‘Arrow’ Review: “The Undertaking”
‘Arrow’ lets loose another episode with its twenty-first outing of the series “The Undertaking,” as Oliver works with Felicity to rescue the captive Walter, while flashbacks to the past reveal the mysterious Undertaking and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman)'s diabolical plans.
Previous ‘Arrow’ episode “Home Invasion” saw Oliver forced to choose between helping Diggle take down Deadshot (Michael Rowe), and helping Laurel protect a young client from enigmatic assassin Mr. Blank (‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s J. August Richards). So, what does the twenty-first episode of ‘Arrow’ bring? Does it hit the same bulls-eye as the first 20 episodes?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’s latest episode, “The Undertaking!”
Late one night at a shady accountant’s meeting, Oliver busts in and takes down a number of thugs, snatching up the corrupt accountant’s laptop. Oliver takes the device to Felicity to begin returning the clients' money, a process that will take days. Elsewhere, Moira learns that insurance companies want to pay out Walter’s life insurance, as Thea offers her support.
Back in the past, months before Oliver Queen’s fateful voyage, Robert Queen, Malcolm Merlyn and Frank Chen lead a meeting of city officials on their plan to help the city, but Malcolm suggests they take drastic measures to purge The Glades from the problem. Malcolm proposes they level the district with a prototype seismic weapon to be devised by Unidac industries in five years time, but the others balk at the thought.
Back in the present, Felicity interrupts an awkward coffee with Oliver and Laurel to present her findings, specifically that a large amount of money was transferred to a known kidnapper on the day of Walter’s disappearance. Unwilling to make peace with DIggle just yet, Oliver reluctantly allows Felicity to infiltrate the underground casino run by kidnapper Dominic Alonzo, given her ability to count cards.
Back in the past, Walter finds Malcolm lingering after the meeting, as Malcolm explains that the night his wife died he ignored both of her dying calls, not learning of her fate until police showed up to his office. Malcolm listened to the pained voicemails over and over, assuring Robert he would plot the same wide scale retribution were it Moira. Meanwhile in the present, Felicity pays a visit to Diggle to attempt patching things up with Oliver, while Laurel finds herself similarly rebuffed in her efforts to talk to Tommy about their own schism. As he leaves Laurel behind, Tommy reveals that Oliver remains in love with her, and they belong together.
Oliver waits outside the casino, piped into Felicity’s ear to talk her past the casino guards, and listen as she intentionally gets caught card counting for a private audience with Alonzo. Meanwhile, Malcolm calls Moira over to announce that the Unidac device is complete. Moira flashes back to the night Robert first told her about Malcolm’s plans for the city, as well as an accidental manslaughter he hoped to make penance for, but Moira protests his real penance will be to stop Malcolm’s horrific plans.
Back at the casino Felicity’s winnings get her noticed, and dragged in to see Alonzo as expected. Felicity plants a bug in the man’s computer, but when Alonzo finds her earpiece, Oliver has no choice but to bust into the casino and take down all the guards amid a sea of chaos. When Oliver finally confronts Alonzo he demands Walter’s location, but Alonzo finally breaks and admits he believes Walter to have been killed.
Oliver returns home to find Moira and Thea, stone-heartedly announcing that Diggle’s connections claim to have found Walter dead. Moira rushes out to confirm the news, as back in the past we see that Robert and Frank Chen attempted to ally against Malcolm to stop the Undertaking. Hoping to purchase enough property from The Glades to thwart Malcolm’s controlling ownership, the pair vow to travel separately to China for the buy, Robert traveling by yacht to avoid suspicion. Upstairs, a younger Oliver and Laurel share a pizza, and Oliver reluctantly accepts Laurel’s suggestion they move in together.
Back in the present, Moira busts into Malcolm’s meeting to verify the news, but Malcolm quickly confirms that Walter is still alive. Unknown to both of them however, one of Oliver’s arrows outside the window records the conversation, proving their collusion in the Undertaking. A devastated Oliver takes the news to Felicity, using Malcolm’s phone records to find Walter’s location as a heavily guarded tenement in Blüdhaven. Parachuting in, Oliver manages to take down dozens of guards, and finally rescue a bearded, and beaten Walter.
In the past, Oliver unexpectedly decides to join Robert’s yacht voyage, urging Sarah Lance to hide as Laurel comes to say a surprise goodbye. Unseen to either of them, both Malcolm and Chen watch the yacht depart, having planted a bomb to sabotage their voyage in a coming storm. Back in the present, Oliver, the Queens and Felicity all visit a recovering Walter in the hospital, though Oliver remains shaken by news of Malcolm Merlyn and his mother.
Outside the hospital room, Oliver bitterly shrugs off Malcolm Merlyn’s questions about Walter’s rescue before Laurel arrives to wish the family well. Relaying what Tommy told her about them, Laurel asks Oliver to talk to their friend and clear things up, but Oliver admits he still loves her, and doesn’t want to add any more lies to his life. Afterward, Oliver shows up to Diggle’s and apologizes for his mistakes, revealing his mother’s involvement in the Undertaking, and the disaster to come.
As 'LOST' proved time and time again, flashbacks can often prove tricky as a narrative device. 'Arrow' makes enough regular usage of the concept to make flashbacks seem natural to be sure, but allowing only a single episode to explain the undertaking, Robert Queen's conflicted motivations, and also revealing to Oliver the truth of Malcolm and his mother makes "The Undertaking" noticeably heavy-handed.
To "The Undertaking"'s credit, 'Arrow' had quite a few pieces to move into position for the final two episodes, getting Oliver and Diggle's issues resolved while moving along his and Laurel's eventual reunion. The action sequences of the episode remain uniquely thrilling, particular standouts being the casino battle and Oliver's rescue of Walter (were 12+ guards patrolling that one hallway, only 3 of them armed?), but amount to relatively little without the time to build tension.
We'll continue to place our faith in 'Arrow' to deliver a strong finish, but hopefully one that doesn't feel as rushed and on-the-nose as "The Undertaking."
What say you? Did you feel that ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its twenty-first episode? What did you like about “The Undertaking?” Join us next week for another all-new ‘Arrow’ recap of season 1 penultimate episode “Darkness On the Edge of Town” on The CW!