WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Arrow continued a strong start to its second season with the third episode titled ‘Broken Dolls’. The episode featured Barton Mathis, a serial killer known as ‘The Dollmaker’, having escaped from Iron Heights and picking up where he left off – killing girls and turning them into dolls. The Arrow and Quentin Lance united once more to take down the killer, who Lance had originally arrested.
Arguably the episode was centred around Lance with Oliver/Arrow taking more of a back seat, it was Lance’s journey – facing up to his past, adjusting to his new role after being demoted from Detective and understanding further that the Arrow may be good. Paul Blackthorne does a great job as Lance, the Brit actor always seems to deliver an engaging performance and do the character justice – this week was no different. It was interesting to see how he’s developed since Season 1, initially Lance felt the law was what there was and it will deliver justice. He felt you shouldn’t go outside it to bring people down. Yet in this episode, to a degree, he’s doing that himself! He’s in partnership with the vigilante or ‘The Arrow’ as he refers to him, he’s seeking to track down Mathis despite his Lieutenant warning him he’ll face charges if he persists. It was also interesting to see the first hints of a real connection with his vigilante counterpart, suggesting he knows he’s lost people too.
While Lance seems in support of the vigilante, his daughter is far from it. It’s clever to see how the pair have switched roles, Laurel was all for the vigilante in Season 1 yet now she is seeking to bring him down. So far in Season 2, Lance is the opposite – he was against Oliver’s Emerald Archer yet now seems to think he can do real good. It was particularly apparent in their final scene together where he thanks Arrow for his help.
The share emotion of grief between the father and daughter was a powerful element to the episode. Lance admitting his desperation to bring down Mathis stemmed from their initial encounter, just after he lost Sarah – feeling like every girl Mathis killed was his daughter. Guilt was driving him forwards. He suggested to Laurel that’s why she’s going after the vigilante, her guilt over Tommy is making her blame Arrow as he didn’t save him. It was a touching scene towards the end where Laurel breaks down, crying it was her fault for Tommy’s death. Will we now see Laurel change her tune over the vigilante?
Obviously at the end of Episode 2, we were left with one of the most starling cliffhangers to date. Just how was Oliver going to get out of that? Surrounded by police and Laurel? If he tried anything he’d surely be shot. If he surrendered he’d be unmasked. How could he get himself out of that? Answer: he didn’t. The Black Canary (Caity Lotz) crashed through the ceiling, using a sonic device to weaken those around them – allowing her to get Arrow to safety.
This sparked the secondary storyline in the episode with Ollie enlisting Roy’s help to track her down. It probably raised more questions than answers and introduced us to another new character in Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) – someone we’ll probably see more of. But why was the Canary helping Oliver? Whose side is she on? Admittedly these are all questions that team Arrow asked themselves. Arrow and the Canary interacted again as Mathis was caught, the contrast was interesting. In Season 1 Oliver surely would have shot Mathis dead, however he declared he’ll be going back to prison after sticking arrows in his shoulders – the Canary however threw a pole through his chest, deciding he wouldn’t in fact be going to prison. Episode 4 shows us the two meet further and work together, is she going to be similar to Helena and her crusade against her father? Or is there more to her?
The more minor storyline in the episode was that of Moira’s pre trial hearing where she was told she could be coming up against the death penalty – in a later chat with her attorney it appears she still has some secrets of what went on with her and Malcolm. One of these could be she had Robert’s yacht sabotaged (hinted at where she fears admitting the truth could ruin things with her children who she’s on good terms with), like Oliver at the start of the episode this seems to be another situation where you ask yourself – how can she get out of this? Moira seems at peace with facing her guilt though Oliver is determined to fight it and get her out of trouble, this looks set to feature heavily in an upcoming episode ‘State v Queen’.
