This week’s episode of Arrow, “Dead to Rights” wove an intense web of intrigue and deception as Moira’s plot to permanently remove the threat of Malcolm Merlyn went into action. In ordering Malcolm’s assassination, Moira unknowingly set off a chain of events that would put Ollie back into the line of fire against a number of his earlier Starling City antagonists.
I really have to give Arrow props for being able to weave so many character secrets and complex relationships into the assassination attempt without the plot getting too confusing. To break it down, Ollie’s mother, Moira, hired China White to kill Tommy’s father, Malcolm, because she believed it was the only way to keep her family safe. In turn, China White hired Guillermo Barrera and later, Floyd Lawton to assassinate Malcolm. Ollie had previously fought against China White, Floyd Lawton (who had killed Diggle’s brother) and Malcolm Merlyn as the Dark Archer. Ollie’s greatest nemesis at the moment is the Dark Archer, but he doesn’t realize that the Dark Archer is Malcolm, so he saved Malcolm’s life, which also meant that Ollie unknowingly spoiled his mother’s assassination plan. Malcolm Merlyn is pretty much willing to kill everything except for Tommy, while all Tommy ever wanted to do was live happily ever after with Ollie’s ex-girlfriend, Laurel. So, basically what we got was an action-packed, superhero soap opera.
Poor Tommy got a lot more than he bargained for in his night at the Starling City Appreciation Gala. Even though we already knew the violence that Malcolm was capable of, it was incredibly shocking to see him shoot one of his attackers without a moment’s hesitation. Tommy didn’t have time to dwell on what had just happened, but his reaction was exactly what I would have expected. Tommy could see that his father knew how to kill and while he was relieved to be safe, he also seemed terrified by the version of his father he was seeing for the first time that night.
I had never felt any sympathy for Malcolm before this episode, but those father-son moments made me worry that Malcolm was actually going to die at the hands of an assassin. I don’t know if I felt bad for Malcolm because his good intentions had become so twisted over the past 10 years, or if I felt bad for Malcolm because I felt bad for Tommy. I wanted to hate Malcolm for all his evil schemes and malicious plotting, but as he was desperately trying to keep Tommy safe, I wanted the two of them to get out OK.
As if one shock wasn’t enough, Ollie revealed his secret identity to Tommy because it was the only way that Tommy would accept Ollie’s help. To be honest, there was some relief in Ollie finally telling Tommy the truth. Ollie admitted that he never planned to tell Tommy, but the reveal let them address a secret that Tommy had been keeping since the very first episode – Tommy saw Ollie kill their kidnappers. Enough people know about Ollie’s vigilante identity at this point that there’s bound to be a security leak somewhere, but considering that Tommy never told a soul about what he saw the day that he and Ollie were kidnapped, I bet he’ll be able to keep this secret too.
Lawton was one of the more interesting villains that Ollie fought earlier this season. This story line brought him back into Ollie’s world in a very believable and threatening way. He didn’t get a ton of screen time, but I like that he was set up as an improved version of his former self. The news of Lawton’s return to Starling City was enough to renew Digg’s anxiety and anger, and I’m particularly interested in seeing how Digg will approach the Lawton threat in the future.
Just in case there wasn’t enough relationship-twister happening in this episode, we met Laurel’s mother, Dinah. For some reason, the way that Laurel and her father had talked about Laurel’s mother in the past, I had assumed that she had passed away, so I was caught off guard by Laurel’s caller-ID showing “Mom.” Since she obviously wasn’t getting through on the phone, Laurel’s mom decided to pop in and deliver a whammy of a message: Sarah might still be alive.
Overall, this was a really well done episode of Arrow that might have even passed for a season finale. The action was intense, the plot was complex but clear, and we were left with one heck of a cliffhanger. Even the lovey-dovey stuff never really slowed down the pacing and the casual flirty scenes actually felt like they had a purpose this time around. Without a doubt, these next couple of weeks waiting for a new episode of Arrow will seem like a very long time.