This week, the episode wastes little time in getting to the action. After we watch Oliver begin his journey home to Starling City, we cut to a couple of Brick’s thugs extorting a diner in The Glades for protection money. They are then interrupted by Roy (now officially going by Arsenal) and Laurel. They knock out both goons in about ten seconds but since The Glades have become anarchy they are immediately dispatched elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Captain Lance gets tired of doing nothing against Brick so he calls up Team Arrow to offer some “off-the-books” assistance. Lance meets up with Arsenal, who like Thea recognizes him as Roy (yeah Roy’s apparently not very good at this whole secret identity thing), and gives him all the evidence he has against Brick, hoping that Team Arrow can find something to put him away for good.
While all of this is going on Malcolm Merlyn is continuing his training of Thea to properly prepare her against The League of Assassins. While she proves herself as a skilled fighter, Merlyn can’t help but notice that she still lacks the killer instinct necessary to survive against them. Merlyn does admit to her however, he knows killing is difficult and how remorseful he had been the first time he murdered somebody. When she naturally asks him why he did it, he answers “Because the man I killed murdered my wife.”
Back at Arrow HQ, the team is going through the evidence from Captain Lance. Thanks to some fast detective work from Felicity, she is able to discover that the same gun Brick used to kill the alderman last week was also used in an over twenty year old murder. The victim in the old murder is revealed to be Merlyn’s late wife Rebecca and that Brick is the one who killed her. Little does Team Arrow know that Merlyn has bugged the place and is therefore watching this entire conversation. Unsurprisingly, he is none too happy with this new information. On a side note, Felicity seriously needs to improve security.
Meanwhile, Oliver continues his journey but since he hasn’t fully recovered from his wounds yet, progress is slow. Luckily for him, Tatsu has been following close by to lend a hand. While they take a break, he tells her of his predicament with Ra’s al Ghul. Since she is better with a sword, he asks her to train him so that he might be able to beat Ra’s next time. She tells him the only way he can possibly beat Ra’s is to get some training from someone who has trained under him.
After Team Arrow briefly debates whether to involve Merlyn against Brick, Felicity points out they’re having a problem actually finding Brick. Roy and Laurel then remember Brick’s men used walkie-talkies. Felicity uses that information to trace Brick’s location to the now vacant police station in The Glades (don’t ask me how since even Laurel admits she didn’t understand any of Felicity’s techno babble).
Roy and Laurel storm the police station but since they are very much outmanned and outgunned, things go bad for the both of them pretty quickly. Just before Brick is able to finish them off, they are saved at the last second by the unlikeliest of allies, Malcolm Merlyn.
Back Arrow HQ, which Merlyn seems to have invited himself into yet again, he proposes that he and Team Arrow form an alliance with each other against Brick so he can avenge his wife’s death. None of them appear too happy with this idea, but Merlyn correctly reminds them they don’t have a lot of options at this point and gives them time to think it over. Weird how no one bothered to ask Merlyn how he found out about Brick killing his wife in the first place.
Back at Thea’s club, she and Roy have a talk about Merlyn. She tells Roy about how Merlyn has become obsessed with finding and killing his wife’s murderer. When Roy understandably points out that Merlyn is, you know, a killer, Thea counters by telling him that Merlyn also protects people. To prove her point, she reveals how Merlyn saved her life during Slade Wilson’s reign of terror and insists that deep down he actually cares about people (yeah sure he’s murdered hundreds of people and bravely used his own daughter as a weapon to save himself from The League but all in all he’s still a good guy). Surprisingly, Roy is swayed by this garbage and tries to convincing the rest of Team Arrow to join forces with Merlyn. Despite Roy’s arguments, the rest of the team decide against it and Diggle meets with Merlyn to tell him to shove it.
Meanwhile, Oliver and Tatsu finally prepare to part ways as Oliver decides to hitch a ride on a delivery truck. He tries persuading Tatsu to come with him and help him beat Ra’s but she declines. She tells him that in order to defeat Ra’s he has to sacrifice “what he holds most precious.”
The Return of the Arrow
While Team Arrow was successfully able to resist the temptation of working with Merlyn, this still leaves them no closer to taking down Brick. Laurel then comes up with the idea of getting some reinforcements from various citizens of The Glades which begins with Laurel recruiting Ted Grant and Roy bringing in Sara’s old friend Sin (and the rest of it presumably happening off screen).
