status. There’s a distinct touch of Batman Year One as she pulls on a balaclava only to take a beating, and her admission that she took to the streets because “For one night I needed the world to be different” sounds heartfelt and credible, at least.
The isle of Corto Maltese is actually the creation of Laughin’ Frank Miller. It played a critical role in Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and was even referenced in Tim Burton’s first Batman movie (photojournalist Vicki Vale was covering the civil war there). The name was Miller’s homage to an Italian comic strip whose titular hero was a roguish sea captain adventuring in the early 20th Century.
Thea’s transformation from party girl to ninja may feel equally preposterous but the episode takes time to lay the emotional foundations for this leap. It builds and explores the dark, dysfunctional relationship between Malcolm and his daughter – neatly counterpointed by Lance’s protectiveness for Laurel – and the sight of him punching her in the face is genuinely jolting. Willa Holland acquits herself well in the final swordfight, too. Someone’s been stunt-training during the summer break…
So Oliver and Roy kick ass and flaunt their bowmanship unmasked and in broad daylight? In the deathless words of Sgt Wilson, “Do you think that’s wise, sir?”
Did You Spot
Boxing tutor Ted Grant joins Ray Palmer as the latest DC superhero smuggled into Arrow in secret identity mode. The comic book version is a much older figure, a veteran crimefighter named Wildcat (nodded to in the name of his TV counterpart’s gym). A member of the Justice Society of America on parallel world Earth 2, he shares creative DNA with Batman, being conceived by the Dark Knight’s co-creator Bill Finger.
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Mark Shaw is also taken from the DCU. He was the ’80s incarnation of Manhunter and has also recently popped up in the New 52 as a US Marshal on the trail of Wonder Woman’s nemesis the Cheetah.
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Felicity’s PA is a shout-out to longtime comic book writer Gerry Conway. Best known as the man who wrote Gwen Stacy’s death – an act that earned him the name Gerry “Killer” Conway among disgruntled Spidey fans – he wrote for Green Arrow during an eight-year stint on Justice League Of America.
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So did you clock the project name on the blueprints that Ray Palmer was eyeballing? OMAC was a futuristic character created by Jack Kirby in the ’70s, the name standing for One Man Army Corps. Current comics lore claims OMAC is an acronym for Omni Mind And Community, a cyborg army tasked with slaying anyone with superpowers. Is this a hint as to where Arrow’s heading? It would have been unimaginable in the first season but, as we’ve seen, the show’s slowly absorbing the more outlandish elements of the comic books – and with Barry Allen we have an authentically superpowered individual.
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD on Thursday nights, and in the US on the CW on Wednesday nights.