Arrow – Corto Maltese Review
"High on Action, Low on Plot"
I'm perfectly willing to allow a show like Arrow
to let loose and focus more on action and adventure every few episodes or so. After all, with characters like Oliver, Roy, and Diggle in your arsenal, it would be a shame to waste their excellent teamwork and joint fighting skills by only ever sending Oliver out into the fray. But I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with the overall story presented within "Corto Maltese."
I think my disappointment stems from the writers' decision to place the main focus of the episode on the desire to stop the rogue ARGUS agent rather than place it on the quest to get Thea to return to Starling City. While the rogue agent storyline may factor into some larger storyline down the road (Mark Shaw is, of course, a DC comic character, so one would assume there's more to be seen with him in the future), Thea's return to Starling City is by far the most crucial aspect of this episode. It's obvious that her new found abilities and allegiance to Malcolm Merlyn are one of the season's central plot points. So, why spend so much time tracking down a computer and killing scores of bad guys when Oliver's main goal in going to Corto Maltese was to convince Thea to come back? It just doesn't make sense.
That being said, I did really enjoy the bits and pieces of the episode that focused on Thea (never thought I would write that!). It's clear that the time away from Starling City was good for Thea, as the Thea we see now is so much more mature and balanced than the complete mess of a character we've been dealing with for the past two seasons. I guess five months training with a crazed but skilled fighter can do that? Every time Thea was on screen, there was a peace and an inner strength to her that has been absent the entire run of the series. I don't quite buy that she's as skilled a fighter as she appears (considering how much the show has emphasized that it took both Oliver and Sara years to reach their level of proficiency- more on that in a minute- the show better make it clear that Thea is either a super fast learner or that she still has a lot to learn), but I'm really loving who she has developed into as a character. Kudos to the writers for not only making her a physical force to be reckoned with, but also allowing her character to adapt and grow-up as well. Excellent work from Willa Holland as well.
As for our other new "fighter," I'm not sure whether to be amused with the writers for how they're handling Laurel's new desire to fight or simply roll my eyes and get ready to grin and bear the inevitable. I enjoyed Oliver's reaction to Laurel's post-fight speech. I'm pretty sure that was the exact reaction of the entire viewing audience. For someone who is supposed to be intelligent, Laurel has a pretty bad case of Superhero Girlfriend Syndrome- characterized by a need to be saved from yourself, despite expressing a sincere desire to save the world or help those with the abilities to save it.
I understand that Laurel is on a slow journey to take over the Canary mantle and that she has to make missteps along the way (after all, Oliver screwed up a lot on the island in the first season). But I'm starting to dread having to watch her make the same mistakes we've already seen Oliver make throughout this season. I don't want to spend the next 20 episodes watching Laurel grow into another hero- we've already been there and done that. It only makes it worse that, despite my hope, Katie Cassidy remains the show's major weak link (while Holland appears to have risen to the challenge of Thea's new and improved storyline, Cassidy remains one-note throughout her performance). Even when presented with strong and emotional scenes, Cassidy just doesn't dig in deep enough.
Perhaps with all of the action clearly about to unfold in Starling City, Laurel's journey will be placed on the back burner. After all, with Nyssa al Ghul in town and Malcolm Merlyn almost certain to follow his daughter back home, our heroes will have way more to worry about than Laurel's desire to join the vigilante team.
-- So I guess we can check Nyssa and Thea off the list of potential Sara killers? Thea definitely hadn't left the island prior to leaving with Oliver, and Nyssa didn't appear to know what happened to Sara. That leaves just Malcolm and Ra's al Ghul. I'm leaning toward the latter.
-- I absolutely loved the scene between Thea and Roy. It was such an adult conversation- such a nice change.
-- Felicity's response to Laurel on the phone was awesome. I didn't think those two were the favoring doing type of friends either.
-- So far, I'm enjoying J.R. Ramirez as Ted Grant. He looks to be no-nonsense and have a backbone, which is something Laurel definitely needs in her trainer.
-- Excellent use of the flashback device to give us a look into how Thea and Malcolm spent her time away from Starling City. So far, the Hong Kong flashbacks have been pretty slow in developing this season, so it was great to see the device used so well this week.