Arrow 2-03: “Broken Dolls”
We pick up right where last episode ended, with the Hood surrounded by heavily-armed police officers. Outnumbered, the Hood begins to lower his bow… and then Black Canary (Caity Lotz) crashes through the ceiling, whips out a hand-held sonic device that emits a glass-shattering high-pitched noise, and hustles the Hood to safety in all the resulting confusion before disappearing into the night.
On the mean streets of Starling City, Officer Quentin Lance chats amiably with a hotdog vendor. The vendor tries to slip him a free dog, but Lance insists on paying. He’s actually being uncharacteristically relaxed and gracious and friendly. It’s kind of like the fourth season of The Wire, when McNulty’s mental health and general demeanor improved immeasurably after he was busted down from a homicide detective to a beat cop.
This is the first and only time I will ever compare Arrow to The Wire. I promise.
Anyway, Lance chucks his uneaten hotdog and answers an emergency call: A young woman’s body has been found in a parking garage, dressed in a frilly outfit and made up to resemble a porcelain doll. Lance recognizes the work of Barton Mathis, a serial killer known as the Dollmaker, who murdered eight women before Lance arrested him six years ago. Mathis was serving a life sentence, but he escaped when Starling City’s prison was damaged in the earthquake. Lance wants in on the hunt to re-arrest him, but due to his demotion, his superiors won’t let him anywhere near the investigation.
Oliver, Felicity and Digg search for information about Black Canary. She’s been spotted around the Glades in recent weeks, attacking criminals who prey on women. Oliver gets huffy and territorial. “I’m not letting the city get overrun with vigilantes,” says the city’s vigilante-in-chief. Before Digg or Felicity have a change to call him out on his hypocrisy, Felicity gets a phone call from Lance, who’d like to talk to the Hood.
(By the way, somewhere along the line in this episode, Lance decides the Hood should henceforth be known as the Arrow, so let’s all follow his example, shall we?)
So Oliver, in his guise as the Arrow, meets with Lance to discuss Barton Mathis. Lance fears the overextended police department won’t be able to find Mathis, so he asks the Arrow for help. The Arrow and Lance team up to hunt down Mathis. Their scenes together are surprisingly good. Lots of quips and banter and snide remarks. It’s fun.
The Arrow and Lance interrogate Mathis’s lawyer, who explains that Mathis always had an obsession with Starling City’s Bisque Museum. I got briefly excited at the thought of a museum entirely devoted to soup, and then I realized he was talking about bisque porcelain. Big letdown. The Arrow and Lance locate Mathis’s hotel room by the museum, but by the time they arrive, Mathis has cleared out, leaving behind only a porcelain doll and a telephone. Mathis calls his former nemesis Lance and, while Lance listens in horror, suffocates a young woman by forcing a flexible polymer down her throat.
So a terrified young female character who never gets any dialogue apart from muffled screams is murdered onscreen in a lurid manner by a male character for the sole purpose of making another male character mad. You still have some way to go on those gender issues I’ve been harping on you about, Arrow. Mathis is the kind of stock serial killer who cackles, “Sick? I’ve never felt better!” at the implication he might be less than sane. Arrow isn’t smart enough or insightful enough to pull off a plotline about a serial killer who tortures and murders women without seeming sensationalistic and tawdry, and this plotline? Yep, it ends up being pretty sensationalistic and tawdry.
After the woman’s corpse is found, Lance and the Arrow steal a file containing the lab work from her autopsy. It seems this victim had something in common with one of Mathis’s previous nine victims: She used the same brand of fancy skin cream. Oliver: “Two victims with the same taste in skin creams. That can’t be a coincidence!”
God, Oliver. Really?
While Oliver is off making sweeping and improbable deductions that, defying all odds, will turn out to be right on the money, Roy Harper sets to work tracking down Black Canary, at the Arrow’s request. Roy accomplishes this by swiping half a case of champagne from Verdant (we later see a confused Thea on the phone discussing the loss with her vendor, never once suspecting the involvement of her fine-boned yet felonious boyfriend), which he then hocks to a shady dealer in exchange for information about the new vigilante. When Roy explains that he’s looking for a blonde woman in black leather, the dealer nods sagely and tells him, “Sounds like your type.” Roy elaborates: “And beats the crap out of guys with her bo staff?” Dealer: “That still sounds like your type.”
Hey! I think we just learned a fun new fact about Roy.
Back in the lab, Oliver and his team try to find out more about the fancy skin cream. Felicity: “It’s made of crushed mother-of-pearl, and it’s super high-end.” Er… those are two completely unrelated statements, right, Felicity? Because mother-of-pearl is, y’know, cheap. You want high-end skin cream? There’s skin cream made of real pearls. There’s skin cream made of gold. There’s skin cream made of diamonds. There’s skin cream made of baby foreskins. Mother-of-pearl? Pfft. You’re splashing in the skin-cream kiddie pool.
