Arrow: 203 “Broken Dolls” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After a couple of solid, if not entirely memorable episodes to kick the second season off, Arrow comes out swinging with episode three: a truly creepy villain, some new heroes in town, the swift resolution to what could have been a tiresome plot thread, and some very interesting tidbits of plot for the future combine to make an excellent episode of an increasingly enjoyable show.
‘Broken Dolls’ starts off where we left Oliver last week: surrounded by SWAT in Laurel’s office and about to be arrested. However, as predicted, the second before anything bad can go down, he is rescued by the mysterious woman in black who made an appearance at the end of episode one, who takes out the SWAT team with a nifty sonic device and then makes her escape wordlessly. This strange new vigilante forms the major subplot of the episode, as the Arrow (as the vigilante now seems to be called) sends Roy out to find her; more on this later.
The main plot of the episode concerns a very disturbed, and rather disturbing serial killer named Barton Mathis, the ‘Dollmaker’ (a Batman villain from DC Comics, incidentally), who kidnaps girls and chokes them with flexible polymer before posing them as dolls. It turns out that Mathis was a collar for Officer Lance some years ago, who escaped from prison during the earthquake and re-ignited his killing spree: it also turns out that the Dollmaker case almost broke Lance as it occurred just after Sarah had disappeared, and he became consumed with catching Mathis, meaning that his former peers, now superiors in the police force forbid him from interfering with the case.
Obviously he does so anyway, and gets the Arrow involved: after finding the link between Mathis’ victims and one failed rescue, Lance and Laurel get kidnapped by Mathis and taken to the ‘Metamorpho’ factory (one of many nerdy Easter eggs littered throughout the episode, Metamorpho is a DC Comics hero), where Oliver rescues them and is about to take Mathis into custody when the lady-vigilante intervenes and kills him. I’m hoping this isn’t going to be a trend now Oliver has renounced his killing ways, as it seems like lazy writing to have another character appear and kill the villains just to spare Oliver from a morally grey decision.
Anyway, the end of the case leaves both Quentin and Laurel Lance firmly on the vigilante’s side: it was an interesting move to place Quentin as Oliver’s ‘sidekick’ for the majority of the episode, and I’m interested to see Oliver’s entourage grow to include people who aren’t aware of his secret identity.
Speaking of which, Roy spends the episode going through his old petty criminal buddies trying to find the lady-vigilante and is lead to a punky, parkoury young lady named ‘Sin’ (a character from the comic books whose history is a little too complicated to go into here), who subsequently leads him to the lady he is looking for. She questions him about who he is working for, but sends him on his way when she realises that he is connected to the Queen family. The mystery deepens later when she is confronted by a strange figure in clothes which strongly resemble Malcolm Merlyn’s Dark Archer outfit, who reveals that he is part of the League of Assassins and works for a man whose name is no doubt familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a certain trilogy of superhero films about a strange man who dresses up like a flying rodent.
That’s right, the assassin works for Ra’s al Ghul, and apparently so did the lady-vigilante some time ago. They must have had a disagreement of some kind, though, as she refuses to return and kills the assassin to avoid going back.
I’ll be honest, this scene basically made my head explode: with the introduction of the League of Assassins as a plot point, along with the actual mention of his name, does this mean we are going to see an appearance from Ra’s al Ghul in Arrow? And furthermore, is the costume connection valid, and if so does that mean that Malcolm Merlyn was trained by Ra’s al Ghul?
My affection for this show grows every single week.
Elsewhere, Moira gets to go to court for her hearing and the District Attorney says that he is petitioning for the death penalty. However, when her lawyer questions her about it, Moira replies along the lines of ‘I’ve made peace with dying’ but ‘there are some things her children can never know’ so the truth can never come out. It was intriguing, but I’m not sure what other bad stuff there is for Moira to have done in the past: the whole Merlyn connection and destroying a good chunk of the city is pretty bad as bad things go.
Meanwhile, on the island, Slade and Oliver trek to the top of a hill, only to find that the ship which dropped all the nasty folks onto the island is now firing missiles at their plane and run all the way back down the hill again. They are both knocked out by the explosions before they can get to Shado, however (and I’m pretty sure Slade had his face on fire at one point, but it was a bit difficult to tell – are we seeing the reason he puts on the Deathstroke mask coming together?), and Oliver wakes up in a cell on a giant cargo ship called the ‘Amazo’ (the final comic book Easter egg of the episode, Amazo being a robotic enemy of the Justice League in DC Comics) that seems to be heading away from the island.
There was so much going on in this episode that I forgot how it started by the time I got to the end of this review, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: the show is picking up the pace and returning to the momentum it had gathered by the end of last season. There’s a lot of interesting character stuff going on, and the show’s creators are basically torturing us nerds with all the name-dropping they’ve got going on, but I personally love it.