NOC Recaps Arrow: The Magician and the Monster

The end of this week’s Arrow gutted me (and Oliver) more than the literally torso-piercing mid-season finale did. As I write this I am still in shock and can’t really move. We’ll get to that later though.

Over on Mystery Mountain, Oliver is itching to leave. Tatsu obviously doesn’t want him to go because he’s still recovering from being STABBED IN THE CHEST AND THROWN OFF A CLIFF, but you know, a few weeks recovery time with some magic penicillin herbs does WONDERS. Oliver leaves, but with Tatsu close behind, just to make sure he gets to a ride safely. Oliver constantly asks Tatsu to come with him, but she doesn’t want to rejoin the world. What in the world happened to her poor little boy? They part ways, but I feel confident we’ll see Tatsu in the present again soon.

Back home in Starling, the remains of Team Arrow are trying to deal with the lack of police presence in the Glades due to Brick’s control. Laurel is doing a bit better fighting-wise, but she’s spotted by Sin (welcome back!), who initially thinks it’s Sara. If Sin, who didn’t know Sara her WHOLE LIFE, knew that the woman in black wasn’t Sara, WHY DOESN’T LANCE KNOW? WHY DOES LANCE KNOW ROY IS ARSENAL BUT DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT SARA OR OLIVER OR LAUREL? Sorry for all the caps, but his sight is so inconsistent! It’s actually a little frustrating.

In case you didn’t know, William Shatner has been live tweeting The Flash and, apparently, Arrow too:

Lil Hoodie!!! I might need to call Roy that from now on.

(Just as a spoilery side note, I rewatch the episode when recapping, and knowing the ending, getting through the first 55 minutes leaves me with so much anxiety…!)

“Doesn’t mean I can’t help out the hood squad off the books.” “We call ourselves Team Arrow. Well, actually that’s just me.”

“Arsenal? What are you guys just pulling names out of a hat now?”

Over at Thea’s gorgeous penthouse estate, Thea and Malcolm are sparring again.

This leads us into our first ever Malcolm Flashback! He has terrible John Travolta hair — I think it’s a production game at this point to see who can come up with the worst flashback wigs — and we see Malcolm (AND BABY TOMMY OMG!) the night Rebecca Merlyn was murdered.

Malcolm is devastated. He goes after the man who killed Rebecca and despite losing the fight, he still manages to kill him. When he gets home, covered in blood and shaking, Malcolm immediately packs his bags. Killing his wife’s killer didn’t end the pain or the rage. So he begins looking for a way to channel it. He leaves Tommy for Nanda Parbat, which we knew from Tommy’s rage at his father for leaving him, where he meets tweenage Nyssa. He pulls a parlor trick with a coin and Nyssa names him: The Magician.

In the present, Lance gives Team Arrow info on Brick that teaches us two things: 1.) Brick is the man who killed Rebecca Merlyn and 2.) Malcolm has surveillance in Felicity’s computers. You’d think she’d have spotted that or have some sort of safeguard against it. Anyway, now Merlyn wants to go after Brick himself, which seems to solve Team Arrow’s problems — if they wanted to work with Malcolm or do things his way. Which they don’t.

“It’s just another reason for them to share bunk beds in hell.”

Malcolm approaches the team in the foundry and I was really, really distracted by Felicity sitting in her chair while the rest of them stood around. It was not only just a matter of her refusing Malcolm the respect of standing as he entered the room, but also made her seem like an angry QUEEN with her royal guard surrounding her. Which she is. And they are. So Malcolm wants to work with them and they argue a bit about actually doing it.

“You have your options. Weigh them.”

Felicity doesn’t think Oliver would go for it and when they vote and it seems like Roy is the only one down for working with Merlyn. He found out about Merlyn saving Thea, which makes Roy and Thea both somehow believe that the undertaking was just a quirky way for Malcolm to show that he cares for the city, which… No. Felicity was the sole voice of reason on this one.

