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Arrow Watch: Episode 16 - Dead To Rights

"We won't fail this city."

After an episode out of commission, Arrow got back in the vigilante game last week taking on the suave and clever British thief named "Dodger." The newest crime fighter, Felicity Smoak, also found herself in the danger zone for the first time and handled herself quite heroically. As is expected when Team Green mixes it up with the most dangerous characters in Starling City. And speaking of deadly villains trying to work on Ollie's turf, this week's "Dead to Rights" sees the return, from the dead, of Deadshot. That's a lot of death. Prompting the return of the never-miss-assassin was the last minute meeting between Mrs. Moira Queen and, another familiar face (or hair), China White where the former seeks help from the latter in distancing herself from 'The Undertaking.' The target, Ollie's most menacing and successful adversary, the 'Black Archer' himself, Malcolm Merlyn. The installment is primed to be explosive and not just in light of the exciting showdown but because this is the last episode of Arrow before another small hiatus. Sorry.

"You've built quite the reputation."

Oh, and "Dead to Rights" was also written by DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. So, there's that. First, I think it's important to give respect where respect is due and "Dead to Rights" might be my favorite episode of the still young superhero series so far, and no that's no just a comic book geek kissing Geoff Johns ass. It just makes sense that the author of some of the great modern runs (his Green Lantern is legendary) would also deliver a really enjoyable and action-packed Arrow installment that also managed to keep a sustained emotional through-line. There are a lot of story lines that constantly need juggling, from the ensemble's struggles in Starling City to Ollie's increasing past adventures on Puragory, and Johns not only manages to balance them all but also through a few more twists in the mix. It's also a prefect time for the new developments piling on to the previously established conflicts because, well, it's cliffhanger time since the next time we catch up with Ollie, and his team, fighting the good fight isn't for a few weeks. Three to be exact. Oh well, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

"So, who needs two bullets in the chest?"

The episode began with a great, almost throwaway, action sequence that saw Oliver beat the SCPD (including his girlfriend, McKenna) to a roof top confrontation with an out of town criminal arriving rather ostentatiously. Did I hear something like his flight was scheduled? Cause that would be awfully silly for an international criminal. Oh well, silliness aside the quick battle between the knife-wielding Spaniard (with a reputation) and our hero (also, big rep) was a nice way to start to show. The assassin's arrival also reminded the audience that Moira has placed a hit on Malcolm Merlyn and this little, dead, speed bump surely won't stop China White from coming through on her end of the bargain. Hence the return of Mr. Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot and nemesis for John. Yes, like Oliver, I called him John. Dig and Lawton have some bad blood since the latter is the man responsible for offing the former's much talked about brother so his reintroduction makes perfect sense to up the personal stakes. And besides, in comics, no body stays dead, they just move to Bludhaven. Even those who take an arrow to the eye, they just get a better eye.

"The truth is, I haven't done enough for this city. My city. I failed it. But I promise you, I am not finished yet."

There were several solid (and mostly disparate) threads running though "Dead To Rights," with the Merlyns playing a larger part than usual as well as all the romantic subplots that can't be avoided in a CW series. I'm a huge fan of Janina Gavankar and the scenes between her and Stephen Amell's Ollie actually have a spark so I'm fine spending time with that pair, especially given the added dimension that they are kind of adversaries as well. Another fun, albeit platonic, relationship developed over the last few episodes with Dig and the Smoak spending a lot of time together in the Arrow cave and whether it's working out or cracking encrypted phones, the banter is always welcome. Malcolm and Moira have an interesting bond too, there is a definitely love and hate thing going on there, mixed with the ever present threat of violence which makes the scenes between John Barrowman and Susanna Thompson easy to watch, even if there's always a bit of must ache twirling going on. Finally we have Tommy and his various relationships, all of which seemed much more convincing and palatable this week. It could have been John's writing or Colin Donnell simply stepping up his game but he certainly made the most of the extra screen time he was given in "Dead To Rights."

"You're the vigilante. Why?"

Even his scenes with Laurel had some pop. The best seqeunces for Donnell, however, came either between him and his father or between him and Oliver, both before and especially after the reveal (which I did not see coming). Malcolm's award ceremony obviously becomes the main action set-piece for the week but because of the groundwork laid it also becomes a site for some great emotional exchanges between Tommy and the two men he loves most but knows the least about. Malcolm returns to Arrow to invite his son to a gala event in his honor, even offering to turn back on the billion dollar faucet, but Tommy wants nothing to do with the man who was never there for him. Of course, after a heart to heart with his best friend who happens to have a dead, and certainly not perfect, dad, the young Merlyn changes his mind and decides to show even though his father never did for him. This nicely puts Tommy also in danger, someone who Oliver actually cares about and therefore heightens the stakes even further when the eventual melee occurs at the event. And up in the penthouse.

"I don't know who the hell he is..."

Good thing our hero has similar training to that of an army medic and he's able to whip up a quick way to save Malcolm from the poisonous bullets. Speaking of, it was also a really clever decision to have Deadshot stay largely out of the fray because he's a villain best left in the wind, taunting Dig instead of simply being stomped out by Arrow. Again. And he had enough on his plate with China White dropping her wig (a great moment) to have another go at the Starling City vigilante. Kelly Hu looks good fighting in that dress. It's also pretty cool how Arrow is concerned with building a vast universe instead of merely populating the show with a villain of the week and the usual cast of characters. Not only do we get pretty sweet guest stars to play the various shades of shady characters but they stick around or return which makes the whole place seem much more alive and, for lack of a better description, like a comic book. When reading an issue, any of the rogue's gallery might make an appearance in that particular fight and I like how the show mirrors that sense, making it feel like it's really happening in the DCU. In two time-lines no less.

"I met a man there. He hoped me make sense of things. He helped me to find a purpose for my life. To make this city a better place for everyone."

The flashbacks continue to show our hero's development as well, a hero, not to mention his growing relationship with Slade Wilson (who I'm sure will turn out to be an adversary at some time in time, which will be awesome). There certainly wasn't as much narrative progress on the island this episode as "The Odyssey," since Arrow wasn't confined to an operating table in the current time, but there was another reference to Homer's tome with the arrival of Scylla, the monster in the form of a Russian anti-aircraft weapon. That certainly won't help a rescue or escape attempt by air. Although, if commandeered, it could do some serious damage to the militia's base camp. Hm. I thought that "Dead To Rights" was going to conclude with Moira being assigned to hunt down herself as well as the heart to heart between Ollie and Tommy, one that the latter didn't seem to take to well (and the former should be worried about) but, of course, Arrow had to go out on a cliffhanger. Laurel's mom (Alex Kingston) shows her face for the first time, although the phone call foreshadowed her arrival, and reveals that Sarah, the dead sister, might not be so dead after all. You just can't escape the dead this week. And now we have to wait three.

Arrow returns with Episode 17, "The Huntress Returns," on Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.