This week, The Flash utilized flashbacks to fill in some of Caitlin Snow’s backstory, and Arrow followed suit by giving us not another glimpse into Oliver’s past, but rather a look at what's been going on with Thea Queen.
When the season opened, the elephant in the room was the whereabouts of Oliver’s half-sister. In fact, when Sara Lance was murdered, Thea became one of fandom’s prime suspects. “Corto Maltese” revealed where Thea was at the time, giving her an alibi, and how she was being transformed into a warrior by her father Malcolm Merlyn.
This isn’t done out of altruism; Malcom has his own agenda. During her initial training, he’s cruel to Thea, burning and pummeling her all in the name of hardening his apprentice. It works in a strange sort of way, as Thea seems more grounded and healthier than ever. When Ollie appeals to her to come home, Thea finally consents, seemingly forgiving Ollie for all his lies. Of course, she still doesn’t know he’s a vigilante, but she does learn how much he sacrificed on the island and, more importantly, how much her parents sacrificed for her and Oliver. Malcolm let her go a little too easily, and ominously promises he will see her soon. I can’t believe he has Thea’s best interests in mind, and whatever Merlyn’s long game is, you can bet the newly kickass Thea is involved.
The hunt for Thea isn’t the only thing Oliver, Diggle and Roy get up to in “Corto Maltese.” To track down Thea, Oliver and company has to meet up with Mark Shaw, whom DC Comics fans might recognize as the antihero the Manhunter, created by John Ostrander and Kim Yale. In fact, the Shaw presented on Arrow is very similar to the character when he held the identity of the villainous Privateer.
It doesn’t seem as if Shaw will become the Manhunter, but the series does utilize the character’s history with Amanda Waller and ARGUS to make her seem like a dangerous wild card who poses a constant threat to Diggle’s domestic tranquility. Every time I see Dig with his lady love and adorable baby girl, I’m waiting for it all to shatter -- something this episode could happen if Waller wills it. The episode feels an old-school Ostrander story, as Ollie, Dig and Roy take down Shaw and his mercenaries before Ollie convinces Thea to come home. Speaking of Roy, does anyone else think he didn’t try hard enough to convince Thea to return? Maybe being a hero has made him a more independent man, but for a guy defined himself by his love for Thea Queen, he’s kind of namby-pamby about the whole thing. He wasn’t feeble in battle: With a makeshift bow and newfound skills, Roy is more badass than ever.
We see what Roy is doing with his new skills and what Thea could potentially do with hers, but they aren’t the only characters with a desire to become a warrior. Since the death of Sara, Laurel Lance has tried to find a purpose, and the same part of herself that pushed her to pills and booze is now driving her toward the life of a vigilante. Vowing to take down a thug who beat one of her fellow AA members, Laurel dons Sara’s Canary jacket and heads out to confront the attacker, only to get her ass kicked. When Ollie returns, he refuses to train her in an effort to protect Detective Lance from more heartbreak (he still doesn’t know about Sara). Laurel then turns to the freshly introduced Ted Grant, known to DC fans as the Golden Age hero Wildcat. This version of Grant is about 60 years younger than his comic-book counterpart, but the same heart and sense of civic responsibility is evident. One can only hope this Grant dons the whiskers before too long, but in the meantime, his purpose appears to be to train Laurel.
The other developments in Starling City -- or is it Star City now? – involve Felicity Smoak in her new job alongside Ray Palmer. Felicity has a difficult time balancing all of her responsibilities – to Ollie and Dig, and to Ray – but of course she figures out a way to do it. Look for Felicity next week on The Flash, a story beat established at the end of this episode that begins the cross-pollination of the two series. Palmer is a great character so far, but is he a genial and friendly force for good? Not so fast, as the episode concluded with him leering at some Queen Consolidated advanced weaponry he discovered on a hard drive Felicity so deftly reconstructed. Is this Palmer different form the one DC fans are used to, or is he genuinely angry that the company he acquired was involved with manufacturing arms?
Palmer’s perplexing behavior isn’t the only question we are left with, as the episode ends with Nyssa Al Ghul paying Oliver a visit while in search of her lover Sara. With a cliffhanger like that, it’s going to be a long week.