I don’t know about you guys, but one part of the standard superhero narrative that I could stand to see less of is the secret-identity shenanigans. There are only so many variations you can put on the old “I need to be in two different places as two different people at the same time, oh no” dilemma, and Three’s Company alone used up half of them. So while I wasn’t too wild about Arrow’s latest foray into that territory, I liked the low-key way it went about resolving it.
This week it’s Oliver’s mother’s turn to get all up in his face about his frequent exits, specifically from a brunch she’s set up with an old friend and her successful doctor son (seriously, this show could not be WASPier if it tried). But while it indulged in a tiresome “You’re letting me down all the time” speech, the episode resolved that subplot in a sweet way: Oliver and his mom admit their respective failings – he’s unreliable, she’s lonely and lashing out – over a late-night burger, finding a new level where he can spend more time with his mom and she doesn’t act like a grown man has to be at her beck and call. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of people chewing out Oliver for his superhero-related tardiness, but hey, Tommy Merlyn hasn’t had his turn yet.
And it’s Tommy who comes roaring back into focus after two episodes offscreen, trying to get into Laurel’s good graces by demonstrating his ability to not be a smarmy douche. Being Tommy, of course, he’s not very good at it. So he seeks Thea’s advice, which turns out to be both a great and terrible idea. Great because she gives him a good tip: take an interest in the girl’s passions, which he does by throwing Laurel’s legal clinic a fundraiser. Terrible in that it inadvertently stokes Thea’s heretofore unseen crush on Tommy, and she is none too pleased to find out who the true object of his affections is.
A side note here: Laurel Lance is starting to come off as kind of a jerk, and self-righteous one at that. It’s not enough for her to constantly flip-flop between yelling at Oliver for his faults and pining after him, now she almost rejects Tommy’s offer of help because he (gasp!) wants to impress her and calls the aforementioned doctor an ass for… being a little boastful? Laurel continues to be a problematic character, and I would really prefer that Arrow’s main female characters not be limited to a scold, a party girl, and an ice queen.
Anyway, if I may finally get to the main plot of the episode, some bank robbers are tearing up the town, and Diggle wants his boss to take a hand in stopping this nefarious Royal Flush gang. Oliver initially refuses, preferring to stay on mission, but Diggle stacks the deck by bringing him face to face with the police officer who was wounded in their latest robbery. Since Oliver can never say no to a righteous speech, he takes the case.
In the gang themselves, Arrow finds what it’s been missing in its villains all along: actual characters! Thin characters, yes, and more or less bound by cliché – they’re a family of thieves looking for one last big score before they get out, and trying to keep their violent hothead in check – but characters nonetheless. Oliver even finds himself sympathizing with his quarry when he discovers that their thieving ways began after the patriarch was left high and dry when the Queen corporation outsourced his job.
The actual detective work part of this storyline includes some pretty laughable sequences, especially when Oliver sneaks into a bizarrely deserted police headquarters, through an open window, and downloads some photo evidence without being seen in his bright green outfit. Or when he eavesdrops on the gang’s plans as they spell out in the clearest possible terms their situation, motivations, and feelings. But then, isn’t it appropriate that a show about a marksman has such on-the-nose dialogue?
The flashbacks, meanwhile, don’t add all that much. A starving Oliver hallucinates that his dad shows up and berates him for being a sissy, and that’s basically it. Then he discovers that his journal was written in invisible ink that shows up in heat, like when you were in fourth grade and wrote secret messages to yourself with lemon juice and a toothpick. I’m not sure that the journal needed an origin story, and I’m definitely sure we didn’t need more people berating Oliver for everything under the sun. But we get our weekly affirmation that yep, being stranded on a deserted island sure does suck.
Eventually, Oliver faces down the Royal Flush gang on their last job, and Daddy King throws himself in front of a guard’s shotgun blast meant for Ace (meanwhile, Queen and Jack, who were waiting in the getaway car… drive away? Get arrested? The show kind of forgot about them, I think). Diggle congratulates Oliver for doing some good, Laurel thanks Tommy for being a nice guy and hauling a drunk and angry Thea home from the party, and Oliver and Mom have a burger. And the cop comes out of his coma, so everybody wins! Except for the rest of the people put out of business by the Queens, the ones who didn’t get enough attention via bank robbery to merit a token job offer. Them’s the breaks.
There were a couple of interesting thematic ideas brought up in “Legacies” as well, but they weren’t really expanded on beyond that. Early on, Oliver says “I’m not a hero,” and that’s a startling and fresh perspective on a superhero show. It’s certainly a concept worth exploring… eventually, I guess. And at times it seemed as if the relationship between King and Ten was meant to mirror that of Oliver and his father, but again, it wasn’t developed much, and King and Ten weren’t really fleshed out enough to give the idea more weight. Still, those are some intriguing themes that Arrow would do well to return to. Preferably sooner rather than later.
Next week: China White returns for some good old-fashioned mob warfare. And possibly the Huntress! Although I’m not sure Starling City can handle that many arrow-based vigilantes at one time. Better stock up on tetanus shots, and reschedule the vampire convention just in case.