Instead of turning to Malcolm, Team Arrow turns to the city itself. There are people who want to protect themselves, including Sin and Ted Grant, so everyone BANDS TOGETHER AND TAKES ON BRICK TOGETHER. I think I tweeted (and maybe recapped) that I LOVE TEAMWORK, so seeing everyone come together was a beautiful sight.

“Oh look, it’s my favorite trick or treaters.”

The massive brawl begins (is this fight bigger than the Mirakuru fight from the S2 finale?) after Arsenal and Black Canary claims that Brick has “failed this city.” THEY SAID THE THING! THEY SAID IT! The fight carries on, with Brick beating Grant to bloody pieces (that can’t be the end of Ted, it CAN’T! No dead body, no crime!), then escaping to an alley where Malcolm meets him. But everyone is shocked by a green tipped arrow that slices through the mêlée!


Even though I knew this was coming both because he was making his way home and because of the teasers, I still screamed! He’s back, he’s back! Things will finally come back to (relative) order!

Oliver doesn’t get a chance to rest though. His still broken, raspy self, goes after Malcolm and Brick, stopping Malcolm from killing Brick. Malcolm keeps telling Oliver how much killing hurt him, took away from his soul, changed him. These are things that Oliver knows and somehow doesn’t relay back to Merlyn. Oliver is stopping YOU from doing more damage to said soul (horcruxes anyone? If anybody in the Arrowverse has horcruxes, it would totally be Malcolm Merlyn). Oliver does try to impart what he’s learned as a reformed killer and successfully persuades Malcolm not to kill Brick.

“Thea would never forgive me.” “Start giving her reasons to.”

With Brick handled, with his life in tact, Oliver stands in front of his city and delivers a most epic speech — perhaps his most epic to date?

“I’ve been gone and I’m sorry. Sorry for what the city had to endure in my absence. But you did endure it. And the evidence of that struggle is lying at my feet! You did not fail this city and I promise I will not fail you by leaving it again.”

AND THEN A ZIPLINE AWAY THAT PROBABLY PULLED ALL HIS STITCHES! Tatsu would probably facepalm if she had a TV in her snowy mountain cabin.

Oliver first checks in on Thea — and Malcolm — where he decides that he must learn from Malcolm how to defeat Ra’s. This was inevitable, but after Felicity’s rage before, it does seem like more of a bad idea. But before I get ahead of myself…

After Ollie visits his sister and makes the deal with Merlyn, he goes back to his real home: The Foundry and Felicity. Their hug was so sweet and wonderful and makes what happens next hurt all the more. Oliver tells the team that he will work with Malcolm to kill Ra’s and Felicity loses it.

“Merlyn is a MONSTER. […] I need some air, I’m glad you’re not dead.”

She walks out into the alley and for a second, I thought she was going to get kidnapped. But Oliver follows and they share one of their longest, most painful scenes of the entire series.

“That almost dying would give you a new perspective on life, that you would just do things differently.”

Me too, Felicity, and if Malcolm hadn’t been in the way and he hadn’t needed to go after Ra’s, that might have been true.

“That last thing you said to me was that you loved me. And now you’re back and the first thing you say to me if that you’re working with the man that turned your sister, a woman you’re supposed to love, into a killer, who killed a woman you used to love. I don’t want to be a woman that you love.”

As an Olicity fan, that was painful, but maybe a necessary moment in their relationship. Felicity is scared. Not just of loving Oliver — love can be scary all by itself — but the people who Oliver loves die. Tommy, Moira, Sara… We can even go back to Shado and Robert. Thea is a killer, Laurel is a bit too hellbent on pain and revenge, stemming from Oliver’s initial betrayal and death all those years ago. Felicity doesn’t want to end up like them.

Earlier in the season, she said that she wanted to live, she wanted to spend more time outside of the foundry and not die down in the lair like Oliver might. And this is all still true. She hasn’t changed. So yes, he reciprocates her feelings, but she hasn’t even really voiced them out loud, because bad things happen when Oliver Queen loves you and you know his secret. This was more of a break-up between two non-dating people than I’ve seen on TV in a long time. It was painful and a cliffhanger moment for the episode, but Oliver returned and not much WAS different. Obviously he still has the same obstacles he had when he left: Malcolm and Ra’s are giving him a permanent headache, but he hasn’t approached things differently yet. Different would be to let Thea in on the big changes in her life that are surrounding her and she doesn’t even know. Different would be including the team in his decision-making.

