Whoa, was that epic or what?  When I heard that Geoff Johns was writing a solo episode for Arrow my mind instantly went back to one of my all time favorite Smallville episodes, “Absolute Justice.”  I knew this guy could do something big, and boy did he.

This is what I’ve always believed “Arrow” is capable of, going all out with a mini movie of the week to deliver us something thrilling.  Not only was it exciting and emotional, but we have a game changer!  Granted I know doing episodes like this each and every week is impossible, but the last several weeks with the poorly developed villain plots, stagnant character stories, and all in all lackluster pacing had me a bit worried the show was losing it’s grip.  My faith is restored.

First of all, the episode made me care about the Merlyns!  I never thought this would be possible.  John Barrowman is a great actor, but that charisma has been reduced recently to dull backdoor meetings with Moira or him being an ass to Tommy, who himself has been nothing but wallpaper.  The real star of this episode was Colin Donnell, and FINALLY Tommy’s character has been brought to life.  We waited sixteen episodes for his big coming out party, and now all that time invested with this poor sap might actually end up meaning something.

Am I crazy to say that I’m happy the Merlyns reconciled?  I can easily raise questions about Malcolm’s sudden change of heart regarding Tommy, but I won’t because the scenes with them together were too good.  I was already swept up when Malcolm instantly searched for Tommy after the ruckus broke out, concerned for his safety and ready to save him.  That shot of Malcolm anxiously opening the panic room, seeing the dark archer outfit from the inside POV (great directing there by Glen Winter), all ready to tell Tommy about his secret identity and plans before being wounded by Deadshot, is what’s imprinted in my mind the most.  Malcolm was feeling pride!  He so needs his son to be by his side at this moment, and Tommy delivered even when they were tragically interrupted.  At this point, I was rooting for Oliver to save Malcolm, when at the beginning of the episode I wanted him dead.

And poor Tommy!  He got a couple of blows this week, didn’t he?  We got more character development out of him with that one dewy eyed look at his dad during his speech than we did all season!  He was there because of Oliver’s advice that having a crap dad around is better than no dad at all, but it was the speech that truly made him realize that.  If Tommy’s reaction wasn’t enough, Moira’s sympathetic stares at the younger Merlyn, knowing that his father was about to be whacked thanks to her contract, that was icing on this already delicious cake.

I have been glossing over the BIG moment though, haven’t I?  Oliver revealed his true identity to Tommy!  He had to, since Tommy was pointing a gun at him and there was no time to waste in order to save Malcolm’s life from the poison bullet. Tommy had the right to be on edge, since he just found out that both his dad and his best friend had been hiding things from him.  He was already floored by watching his Dad taking out those two gunmen with some mad fighting skills.  Then finding out Oliver is The Hood?   It was a lot of absorb.   I often wondered how this moment would go down and wasn’t disappointed.  Tommy was heartbroken.  He wasn’t outlandishly bitter or angry, just passively crushed.  I commend Colin Donnell for selling that reaction so perfectly.  He let Oliver do the blood transfusion, calmly asking a few questions before agreeing with Oliver the timing wasn’t right.  Within a flash Oliver was gone, and Tommy had some choices to make.

His first choice, he didn’t give up Oliver to the police.  He claimed he didn’t know who the vigilante was (when does he get to be called The Green Arrow?).  Then in the hospital he was by his dad’s side, pledging his loyalty to him.  I honestly didn’t think these two would ever make me teary, but they did.  Oh but then Oliver showed up, and Tommy asked the best question ever.  “Were you ever going to tell me?”  Oliver gave the honest answer, even if it did hurt.  “No.”  Tommy walked away.  Oh yes, his world is as he knows it is over.

What I love about this entire structure is the character ambiguity.  Who are the real heroes and villains here?  I think everyone in their own minds believe they’re being the hero instead of the villain.  Moira certainly thought she was doing the right thing by hiring the Triad to kill Malcolm, yet Oliver went to huge lengths to protect him because he thought it was wrong.  If Oliver knew of Malcolm’s plans, would he have intervened, or tried to kill Malcolm himself?  Malcolm thinks he’s being the hero, the question is, how misguided is his plan?  We don’t know enough, but this week doubt was raised in my mind that Malcolm’s intent is bad.  That’s not to say next episode we find out he is truly deranged, but I’m going into a break with some apprehensions.

What helped the villain of the week plot this week is we already knew these villains.  There was no need for backstory and getting to know the diabolical plot.  They were there to kill.  That’s what they do.  Enough said.  There’s always a great advantage to bringing in The Triad.  That means China White is around, and the potential for action scenes suddenly notches up to the high bar.  We weren’t disappointed this week.  Her fight was Oliver was far better than their first meeting, and thanks to McKenna’s well timed interference, China lives on to have more big fights with The Hood.

On top of this, don’t Digg and Felicity make a dreamy team?  No, not that way, he’s like a Dad to her.  But their enthusiasm in their geekiness is so fun to watch.  I’m very happy to know she’s gonna be part of the team next season (spoiler alert!).  Digg didn’t take the news very well that Deadshot is alive, so perhaps someone like Felicity can help pull in that burning quest for vengeance.  That’s what a team does, help one another.

Alas, this show is going on a three week break.  Tommy’s heartache is good, but it’s not enough.  I guess we needed another “gotcha.”  How about Alex Kingston?  I haven’t seen her in anything since ER.  She’s Laurel’s mother?  She’s been in touch?  Sarah might be alive??  Yeah, it kind of figures they would go there.  I’m just surprised it’s so soon, especially with all this Merlyn drama finally coming to fruition. Anyone think, especially with Laurel talking about Sarah’s canary, that Sarah ends up being The Black Canary?  Nah, probably not.   Ah well, we have our “dun, duh, dun!” for the episode and we’ll keep it in mind for next time.

As you can tell, this episode was happiness all over.  You know what made it even better?  There wasn’t a Thea moment in sight.  She wasn’t there at all.  Talk about great things happening all at once.

I do have one nitpick.  The show’s greatest strength, the island flashbacks, turned out to be the greatest weakness this week.  They really weren’t needed in this busy story and didn’t reveal too much other than Oliver knows how to jerry-rig a radio and Russians are involved.  These scenes even slowed the momentum of the other side, but considering the main story had the velocity of an out of control freight train, they weren’t that disruptive.

So, what now for Tommy?  I do wonder if we’re getting into a Spiderman type scenario like Peter’s best friend and his Green Goblin father.  Could it be something horrible happens to Malcolm and Tommy takes his place, becoming the sworn enemy of The Green Arrow?  Could Moira’s role in wanting Malcolm dead exacerbate this rift?  There’s plenty of time for it all to play out, but suddenly the Merlyns have their value now.  Welcome to the plot Tommy Merlyn!

See you all March 20th when the Huntress returns!  The hits keep on coming.

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