Arrow episode 16 review: Dead To Rights

Arrow delves deeper into Oliver and Malcolm's shared issues in this week's satisfying episode. Here's Caroline's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.16 Dead To Rights

Just when you thought the weekly structure of Arrow was growing a bit tired, this week’s episode completely does away with it. The villain is dead before the credits roll, and the rest of the episode is concerned only with the fraught relationships between our central characters. Moira is continuing her assassination attempt on Malcolm, Malcolm and Oliver are both letting Tommy in on some secrets, and Laurel gets a surprise visitor with even more surprising news. 

I have to say that I loved this episode and, although it might not have been one that we all remember five seasons down the line, a lot of stuff was going on here. This is the moment in which John Barrowman’s Malcolm Merlyn became more than a sleazy bad guy, for example, and Oliver may have actually sabotaged a relationship he truly cared about. There was minimal Laurel and no Thea at all, which also helped, and we were focused on Oliver Queen the man, rather than the actions of his heroic alter ego. 

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We also get to know the relationship between Tommy and Oliver much more, with the bond strengthened and then ultimately broken over the course of the episode. Their man-date in the Chinese restaurant had more chemistry to it than anything with Laurel, McKenna or the Huntress. They were able to be almost completely honest with each other which, considering one of them is Oliver, really is saying a lot. They trade childhood traumas and daddy issues, with Ollie actually comparing his own past tortures with those of Tommy’s father. 

The whole episode was an exercise in joining the dots between Oliver and Malcolm, with the latter’s speech at his humanitarian award drawing a lot of parallels with Oliver’s own anger issues, and the show seems to be setting the scene for a big showdown at the end of the current season. Oliver has anger towards his father that has led him to want to punish the rich and powerful, while Malcolm is drawn in the other direction after his wife was killed in the Glades. It’s standard superhero fare, of course, but that’s because these bad guy/good guy similarities work so well.  

And Tommy is well on his way to becoming the prince of evil, with his allegiances and trust now largely transferred to his father. He might have been emotionally absent for most of his life but, crucially, when pushed, Malcolm told Tommy some version of the truth. He protected his son when it was most crucial, and even dared to drop the charade when they were both in danger. Oliver, on the other hand, though he saved both of their lives in the scuffle, admitted to his best friend that he was never intending to tell him about the Hood. I loved this brutal honesty because it forced Oliver to confront the way he’s going about things. 

Oliver let go of Laurel in the beginning largely because he knew he would never be able to fully reveal himself to her, but he held on to Tommy as a part of his past. He might never have been willing to share that other side of himself with his friend, his sister or his mother, but something about those people is keeping him human. Should he be left with only Diggle and Felicity, I don’t think his mental health would be in a very good state. He needs people that make him feel normal, no matter how invested he is in the mission, and that’s probably the main reason for his relationship with McKenna. 

We know it won’t last, but she’s exactly the shade of beige what he needs right now. It’s a bit of a bummer that she’s working with Quentin to take him down, but they actually made a cute couple this week. The Huntress is back next week, however, so that’ll obviously drive a wedge between them if nothing else does. Then there’s mommy Lance (Alex Kingston), who turns up at Laurel’s door with the notion that Sarah might still be alive. In this show, anything could happen, and I’d be very excited to see the fallout from that particular return. We’re away for a couple of weeks now, but we shall see what happens when Arrow returns on March 20th.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Dodger, here.

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