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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Arrow 1x21 - "The Undertaking"

After 20 episodes, at last we learn the story of The Undertaking. It turns out, years ago, Malcolm Merlyn worked in the same funeral parlor as Robert and Moira Queen. Malcolm secretly slept with Moira and when Oliver found out, he went on a murderous rampage and burned down Stately Queen Manor, killing his parents. But Merlyn hid his own son Tommy, who was also burned in the fire and presumed dead, for years in an insane asylum until the time was right to set him against Oliver in vengeance at Badd Blood, and, huh? What's that? That's the story of The Undertaker? You sure about that? Oh well, moving on...

No, really, this is the story of The Undertaking: Over five years ago, Malcolm Merlyn had a vision to save Starling City from the cancer eating it from within, the Glades. He never got over his wife Rebecca's murder in the Glades. Thus he assembled a group consisting of Robert Queen and everybody's favorite confidante Frank Chen and, after watching Batman Begins and taking careful notes on R'as Al-Ghul and the League of Shadows' plan to destroy Gotham City, Malcolm laid out his plan: He's going to do something to destroy the Glades and make it seem like an act of God. This would involve not evacuating the thousands who live in the Glades, but whatevs, they're all murderers, drug addicts, and dicks anyway. The Queens and Chen's involvement are somehow necessary to The Undertaking.

Robert Queen was not keen on The Undertaking. He tried to talk Malcolm out of it, but Malcolm told him a story of listening to Rebecca die on his cell over and over that's hard to argue with. But then Robert learned that Malcolm had spent months secretly buying property of the Glades so he can own it and rebuild it after he's killed all those jerks who live there now with The Undertaking. It's a hell of a plan for neighborhood gentrification. Robert Queen, who confessed to Moira that he once killed a man for arguing with him, decided to enlist Frank Chen in his plan to stop Malcolm. But it requires a trip to Shanghai, and rather than fly, Robert decides the best course is to sail there on the Queen's Gambit for three weeks. Little did Robert realize that Frank Chen has at least two faces and was feeding this intel to Malcolm. Chen even planted the bomb on the Queen's Gambit. (I wonder if he hired the services of Cheatum the midget?)

Which brings us to an incredibly logically awkward farewell scene on the docks of Starling City, which played like a scene from Dawson's Creek. Moira says her final goodbye to Robert, seemingly unaware there's a bomb on the boat. Goofy, mop-haired five years ago Oliver, fresh out of dropping out of college, joins his dad on the boat and his parents are like, "Aw, shucks, this'll be fun for all Queens!" Oliver had just gotten finished telling his hottie girlfriend five years ago Laurel that he would move in with her, and she shows up on the docks to tell him goodbye, not at all phased that rather than starting to look for an apartment, her man is about to sail off in a boat to China for three weeks. (Little does Laurel know that her sister Sarah is cruising the neighborhood waiting for Laurel to leave so she can sneak onto the boat. I guess Laurel did leave and not stay to watch the boat sail away, giving Sarah time to conveniently sneak onto the boat. And why would Sarah sail to China for three weeks? And is it three weeks to get to China and three weeks to get back from China? Not three weeks total for the whole trip? So many questions.)

Meanwhile, in today's Starling City, Felicity is really bummed out Diggle quit, as we all are, and expends her time and energy into reuniting Diggle with Oliver. But just as important, after weeks of nothing doing, she and Oliver are back on the case of the missing Walter Steele. And wouldn't you know it, on their first try at doing something about rescuing Walter Steele, they rescue Walter Steele! Maybe they should have made this try weeks ago? Whatevs. Oliver and Felicity, taking the advice given to Woodward and Bernstein by Deep Throat, follow the money that was paid to Walter's kidnappers all the way to a secret casino. This gives Felicity the chance to clean up nicely once more and play James Bond, except 007 would be furious at how often she touched her ear while talking to Oliver on her earpiece. Felicity is spotted counting cards right away by the pitboss and needs rescuing. Luckily, the Hood is right there, beating up an entire casino fulled of armed goons to save Felicity and get the information from Walter's kidnappers. Except the info was Walter's dead! Oliver does two boneheaded things: he believes the criminal right away and then removes his hood to stare at Felicity. Did they disable all the cameras? Were they sure all the bad guys were unconscious? Yes and yes, I guess.

Oliver interrupts Thea teaching their mom how to online shop on a Windows 8 tablet with the grim, sad news that Walter Steele has been dead after 6 months of being missing. Thea is confused when Moira reacts all like, "OH NO HE DI-N'T!" and storms out of Stately Queen Manor. Oliver Hoods up and plants a Listening Device Arrow outside of Malcolm's office so he can hear Moira yell at Malcolm for going back on his word and killing Walter. Malcolm calmly dismisses his business associates and shows Moira live footage of a perfectly alive Walter in his cell in Bludhaven. Oliver is shocked and distraught. "Mommy! I believed you! Even when you shot me - I mean, the Hood - I believed you!" Oliver's such a mama's boy. Back at the Arrow Cave, Oliver tells Felicity the good news about Walter and faster than you can say "It took six months to do this!', the Hood breaks into the safehouse in Bludhaven, smashes the faces of dozens of guards, but remembers to turn on his Arrow Voice Modulator to tell Walter Steele he has failed being a prisoner because he is now free. Walter has a heart warming reunion with the Queens in the hospital that Felicity crashes. I liked how Moira had no idea who she was and didn't question both Oliver and Walter vouching for her as "a friend."

Someone else who meet Oliver's "friend" Felicity and didn't much question it was Laurel, who decided to drown her sorrows at Tommy dumping her by showing up at Verdant in mid-day, bellying up to the bar and ordering bad coffee. Someone needs to teach Laurel Lance how to mourn a broken heart. Oliver encourages Laurel to talk to Tommy and she does, barging into his Merlyn Global Group office in the middle of a work day. Laurel Lance has no concept of when or where is an appropriate time or place to discuss personal matters. Tommy coldly tells her it's over because Oliver's still in love with her. Presumably, Laurel went to work and waited until Oliver and Malcolm were in the hospital discussing Walter's rescue before interrupting Oliver to tell him about Tommy. Oliver confesses he's still in love with Laurel, leaving Laurel with no more people to interrupt in odd times and places about her relationship issues. Maybe she should go interrupt Roy Harper while he's mugging someone or something.

Thankfully, the only truly important relationship issue in Arrow was resolved: Oliver showed up at Diggle's door and said the two words a man wants to hear from his vigilante employer: "I'm sorry." Oliver lays it all out for Diggle about Walter, about his lying, cheating mommy, and about needing his help to stop The Undertaking, as we see a big ass Mack truck heading into Starling City with whatever it is that will cause The Undertaking...

Please, Arrow, just once before the season ends, have Malcolm Merlyn hold up an urn or something and triumphantly bellow, "Ohhhhh, my Undertaking!"