The CW‘s Arrow Corto Maltese TV Show Review. Arrow: Season 3, Episode 3: ‘Corto Maltese,’ was a bridge episode; filling in some lost moments, for Thea (Willa Holland), keeping Diggs (David Ramsey) busy, and setting up Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) future role in the series.
Following a lead, regarding Thea’s whereabouts, to the island of Corto Maltese, Oliver (Stephen Amell) shared that knowledge with family man Diggs, who, in turn, shared it with paramour, Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson). As she was still an active A.R.G.U.S. agent, Lyla just happened to know a matter – involving a fellow agent, gone dark, on Corto Maltese – that Diggs could take care of, in passing, if he tagged along with Oliver. Since Thea was involved, Roy (Colton Haynes) piled on, and the trio set out on a loving return-to-the-fold mission, with an option for bro-bonding violence.
That first aspect, to the mission, went smoothly enough; only in that Oliver’s gentle approach to getting his sister back kept him from stumbling across Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) in a fatal way.
The setting of Corto Maltese also served as the flashback component of the episode, showing the evolution of Thea’s father/ daughter-master/ apprentice relationship with Malcom, juxtaposed against Oliver & Roy’s efforts to earn her return to Starling City. John Barrowman does outdo Senator Palpatine, in the charm department. He actually came across as a caring father – albeit, the kind that drops a newborn into a vat of water, as a rite of passage. I’d say Thea received the earnestness of Ollie & Roy with a degree of bemusement; but that might just be me transferring.
It was Diggs that carried the main plot, however, when Lyla’s agent-gone-dark, Mark Shaw (David Cubitt), wound up involved in a plot to expose A.R.G.U.S. operatives. Basically, the NOC List from the first Mission Impossible film; but this list included extended affiliates – like friends & family – which made things rather personal for Diggs. It got even more personal when all the players showed their hands. With a shadowy setting, filled with shadow military/ professional types, it seemed a little remarkable that no one (outside of Team Diggs) seemed to know how to maximize superior firepower, or not bunch up in ways that a hand-to-hand specialist, like Oliver, can exploit. I’d also half-expect someone to recognize Oliver Queen – if not before, then definitely after the shooting started – but I may be over thinking a disposable element. Diggs got his groove back, and we’re all very happy to see being a dad hasn’t left him soft, or out of the action. Everyone thank Lyla for letting him come out to play. Props, however, for the quick look at Oliver’s field improvisational skills.
Oh, Laurel, Laurel. There is no rehabilitation for this woman. Every upturn has been a setup for a crash, and I think that has been a part of the character design: Laurel as an emotional plot device – a counterweight to Oliver’s stoicism. If the death of Tommy Merlyn set her on the path to being a vigilante hunter, then Sara’s death has set her on the path to vigilantism. Simple enough, but does the setup have to be so ham-fisted? Much like ‘roid rage Roy, Laurel has been little more than a bundle of emo, looking for an outlet, going back & forth from hurting herself, to hurting others. The thing is, Roy had Thea to keep him grounded (however unhealthy that relationship was), before becoming a team player. It seems Laurel’s emo plot device role has been too important for effective grounding; but that might be subject to change. Enter Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez), trainer/ boxing coach to troubled youth, and bookend to Laurel’s return to the dark side. He was introduced as just another interview subject, in her pursuit of a lead, but that was before she decided to take matters into her own unskilled hands. Given his occupation, and discretion, she will likely see him in a different light, after her first foray into street justice made Bruce Wayne’s look like a hole-in-one.
I understand that Laurel is meant to be following the path Oliver took, filling a hole blown into her life with meaningful violence. The problem is that Oliver had personal drive, and an actual survivalist scenario, behind The Arrow; Laurel just seems to be trading one addiction for another – drowning her pain in violence, rather than controlled substances. Another problem would be her likely relationship with Grant. She’s going to be the next Canary – that seems pretty clear, at this point; but the source character of Ted Grant, aka Wildcat, was more than just the Black Canary’s trainer, he was also a mentor & surrogate father to her. In Arrow‘s case, it looks like bad boy abs won out, over the source dynamic. Eye candy addicts can send their thanks to either central casting, or the network.
The Corto Maltese thread wrapped up on a happy note; but I’m not buying it. All the while, that Thea spent considering one person’s heartfelt speech, after another, there was the haircut. As overly aesthetic-conscious as CW shows can be, at times, I couldn’t help but feel that the difference in hairstyles, between flashback apprentice Thea, and reunion Thea, meant something – as did her flashback ‘graduation’ moment. Malcolm Merlyn giving her a win might amount to a gift bearing Greek, and reunion Thea may be returning to the series with a Devil’s Haircut in her mind.
Side note: a caffeinated Brandon Routh seems to be as much a conversational match for Emily Bett Rickards‘ Felicity, as their characters seem to be, intellectually. That, and it’s the liveliest I’ve seen him since his run-in with the Vegan Police (best role to date). In any case, Felicity is moving up, in the World; here’s to hoping her role expands beyond secretary/ tech support/ Lady-in-Waiting.
I am also hoping that Lyla turning high espionage into an errand, ties into what Shaw had to say about being an operative of Amanda Waller. The implications would be extremely profound; otherwise, the whole exercise would seem kinda silly (sending off-duty cop hubby out for milk, and he stumbles across a robbery kinda thing).
‘Corto Maltese’ may have enough relevance to the season (if not series) to be regarded as more than just a filler episode. That said, the ‘NOC list’ plot was a little weak, as the medium for the key elements, and Laurel remains a frustrating parallel. Like the season premiere, however, ‘Corto Maltese’ ended with a deer-in-the-headlights moment. One that was obviously coming, but still, another ending that will serve to propel the show, along its evolutionary path, much farther & faster than the rest of the episode’s contribution. This is, once again a League game.