‘Arrow’ Season 1, Episode 16 Review – A Peek Under the Hood

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John Barrowman and Colin Donnell in Arow Dead to Rights Arrow Season 1, Episode 16 Review – A Peek Under the Hood

Of all the possible scenarios that could have come out of Moira Queen conspiring with China White and the Triads to assassinate Malcolm Merlyn, the one involving the Hood revealing his true identity to Tommy Merlyn came as something of a surprise. And this late in the season, it’s good to see Arrow playing a bit with the status quo, while attempting to flesh out two key members of the supporting cast who’d been relegated to the sidelines as of late.

‘Dead to Rights’ is the second Arrow episode to be written by DC Comics’ Geoff Johns; the first was ‘Muse of Fire‘, and ‘Rights’ stands as the stronger of the two. Perhaps that’s because Johns was given the opportunity not only to play with more established characters, but was also afforded the chance to push the series’ narrative forward in a more compelling manner. That said: the potentially disastrous decision Oliver makes near the end of the episode may dictate the events of the rest of the season as strongly as the reveal of the Undertaking.

It’s true, the season’s overall narrative could pan out differently and the fact that Tommy Merlyn is aware his best friend is also the Starling City vigilante may turn out to be no more important than the fried fish he and Ollie had for lunch. But considering the level of importance that’s been placed on the (barely) elder Merlyn, and his part in the oft-referenced Undertaking, it stands to reason that Tommy’s knowledge may play a key part in the progression of Malcolm’s relationship with his son, and possibly the Dark Archer’s battle with Arrow.

John Barrowman in Arrow Dead to Rights Arrow Season 1, Episode 16 Review – A Peek Under the Hood

Surprisingly, though, the episode manages to have far more up its sleeve than just Ollie’s decision to pull back the hood in Tommy’s time of need. Johns also focuses a considerable amount of attention on Malcolm and Tommy, giving them both some much-needed depth and making their relationship a little more defined.

Until a few weeks ago, Tommy had existed as something of a reflection of the man Oliver had once been. He appeared to be living the same trust fund-fueled lifestyle that Oliver Queen had become notorious for prior to vanishing for five years. After Malcolm cut Tommy off from the Merlyn piggy bank, the character had sort of languished in the margins of the series, appearing now and again to remind viewers that Oliver and Laurel were once together and that there will soon be a nightclub feeding house music directly into the Arrow Lair.

Despite not being directly named for the first half of the season, Malcolm certainly faired a little better than his son. He rose to prominence after delivering a major whooping to Arrow just before the holiday break and by revealing himself to be, if not the architect of the Undertaking, certainly one of its supervisors. But he was still something of an enigma, as he had formerly been known simply as the Well Dressed Man, and even after the reveal of the Dark Archer’s identity, much of Malcolm’s character remained shrouded in mystery. There’s definitely a lot of appeal in keeping the sinister forces of a series hidden in the shadows, but at a certain point, finding out at least a portion of what makes them tick is going to make them far more interesting in the long run. And to a degree, this episode offers that insight.

John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn in Arow Dead to Rights Arrow Season 1, Episode 16 Review – A Peek Under the Hood

Earlier in the episode Tommy and Oliver have a conversation about the fractured relationship between the Merlyns, and it becomes clear that the resentment Tommy feels toward his father is not born out of having his trust fund taken away; it stems from Malcolm’s two-year absence following the murder of his wife. There had been hints that the death of Tommy’s mother had a profound affect on Malcolm, and there is a bit more explanation here as to how that event not only put a literal and figurative distance between father and son, but it was also the catalyst for Malcolm to acquire the skills that would make him the Dark Archer and fuel his desire to reconstruct the Glades – even if it costs thousands of lives in order to do it. Malcolm tells Tommy that he’d been to a place called Nanda Parbat (which will certainly mean something to DC Comics fans), and there he met a man who clearly changed his outlook on life.

In addition to deepening the relationships (whether they’re aware of it or not) between Oliver, Tommy and Malcolm, the episode also makes better use of the villains Deadshot and China White than it has in the past. Certainly with Deadshot, his introduction in ‘Lone Gunmen‘ was something of an anticlimactic letdown, and although he and Oliver don’t directly engage one another this time around – Oliver only becomes aware of his presence after detecting a curare-laced bullet – that works out good for Floyd Lawton, as the assassin gets to keep his one good eye and manages an upgrade on the other thanks to China White.

Like the series itself, ‘Dead to Rights’ is far from perfect, but it does manage to highlight many of the things that Arrow does well, without getting too soapy about things. But, more importantly, the episode hints at things to come, and manages to combine some of the narrative’s larger implications with a character that was long overdue for some attention.

