Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 3, Episode 3 - Corto Maltese

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


After Felicity tracks Thea's cell phone signal to the island nation of Corto Maltese, Oliver and Roy book the first flight out to try and bring her home.  John also comes along, nominally to help out but also to check up on an old friend of Lyla's - an ARGUS agent named Mark Shaw who may be in trouble.

Back in Starling City, Felicity adjusts to her new job working with Ray Palmer, which turns out to be nothing like she expected. Meanwhile, Laurel struggles with her depression over Sara's death by throwing herself into her work and her AA meetings - neither of which seem to offer her the satisfaction she imagines she'd get from beating bad people senseless.  But Laurel has plans that go beyond taking boxing lessons from professional boxer Ted Grant...


The Green Arrow comics of Chuck Dixon (exotic setting, conspiracies involving government agencies and a focus on gun-play over archery in the action scenes) and JLA: Year One (Black Canary receiving her first fighting training from boxer Ted Grant)


Laurel accuses Ted Grant of committing perjury when he lies to her.  Legally, perjury can only occur under oath in a trial setting.  Technically, he might be committing obstruction of justice but Laurel has no way of proving it.

For that matter, shouldn't the police be the ones investigating a robbery suspect's alibi rather than an assistant district attorney?

How do Laurel and Quentin know who Erica's boyfriend is or how many warrants he has out for his arrest? Granting that either of them could probably come by that information easily enough in their day jobs, it doesn't seem like the sort of thing Quentin would look up, being as serious about the sanctity of Alcoholics Anonymous as he is.

Laurel was able to hold her own against a professional bouncer back in Season One, so why - with all the self-defenses classes she's reportedly taken - is she unable to fight a man she has the drop on?


Willa Holland transforms Thea Queen into an entirely different character in this episode. And the new edge to the character is quite welcome.

On the same note, Colton Haynes gets the most material to work with he's gotten all season and we see how much Roy Harper has changed as a character in six months as he confronts Thea. Haynes also offers up some nicely understated comedic acting in his non-verbal responses to Oliver using a gun to shoot someone.

J.R. Ramirez wows in his first brief appearance as Ted "Wildcat" Grant. Portrayed as a fighting man of simple tastes who isn't as dumb as he acts, Ramirez has a natural charm that matches the charisma of the character from the comics.


The episode title comes from the fictional island nation of Corto Maltese - a fictional country in the DC Universe, located off the South American coast. Originally created by Frank Miller as the site of a rebellion that was backed by the US Government in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, it has become a catch-all location for shady dealings or stories requiring a modern-day Banana Republic.

Thea uses the name Mia as an alias - a reference to Mia Dearden, the second Speedy and Oliver Queen's adopted daughter in the comics.

In the original DC Universe, Mark Shaw was one of several costumed vigilantes who used the code-name Manhunter.  He had his own solo series in the 1980s and was a member of the Suicide Squad under Amanda Waller's command at one point.  In the New 52 universe, Mark Shaw is a U.S. Marshal who is described as one of the best man-hunters alive.  The Arrow version of the character appears to be an amalgam of both versions of Mark Shaw.

Ted "Wildcat" Grant was a professional heavyweight boxer turned vigilante, who first appeared in Sensation Comics #1 (Janaury 1942 - also the first appearance of Wonder Woman).  In later years, Ted Grant was retconned into being a founding member of the Justice Society of America and was said to have had a hand in training several next-generation vigilantes in the art of boxing, including Batman, Catwoman and - most notably - Black Canary.

Laurel asks Ted Grant about one of his students - Tom Branson.  In the original comics, Tom Branson was the name of Ted Grant's illegitimate son who developed the power to turn into a half-man/half-cat form.  Ted began training his son to take over the Wildcat name - a legacy Tom didn't feel up toward embracing, though he did fight crime under the code name Tomcat.

Felicity's new personal assistant is a man named Gerry Conway - named in honor of the legendary comic creator.  Gerry Conway is probably most famous today for being one of the few writers to write both Justice League of America and The Avengers, co-creating The Punisher and writing The Death of Gwen Stacy story-line for Amazing Spider-Man.  He also created the original character of Felicity Smoak as a supporting character in Firestorm.

Mark Shaw's buyer for the ARGUS database is a man named Armitage.  This is likely a reference to Milo Armitage - an arms-dealing criminal who was a reoccurring villain in the Chuck Dixon Green Arrow comics and the step-father of the second Green Arrow, Connor Hawke.

Oliver's turning the contents of a hotel room into make-shift bows and arrows has some precedent in the comics where Ollie is a gifted fletcher and bowyer. The most infamous example of this probably came during Kevin Smith's Green Arrow run, when Ollie was able to use a harp and kebab skewers as weapons in a fight against The Riddler while in a fancy restaurant.

The blueprints Felicity recovers for Ray Palmer are for a number of advanced weapons labeled O.M.A.C.  This is a reference to a variety of advanced technologies in the DC Universe including One Man Army Corps, Omni Mind and Community and Observational Metahuman Activity Construct.