Now that Team Arrow has their new plan ready, they prepare for an all-out assault against Brick. At first it appears that only Roy and Laurel are there until their backup arrives shortly after and an all-out melee ensues. The team holds their own against the thugs while Merlyn shows up to take on Brick. The fight appears to be going badly at first, until some green arrows start finding their way into Brick’s men, showing that Oliver has officially returned. Meanwhile, Merlyn is all but ready to finish Brick until Oliver shows up and surprisingly is able to talk him out of it. With Brick and his forces soundly defeated, the Arrow announces his return to the citizens of The Glades (which is being shown on the news) and apologizes for his absence promising that it will not happen again.
Now that the smoke has finally cleared, the cops led by Captain Lance, return to The Glades to round up what’s left of Brick’s crew. While there, Lance has a brief but troubling conversation with Sin. She tells him that whoever has been dressing up as Black Canary isn’t Sara, which naturally has the Captain more than a little confused. Hopefully, this time next week he can finally get clued in on what happened with Sara.
Meanwhile, Oliver finally comes home to Thea, who explains his absence by saying he partied too much in Bludhaven and spent the last few weeks in jail. Merlyn is already there though Oliver decides to keep things civil in front of Thea. When the two talk privately, Oliver asks for Merlyn to train him so he can have a chance to defeat Ra’s al Ghul. Oliver reasons that as a former student of Ra’s, Merlyn’s the only one that can help defeat him.
When Oliver tells the rest of Team Arrow about the deal he made with Merlyn, Felicity doesn’t take it well. He tries reasoning with her about it but she refuses to listen to him. She reminds him that he declared his love for her right before his fight with Ra’s and says that she doesn’t want to be a woman he loves. I would think she would be more understanding about Oliver’s deal with Merlyn considering the likely alternative is waiting for The League to hunt them all down and kill them horribly but I digress.
This week, the show decides to take a break from Oliver’s time in Hong Kong and we are instead given an origin story for Merlyn. We open the flashback to 21 years ago, where Merlyn oddly enough looks exactly the same, save for an unintentionally hilarious haircut. We see him tend to a young Tommy, who has woken up from a bad dream. They have a nice father/son moment until it’s cut tragically short by a visit from the police who have come to tell him his wife has been murdered.
At Rebecca’s funeral, while Tommy is being comforted by a young Oliver, Merlyn is visited by an associate. After giving his condolences, he tells Merlyn there’s a person of interest in his wife’s murder and gives him a picture of the person in question.
Merlyn goes down to an alley in The Glades with a gun to confront his wife’s alleged murderer, where things go wrong for him pretty quick. The thug disarms Merlyn and beats the crap out of him. As the thug is walking away, Merlyn picks up the gun (which the thug just left lying in the alley for some reason) and shoots him.
Immediately after the shooting, Merlyn goes home to pack and leave town. He tells his associate from earlier that he can’t stay in Starling City and pretend things are normal anymore. Even though he thinks he’s avenged his wife’s death, he admits his anger hasn’t changed and resolves to go to a place he’s heard about where he can focus that anger into something more constructive. When Merlyn finally makes his way to The League, he meets an adolescent Nyssa. Interestingly enough, he is able to impress Nyssa with a magic trick, thus earning his nickname among The League as “The Magician.”
While this episode wasn’t without it’s moments, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. For a guy that has plagued our heroes and by extension the city for the last few weeks, Brick seemed to go down pretty easily. So much so, it makes me question why Team Arrow had so much trouble taking him down even without Oliver’s help. There was so much buildup leading up to this episode, the payoff just ends up feeling weak.
The other major problem here is Felicity. She basically spends the entire episode going on a rampage of self-righteousness. First she scolds Roy for considering the alliance with Merlyn and then gives Oliver the cold shoulder at the end of the episode despite the writers making it plainly clear he doesn’t have much of a choice. This behavior seems kind of hypocritical considering just two weeks ago she was ready to quit the operation altogether. Felicity’s role has been a rather thankless one since the show’s midseason premiere but I tried not letting that bother me too much. This week however, her presence was nothing short of grating.
Next Team Arrow tries to return to business as usual when Count Vertigo returns to terrorize Starling City. Tune in next week for “Canaries.”