Michael Rowe in Arrow Dead to Rights Arrow Season 1, Episode 16 Review – A Peek Under the Hood

Various Items:

  • The progression of the flashbacks has slowed once more, but there seems to be a real relationship between Oliver and Slade brewing. Slade even manages to display a sense of humor by asking if Oliver hoped “aircraft maintenance is genetic.”
  • Moira appears to have gotten off scot-free in regard to her role in Malcolm’s attempted assassination. It will be interesting to see whether or not she remains so aggressive as the Undertaking approaches, and if her dealing with China White will have some ramifications for her down the road.
  • In addition to briefly mentioning her family had a canary at one point in her childhood, Laurel’s story for the episode contained the arrival her mother, in the form of Alex Kingston (Dr. Who), who seems convinced that Sarah might still be alive.
  • There’s a nice moment when Malcolm nearly reveals his identity as the Dark Archer to his son. How might things have turned out differently if that had not been interrupted?


Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘The Huntress Returns’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of the episode below:

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  1. I can’t believe they killed off brutale that quick he would have been a great villain in the future

    • Deadshot’s still alive, Laurel’s sister might still be alive… what makes you think they won’t bring back other characters that are believed to be dead?

      It is a comic book series after all :)

  2. Could Malcolm have potentially met Ra’s al Ghul? I just think about the scene in the prison when Bruce was directionless and Ra’s offers him a path.

    • I don’t think it’ll be ras since he said nanda parbet it might be the sensei of the league of assassins

      • …or the show might hinting at the coming of The Question, who studied in Nanda Parbat.

        • Vandal Savage was there for a long time and he is DC’s top Villain. That would make the most sense.

          • I would love a Vandal Savage storyline, because it would begin to add mythical powers into the show without having to go too far…
            Sometime in the future, Arrow is going to have to “Jump the Shark” and bring in either meta-humans (Flash, Wonder Woman), tech (Blue Beetle, Booster Gold) or mystical characters…. so starting with Savage or Rha’s would be good…

            • They’ll do a Question appearance before they do a Savage appearance. Vic Sage (or Renee Montoya, for that matter) is human, a detective, has a gimmick, and was trained in Nanda Parbat.

    • I was skimming the comments to see if anyone else picked up on that. I think they could make that work pretty easily since he is rich and powerful also which would lead into a batman reference.
      Right when he said he went away for 2 years and met a man that changed his outlook I even yelled “RA’s!!”
      I think itd be cool if they went that route

      • agreed

  3. Good point. Just thinking about Malcom/Dark Archer he definitely seems to have The League’s influence: was given direction/a path to “save” his city even though his plan will cause thousands to die, mysterious benefactors, extremely well trained in combat/strategy. One can hope right?

    • ha, i thought exact same thing, wouldn’t be awesome if rha’s al ghul actual shows up?

  4. I think this episodes points at a finale between the Dark Archer/Arrow where he kills Malcolm and since Tommy knows who the Arrow is, he will seek vengence/training in the second season as Merlyn, Arrow’s arch enemy… pretty much Osborns from Spiderman stroyline…

    With all the easter egg’s of Bludhaven this season, I am feeling that Nightwing might show up in the next season…
    As for the leader behind the scenes, if it isn’t Ra’s, then I am feeling Maxwell Lord, which is a shame because Barrowman is the spitting image of Lord…
    Second best episode of the season…

    • Agreed about Tommy. The question is how will he receive his training and become skilled enough to challenge Oliver?

      • That might be where Slade Wilson comes back in

    • there should be a Nightwing spin off show if he does show up the timing is perfect for it

  5. Another great episode… a LOT of $#!t went down lol, which is great. The filler episodes (like last week’s ep) really slows the show down.

    It’s also awesome to see things get more comic book-y with people coming back from the dead so to speak, as well as people who can block flying arrows 😀

      • I gotcha man… that scene definitely demanded some suspension of disbelief.
        Still, even though there was no explanation, at least Deadshot is now the REAL Deadshot (minus the costume).

        • As soon as she held up the eye I shouted “NO! GIVE HIM A MASK TOO! PLEASE!”

          • I said the same thing, he even had his costume! Just no mask.. what the hell CW?

  6. Who knew they did a fly over of Philadelphia.

    And actually edited out an entire building.

  7. great episode maaaaaan i wanted to see malcom give his son the torch sooooo bad hahahaha. but when i saw bludheaven i went crazy! i would like to see merlyn kill thea and roy become her void for oliver

  8. One of the best episodes this season! and we got Captain Jack and River Song in the same epidsode! that felt like a midseason finale type episode! cant wait for the stories to come!

    Oh, and Kevin, Arrow returns March 20th, not next Wednesday!

  9. Man this ep was good oly revealing his arrow to tommy was the biggest surprise for me. And comon cw u suck!! Both arrow and supernatural return on march 20th hate waiting.. Just as thigs are getting crazy good

  10. Ok so in the promo it says March 20th but I thought I heard next wednesday. So anyone know which one it is?

    • It is March 20th. The writer just made an error.