Ollie makes use of a non-lethal trick arrow that functions somewhat like a fishing pole, letting him snag a target then pull it towards him.

Dialogue Triumphs

So why did you reach out to me?
Thea: You reached first.
Malcolm: Still...?
Thea: I don't want to feel this pain again. I don't want to hurt. Ever. Never again. And you seem like someone that can teach me how not to.

(After Ollie declares his intention to go find Thea, Roy goes to his own weapon case and pulls his bow)
Ollie: What are you doing?
Roy: Thea left because of the lies I told. I have to make things right.
Ollie: No... what are you doing?  You can't travel with that.
Roy: I've actually... never been on a plane before.

(Laurel questions Ted Grant about one of his students involvement in a robbery)
Ted: Well, that's not possible. Because Tom and I were sparring last night.
Laurel: Mr. Grant, do you know that lying to the district attorney is against the law?
Ted: If by that you mean am I willing to lie in order to keep a good kid who just happened to make a stupid mistake out of jail, I think you know my answer.
Laurel: Are you admitting to perjury, Mr. Grant?!
Ted: Now that's a big word.  I'm just a dumb fighter... right?

Merlyn: Every warrior must learn the simple truth: That pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.

(As they discuss business in Oliver's old office)
Ray: I need to get back to work
Felicity: Then why are you leaving your office?
Ray: I'm not.  I'm leaving yours.

Laurel: Felicity, I need a favor.
Felicity: Are we... favor friends now?  Are we friends?!

(As Roy stares at him after Ollie has John toss him a pistol, which he uses to shoot five men) 
Ollie: I never said I didn't know how to use a gun!

And all of the scene in which Laurel asks Oliver to train her, saying she has a fire inside that only attacking a bad man could quench and Oliver asking her to consider what would happen to her father if something happened to her and further saying that Sara would never forgive him if something happened to Laurel.


The episode opens with a flashback to 223, showing Thea leaving Starling City with Malcolm Merlyn.

Ollie speaks fluent Spanish.

Merlyn trains Thea to cope with pain by pouring boiling water over her hand.

Thea has had her hair cut shorter and can now speak fluent Spanish. She works as a waitress at a cafe.

Ray Palmer makes reference to terrorists blowing up Queen Consolidate's Applied Sciences division in reference to Team Arrow's actions in 219.

Ollie tells Thea about how his father killed himself in order to save Ollie's life, as seen in 101. He does not mention that Robert Queen killed another person before doing so.

Milo Armitage was also mentioned in 212, where he hired Bronze Tiger to steal Malcolm Merlyn's spare earthquake generator.

Oliver is shown to be capable of creating jerry-rigged bows and arrows from the contents of a hotel room.

Ollie can indeed use a pistol.

Shaw's motivation for turning on ARGUS was revenge, not profit.  He makes reference to doing horrible things under Amanda Waller's commands and wanting to strike back at her.

Laurel apparently reported the abusive boyfriend to the SCPD.  She also begins training with Ted Grant.

Felicity asks for time off to go visit a friend who was struck by lightning.  This is clearly a set up for the following week's episode of The Flash, where Felicity pays a visit to Barry Allen in Central City.

Nyssa Al Ghul, not seen since 223, shows up in the Arrow Cave demanding to know where Sara is in the final scene.


The island nation of Corto Maltese.

The Fridge Factor

It's a bit difficult to say which scenes make Laurel look the worst this week. As a lawyer, she looks incompetent, being outsmarted in a battle of wordplay by Ted Grant. She comes off as a complete hypocrite given that she grills Ted Grant on his willingness to lie to protect a good kid who did a dumb thing and yet she's willing to violate the sanctity of her AA meetings' anonymity to seek information so she can go after an abusive boyfriend. She attempts assault on said abusive boyfriend rather than go through proper legal channels. She gets her butt kicked, despite having had quite a bit of self defense training and holding her own against two bar bouncers back in Season One. Her desire to become a vigilante seems born entirely out of her seeking a new adrenaline rush to replace booze and pills rather than honoring her sister's memory or a desire to help people and she says as much at the episode's end. She doesn't stop to consider what her death might to do her father, especially given that he has no idea Sara is dead thanks to her lying. Finally, she turns to Ollie to ask for training, which he refuses on the grounds that Sara wouldn't want it and how Laurel's death would destroy her father, which - granting that is not his choice to make - shows a lot more respect for Quentin than he's gotten from his own goddamn daughter!

The Bottom Line

A solid episode which pushes all of the established cast's personal sub-plots forward a little bit and handles all of them well, with the usual notable exception. Thankfully, the script hits all the right beats regarding Laurel's story (training with Ted Grant, going after abusive men) and Oliver is quick to point out everything that would be wrong about his training Laurel to do what he does.  Laurel may be annoying and Katie Cassidy's performance flat but at least she is allowed some agency in how she's going about what she's doing.. unlike the last revenge-minded woman Ollie tried training.

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