Arrow 2.03 "Broken Dolls" REVIEW

TV REVIEW: Blonde justice

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Arrow 2.03 "Broken Dolls" review

Episode 2.03
Writers: Marc Guggenheim & Keto Shimizu
Director: Glen Winter

THE ONE WHERE: An escaped serial killer called the Dollmaker stalks Starling City – and stirs some painful memories for Lance. Oliver encounters a mysterious new female vigilante while Moira potentially faces the death penalty for her part in the Glades disaster…

THE VERDICT: So here’s our first real introduction to Black Canary, a character who’s one of the key players of the Green Arrow mythos in the comics. Visually she’s just a little too close to China White – could be confusing for the show’s less attentive viewers – and her window-shattering sonic device is a drably credible replacement for the iconic Canary Cry, traditionally unleashed via her vocal cords (though in fairness there’s precedent for a tech-assisted replacement in the DC stuff). More crucially, this incarnation’s a vicious killer, and you wonder if she’s set for the same moral arc experienced by Oliver in Arrow ’s first year. Does the fact that Moira’s facing the possibility of a judicial death sentence also tie in with this? The series clearly wants to debate the ethics of taking a life in the name of justice, whether from a vigilante’s perspective or the court’s. It’s knotty, meaty material for a superhero show.

Barton Mathis makes for a flamboyantly creepy threat, taking the show into some grimmer territory than usual. The episode edges away from showing us the artistic results of his crimes, but the discreet, flash-cut images of the first crime scene are suitably unsettling. While the story riffs on modern serial killer cliches the climax reeks of pure ‘30s pulp cinema – the scene of Laurel lashed up in the lab of a crazed surgeon feels straight out of something like Mystery Of The Wax Museum , and there’s an equally purple touch to some of the dialogue (“The sound of an oesophagus slowly hardening, like a symphony!”).

Director Glen Winter delivers some good touches. Particularly liked the shot of Arrow’s silhouette breaking away from the shadows on a wall to confront Mathis’ lawyer. Some hand-held shots and sharp editing give impetus to the chase scene between Roy and Sin and it’s good to see some expansive shots of the island as Slade and Oliver ascend its cliffs.

Of course, it’s the mention of Ra’s al Ghul that drops like a bomb in this one. Sure, this is a show that’s stolen a lot from the Nolan Batman movies. But this? This is bold…

TRIVIA: First seen in Detective Comics Vol 2 No 1, Barton Mathis is a recent – and particularly unsettling – addition to Batman’s rogues’ gallery. The TV incarnation dials down some of the even more unsavoury elements of the character: there’s no mention of his cannibalistic backstory. Or, indeed, the fact that he wears his dead father’s face as a skin-mask.

DID YOU SPOT?: The Dollmaker takes refuge in the Metamorpho chemical factory, a nod to Metamorpho the Element Man, one of the most charmingly goofy DC superheroes of the Silver Age.

DID YOU SPOT 2: Moira’s defence attorney is Jean Loring – in the DCU she was married to the Atom and was later possessed by the villainous Eclipso.

DID YOU SPOT 3: Yet another reference to DC’s New 52 – that’s the number of the apartment where Mathis is staying.

DID YOU SPOT 4: The name of Mathis’ attorney is Tony Daniel – and that’s also the name of the DC writer/artist who created him…

Moira: “There’s not a lot of value in the power of positive thinking when you’re being put on trial for mass murder.”

Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD

Nick Setchfield
Editor-at-Large, SFX Magazine

Nick Setchfield is the Editor-at-Large for SFX Magazine, writing features, reviews, interviews, and more for the monthly issues. However, he is also a freelance journalist and author with Titan Books. His original novels are called The War in the Dark, and The Spider Dance. He's also written a book on James Bond called Mission Statements.