  11. What if the guy Malcolm met was… Yao Fei? What if Malcolm met the guy and they teamed up to fight crime, but with more concern for the ‘greater good’ rather than individual sacrifice. An older, more mature Yao Fei then teaches Ollie compassion and that survival is more important.

    Also, I’m 100% with Nightwing making an appearance. They’ve already got a green hero and when Speedy ups his game there will be a red one. I think there’s room for a blue hero too. It could also be a nice nod-and-wink if this ‘Richard Grayson’ got a job in the IT dept. of Queen Consolidated because his ‘adoptive father’ knows the right people and Nightwing’s ‘boss/caped friend’ wanted to keep an eye on vigilante goings-on in Starling.

    No explicit mention of Batman or Bruce Wayne, but little hints at a greater universe.

    • agreed. we do not know what will happen to yao fei and his daughter.
      black canary and nightwing next season

  12. I agree great episode with an amazing action filled pace. When Merlyn mentioned Nanda Parbot my mind started racing. “I met a man…” sounds so much like he fell in w/ Razz/the league of shadows. As mentioned above though there are other possibilities such as Vandal Savage. I wonder if Boston Brand (aka deadman) will make an appearance, or even have an origin story in the show if Ollie has to go there.

    Very interesting idea of Merlyn being trained by Yao Fei… It had crossed my mind but I dismissed it as too crackpot, yet there it is, Merlyn is a hell of an archer…

  13. Why did the thugs hesitate shooting Malcom?

    Why isn’t Malcom on Queen’s list?

    Is it just me, or is Moira looking younger and younger each episode?

    Felicity line of the night: “Now I feel like Chinese food”

  14. coolest episode yet

  15. what about a season 2

    • It got renewed early. Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity) got promoted to series regular.

  16. I love all the Easter eggs… But I’m going to have to go back and look for the Bludhaven nod, missed that one. But caught the Black Canary reference in the beginning… Awesome show, I like how the Surrounding characters are slowly progressing too what know them as, Than rather just thrown in there. Although I hope hope when Richard Grayson shows up, he dives right into all his Nightwing glory.

    • Deadshot was staying in the Bludhaven apartments.

  17. Great God… I thought “The Odissey” was a spectacular episode that nothing could top… but this one, is on par (if not better) than that one. So glad that they toned it down a little in “Dodger”, because it would be too much to handle if this episode comes after Odissey.
    So much revelation, so many comic book hints, and so many characters emotionally affected in one episode. I think this is also the first episode that introduce several layers of villains at the same time, kudos for the writing. This is AWESOME! So sad to know that we’re going to have to wait 3 weeks until the next episode, but the hype is definitely high for me right now.
    Oh, and I fully support with everyone about Nightwing’s appearance in this show. His character needs further exploration, because he’s so far my favorite DC character ever (even more than Batman).

  18. Just going off to the side for a moment, does anybody else think Manu Bennet would make a good Wolverine? Lol.

  19. Disagree. Disagree. Disagree.

    Muse of Fire was way better. The only thing that we really got out of this episode is the surprise of Ollie revealing himself to Tommy. This episode was bland.

    I guess the Deadshot thing too. I had already forgotten about that character so I had no idea who he was in this episode even after the enhancements.

    After the last couple of weeks this episode was a let-down.

    I agree that it sets up hints of what is to come but that’s all it did.

    • By “bland,” do you mean barely any action? This was one of the few episodes that went for strong character development. There were many reveals along the way. On the island, Ollie and Slade were really becoming comrades. Tommy decided to be the bigger man and give his father another chance. Moira showed that she was through taking whatever crap Malcolm would shove her way. Ollie was brutally honest to Tommy and may have lost a friend there.

      In bigger news, we got a faceful of Alex Kingston and were told that Sarah is still alive – does Ollie know? For whatever reason, Malcolm almost showed Tommy his Dark Archer batcave and now knows that, somewhat ironically, the man he almost killed saved his life. There are enough episodes left in the season, so… will Tommy become Malcolm’s Diggle? Will Moira, with all the ‘digging’ that Malcolm wants her to do, become their Felicity?

      Muse of Fire didn’t really give away a lot of the ‘now’ – aside from some stuff with Tommy, it mainly left people wondering how a relationship with two people *that* broken could work. Naturally, it did not. Dead to Rights had a smaller story about change, flying in the face of how things used to be, whilst clearly turning the cogs for the larger story arc of the season.

      • No I don’t.
        I thought the whole Slade Wilson taking Ollie under his wing was a good character development episode. Though it was a backwards look at it.

        By bland, I mean it had no feel. You saw everything coming except what I mentioned. Everything you mention in the first paragraph we saw (or saw coming) last week.

        We don’t know the story on Sarah yet so I’m not going to assess that one way or the other.

  20. series of arrows is very amazing.

  21. This was probably the best episode of season one, along with ‘Home Invasion’. John Barrowman and Colin Donnell were superb. All of the “man of the year” gala scenes were unbelievable.