‘Arrow’ Review: “Broken Dolls”
‘Arrow’ season 2 lets loose its third episode of the year with “Broken Dolls,” as Oliver Queen teams with Officer Lance to find a doll-making serial killer, while Moira's trial takes a shocking turn, and Roy pursues Sin ('The Killing''s Bex Taylor-Klaus) to find the mysterious Black Canary vigilante, revealing ties to some major DC players along the way.
Last week’s ‘Arrow’ episode “Identity” saw Oliver facing both Bronze Tiger (‘The Dark Knight”s Michael Jai White) and China White (Kelly Hu), while Sebastian Blood (‘True Blood”s Kevin Alejandro) attempted to ruin the Queens' reputation, and Roy Harper finally made contact with the vigilante, so what does the third episode of ‘Arrow’ season 2 bring? Will Oliver finally become the hooded hero we know from DC comics?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 2's DC heavy episode 3, “Broken Dolls!”
Picking up where we left off, Oliver begins to lower his weapon when the mysterious vigilante woman suddenly drops from the ceiling, activating a sonic weapon that incapacitates the police and shatters all the ambient windows. Oliver and the woman escape, though she leaves Oliver behind without answering any questions. Oliver returns to the lair to share his findings with Felicity and Diggle, uncertain what to make of a new vigilante player in town.
Back in the past, Oliver and Slade head off to investigate the source of the pirates, while Shado examines one of the exhumed corpses of the Japanese soldiers. In the present, Officer Lance is advised not to respond to a murder, finding it to be the work of one Barton Mathis, a “Dollmaker” whose case had previously driven Lance to the edge. Oliver and Diggle train while Felicity looks into the mysterious blonde vigilante who's targeting misogynist criminals, before Lance calls to set up a meeting with Arrow.
Lance tacitly agrees to partner with Oliver so long as he sticks to his no-killing rule, pointing out that the police are too busy to handle Barton’s escape. Oliver reasons that they might find the killer by reaching out to his former lawyer, stopping along the way to task Roy with tracking down the blonde vigilante. The next day, Laurel worries that her father has begun to pursue the Dollmaker case again out of guilt, to which he points out that she’s done the same with the vigilante.
Thea visits Moira in prison to help her prepare for her upcoming trial, while Oliver and Lance pay a visit to Barton’s lawyer, wounding him to learn of a potential hideout near an old doll museum. The pair follow the lead to an apartment complex, wherein they find a doll with a headline clipped to it, along with a ringing phone from Barton forcing Lance to listen to his latest kill. After police find the body, Olvier and Lance investigate a private forensics lab to learn that several of the victims have a specific skin cream in common.
Back in the past, Slade again warns Oliver that his attachment to Shado could cost him his life, nearly slipping off a cliff himself before Oliver saves him. Oliver refuses to change his outlook, as the pair spy a freighter just off shore from the island, firing mortar shells at their downed plane’s location. Meanwhile in the present, Roy taps an old contact to find out that the vigilante woman has been spotted with a local youth named “Sin.”
Having volunteered to act as bait, Felicity goes undercover to purchase the skin cream, watched by Oliver, Lance and Diggle. Lance admits to Oliver that he pursued the Dollmaker case so intensely as a means to compensate for the loss of his daughter, before Barton leaps out to pursue Felicity. Oliver and Lance manage to chase him down, though the arrival of the police gives Barton a chance to flee, while Oliver disappears and Lance himself is taken into custody for obstruction of justice.
The next day, Oliver attends his mother’s trial to learn that DA Adam Donner plans to pursue the death penalty in her case. Across town, Laurel releases her father from custody and begs him to stop aiding the Arrow in pursuing the Dollmaker case, backing down when Lance points out that Laurel too seems to shoulder an unnatural amount of guilt for Tommy’s death. Back in the past, Oliver races back toward the plane to protect Shado, finding himself knocked out by a mortar blast, with his last vision that of Slade being burned from the explosion.