As we’ve seen with him gone, Felicity is all about the teamwork. She’s made her own unilateral decisions, but in the interest of keeping the group alive. Oliver’s decisions don’t include them and are about what is best for him, in the end. It takes major change for Oliver to learn his lessons. Tommy and Felicity both disapproved of Oliver killing people during season one, but it took Tommy dying for him to actually do it. So Felicity’s refusal of his love after his near death experience just might be one of the kicks he needs in order to do things another way. Hopefully it doesn’t take a bigger lesson, because as we know, anyone can die on this show and I’m not ready to mourn another member of Team Arrow (that even includes you, Laurel).

For now, I’m guessing there will be more painfully awkward foundry scenes, because it doesn’t seem like Felicity would quit, return because she’s accepted the larger mission, and then quit again because Oliver is stupid. But she could also begin spending more time with the other superhero rising in Star(ling) City. With The Flash’s spoiler-y news that Felicity and Ray will be heading to Central City, it makes me wonder if she’s going there as just his associate/crime fighting partner or if she will be there as his girlfriend as well. Especially if Oliver decides to self-sacrifice and let her go (for now). There are so many ways this could go, all as painful as the next until Oliver gets it together, and I don’t see that happening until probably next season.

With regard to the title and the Malcolm-ness of the episode: I mostly just liked the alliteration of the recap subtitle, but both epithets were used for Malcolm in the episode and I think it represents the two parts of him. The Magician is the man he was before the League. He was flawed and scared but he cared about his family and still chose to show Nyssa his trick even when he saw that she was a tweenage bad-ass. The Monster is who he became. The League didn’t erase his anger or despair, it suppressed it until it drove him insane. Insane enough to think that destroying the Glades was helping the city (I am still thrown by all of the logic-adjacent support he got from Thea and Roy in this episode).

Malcolm has to rectify both sides of himself, as does Team Arrow. I agree with Felicity that he is a monster, but in contrast, he listened to Oliver and didn’t kill Brick. He does seem to care about Thea (well, to a certain extent; he did still put her in the crosshairs of Ra’s al Ghul). And if redemption and changing your ways is a theme of the series (which is what Oliver’s character development has been about so far), then Oliver is the person who can best help Malcolm redeem himself. Just like Canary was the name for Sara that she felt was beautiful but didn’t really represent who the League turned her into, Malcolm struggles with the same with his own name. Maseo also became someone else when he joined the League. This season is about identity and all of these characters must reconcile the different parts of themselves, including the different names they go by. Malcolm must stop being the Monster and return to being the Magician.

Next week we get some Vertigo and we get some drug induced Sara! They keep teasing us with Sara and I just would love her back. She and Laurel could fight crime as double Canaries! It’d be awesome!


  • “You think I don’t recognize you with a little extra leather and lace?”

  • Laurel is collecting scars.
  • Felicity rocking that crop top in the foundry…!
  • Yay at Felicity and Laurel getting along.