Theorizing that Mathis finds his victims through their purchases of the cream (it still seems like Oliver pulled that idea out of his ass, but it turns out to be exactly right, so let’s roll with it), the Arrow, Lance and Digg stake out all the stores that carry that particular brand, while Felicity offers herself up as bait. Felicity wanders around dark alleys, toting bags filled with fancy cream, until Mathis grabs her. The Arrow rescues her, but Mathis gets away.
In other news, Moira’s trial begins. Everyone’s shocked—shocked, I tell you!—when the district attorney announces his intention to seek the death penalty. Seriously, though, whatever your feelings on capital punishment, if you live in a state where the death penalty is legal, it can’t possibly come as a surprise when it’s invoked in a murder case where the defendant is accused of complicity in the deaths of five hundred and three people. Oliver promises his mother (who was, in fact, complicit in the deaths of five hundred and three people) he’ll do all he can to help her avoid this fate.
Island update: Leaving Shado behind in the plane wreckage they’ve been using as a hideout, Oliver and Slade venture out across the island to learn more about Shado’s attackers. They spot a large boat close to the shore. When the boat fires its cannons in the general direction of the plane, they hurry back to check on Shado. Stuff blows up all around them. Both get caught in an explosion; before losing consciousness, Oliver sees Slade clawing at his face, which is consumed in flames. Aw, man. One of the few things that relieves some of the tedium of these island scenes is looking at Slade. He’s got a nice face. Seems a shame to burn it off. Anyway, Oliver later regains consciousness to find himself alone in a cage, which is located on the boat.
Following the information he got from his dealer buddy, Roy tracks down a young woman named Sin, who is a known associate of Black Canary’s. Sin (The Killing’s Bex Taylor-Klaus) has spiky black hair, dresses in black leather, and wins my heart forever when she greets Roy by snarling, “Step down, Abercrombie.”
This, of course, is a callback to the introduction to Roy last season when a furious Thea makes a reference to his “Abercrombie face” after he swipes her purse, which itself was an in-joke about Colton Haynes’s pre-Arrow career as a lissome, doe-eyed, pouty, genetically-freakish Abercrombie & Fitch model. The below photo is most certainly not from his Bruce Weber-shot Abercrombie campaign—I have no idea where it comes from, or I’d provide the proper credit—but I’m posting it here for the adorability factor.
That’s not how you wear a sweater, honey.
When Roy asks Sin about Black Canary, she bolts. Roy chases her over fences and down alleyways and through parking lots and over the hoods of cars in a fun, joyous, dazzling sequence. It’s pretty great (all kinds of balletic leaps and twists and slides), and it goes a long ways toward reviving my flagging enthusiasm for Arrow.
Roy, the dumb bunny, chases Sin up into a clock tower, where Black Canary sneaks up behind him, bonks him over the head with her staff, and knocks him out cold.
Elsewhere, Barton Mathis kidnaps both Quentin and Laurel and takes them to an abandoned chemical plant, where he straps down Laurel and sticks tubes in her mouth and prepares to dump a liquid polymer down her throat to kill her, just to make Quentin really, really mad. Quentin pleads for him to release Laurel. Laurel sobs, terrified. Yep, this plotline’s still gross, y’all.
Black Canary and Sin tie up Roy and interrogate him: “Did they send you?” Black Canary asks enigmatically, right before whacking him across his face. “Not my face!” Roy yelps. “Not his face!” I yelp in unison.
Question: Does the awesomeness of this whole Black Canary-Sin-Roy plotline outweigh the half-assed grossness of the serial-killer plotline? Maybe not, but it’s close.
Mid-interrogation, Roy receives a panicked text from Thea about Laurel’s kidnapping. Black Canary sees the text, orders Sin to release Roy, and leaps off into the night to fight some crime.
The Arrow tracks down Barton Mathis at the chemical plant, just in time to prevent him from killing Laurel. The Arrow wants to turn Mathis over to the police, but Black Canary pops up and kills Mathis before disappearing again.
A traumatized Laurel breaks down and confesses to her father that her entire vendetta against the Hood (aka the Arrow) was a result of her misplaced guilt over her own culpability in Tommy’s death. Nice to see Laurel finally taking some responsibility for her actions.
Moira visits with her attorney, who seems pretty confident she’ll avoid the death penalty. Moira enigmatically alludes to Dark Secrets that she doesn’t want exposed at her trial: “There are some things that must never be spoken of.”
Back at the clock tower, a hooded figure—dressed identically to Malcolm Merlyn’s Dark Archer, in fact—approaches Black Canary. He removes his hood: It’s not Malcolm, but the visitor does drop this little bombshell: “Ra's al Ghul has ordered your return.”
Ho! That’s interesting!
Black Canary refuses to come quietly. When the man pulls a knife on her, she wrestles it away from him and kills him.
Okay! I wholeheartedly support Black Canary and Sin. They’re both cool and competent and fun, and the faint Xena-Gabrielle vibe I’m getting from their dynamic only makes them even more awesome. I also like the humbler and less crabby version of Quentin we see in this episode. There are still loads of problems with this show (and the serial killer plotline was a mess), but at the very least, this episode ended on a high note.