What makes a good teacher or mentor? That is the question that is not so subtly posed to us in this week’s Arrow “Corto Maltese”: is it their ability to care about you, or rather their ability to make you achieve what you really desire? In this case scenario we are show this tale through the lens of three students who are in various stages of training. Roy who has been training the longest and has the most field experience who views his teacher as a brother, Thea who is just finishing her training and is being released into the world with little to no supervision, and Laurel who has decided to start training in order to become something greater than what she is. Each one has their own fate tied to their teacher in some sense and how they develop and what they inevitably become is truly going to be fun to watch. So let’s dive in.
Let’s start with the person who has gone through the most changes, Thea. Yes, Willa Holland was back in full force as a new style of Thea, one who is not afraid to stand up for herself and make her own decisions if her flashbacks and training with Malcolm are any indication.It was interesting to see Thea’s flashbacks focus on one select incident at the beginning of her training rather than giving us a larger look at what Malcolm and her had been up to in the past five months. It was slightly shocking to see just how much Thea has become like Malcolm not only in her physical prowess but also the way in which she holds herself around people. Malcolm clearly has a plan for his daughter and at this moment it seems to be release her into the wild and see just how much damage she will cause Oliver and his friends. Also major props to John Barrowman as he killed it as Malcolm in both the flashbacks and present day work with Holland. Not only was Malcolm super menacing but you could see him manipulating Thea into the exact position he wants.
On the near opposite end of the emotional spectrum we have Roy, who despite his expanded role as a member of the team has gotten the smallest amount of screen time this season. This was our first real chance to see how his and Ollie’s teamwork has progressed since last season and it gave Colton Haynes a lot of work to do in a very little time. We knew that Roy would pick up on the physical side of things very quickly but to see how far he has come emotional made it all worth it. This is not the same Roy from season one or two, he knowingly will admit his faults and do whatever he believes is right for a person. In Thea’s case it was not about lying to get her home or completely coming clean, rather it was about telling her that whatever she choose to do Roy would respect her decision. That is some major character progression for a guy who tried to do everything in his power to protect her with his own two hands.
The last person who is now undergoing training is Laurel and she has a very special teacher in the form of Ted “Wildcat” Grant. Laurel has always been an up and down character and this episode perhaps best exemplified why that is the case. While it is great for Laurel to realize she does not have the training of her sister or the raw ability to be able to fight all of the villains the city has to offer, her attempt to fight the abusive boyfriend was ill fated at best. Although it did luckily lead to Laurel asking Ollie to train her, even though Ollie flat out refused it was a huge step as she is the only member of the team that is not really useful when the chips are down. Now that she is under the tutelage of Ted, played by J.R. Ramirez, she will hopefully progress into a useful member of the team rather than an extraneous plot device. While on the subject of Ted, I have to say I like how the writers seem to be treating him as the Ted we know and love only a lot younger. Hopefully he will not be forced into some sort of relationship with Laurel and will be allowed to be an actual mentor to her.
As for the B story of the episode which involved Team Arrow attempting to take down Mark Shaw, aka Manhunter, it was meh. It felt as if the writers were attempting to show horn in an actual conflict as opposed to just letting the story simmer around Oliver’s attempt to convince Thea to come back home. Shaw was spouting stuff to Diggle that he already knew and really did nothing to add to Diggle’s story. I fully believe Diggle knows Waller and ARGUS are a bunch of crazy people after “Suicide Squad” and the season finale where Waller was going to bomb Starling. So there was no real need for Shaw to warn Diggle how crazy they are, in fact it would have been more poignant for Diggle to just say he doesn’t care, at least then we would have some real conflict on Diggle’s story. Felicity’s side story had way more plot relevance as Ray Palmer now has weapon plans to OMAC, yes, that OMAC which is apparently going to be drastically different from how it appears in the comics.
Overall it was a strong episode.
Final Grade B-
+Thea and Malcolm training
+Ted Grant’s introduction
+Great work from Holland and Haynes
-Manhunter plot irrelevant
-Laurel attempting to fight the abusive boyfriend
-Still needed more Thea and Malcolm
-Felicity is taking days off to visit Barry. This makes me happy.
-Oliver full on Macguyver-ing two bows was really cool.
-Somewhere Malcolm has a father of the year mug, I just know it.
-Apparently Vancouver can easily double for a South American island. Fun Fact