  • OH COME ON, WE HAD TO KILL TED GRANT? I still want to say he’s alive because we didn’t officially see him die, and I would hope he’d get a better send off than that, but it didn’t look too good. Hopefully he makes a surprise recovery.
  • So I said earlier that I was glad that Team Arrow didn’t work with Malcolm, but I must say I don’t have the same feelings about Oliver working with him to defeat Ra’s. There’s a level of disconnect here. I don’t think Oliver is forgiving Merlyn or letting him on his team. If Team Arrow had worked with him, he would have been calling the shots and using them while they are distracted with the Brick problem. Oliver training under Malcolm gives Oliver both new techniques — with him focused on avoiding any tricks Malcolm will pull, but also the lesson: only the student can defeat the master, works for Malcolm just as it does for Ra’s. I don’t think Brick was worthy of Malcolm and Team Arrow working together, but Ra’s is. Maybe that’s hypocritical and Felicity would skewer me in an alley too, but I always thought that there’d be a team up between Oliver and Malcolm to go against Ra’s, especially with their Thea connection. The rest of the team has no such obligations and hadn’t quite needed to make that desperate move. Does anyone else have a similar feeling? That Oliver does need to work with Malcolm, but Team Arrow was right to deny his help? Maybe it’s just about expectation.
  • Felicity loved saying “get in bed with Malcolm Merlyn.” She says it more than once. It was almost the title to this recap, buuttt I wanted to go another direction.
  • Oliver has returned still a broken man and even his voice strains with the pain. He didn’t get to come home and rest, plus both Thea and Felicity glomped on him. I’m sure the deliciousness of their love cushioned the pain but STILL. Also, I’m sure struggling into that tight leather did a deal of damage on him. Plus ZIPLINING OUT OF HIS EPIC SPEECH. Yowza. But nothing compares to the damage Felicity did to him at the end, so I guess the pain is all relative.

  • TELL ME HOW BOTH OLIVER AND THE ARROW COME BACK INTO TOWN THE SAME NIGHT AND THEA DOESN’T THINK ANYTHING OF IT. Lance has his own blind spots, but he didn’t even know Oliver was out of town, so that’s a question for next week if it comes up. But I mean, COME ON. I know the writers aren’t really interested in the “secret identity” storyline, but then just make everyone know and not care! Because otherwise I question their intelligence and just general eyesight.
  • Sin is the person who FINALLY tells Lance that something is not right.

  • She doesn’t know it’s Laurel, but I think next week he will finally find out that Sara has been dead for MONTHS. 🙁 It’s gonna be so painful but he deserves to know after all this time. Laurel deserves whatever she has coming to her.

12 thoughts on “NOC Recaps Arrow: The Magician and the Monster

  1. Your recaps always make me smile. And thank you for pointing out the big old mass-murder pass that Thea and Roy were ready to give Malcolm. The fact that he saved Thea at the train station doesn’t change that he murdered lots of other people’s children. That’s why his wife’s murder as justification for the Undertaking has never flown for me. I think his initial rage/grief made him desperate for something and the League was ready to make use of him and all those experiences changed him. By the time he gets back to Starling City he is really past crazy if he thinks that leveling the poorer section of the city somehow helps the city or protects other families. No way I can see that, ever.

    Now, I like to think of redemption being possible for most people. And I was touched that Thea expressed some hope for her father’s ability to change. (Although she was angry with her mother over the Undertaking a lot more than she has ever been with Malcolm.) I mean, if we tell people that they have done horrible things and are therefore lost causes what would ever make them choose any differently? However, if Malcolm is sincere in wanting to be better he could actually help the community of the Glades in some way. I would take his “remorse” a lot more seriously if he tried to help someone other than himself. And if Thea is supposed to be part of his redemption he had better start being truthful with her. In the end, I think deception and manipulation are so ingrained in his character that he will keep on with his creepy control of Thea. Does he even know how to love honestly anymore?

    That’s why I was so glad that Felicity was adamant about never working with Malcolm. She was all happy until Oliver mentioned that and I think her shock and anger were justified. If Oliver really loves Thea he would be honest with her and would truly help her get through things rather than keeping her in the dark all the time “for her own protection”. (I am getting really tired of Oliver’s way of protecting Thea or Laurel’s way of protecting her dad from the truth.) And any justice for Sara’s death seems to have gone right out the window. If that is how Oliver treats the women he loves then I can understand why Felicity would want no part in that.

    Now, I know Oliver is looking at the big picture and the big threat is Ra’s and Malcolm is a useful source. But I still think it’s a bad idea.

    I just keep thinking of Diggle’s line. “I don’t know if we made the right choice but we did the right thing.” I fear Oliver is making the smart choice but doing the wrong thing. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

    But I’m still super excited to see Oliver training with Malcolm. That will be pretty.

