Monday, May 6, 2013

Arrow 1.21: "The Undertaking"

“I listened to my wife die over and over and over again. Imagine it was Moira lying in that pavement, bleeding, calling your name and then tell me you wouldn’t be prepared to do what I am.”
- Malcolm

We are in the home stretch of season 1 and we finally get some information and background on the Undertaking (as the episode title would indicate). I have to say I was surprised by what it ended up being. To be honest, just the name and the fact that John Barrowman is involved, it made me think of the travesty that was The Blessing on Torchwood: Miracle Day. For those of you who don’t know, it was the fourth season of Torchwood that most of like to pretend just never happened. But like I said, the Undertaking was actually pretty good. And I think this is the first episode this season where we don’t flash back to the island.

We begin this week with Oliver taking out the body guards of Harold Backman, Starling City’s accountant for the criminal element. Oli nabs his laptop but leave shim to the mercy of his bosses. Unfortunately, Backman has some serious encryption which is going to take Felicity a little while to crack. Sadly, her attempt to foster reconciliation between the boys is not well received by our brooding vigilante. He stands by his choices. At the Queen mansion, Moira is talking to someone (I thought it might be Malcolm but it could actually be the police I suppose) when Thea walks in. They bond over missing Walter and cue the first flashback of the episode.

Five years ago, Malcolm shows up for a meeting of the Undertaking. It is a group of rich people who have all lost something or someone because of the Glades (Malcolm’s wife, Robert’s ethics, Franks’ daughter) but the path they’re on of extorting the baddies to do good isn’t bringing about results. Malcolm’s solution is to literally level the Glades and start fresh. Unidec Industries is his way of making it look like a natural disaster. It’s clear at least Robert and Frank are unsure about the whole thing. Malcolm is a bit crazy to be honest.

We have a little bit of Tommy/Laurel/Oliver drama so I’ll get it over with quickly. Laurel is still moping because Tommy dumped her. Oli suggests she actually talk to Tommy to work out their uses. But when she does, Tommy tells her point blank that Oliver still loves her. This prompts Laurel to bounce back to Oli and beg him to go tell Tommy that Oli doesn’t have feelings for her anymore. Oli can’t do that because he doesn’t want to lie. But he can’t be with Laurel either. So she’s stuck with a couple of idiots whacking her back and forth emotionally.

Perhaps most importantly this episode, Felicity makes a startling discovery. Backman deposited $2 million the day Walter was kidnapped. So now they’re thinking if they track who made the payment, they can find the kidnapper and hopefully Walter’s location. She traces the money trail to the guy who runs the biggest underground casino in town. But Oli can’t just bust in and smack around some heads. Felicity is going in undercover because she can count cards and hopefully get close enough to check out the guy’s computer for juicy scoop. Before getting all dolled up in a sexy red dress, Felicity pays Diggle a visit, hoping to convince him to help rescue Walter. But Diggle wants an apology from Oli. Plus he’s not sure he wants to be part of a team where “imminent mortal peril” is really the only way to ensure Oli will show up and do what he promised. Fair enough I suppose.

In the past, we finally get some real information on Malcolm’s wife’s murder. All at once Barrowman can be evil and heartbreakingly vulnerable. He was busy working when she was shot and she called him twice and he just ignored her calls. He only listened to the messages after the cops told him she’d been gunned down. He literally listened to his wife take her last breaths over and over. I can definitely see why he’s got such a grudge against the Glades. He’s carrying that grief deeply. He won’t be letting go anytime soon.

Even though Robert feels badly for Malcolm, he still is hesitant about the plan. He feels like doing what they’re doing is paying for the one murder he accidentally committed in the Glades. Moira, upon hearing of her hubby’s indiscretion, begs Robert to stop Malcolm. Speaking of Malcolm in the present, Moira pays him a visit at his request. Whatever he’s going to use to level the Glades is ready and on its way to Starling City. They toast to Robert and Rebecca. Clearly, Moira is not comfortable being around Malcolm.

That night, Oli and Felicity put their plan in motion. Felicity is supposed to go in, get caught counting cards and then get a friendly warning from the owner where she can plant a bug on the computer. Things appear to be going according to plan until one of the thugs finds her ear piece and smashes it. Oli busts in, leaving his first giant trail of dead bodies for the episode. He rescues Felicity and gets some bad news. According to the casino owner, Walter is dead (he claims he heard the shots). Oli brings the news to Moira and Thea, interrupting their online shopping and Moira takes off to get some air. Oli tries to comfort Thea briefly before taking off himself.

Meanwhile, back in the past, we see Oli before the island. He’s kind of doughy and has a lot more hair. I think he actually looks less attractive. Though I will say they did do a good job making him look much less ripped and muscular. He’s definitely a no-cares kind of guy. He does sort of panic at Laurel’s suggestion that they move in together (though that could partly be the fact he was sleeping with Sarah). And later, Robert and Frank meet. Malcolm is buying up property in the Glades and he owns about a third. If they can quietly buy up the rest, they may have a shot at stopping Malcolm. They’re going to meet in China to discuss backing (Frank is flying but they can’t go together or else Malcolm might get suspicious). So Robert decides to take the Queen’s Gambit to China. And Oli comes along (so we know they are on their final voyage). And as the yacht sails out, we learn that there’s a bomb on board and that there’s a pretty intense storm brewing in their direction so it should look like a natural disaster.

Oli follows Moira straight to Malcolm and thanks to a recording arrow, he overhears everything. Including that Moira knew about the Undertaking, that she was aware it was Malcolm who kidnapped Walter and we get proof that Walter is still alive. Oliver is on the war path now. Felicity traces the call Malcolm made to show proof of life and they track it to a warehouse in Bloodhaven. Oliver leaves even more dead bodies behind as he rescues Walter. Reunited with his family, Walter is even happy to see Felicity. The way Oli introduces her to Moira and Thea it almost sounded like he wanted to say girlfriend but doesn’t. Yeah, I’m not really an Oliver/Laurel fan to be honest. After trading some veiled threats with Malcolm at the hospital, Oli makes his amends with Diggle. They are about to wage war with the city’s most dangerous man. Oh snap!

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