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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!


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