    Oh, and it’s good you bring up where Felicity goes from here in working with Team Arrow. She doesn’t support the whole Malcolm thing. How involved will she be with the general save-the-city work? (Although the trailer for next week shows her back in her rightful Queen chair) And where will Ray fit in all this? I kinda enjoy Felicity and Ray being super smart pals but the romantic stuff falls a little flat for me.

    But almost all the characters have some pretty serious problems to deal with and I like that. It feels like lots of interesting things can happen from here. My big question is whether the stories can balance all of that and keep moving forward in a coherent way.

    1. “However, if Malcolm is sincere in wanting to be better he could actually help the community of the Glades in some way. I would take his “remorse” a lot more seriously if he tried to help someone other than himself.” Hmm, yes, this is a good point. I think if Malcolm survives season 3, then perhaps this may be a part of his journey. That is if the people don’t kill him immediately once they find out he’s been alive all this time.
      “If that is how Oliver treats the women he loves then I can understand why Felicity would want no part in that.” Yeah, definitely. He was ignoring their pain and needs and justice in order to defeat R’as who he wouldn’t have had to face if not for Malcolm. And even if that was the decision he wanted to make, he could have at the very least consulted with F/Team Arrow, but he once again made decisions about the group without them and that’s why she’s so angry. I hope we see her in the Foundry next week, but she might be helping Ray into his suit… I hope she can do all three of her jobs, but girl also needs some sleep!

      “I just keep thinking of Diggle’s line. “I don’t know if we made the right choice but we did the right thing.” I fear Oliver is making the smart choice but doing the wrong thing. ” OOh that’s good! Really good! It IS the smart choice. And the expected choice, especially for us as an audience who want them to share more screen time together, but that’s a great twist on Diggle’s words. I can’t wait to see the ways in which Team Arrow handles crisis next week without Oliver, when he realizes that they’ve become an even closer knit group without him. Of course I want them all to have so much love and fun together (they really need some downtime bonding, like Caitlin and Barry in The Flash this week!), but it will be some interesting dynamics when he learns that they basically moved on without him. He’ll have to learn how to be a part of the group again. Hopefully that will help him learn how to be more inclusive with them.

      “I kinda enjoy Felicity and Ray being super smart pals but the romantic stuff falls a little flat for me.” hahah same, I’d prefer it to remain platonic, but they seem to be heading in the romantic direction for sure. But how much will she want to put herself out there for another self sacrificing hero who has problems consulting with people before he acts (we know this is a big Ray problem and a big reason why I dislike him — that stalking man, kills me!).

      And excellent point about the coherency of the season. I think last week’s episode was the weakest because it had so many balls to juggle between past, present, Oliver away, the Team as a whole, their individual problems, and of course the Laurel/Sara mess, but hopefully the stories will coalesce once again with Oliver back, more streamlined stories and characters spending more time together than apart. There are definitely lots of options moving forward, like I said, each as painful as the next hahaa.

      Thanks as always for your comments! Analysis is so fun when you have people to bounce ideas off of!

      1. “another self sacrificing hero who has problems consulting with people before he acts”
        Ug, Ray DOES do that! So annoying! Well, the girl did recognize that she has a type. And attractions to similar qualities can lead to frustrations with similar behaviours. (Story of my life in college, sigh)
        As long as she calls Ray on his crap as she has done so well with Oliver I won’t find their relationship too annoying. But in the end, I still see him as some diluted version of Oliver now. Doesn’t seem fair to him as a character but that’s the position he’s been put in.

      2. Wait a second, didn’t the ex Cooper kind of do that too? He started deleting student loans without her knowledge (although the roommate seemed to be aware of that plan), using her algorithm without discussing it with her (probably because he knew she would object). And then she was right and he got arrested.

        Boys, take a note, LISTEN to Felicity!

      3. Oh snap you’re right! They seriously need to listen to her and include her because she’s smarter than ALL OF THEM!! These foolish boys. Pitiful.

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