Arrow episode 21 review: The Undertaking

Arrow provides some answers this week, with a flashback-heavy episode. Here's Caroline's review of The Undertaking...

This review contains spoilers.

1.21 The Undertaking

It’s time for an answers-filled flashback episode of Arrow, with the usual island action replaced by a journey back to the days before Oliver, Robert and Sarah got on the Queen’s Gambit in the first place. Answer episodes in genre shows can often be very laborious and rushed, but this was an okay example that balanced present-day revelations for the characters with our own answers in the flashbacks.

Oliver’s mission in 2013 was the hunt for Walter, who we learn has now been missing for six months. It amused me when Thea mentioned how long it’s been since anyone talked about her missing step-father, as it’s been a worry for viewers, too. Eventually, with Felicity helping Oliver in the field work while he and Diggle work out their issues, Oliver finds Walter and sends him back to his family. In the process, he learns of his mother’s part in the kidnapping, but has yet to work out how he’ll deal with Malcolm. I guess his concern is Tommy, since he’s had no problem quickly dealing with evildoers before.

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If anything, though, all of this is less interesting than what’s happening in the flashbacks. We’ve already been told much of what we’re being shown, but seeing it play out adds some context to a lot of the relationships that weren’t quite ringing true for me before. For example, seeing Moira as the carefree woman she used to be was jarring in the best possible way, as we learn that Oliver isn’t the only one who changed while he was stuck on the island. Laurel, too, was just a girly college student trying to make her bad-boy boyfriend commit, rather than the slightly hardened and serious woman we’ve known her to be.

The exchanges between Oliver and Laurel were the most important for me, since I’ve hated the love triangle since the show started. My problem was that I didn’t understand why Oliver could rediscover his love for Laurel while on the island, especially after taking her sister on the boat with him instead. Here we see that it was immaturity that led him to sabotage what was a pretty perfect relationship, and to come back and find her involved with his best friend must have been tough. He’s closed off, sure, but a part of him probably wanted to come back and sweep her off her feet.

But Tommy isn’t having any of it, telling his ex this week that she belongs with Oliver. His only scene saw him suited up and doing business deals, and even Laurel comments on how much like his father he looks. We all know that Tommy is headed in a less than heroic direction, but at least we got to know Malcolm a little better this week, too. The main point of the episode was to establish Malcolm’s evil plans and the motives behind them, and we learn that he wanted to level The Glades after more restrained methods had proven useless. He believes himself to be the hero, much like an almost equally-grey Oliver, and I can see Tommy buying into that.

Everyone in The Undertaking had lost something to the area, and his plan was to eliminate it completely and start over. You can see how he arrived there, despite the mass murder, and has waited many years for the proper technology to become available. That technology is the ‘Markov Device’, which comic book fans will relate to Brion Markov aka Geo-Force – a superhero who can control the Earth. Malcolm wants to instigate a ‘natural’ disaster to wipe out The Glades without anyone tracing it back to him and, if the closing shots are anything to go by, he’s pretty close to enacting that plan.

Next week we’ll see Oliver try to deal with his mother and Malcolm, with or without Diggle’s help. I think I speak for everyone when I say we want Diggle back on team Arrow, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing Felicity take more of an active role in things once he returns. She was pretty handy this week, after all.

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

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