Roy manages to find the mysterious Sin, though the youth bolts when she learns who Roy is after. Sin leads Roy on a lengthy chase that ends at the top of an abandoned clock tower, when a mysterious figure knocks him out from behind. Meanwhile, Lance approaches a hooded man in the police parking garage, until the man reveals himself as Barton, tasing Lance and throwing him inside the van with an already-captive Laurel.
Oliver is alerted to reports of the kidnappings on the news, for which Felicity traces the van to an abandoned Metamorpho chemical warehouse. Meanwhile, Roy awakens to find the blonde vigilante looming over him, inquiring if “they” sent him, until the woman releases him for his ignorance.
Lance begs Barton not to perform the dollmaking procedure on Laurel, but Oliver manages to sever the tube just in time, giving chase to Barton after. Before Oliver catches up however, the blonde vigilante descends from the ceiling and takes down Barton herself, at least until some stray beams momentarily incapacitate her. Oliver non-fatally hits Barton with his arrows, but the blonde vigilante finishes the job with a projectile to Barton’s heart, before disappearing. Over in the next room, Laurel admits to her father that she doesn’t blame the Arrow for Tommy’s death, but rather herself for staying in the CNRI building when Tommy begged her to leave.
That night, Lance thanks Oliver for his help in saving both he and his daughter, while Moira’s lawyer Jean Loring ('Stargate''s Teryl Rothery) assures her they’ll fight the death penalty. Moira implies that Jean doesn’t quite know all of Malcolm’s associations, adding that some things should never be spoken of. Meanwhile, the blonde vigilante finds her lair invaded by a Dark Archer looking to bring her in, her return having been ordered by Ra’s Al Ghul. The woman declines, killing the archer for his refusal to leave in peace.
While Oliver worries what side the vigilante calls her own, the past Oliver wakes up in a holding cell aboard the freighter, whose aft section bears the name “AMAZO.”
Wow. All eloquence aside, how cool was that, to have the same ‘Arrow’ hour that saw a proper introduction to the Black Canary (complete with sonic scream!) also namedrop Ra’s Al Ghul, Amazo, Metamorpho, Sin, Jean Loring and potentially more? No wonder we kept seeing the number 52 pop up all over the place, this had to be the most DC-heavy hour by a brickton!
Fangasms aside, we were pleasantly surprised to see that a return to more throwaway procedural stories like the “Dollmaker” didn’t at all detract from the impact of the hour, which featured some stellar set pieces both past and present, and surprisingly heavy emotional weight carried by its supporting players. Stephen Amell has gone on record in the past to say that certain episodes of the season belong to Paul Blackthorne, Susannah Thompson and more, and “Broken Dolls” absolutely reflected that. It didn’t matter that Laurel and her father hit the bullseye on the nose to point out that their respective relationships with the vigilante (excuse me, The Arrow!) had undergone a complete 180 from the previous year, given both Blackthorne and Katie Cassidy nailed the emotionally demanding sequences that followed.
We were a bit disappointed to see the introduction of Bex Taylor-Klaus breeze by so quickly, but given the world it opened up, with Black Canary unexpectedly connected to the League of Assassins and Ra’s Al Ghul -- not to mention the intense island sequences and Amazo tease that permeated the hour -- we’d be hard pressed to gripe about much. It was apparent even from the smaller scenes with Oliver and Slade that a significant budget had been allotted for the hour, given costly location shoots and pyrotechnics, allowing “Broken Dolls” an unexpectedly adventurous feel to accompany its significant reveals. The theme repeated throughout the hour, that "this is my life, this is my choice" certainly rings true for the series as well, with no turning back from the world we've entered.
So while the dollmaker himself may not have resonated much beyond his baseline creepiness, the character served as much more of a cypher to explore the lingering issues between Oliver, Laurel and her father, more or less resolving all the mistrust and guilt with a surprising finesse. We’re not sure how much to expect from such major namedrops as Ra’s Al Ghul, given what we know about the season to come already, though there’s no denying the thrill of having so much DC mythology packed into a thoroughly entertaining hour.
Well, what say you? Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its second season’s latest offering? Were you surprised by all the major DC namedrops of "Broken Dolls"? Give us your reactions in the comments, and join us next week for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 2, episode 4, “Crucible” on The CW!