The development of all the characters since Season 1 is something the writers need to be commended for. Oliver has developed, he’s no longer following his father’s list, he’s doing his best to be a hero and save the city, he’s opened up to people around him. Thea is more complete, even though she doesn’t feature too heavily in this episode she still is up and running the club – she’s matured without a doubt. Laurel has done a 180, she’s proving a really interesting character this season – after backing the vigilante she’s sought to bring him down, her grief for Tommy is dictating her actions. Lance as was mentioned has also done a 180, he’s a compelling character whose partnership with the Arrow is proving a great element to the season. Moira’s calculating, scheming and desperation to protect her family has changed to someone who seems at peace – free of the situation she was put in by Malcolm. Another note which is another nod to the success of the writers is how the events of 1×23 Sacrifice are proving an influence in this season. Mathis’ escaping from Iron Heights, Laurel, Oliver’s new approach… It’s great they’re using it and not just stuffing it away in a box. It feels like a sequel, not a separate season.
The island scenes developed nicely. Oliver and Slade’s friendship buckled ever so slightly. The pair debated over Oliver’s attachment to Shado, Slade’s concern that attachment will get him killed was something Oliver fiercely objected to – though when the boat started bombing their camp and Oliver ran into the firing line, it proved Slade to be right. One thing I’m hopeful is, this won’t be the big spark for Slade turning into Deathstroke. If it’s done well then fair enough, otherwise it risks being a little cliché. They mirrored the scene where Felicity tries to lure Mathis onto her in the present day, with her echoing Slade’s line of ‘It’s her life. It’s her choice.’ But the only question I have is ‘what now?’, we now know Oliver wasn’t on the island for those five years. It’s going to be very interesting to see where they go next and whether Slade and Shado are okay. It did seem as if Slade was on fire during the explosions.
It’s also interesting as we’re beginning to see why Oliver was so closed off when he came back to the island – perhaps that message that ‘attachment can hurt you’ begins to affect him more heavily in the episodes to come.
The only thing lacking perhaps were real fight scenes this week. In fairness Mathis was not a villain that lends himself to that and still offered a different sort of threat. A pleasing thing was, unlike Cyrus Vanch last year, Mathis did seem to put up more of a fight and be harder to catch – escaping his first showdown with Arrow and Lance.
One little snippet, when the Canary was confronting by a man in a black hood (I did think that was Malcolm at first…) he mentioned Ra’s Al Ghul ordering her return (in case you’re not aware, Ra’s Al Ghul appeared in the Batman movies and is a big villain in the DC Universe). Could we be seeing our first hint towards this season’s ‘big bad’?
There were plenty of other comic book references in this episode too. They include:
The van that Laurel and Officer Lance were taken in was from Metamorpho Chemical – Metamorpho is another hero in the DC Universe. On the contrary, the boat that Oliver was in, departing the island, was named Amazo – a villain in the DCU.
Moira’s lawyer is Jean Loring, Ray Palmer’s lover in the comics who happens to be the superhero Atom.
Quentin Lance’s middle name is said to be Larry, the inspiration in the comics for Blackthorne’s character was a Larry Lance who became the love interest for the initial Black Canary also known as Dinah Drake. The pair parented the second Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance.
Quentin’s middle name is revealed to be Larry. The Larry Lance character in the comics was the inspiration for Quentin; the character was the love interest of the Black Canary Dinah Drake. Their daughter became the second Black Canary, Dinah Laurel Lance.
When Roy chases Sin to the clocktower, it’s another reference. The Canary has been known to feature with the Birds of Prey group who operate out of an abandoned clocktower.
Shado being intrigued by the Japanese soldier is reference to her comic book origins when she was a member of the Japanese Yakuza.
Barton Mathis’ attorney is named after Tony S. Daniel, a comic writer and penciler who created the Barton Mathis version of the Dollmaker. Mathis’ obsession and love for skin relates to his even creepier comic counterpart who made masks to wear from the skin of his victims.
The number 52 – something DC Comics use a lot (The 52 week countdown to the Final Crisis, the new 52 reboot) is featured heavily in the episode. The patrol callsign of Officer Lance is Delta Charlie 52. He also accompanies the Arrow to room 52 when they search for Mathis. Channel 52 where Oliver hears of Laurel’s kidnapping is featured in the comics, the reporter Bethany Snow features too.
The ‘Canary Cry’ sonic device used by the Canary references her supernatural scream in the comics, the Canary chirp noise can be heard within the soundtrack when she exits the clocktower while her ability to jump could suggest slight supernatural powers anyway!
In short, the Arrow writers should have called this episode ‘DC References R Us’, But I can see why they didn’t.
Promo for episode 4, entitled ‘Crucible’: