Arrow’ season 3 lets loose its third installment of the year with "Corto Maltese,” as Oliver travels to the titular country in search of Thea, Felicity settles into her her new job, and Laurel trades blows with boxer Ted "Wildcat" Grant (J.R. Ramirez).

Last week's installment “Sara” saw the team grappling with Sara's death, while Roy was forced to reveal Thea's whereabouts, and in flashback Oliver acclimated to his new Hong Kong surroundings, having a chance encounter with Tommy (Colin Donnell), so what does the third episode of ‘Arrow’ season 3 bring? Can Oliver be both himself and the 'Arrow' vigilante?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 3, episode 3, “Corto Maltese!”

Last week certainly had a lot to pick up on, and plenty of emotions to work through in the aftermath of Sara’s death, and with the next landmark installment introducing us to “The Magician,” it made sense that we’d soon have an episode offering a change of scenery and pace. Thea in particular has long been a difficult character to write for, as even in early season episodes where Laurel wanted little to do with the vigilante, her work often brought the battles crashing through the window. Moira too had plenty of her own secrets that put her in the mix, while Thea most frequently ended up an object of kidnapping, or playing second fiddle to Roy's growth.

In truth, I even had to be reminded what Thea knew or didn’t know of Oliver’s secret, and even what inspired her flight from Starling City in the first place. Given the isolated battle the character braved in the finale, tonight’s “Corto Maltese” finally got the greenlight to bring Thea (or Mia!) full circle into the ‘Arrow’ world, or at the very least, evolve the character to a point beyond victimization. And while the flashback material proved a bit thin at times (sometimes pickup up on the exact instance we left), and it still seems as if both Malcolm and Oliver are keeping secrets from her, Thea was long overdue for a bit of spotlight.

In spite of what a title like “Corto Maltese” and its affiliated action sequences might lead us to believe, the women of ‘Arrow’ very much took center stage tonight, both Thea and Laurel’s parallel journeys shifting the characters toward organic integrations into the show’s main thrust. Whereas last week pointed out Oliver’s isolation in sifting through grief, “Corto Maltese” does well to remind us that Laurel doesn’t have the same crimefighting outlets to channel her own frustration, along the way sidestepping a relapse into last season’s substance abuse issues.

It sometimes seems as though‘Arrow’ writers intentionally saddle Katie Cassidy with some of the more tin-eared and metaphorical dialogue possible, but the character still came out very much ahead, in a tender plea to Oliver to help her connect with her sister’s crime-fighting spirit. As silly as it might seem for an already-troubled district attorney to don a ski mask and take on criminals sans any real training, the introduction of Ted Grant made for a smart new dynamic to begin honing the character’s skillset, as Oliver understandably refuses to take part in anything that would further put the Lances in jeopardy. Both Laurel and Thea have frequently proven difficult characters to integrate, and it was great to see “Corto Maltese” working so hard to service either.

"Yeah, they can definitely tell we're pooping back here."

Of course, the actual ins-and-outs of the titular mission fell relatively flat, largely serving to run Diggle, Roy and Oliver through a few exotic action sequences, and set up a larger storyline against A.R.G.U.S. and Amanda Waller. It isn’t entirely clear if Mark Cubitt's character needed to be identified as DC’s Manhunter, given the generic nature of his villainy, or the A.R.G.U.S. roster providing a pretty non-specific threat to Diggle’s family, though it was certainly interesting to see the way Shaw’s words about Amanda Waller’s orders resonating with Diggle on Lyla later. Hopefully we’ll be able to see Cynthia Addai-Robinson again soon, if only get a stronger sense of where A.R.G.U.S. will fit in this season.

Elsewhere, Felicity’s story back in Starling served a primarily functional purpose, putting her to work under Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer in uncovering some scorched applied sciences data, while still trying to do her Team Arrow duties from afar. It was great to see Felicity given some professional due with her own office and assistant, though the story largely served to usher her off into a ‘Flashcrossover next week, and set up Ray Palmer’s vaguely menacing interest in weapons development.

All in all, “Corto Maltese” proved perfectly adept in setting in motion some new stories for the season, between Thea’s return to Starling City, Laurel’s rise to inherit the Canary mantle, and whatever part A.R.G.U.S. may yet play, though the execution proved somewhat lacking in the show’s usual vigor. Oliver has yet to learn of Malcolm Merlyn’s survival, while Thea still doesn’t quite know her brother’s secret, and we’re still no closer to uncovering Sara’s killer, though the brief return of Katrina Law’s Nyssa al Ghul should certainly kick things up from a slower pace next week.

AND ANOTHER THING...

  • I'm certainly no prize fighter myself, though considering the male forms usually highlighted throughout the series, color me somewhat underwhelmed by J.R. Ramirez's physique as an imposing boxer. Sorry!
  • The portrayal of Corto Maltese itself proved reasonably effective, if only to add few new colors to the show's usual palette with a yellow-filtered lens and some subtle sweating makeup.
  • Both Stephen Amell and Willa Holland did some great work in Oliver's confession of their father's fate, though it still doesn't quite redeem that he has so many larger secrets yet to come.
  • Speaking of which, imagine Diggle's frustration with Oliver's promise to share every detail of his 5 years on the island, considering up to now Oliver only ever shares backstory one year at a time.
  • "Are we favor friends now? Are we friends?"
  • Aww, couldn't throw some shrinking tech into the blueprints, guys?

Well, what say you?  Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its third season 3 installment? How did you feel about Thea's revelations, or Laurel's new path? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Arrow’ season 3′s latest, “The Magician” on The CW!